Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200111 Greece

Thursday 1 November 2001  Dock in Igoumenitsa GREECE at 7.30am (2 hours ahead of GMT).  About 540 Drachmas = £1.  By 8.30am we are on a 2 hour ferry crossing (11900 Drs £22 van and 1200 Drs £32.50 pp) to the Ionian Island of Corfu (Known locally as Kerkira).  Also on the car deck is a police prison bus with prisoners on board – is Corfu is another Alcatraz?  The sea here is a very dark inky blue colour and very clear.  Drive into Corfu Town but find all the tourist information offices closed and have to settle for a map of Corfu with a little information.  This is the town where Prince Philip was born.  Set off north up the coast travelling anti clockwise around the island.  In the tiny village of Barmbati or is it Barbati (as in Morocco names vary as there is no direct translation from the Greek) we park on a restaurants closed car park immediately behind a white pebbly beach.  It’s a Blue Flag beach and the water is crystal clear and inviting.  It’s already very hot and we settle in for the day with me soon cooling off in the sea.  Early afternoon I relax listening to the birds whistling, the waves lapping onto the beach and Steve snoring.  It looks like a lake as the bay is almost circular and there is an island opposite which probably accounts for the sea being so calm. After tea we stroll outside to enjoy watching an almost full moon rising over the ocean.
BARBATI
Friday 2 November  Bit of a cloudy morning.  Continuing round the coast we try to get to Agni Beach and learn a quick lesson.  When the sign at the end of the road says no lorries they also mean us.  It’s only 600m down the narrow steep winding road but feels like 6km.  The car parks at the bottom are closed so there is no room for us to turn around and we have to reverse part way back up. Excellent views en route to Kassiopi where we park by the pretty harbour.  Dead quiet out of season but English bars and tourist shops abound and we spot quite a few GB cars.  Walk around to the next bay where there is a poor narrow mainly shingle beach.  Aharavi is a bit of a surprise.  Quite a few places are open and we find a bar with Internet 1500 Drs (£3) hour.  The terrain is now flatter so we risk a side road which takes us straight to a long stretch of part sandy part pebbly beach with lots of good places to park a motorhome.  Here the sea is quite wild and waves crash on to the beach non of which deters a few brave souls from taking a dip (but not us).  It brightens up later and we sit out.  Late afternoon stroll north along the beach to the next village of Roda where Steve is delighted to find a bar with Sky Sports channels that will be showing the Premier League football this weekend.  In Aharavi I realise how much a British holiday destination this is by the number of British products in the supermarket.  Succumb and pay £1 for a tin of Heinz tomato soup! 
AHARAVI – 21 MILES
Saturday 3 November After a wild and windy night we wake to a much cooler morning.  Drive round to Roda and take a walk Northwest to Roda Tourist Village then back along the coast.  We’re directly opposite Albania which looks rather bleak and uninviting.  After lunch Steve walks up to the bar to watch football.
RODA – 2 MILES
Sunday 4 November A cold night and a breezy morning but warmer than yesterday.  Steve repeats his afternoon watching football in the bar.
RODA
Monday 5 November  Short drive to Sidari where we make the most of the warm sunny day.  Find a good spot at the eastern end of the beach next to a swimming pool which also has a cold shower.  I manage a couple of dips in the sea whilst Steve braves the cold shower.  Afternoon walk into Sidari proves this to be the quietest place so far with almost everything closed.  Do manage to find a bar which seems to provide everything including Internet.  Receive the bad news that there is a leak in the underground lead pipes at Saltershall Cottage all of which need replacing at a cost of over £2500.  Continue our walk to Peroulades where we walk out and around a sandstone island.  Lovely sunset again with the sky like a rainbow over Albania.
SIDARI – 8 MILES
Tuesday 6 November  Hot start to the day so back on the beach.  Cloudy afternoon inspires us to drive on taking the winding hill roads over to Agios Stefanos.  Here we find a nice wide sandy beach but with bars and accommodation blocking it from the road.  Continue over more hills to Arilas.  The beach is very long and sandy with a road directly behind it where we park towards the eastern end.  It’s a blue flag beach and the setting is enhanced by islands opposite.  Stroll the length of the beach before sunset which is now around 5.30pm.  Having anticipated this being a quiet spot we are amazed to find ourselves on Santa Pod race track with bikes and cars racing past us until quite late.  Next disturbance is a big thunderstorm with lightening, torrential rain and what sounds like hail stones.
ARILAS – 9 MILES
Wednesday 7 November  The beach is like a lake in parts and as we drive through the hills we see lots of debris washed down.  Agrilia runs into Agios Georgios beach which is also nice, wide and sandy, but the town is completely dead.  More winding roads and narrow village streets until we eventually drop down to the pretty resort of Paleokastritsa.  Numerous rocky outcrops create many bays with beaches facing in almost every direction.  Find a nice quiet one which as usual we have to ourselves to enjoy the mid day sun.  Usual late afternoon stroll.  A British car comes down to the beach and we meet Karen from Birmingham with her Greek husband George (Georgios) and daughter Anna.  We comment on how quiet everywhere is.  They explain that because of the Bin Laden situation many British tourists have cancelled trips here.  For the last few weeks those that came were funnelled to the resorts of Sidari and Aharavi.  Everywhere else closed down early consequently many of the Greeks who work here in season but live on the mainland have gone home.
PALEOKASTRITSA – 20 MILES
Thursday 8 November  Light rain in the early hours but a nice morning.  Walk up to the monastery where we are surprised to be joined by 4 coach loads of tourists.  The MS Berlin is in Corfu Town and the cruise passengers are on a tour.  Good views from the monastery but little else.  Call at Karen and George’s for coffee.  They live inland and are renting a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom centrally heated bungalow for just £150 month.  Having been offered use of their phone we establish that Poseidon Lines and Salamis Lines are now sharing one ship "Olympia" to go from Piraeus to Cyprus each Monday.  Higher prices than shown on the Internet, no camping on board, no stop over permitted – no choice!  Also find out that we now have a quote for £1100 for the water pipes at the cottage which is a help. Stay on for lunch as we are finding lots to chat about.  1.00pm Anna returns by taxi from school then we leave and continue through the Valley of the Ropa.  Glifada is another famous beach but no road behind it so we settle for a nearby car park.  Fit in a brief sunbathing spell before it gets windy.  Spot another British car this time with Greek Yanni and Maria who were born in South Africa but now live in England.  With their children Leah 6 and Dimitri 5 they have taken a year out to travel.  They are visiting relatives here then heading to Cyprus where they have more family.  They were on Cyprus last Christmas and New Year and tell us how great it is which lifts us after this mornings ferry news.  Nice sunset from the beach which is one reason we prefer west to east coasts.
GLIFADA – 14 MILES
Friday 9 November Again rain in the early hours but this time we wake to a cloudy day.  Cut across the island west to east to Corfu Town.  Here there is a lot more life, too much in fact as the traffic is bad and the streets are narrow.  Park by the port then walk round to the old fortress opposite which is a cricket pitch.  Matches are played regularly in summer and Middlesex played here this year.  Return through the old streets where everything is open including lots of tourist shops.  Head back north out of town stopping for a big stock up at Lidl having found few shops open this last week.  Notice we pay up to twice as much for exactly the same groceries as we were buying in the Italian Lidl.  George recommended we stay at Gouvia Marina at Kondokali and the office says it is OK and costs 1750 Drs (£3.50) night.  Steve toddles off to check which of the nearby English bars will be showing football tomorrow.  He returns in a car shortly after with Mick who comes in for a drink and tells us more about Corfu.
GOUVIA MARINA – 18 MILES
Saturday 10 November Usual pattern of rain in the early hours but we wake to a better day. Stroll to the supermarket where we meet lots of New Zealanders who are here working with the boats.  Steve leaves mid afternoon for a sporting session at the pub with rugby being shown followed by football
GOUVIA MARINA
Sunday 11 November  Round the bay at Dassia we find a spot by the beach with cold showers where we wash our clothes.   No I don’t mean we stand under the shower with our clothes on I mean we use it as a water supply!   The "Bucket of Beer" pub do a Sunday roast lunch for 2000 Drs (£4) and it is excellent even if delayed until 3.00pm because of a power cut.  Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast and mashed potatoes, cauliflower cheese, carrots, peas, cabbage and gravy – yummy.  Explore south of Corfu Town but straight away find this is not the flat landscape we had been led to believe.  Achilleion was the villa of Empress Elizabeth of Austria but now a casino.  Arrive 10 minutes before closing and refuse to pay the full admission price of 2000 Drs (£4). On the coast the beaches are poor and at best are covered in seaweed of the type that looks like brown dried shredded paper.  Benitses is dead and taking the coast road further we find ourselves on a very narrow track scraping past trees in the villages – yet another never again road.  It’s getting dark and we are considering turning round, if we can find space.  Suddenly despite the map showing otherwise the coast road peters out and the road veers inland.  At this point there is a car park by a fish restaurant next to the "beach" which will do us for overnight.
BOUKARI – 28 MILES
Monday 12 November  Pick up the road which heads inland to join the main road back to Benitses. Just north of Perama we stop at Denny’s restaurant which is also a shop for the British frozen food company Iceland.  Stock up on comfort foods then return via Corfu Town to the port.  The 2.00pm ferry is going at 3.00pm but is the "fast" ferry and costs more so we wait until 3.30pm for the cheaper and slower one (1 hour 40 minutes instead of 1 hour 10 minutes) which actually takes 1 hr 50 minutes!  Park in a quiet corner of the port which turns out not to be quiet when the gates are opened for the arrival then loading of a big ferry.  Coupled with gusting wind and some rain we spend a sleepless night.
IGOUMENITSA PORT – 23 MILES 
Tuesday 13 November Leave late morning heading down the western coast of mainland Greece.  Parga is a very scenic spot with a small sandy beach in a bay with a couple of islands.  The waves crash onto the beach big time.  Parking impossible so settle onto an out of town campsite directly behind the beach.  It appears closed but a German motorhome is staying here and says not.  Brief sunny spells between blustery storms.  Late evening we pack away everything inside the van as the gale is so bad we think we may have to move.  The camping pitches are underneath bamboo stick shades and we are afraid they may blow off and fall on us even though we are parked on the "road" between them.
LICHNOS BEACH CAMPSITE NR PARGA – 35 MILES
Wednesday 14 November  Survive with just the outside of the van splattered with bamboo bark. When we leave the site the office is still closed and no one around to pay.  Ammoudia a small village where the Acheron River runs out into the sea.  It’s a flat area with a large sandy bay where we easily find a place to park.  Like yesterday the weather alternates between sunny spells and wild storms.  Manage a couple of short walks between the rain and notice the river is almost overflowing. 
AMMOUDIA – 16 MILES
Thursday 15 November A calm and quiet night.  Wake to find no power for the heater or to ignite the fridge (we turn it off at night now to conserve gas as it is scarce in Greece).  A few hours later we have established and corrected two totally unconnected faults – seems we are getting better at motorhome DIY.  Next beach down the coast is Loutsa a long narrow sandy strip with parking behind.  Strolling along the beach we find first a dead cat and then a large dead turtle, probably casualties of the storms which have been raging for the last few days. 
LOUTSA BEACH – 10 MILES
Friday 16 November  Nice hot day so down to the beach for sunbathing and swimming. Manage to get some bread from a small van doing deliveries.  Late afternoon Julie & Oz arrive and we catch up on our respective trips since they left us in Porto Recanati  3 weeks ago.  Learn that although we have had some bad weather here Italy have had worse with over 10 days of continuous rain.  Sit out until quite late first watching the sunset and then the night sky with lots of shooting stars.
LOUTSA BEACH 2
Saturday 17 November  Another nice hot day.  Oz & Julie set out on a long bike ride whilst we hit the beach.  Light a fire to cook our evening meal. Oz collects skulls and last night severed the dead turtle’s head.  Now he boils it over the fire to remove the skin etc.  After the second immersion in boiling water with bleach it is starting to look good.  Unfortunately on the 3rd water change the skull falls apart, Oz is gutted. 
LOUTSA BEACH 3
Sunday 18 November  I have always said that Steve could sleep for England but now have to retract my words.  Oz and Julie regularly sleep in until nearly lunch time and make Steve look like a county player!  Afternoon drive down the coast which has lots of nice sandy beaches and dozens of great spots for free camping.  Preveza is a pretty little  town on a peninsula which separates a lake from the sea.  Stroll along the promenade where there are lots of people and cafes which are open.  Most of the streets in the old town are narrow, pedestrian only and nicely paved.  The tourist office in the clock tower is open and has some good information.  Call into Elvis’s bar for a typical Greek gyros 400 Drs (80p).  Very good value especially when we are given complementary puddings of jelly with some sort of cream in the bottom. 
PREVEZA – 22 MILES
Monday 19 November  Leave Oz and Julie sleeping and having used the Internet (800 Drs/£1.60 hr) we board the ferry for the short crossing over the river mouth to Aktion (100 Drs/40p person 2000Drs/£4 van).  The ferries will soon be out of business as the tunnel is complete and nearly ready for opening.  See Oz & Julie’s van across the water with the curtains still closed even though it is 11.00am.  Lefkada is an island joined to the mainland by a bridge.  Approaching round an old fortress we find a bridge missing and ferries in use.  The gap is so narrow that having boarded the ferry it swings around like a turntable and stops at an angle to allow us off.  Lefkada is a quaint old town again with a pedestrian only main street. Most of the houses have balconies many of which have been supported and closed in with corrugated iron to create an extra room.  Many of the small churches have independent bell towers on steel scaffolding which looks quite ugly.  Find English newspapers and magazines on sale and splash out on the Sunday Times 1420 Drs (£2.80).  Down a side street is a shop selling wine, spirits and liqueurs from the barrel.  Stock up on liqueurs at 1600 Drs litre (£3.20) but just take 1/2 litre of each type which they funnel into plastic water bottles.  Heading clockwise down the east coast the beaches don’t look too promising but we stop at Nidri the main resort to wait for Julie and Oz.  There are lots of little islands opposite one of which is Skorpios which was owned by Onassis.  Again lots of British cars around and English voices coming from the boats.  Receive a text in the evening from Julie to say they have had problems and only got as far as the dock but will catch us tomorrow.
NIDRI – 27 MILES
Tuesday 20 November  Dull drizzly day. Walk along the sea front and find a huge bronze statue of Onassis.  Round the town we are surprised to find many things open and get everything we need.  Oz & Julie arrive but move on to try and find a campsite.  I have offered use of our video for them to down load their tapes so they need electricity.  A text arrives back to tell us not to attempt the road down to the site so we stay at Nidri.
NIDRI
Wednesday 21 November  Vasiliki is one of the top 10 surfing beaches in the world.  As a town it is pleasant but the beach is poor.  Situated at the bottom of a valley a wind gets up every afternoon and is unique in that it allows surfers to go out and come back without tacking.  As we are not surfers we press on noticing lovely autumn colours in the foliage and quite a number of people out hunting.  In Greece you are advised never to park by a sign board as they are used as targets for shooting practice.  On the Northwest coast we wind our way down to the pretty beach at Kathisma.  The water changes from the palest blue by the shore gradually to a dark turquoise and looks fantastic.  Signs offer free water and showers and show motorhome parking.  There’s already a German motorhome and a British caravan parked up but it is rather windy.  Find a sheltered spot to park and then at the end of the beach a cove perfect for nude sunbathing.  So perfect that we are not the first to discover it as we notice painted signs saying FKK (the German initials for naturist) on the rocks.  Watching the sunset we get chatting to the caravan people Paul & Sue who have taken 4 months leave from their Bromley pub.  It becomes another Brits gathering as Steve & Diana who now live on the island are also visiting the beach.  Learn that the swing bridge type ferry is not normally there.  Usually there is a floating bridge but for one day a year it has to be removed for Lefkada to retain island status.  This year it has been missing for over 3 weeks for maintenance.  Steve & Diana leave but Paul & Sue remain and end up staying for tea and chatting and drinking until midnight.
KATHISMA BEACH – 31 MILES
Thursday 22 November  A lovely morning but the sun is still trapped behind the mountains first thing so I go for a long walk and leave Steve in bed.  By 9.30am the sun has worked its way round enough for another lovely day on the beach. In the evening I put my hand down on the seat and it feels like I have leaned on a drawing pin.  Wrong, it’s worse, I have put the palm of may hand right onto a wasp which has stung me.  Leap for an anti histamine tablet but immediately my hand swells up.
KATHISMA BEACH 2
Friday 23 November  A foul morning with wind, rain, thunder and lightening.  Return to Lefkada Town and try to buy a vacuum pump to remove the remains of the sting – no joy.  Leave Steve parked up and visit the Internet Cafe.  Return to find Steve (of  Steve and Diana) and Oz and Julie in our van.  My hand is not looking good so local Steve drives me to the nearby hospital where within minutes I have seen a junior Doctor and then a Senior Doctor.  The hospital itself is a bit grim and very antiquated but I can’t complain about the speed of my treatment and emerge a few minutes later with a prescription for a topical cream.  Collect the cream from the chemist 700 Drs (£1.40) again with no wait.  Call into Dia Discount Supermarket for Steve to stock up on the cheap wine cartons. It’s very similar in style and price to Lidl so we return with Julie and Oz for a big shop.  Leave town mid afternoon with Julie and Oz following.  Just a short hop down the coast is a turn off to Pogonia where we park behind the beach and enjoy a very brief respite in the storm.
POGONIA – 35 MILES
Saturday 24 November  Hand even more swollen and tender despite taking the anti histamine tablets and cream.  Julie and Oz are finally ready to move off around 11.00am.  Follow the coast road with amazing scenery – fish farms, dozens of little islands, snow on the mountain peaks and cotton fields.  The small village of Vassiliki overlooks the big town of Patra and we park by the beach.  Julie and Oz join us for a long evening session of playing spoof, cards and drinking.  A very cold night with the heating blasting away most of the time.  Nice view of Patra all lit up.
VASSILIKI – 79 MILES
Sunday 25 November  A bright clear morning with the early sun creating steam swirling on the sea.  Hand much better with the swelling almost gone and just a bruise and blister left.  Idle the day away but not to the extent that Oz does by staying in bed until 5.15pm.
VASSILIKI 2
Monday 26 November  Away at 9.00am leaving Oz and Julie in bed.  Straight onto the ferry at Antirio paying 2500 Drs (£5) once on board.  They are in the process of building a bridge here which we think is for the extra traffic when Athens holds the Olympic games in 2004.  Easily negotiate our way along the waterfront at Patra but slightly less easily find the LPG station.  Aginara Beach Campsite at Glifa is open all year round and we drive there for a re union with Margaret & Barry who have a similar motorhome to us.  Having not seen them since Italy in March 1998 we have lots to talk about.  Not only are they motorhomers but they did a Round the World bicycle trip last year which included cycling coast to coast across Australia.  Amazingly Oz & Julie arrive early afternoon having got up soon after we left.  Suddenly it is looking like a British site with 2 others bringing the tally to 5.  Join Margaret & Barry for an evening meal.
AGINARA BEACH, GLIFA – 73 MILES (2500 Drs/£5 with electric, 2000 Drs/£4.50 without)
[Patra LPG station.  Heading East turn left after Eurospar and just after a BP station on R to go up the side of dried river bed.  Road runs in different directions each side of river.  Sign to Tripoli.  After a good 2km BP station on R)
Tuesday 27 November  After the recent rain there is a big queue for the washing machine made worse by the low water pressure which means it takes at least 1 1/2hours to do a load.  Give up on morning usage and take a walk along the beach with Margaret & Barry. Lots of flat rocks with rock pools create interest but the urchins in the water would make exploration in the sea difficult. Make it to the front of the washing machine list by mid afternoon to get 3 loads done but too late to get it dry.  Beautiful sunset over Zante watched by us from the beach.  Margaret & Barry join us for an evening meal and as they never cook chips in the motorhome I treat them to Egg & Chips.  It goes down so well I end up cooking another pan full of chips as a side order – oh the simple pleasures in life. Julie & Oz join us for conversation later.
AGINARA BEACH – 2
Wednesday 28 November   Dull day and after doing a final load of washing we leave with Oz & Julie in tow and Barry & Margaret escorting us on their motorbike to a nice free camping spot at Loutra Kilinis.  Heavy rain in the afternoon means we don’t get to make the most of our beach location.  Thanks to telephone text messages Claire & Malcolm are able to join us.  They have just come from visiting friends in Italy where they had dozens of bottles of home made red wine thrust upon them.  We kindly offer to lighten their load whilst I somehow make our prawn curry for 2 stretch to one for 6 with the addition of a big tray of roast veggies.  A good evening of motorhome/travel conversation with lots of laughs.
LOUTRA KILINIS – 4 MILES
Thursday 29 November  Julie & Oz leave mid morning feeling confident enough to sever their umbilical cord from us and venture off to free camp alone in Greece.  String a couple of washing lines between the two motorhomes and despite brief showers manage to get it all dried.  Take our lunch and evening meal at Claire & Malcolms’ and continue late into the evening playing Canasta.  That’s after we spend almost as much time before it in discussing the different rules we all know!
LOUTRA KILINIS
Friday 30 November  Move a little further round the coast heading inland and up over the hills with super views of Zante/Zakinthos opposite.  Kilini is the small port where the ferries leave for there and we settle in by the beach.  Fish restaurant Anna is nearby and we visit for a mid day meal.  Mez style starter with about a dozen different entrees followed by two large fresh fish.  A bit more expensive than we would have expected with a total bill of 23,000 Drs (£46) but very nice.  Tea and a Canasta evening in our van.
KILINI 9 MILES
    
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Responses

  1. You are great, have the resources to visit other areas in other parts of the world. One time I even wanted to be like you….

  2. Hello … your story inspires me. Thanks for your sharing.


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