It is a rainy day and therefore a catch-up day with the Blog. We are currently parked up next to the old railway station by the side of the harbour. There are two Cruise ships in and currently the passengers seem to be enjoying themselves being whisked around the town in one of those land-trains. Not that they can see anything as they are cocooned within brightly covered but liberally stained plastic sheeting.
Katakolo is on the end of a small Peninsula reached by a road where the now familiar piles of rubbish stand as guards of honour as your journey to the centre. There is not much here now in this once centre of the currant trade, a harbour-side promenade featuring the ubiquitous tavernas displaying pictures of meals the chefs have no hope of cooking. In parallel there is a street of shops, mainly closed down, and statues of Ice-Cream cornets. The place looks dead.
Here we are:
We needed some WiFi so we eat in the first restaurant knowing we could still pick up the signal in the van. Surprisingly the food was actually better than the pictures and a pleasant meal out, our first in Greece was had even though we were rained on once or twice. We have become used to getting a little drink on the house when having a meal but now we have a new record to beat. Our ‘digestive’ on the house was a carafe of wine. Match that Nandos.
Our sleep was interrupted most of the night by the rain and the wind. We just managed to get to the land of nod when we were awoke the clanging of a novelty bell next to our van. This thing looks like an extra from the Satanic Mills section of Roddy Doyle’s fabulous Olympic Games Opening Ceremony and when we parked we ignored it. It rang randomly at 7:12 7:46 and 8:03. Never rang before and has not rang since. The first ringing managed to wake up the sleeping cockerels around who now joined in the Theatre of Noise. Cars and people also whizzed around joining in the hoopla. But as quick as it came it left and I am happy to report Greece is back to its laid-back self.
Here is the offending tin can of sound
Bari to Patras 06/10 – 07/10/2015
It was with some trepidation that we approached the booking desk at Superfast Ferries after the ‘mare of Jadrolinja’, an experience that will live with us forever. After a couple of minutes our smiles were returning to our pale drawn faces. We were told all cabins are above deck and have their own shower and toilet. As we were dead on our feet and Bari is only famed for handbag snatching and Jack else we headed over to the Ferry queue and caught up on some zeds. Happy to report there is no ‘parking scam’ operating here and we were able to sleep, read and eat over the next few hours.
Nobody joined us until about 5 minutes before boarding time when the entire tarmac was descended upon by a swarm, yes a swarm of vehicles all trying to get to the single vehicle-width gate that doubled-up as an entry point. As you can imagine with some of European cousins being adverse to the concept of queuing pandemonium broke out with heavy portions of shouting, gesticulating and arm waving. Let them get on with it we thought and to their annoyance and dis-belief we were called through first.
We are always learning on this adventure and our latest nugget is not to book ferry tickets in advance, especially from companies like Direct Ferries or AFerry. They are not cheap and only offer a subset of the fares available. Their stinking websites would not allow us to book a passage with us travelling on the deck. They claim it is only for vans up to 7m. Absolute tosh. We could have travelled in the Homie and saved our selves a heap of dosh if we had travelled this way.
However after the horror of the previous night we were quite pleased to see our cabin resembled a hotel room and we indulged ourselves by standing under a long hot shower for the next half an hour. The Superfast Ferry was Super-Duper if not a little pricey for food and drink on-board. We had a reasonable quality meal and a couple of drinks before retiring to well-furnished cabin. And a long dreamy sleep
The next morning we awoke to the sight of the Ionian Islands flanking either side of the ship as we headed for the port of Patras.
The leaving of the ship was a repeat of the chaotic loading manoeuvre first witnessed in Bari. This time you take pot-luck of exiting with a bunch of articulated lorries being driven by swarthy men who have had no sleep or cigarettes for 24 hours and are on a race to Bulgaria. Scary, but not as scary as if you were an American, as the previous sentence would read; Oh my God, there were a load of sleep depraved guys with a semi going crazy and desperate for a fag.
Maybe because we were not Americans we were stopped at customs and after declaring we will not be going to Turkey we were told to pull over where our passports were taken off for a thorough inspection and the van given a similar internal probing. Not sure why we were stopped as I do not think the Greeks would be too upset if we were taking migrants back to where they had come from. Maybe Tracy looks like a runaway East-End school girl heading for Syria.
Anyway here are some pictures of our voyage:
Kalogria 07/10 – 09/10/2015
Our first rendezvous after our ‘release’ was the old back-stop of Lidl’s. We were slightly disappointed as the quality of the shopping experience was not that of Croatia, everything including the veg just looked a little tired. But we got enough provisions on-board to last for a few days and so headed off westwards for the half-hour drive along the coast to Kalogria.
The first impressions when you get to a new country are curious, mixed and sometimes bewildering. Greece looks like a sad country, it gives the vestige of a place where everything has been closed and the young and fit have left the country in the care of the old-folk to look after until they return. If they ever do. Most enterprises are shut-down and those open seem to be in a dishevelled state. Next is the litter, I am proud to say these chaps have put on the best litter festival I have seen outside of Bombay, Mumbai to you hipsters.
Here are a couple of Pics;
The third thing that strikes you are the roads and associated driving thereon. The roads are generally not in too bad a state but are of a curious design. They are single carriageway with a hard shoulder. But these people have not been sitting on their hands since the implementation of democracy, algebra, astronomy and every schoolkid’s favourite; Trigonometry. They have turned the hard shoulder into a lane where you have to go when being overtaken at high-speed by an 18 wheel behemoth, and if you do not then you will be in a ditch. They also have improved the use of the indicator. In Italy the use of the indicator is optional, in Croatia it appears to be banned, but in Greece it is used as warning to get out of the way fast or I will drive into you. There are no ifs and buts here, if you see a vehicle indicating then get out of their way, fast; especially if they are on the wrong side of the road and coming at you.
So we reached our first stop, in a nature reserve and right on the beach. We had a small Taverna about a 200m stroll along the golden sand. There were heaps of signs telling us not to park, but the hot weather, azure seas and flanking coverage of the umbrella pines was too much to resist and so we stayed a couple of days.
Here we are:
The first night we had a leisurely Barbie followed by placing the spent beer cans on the fence post for a quick shoot-out. The next day was our wedding anniversary and we started off with a swim in the sea, a quick drink in the tavern and we thought we would finish with a sumptuous Barbie. We were wrong as into our personal piece of Nirvana arrived Elisabet and Marcus. I was having a shower when they banged on the door and informed us they would be coming over for a game of Blokus. So much for the romantic anniversary. We were up until 2AM putting various odd-shaped plastic pieces onto a grid. I cannot fill in too much detail as well as the game of Blokus they brought an endless supply of Red Wine and Weiss Beer.
Our anniversary photo:
There was a crust in the air and a tardiness to the brain as the new day dawned. In our playful state of the previous evening we had overlooked some mandatory actions for these parts; insect repellent. We woke to see our bodies covered in the welts and drumlins left by some blood-starved mossies. We had been eaten alive and it hurt. Copious portions of Clarytin were swallowed and tubes of some previously purchased creams were administered but the pain and itching is still here two days later. Not being able to stand being bitten again we headed off down the coast to look for somewhere less Amazonian from an insect point-of-view.
Kalamia 09/10 – 10/10/2015
We arrived with our Swiss chums to spend a day together before going our separate ways. On arrival at Kalamia we were greeted with the unfortunate but amusing sight of a French Motorhome up to his front axels in the Bundhu. How he managed to find the only piece of soft sand in south East Europe goes beyond comprehension, but then he is French, who are the laughing stock of the motorhome world. I waited around until the arrival of a tractor to pull him out for a vast fee. When Mrs wife-of-the-dolt saw me taking pictures she started to get a bit angry and asked me for money. There was a short two-worded conversation and here are the pictures of Mr & Mrs Dolt en vacannes for free.
This is a good place to park with water from a standpoint and a small tavern adjacent that does reasonable grub. We still had a fridge full of Lidl’s finest and so another cooking experience was had. There are great views across the straits to the Ionian Islands of Kefallonia and Zakynthos. We did umm and Ahh about visiting one or both of these islands but declined as the Ferry cost were way too expensive and the Islands did not seem to be offering much more than we can get from the mainland. We had a pleasant conversation with our Swiss friends and pleasantries were exchanged before an early night was sort by all. Here are a couple of pictures;
When we awoke we were met by rain clouds and so we headed south. So far the landscape on this part of Western Greece has not been great. We have driven through swarm after swarm of insects for mile upon mile and it seems the rubbish piled on the roadsides is getting higher and higher. Bankers, tax evaders and politicians you should be ashamed.
Love to all