Sitting in the launderette writing the last post from Greece for this tour before we catch the ferry back to Bari and then a connecting flight back to the UK for Xmas and New Year with our families.
From a motorhoming perspective Greece is easily the best country we have visited with a wonderfully relaxed view towards parking, genuine friendly people and endless days of sunshine even as we approach the winter solstice. We will be sorry to leave and to be honest we are looking at touring Italy with some trepidation, we have not met a single person on our adventures who has said a positive thing about Bella Italia. Anyway, that is all to come and this post is about our final week along the Ionian Coast as we carry out a reconnaissance for our next visit here.
After a walk around Ioannina we secured the van and headed for the 90 minute drive down to the coast and away from the Narnia inspired landscape of Central Greece. We took the motorway as they are cheap and also involve less time spent with Greek motorists. The Greek driving standards are pretty appalling, in fact they are completely clueless when it comes thinking or anticipation when behind the wheel of motor-car. Add to this that the majority of the male population would have had a few Ouzos for lunch and we have the reason why Greece has one of the highest death rates for road traffic accidents in the EU. There is not a single bend without a memorial to a young departed male which is sad, but sadder is the living take absolutely no notice of these permanent symbols of death.
Ammoudia sits on the delta of the River Acheron which in Greek Mythology is the ‘river of woe’ and to Dante, it formed the border of Hades in his bestseller, Inferno. Armed with this knowledge we did not venture across the river even though a dreary looking chap in a black cape carrying a scythe was touting pleasure rides to Hell and back.
Instead we had a cheap beer and watched Kingfishers dive for their supper on the watery road to Perdition. You will have to use your imagination in the picture below but is the best I can do with the lens I have. So Santa, if you are listening.
No holiday resort looks good off-season and Ammoudia is no exception. There was nothing open and the beach does not look like it has been cleaned in years. The harbour did have some life and the whole village was bought together for the arrival of a fishing boat and that was it. In the summer it is probably a good place to ‘wild’ and it goes down as a possible for future reference.
The Crescent Beach of Ammoudia
Parked next to the road to Hell
The next stop for us was the town and port of Preveza. Preveza has a yacht-lined harbour and colourful back-street houses and businesses. The narrow lanes with a canopy of vines are a pleasure to walk around. This town has the feel of a place on the up with a much richer diversity of shops that we have seen in a long while. There are hundreds, if not thousands of yachts stationed here and with anticipated Russian money pouring in there is a good vibe. We had a splendid meal in one of the vine covered cafes watching in awe as the locals smoke fag after fag and drink ouzo after ouzo before heading back to work or drive.
We were going to park in the quayside car-park but a carpet of broken windscreen glass put us off and after a quick chit-chat we got to park securely in the port with free water and wifi for the exchange of €5, no receipt given, no questions asked.
Harbour at Preveza
Having spent some time on the islands of the Cyclades and the Aegean we were keen to add an Ionian to our collection. We chose Lefkada as it was the easiest to get to in a motorhome. There is a causeway that links Lefkada to the mainland, in fact it is not a real island at all, it was made one when the Corinthians breached the isthmus with a canal in the 8th Century BC. There is a rumour the canal was dug to allow Cleopatra speedy access, to what or where I do not know. The causeway supports a host of bird-life including a buzzard on every pole, flamingos, and a colony of some of the few remaining Dalmatian Pelicans. Here are a couple of bird pics taken with an insignificant lens, Oh please Santa.
This is a stunning Island with some of the best beaches in Greece, gorgeous vistas and forests and a sea of the most incredible turquoise colour. We had plan to stay at the village of Agios Nikitas on the west coast for the night but had to give up as the road was closed due to a recent rock-fall and as we do not do bravery we headed back to Lefkada Town for the night.
Not going any further. As for as we could get
West Coast of Lefkada
We settled in at a car-park alongside the marina and went to one of the dockside restaurants for dinner. We have never seen so much food ever on a plate. There was a mountain of various meats resting on a bed of pita bread in-turn resting a layer of chips which in turn covered a finely honed Greek Salad. If I had ate non-stop for a fortnight I might have made it the chip layer but would certainly would be dead if I had intentions to taste a juicy ripe tomato. We declined the offer of a doggie-sack as we would have needed a garden shed to have stored it in. This was portions not seen since The Flintstones were at the forefront of mankind.
We also took advantage of the all you could eat Wifi offer that enabled us to gorge for the second time in a day, unlimited data for £1.13, yummy yum yum. The next day we had a couple of hours walking around the relaxed, happy feeling pedestrianised streets of Lefkada with its excellent shops and vibrant ambiance. Unhappily this town has had its fair share of misery, it sits on a fault-line and has been subject to numerous earthquakes, the last being in 1948 which totally devastated the town. The have rebuilt the place in an attractive quake-proof style with many of the buildings painted in bright colours with the upper stories clad in corrugated iron. With time running out we made our way a bit further down the coast, but Lefkada has at least a couple of weeks stay marked down for our next trip. It’s a beauty.
Lefkades Harbour looking towards the Mainland
Main Street Lefkades
Main Sq Lefkades
Next stop Mitikas. One of the problems when driving South in the winter is the low-sun makes photography impossible, there is no definition and no contrast. This is the reason this post is not populated with picture after picture of the stunning scenery along this Ionian coast, you will have to take our word for it that this is one beautiful part of the world and as long as you drive between 12 and 4 you will think you are on a God-given celestial road trip.
We arrived in Mitikas and for a while we thought we were the only people here, it was a ghost town. So we had our dinner and watched the sun go down behind the plethora of islands out to sea. It is quite a while since we have had a west facing view, Santorini in fact, to watch the sun disappear and so the cameras came out and you can now see what we saw.
Disappointingly for us the ghost-town woke up around midnight and the streets were awash with the sounds of cars, lorries and motorbikes having drag-races up and down the promenade. We didn’t get much sleep and for that reason we cannot see us making a return visit to Makitas, even with those sunsets.
Nafpaktos 18/12 –
We had not planned to get here until the 19th but as wanted to defrost the fridge we had to find somewhere to park with a nearby restaurant. Our first choice was the island town of Etoliko with its wonderful location sitting between the Etoliko Lagoon and the open sea. Regrettably the place is a bit of a toilet. If this was high summer we could have done a night here but after last night’s sleeplessness we moved on to Mesolongi. This is the place where Lord Byron died of fever on the 19th April 1824 just before he was to attack the Turkish Fleet during the Greek war of Independence. It is rumoured that Byron, a national hero in Greece, has his heart buried in Mesolongi while the rest of him is interned in Nottinghamshire. Although a hero also in the UK he was refused burial in Westminster Abbey with the other great poets over concerns about his opium smoking and bisexual liasons.
We did follow the road out along the causeway to the end of the Klisova Lagoon and will be back here to camp next time, as long as Santa delivers, as the bird life is wonderful. But, we didn’t fancy the fish restaurant and so ploughed on to a place we know for our final couple of days, Nafpaktos.
And it just happened to be Angie’s name day so that could only mean one thing, drinking and dancing, I know two things. We had a great time but alas the photos are not for family viewing and your just have to use your imaginations.
So until the New Year we will leave you with a picture of the Rio-Andirio Bridge.
Happy Xmas to all.
Rio Andirio Bridge
Rio Andirio Bridge with cooling filter