On thro Greece

Saturday, 15 May
We caught a taxi back to the village of Diakopto where we hoped to catch a train up the mountain to the village of Kalavryta, yesterday when we spoke to the railway woman she told us that there were no trains yesterday. We told we'd come back tomorrow and she just smiled at us. All we paid €20 for a taxi back to the station, saw crowds of people there, went back to the ticket office, and she smiled at us again, and said all the tickets are sold, and they are sold for every train today.

Yes the people that work for the railway are a special breed in every country, of course yesterday I should've asked are tickets are available for today, but you sort of rely a little bit on the staff of the organisation you are dealing with, in future I must try and remember, that railways are different.

So we caught another taxi back to the motor camp, the driver glanced at the card of the motor camp, and took off on a road we did not recognise, and then he got to a town and said we are here, I gave him the card again, and said we are not, he looked at the card, got out of the car and went away and eventually came back, drove in the direction of the motor camp, asked somebody else on the way, and eventually I showed him the bridge we had to go across, show him where we had to turn, and of course he didn't want to turn their want to keep going straight, so I shouted and pointed at the road we are busy going past, he stopped and backed up, and eventually we got back to the motor camp, the meter read €23, but I paid €20, so that was our excitement for the day.

So we set off a motorhome driving towards Corinth where we want to look at the canal that made the area famous, unfortunately we missed it as we have had to carry on the road towards Athens to cross over the canal, so we may try to do that on the way back and we may have another attempt at the railway, so we drove towards Isthmía on the way towards Palaiá Epídhavros where was the large magnificent theatre, we got sidetracked there by going towards the small theatre, and there was a signpost pointing towards the beach so we thought we would wander down to that to see what it was like, and the roads are getting narrower, and then there was the ditch that they were digging on the side which we could just get past, and start looking doubtful going round the corner, so Luda got out and explored the road towards the beach, and came back reporting there was room for one car on the beach and really no room to turn around.

So we had to back up past all of these roadworks, but fortunately we found a driveway we could drive into, and then drive out on opposite lock and drive back the way we came, a fraction wiser.

We carried on towards the small theatre and after driving down some more very narrow roads we eventually found it, it of course was closed for reconstruction so after a few more photographs we decided to head off towards our next destination of Návplion but we just left the city we found another signpost pointing us towards the large theatre, 13 km away, so follow the signposts and ended up in a very large car park, I stayed and look after the motorhome whilst Luda went in to do the photographs.

After about 10 minutes there was a major drama about three cars along a man and woman came back with their three small daughters, and then the woman came running over to me, asked me if I'd seen anybody at their car, evidently they had forced the lock, stolen their suitcases, all three little girls were busy crying, I was of no help to them as we pulled in beside another motorhome, and I did not see the cars until it pulled away a few moments earlier. However I'm sure whoever did the stealing watched the French group depart from their Greek rental and new they had at least 30 minutes to do their break in and by the time the French group came back they of course would be well and truly gone.

There's nothing like this to make you aware that this sort of thing can happen and it's made me decide to be a little bit more careful with our security.

Luda came back after doing the photographs, I brought up to date with the drama in the car park, and then we headed off on the route again towards the city port of Návplion which was about 25 km away. The light was getting very good as we're heading towards the sea and we stopped several times for what hopefully will be wonderful photographs.

Arriving at our destination the light was just right on the magnificent castle and the walls that overlook the city so that was a special case for photographs, then we saw a lot of motorhomes parked on the waterfront so after three false starts we ended up parked right beside the water, in behind a motorhome with GB number plates, this year were finding very many English have travelled well beyond what I have normally defined as the boundary where you see the GB number plates.

Check with them about the parking, no problems you can stay overnight, and they are flying into Christchurch in December, so we had some drinks and a long chat and made arrangements to see each other in Christchurch, NZ.

Sunday 16th of May
We were woken up this morning by the sound of the cruise liner pulling into the harbour close to where we parked for the night, all of the tour buses were ready to take the passengers out to see the sights for the day, and to get them safely back to their home on the water. The ones that stayed on board would be comfortable because the ships motors were still running which met all of the air conditioning were still working.

This city of Nafplio was in prominent news in the 13th century during the struggles between Venice and Turkey for the ports of this area, the housing shows influence from both of these countries and some of it still looks the same as it did three centuries ago. There's a fortified island of Bourtzi in the north of the harbour which was extremely pretty during sunset and then the Palamidi fortress looking down over the town, there are evidently over 800 steps up to this formidable structure so I allowed Luda to go and make sure the number of steps were correct, she came back telling me that was a beautiful large car park up there so we could have driven up and I could've seen the sights of the city from this high advantage point, so that is something to do on another day. Luda came back and told me there was exactly 853 steps and I was grateful for that piece of information.

There are about 30 motorhomes camped on the Pier parking area and this dwindled down to about five when we were ready to leave. There were some gypsies about 100 meters away and they kept on walking past the motorhome having a good look at it, so after yesterday's experience with the French people being robbed I did not venture very far away, and then we were ready to leave so .......

We drove on down the coast of the Peloponnese heading towards Neapoli which was about 170 km down the coast winding in and out around the hillside, passing through all the delightful little villages, and their narrow roadways down to the beach which after yesterday we learned not to tackle.

We passed through the villages of Ástros and Péra Mélana and then we stopped on a layby near Poúlithra on the edge of the sea with the sea about 10 m down below.

In one of the last newsletters we mentioned all these delightful little tin churches we kept on seeing at the corners with flowers and what looked like some holy water and I suggested you draw your own conclusions as to what they were for, or the answer of course is that they are memorials to people have been killed on the road, and there are a lot of memorials made from all sorts of materials! Of course when you see the guys riding their motorbikes, at full speed, around these winding roads, with their hair flowing in the breeze, you realise they fall into the category of temporary Greeks.

Monday 17th of May
There is just as well be stopped when we did last night because when we carried on the road this morning towards Monemvasía the road started going up into the hills at a steep angle with hairpin bends as was winding its way around the mountains, and it wasn't too long before work at over 700 m when it levelled out onto a plateau for awhile, and then it started going on up again, this time the tar seal finished and we were driving around these hairpin bends rapidly climbing at the same time till we reached over 900 m.

Now front wheel drives are not very good if they're moving uphill with loose metal on the road so the wheels can spin, and if you're motorhome is inclined to be heavy, like this one, then driving in these conditions is sort of asking for trouble. We immediately dumped the freshwater and any dirty water we had which reduced the payload by possibly 150 kg, I've no idea whether that helped, but we accomplished the travel on this bit of road and eventually ended back as tar seal.

As we came around the corner the road in front of us was covered by at least 100 goats, beautiful looking ones and some of the male ones had wonderful horns, we drove through these very slowly with Luda doing portraits of some of the interesting faces, and they were very reluctant to get up from where those sitting on the tar seal and move, I thought I was going to have to run over one to get past, a stubborn one sitting in front of my left hand front wheel, but about six blasts of the horn, he slowly got up and wandered off to the left.

We drove through the villages of Poúlithra, Peletá, Kremastí and then we joined up with the main road going through Metamórfosis, Sikéa, and finally reaching the sixth century walled town of Monemvasía, the old town on the upper slopes is now mainly in ruins except for the church and the lower town has been wonderfully restored and all this sits inside the massive wall that runs around the whole city.

The GPS took us right to the gate of the city, of course there was no parking, so Luda jumped out of the motorhome and went on inside whilst I drove down to the parking area 2 km away, filled up with diesel and water and then about an hour later Luda texted me that she had finished so I drove up again to the gate to collect her, she wonderful collection of photographs and had climbed up to the old city, fortunately it was not as many steps as the 800 yesterday it was still quite high which of course meant as a wonderful view of the town below.

Luda went up to the old church which is in the process of being restored, and one day it may look like it did several hundred years ago, but now it is just the outside you can photograph, the old paintings on the inside are still visible but certainly would look a lot better if they too were restored. There was quite a lot of snakes about this old town, I presume the ruins are wonderful cool resting spots for the snakes, most of them are small and quite harmless, but Luda found a green one blocking her path that was substantial in size, and the girl looking after the church confirmed that yes that was a poisonous one.

While the restoration work requires rocks and stones to be moved around and the stonemason that is working on some of the restoration and a couple of horses which were used for this purpose. However he still had to use a wheelbarrow as well.

It was then time to turn around again and we were on our way back the way we come for about 20 km and then we started heading towards Sparta and about 25 km out at that city we found some old roads that had been straightened, so these beautiful curves which curved away from the main road was still in wonderful condition so we drove on to one of these which places about 200 meters away from the main road and that hopefully will be peaceful for the night.

Tuesday 18th of May
Today we carried on the road to Sparta and drove into the middle of a busy city before we'd did a left turn and drove out to the old city of Mistrás founded by the Franks in the 13th century to replace mediaeval Sparta and so it carried on having a rich history well into the 16th century.

Before we got to the city the GPS took us down several lanes that lead nowhere, narrow one lane lanes, and these we had to back out of three times and in the end I decided that we go to Sparta and then program in Mistrás which took us into the city and then at the signpost pointing towards Mistrás the GPS decided to send us that direction. I'm beginning to think with these one lane roads, that for a motorhome one needs a special GPS, that are now available, often they are for trucks, but there are also models out there for motor homes where you put in your weight and your length, but that is for another day.

The GPS took us right to the castle gate, lots of buses parked their and we found an empty space, but was soon chased away by the bus drivers so Luda hopped out again and went on to brave the ruins while I drove back to the restaurant and parked in their parking space for a couple of hours, having not heard from Luda I thought should wander back to the castle gate, this time the bus drivers found me a parking spot, and an hour later Luda appeared and were on our way again this time north to Trípolis, this was the next waypoint for our next destination which was the Lousios Gorge some 70 km further on but at least it took us in the right direction, then we fed in another city that was much closer, and hopefully when we get really close, we may see some roadsigns.

On the road just passed Nestáni we saw a signpost pointing towards some caves to kilometres away, and we thought, where there is a tourist attraction there is parking, and that is were we are parked for the night.

Wednesday 19th of May
Well I will asume the caves are open to a business during the peak summer season because they were as dead as a dodo this morning, and of course no activity last night, but they did leave the lights on for us overnight which was kind of them.

So we carried on this morning towards Dhimitsána which was the starting point, as far as we could see, for the Lousios Gorge, the first we had to drive through the town, which was a narrow two-lane highway and of course halfway through the town somebody had parked on the opposite side of the road, which meant there was no room to us to pass, and the woman in the passenger seat was obviously beside herself wondering what to do, and after a few minutes she got out and went in to get the driver, who wandered out to the door, finished as long discussion at the doorway, and strolled onto the car, which he then moved, freeing the road up for myself and the five other cars behind me.

But No, the town was not finished with me yet, as I rounded the bend I was confronted with a one lane road, with five cars behind me, and a large blue truck in the distance coming towards me, flashing his lights, which I assumed was Greek for get out my way! I just stopped, let him come towards me, raised my hands palms upwards meaning what can I do! At this point he must have seen the cars behind me because he started backing up, and he found a passing spot, which would've been a lot simpler if he had done that instead of flashing his lights, but no, flashing his lights normally works.

So you may have gathered that this starting point for the Gorge was not a well laid out city with plenty of parking spaces and simple to drive around, so we just kept on driving and then found a parking spot in behind two buses, I pulled behind them, and Luda trudged back into the town to collect the photos she wanted.

Eventually the children came from the town, piled into the buses, and off they went down the hill towards another sightseeing spot, I checked out the sign which indicated it was towards some walking tracks, which appeared to be what we were looking for.

I said the end point for the Gorge into the GPS, and it told me I had to turn around and go back the way it came from the town, so when Luda arrived back, I ignored the GPS and for the signpost down the hill where the road quickly turned into a one lane highway as a wound in and out round the hills, eventually we got to a spot which indicated the tracks started from there but we drove on a little bit and found a very small concrete bridge across a river and the road started going up the hill on the other side, which at this point, with the GPS telling me all the time to turn round and go back, I decided to do just that, and we went back to the spot where the tracks started from, I parked the motorhome there, and Luda trotted off up the track about 30 minutes taken photos she wanted and then walked back for another 30 minutes.

At this point we decided that really this probably was not where we want to be, so we followed the road back out to find that the GPS, did not know which way we were heading when we started and it told us to turn around but in actual fact when we got back to the starting point if the indicated we should have driven straight on.

All morning we been driving round the edge of hills, perhaps some would call the mountains, at about 1000 to 1100 m elevation is really interesting seeing hundreds of beehives along the side of the road at this elevation, they did not appear to be much in the way of flowers but later on we saw lots of Broom in flower so I guess there must be plenty of pollen available for all of these bees.

Again we happened on a large flock of goats occupying the roadway and again our magnificent animals like we saw yesterday some with wonderful heads of horns.

We're starting to understand a little bit as to why people say that the Greek drivers are extremely bad drivers as we are seeing lots of the small models of churches on the side of the road which seems to indicate this is the spot that somebody lost their life, some corners have five or six of these model churches.

While we arrived back at the starting point of the Gorge, did a hard right turn and followed the GPS towards the exit point of the Gorge, the town of Stemmitsa. In retrospect I think we did the right thing taking the narrow low road because the high road which we are now taking had some good opportunities for vistas, but no opportunities, that we could tell to see all the monastery's that were supposedly along this road, yes there were plenty of signs, but they were all in Greek!

Eventually we got to the destination point, which again was another hillside town, with almost a one-way road running through the whole town, we only had to manoeuvre our way past a small car this time which was easier so once on the other side of the town we set the GPS for Pyrgos which was the closest city to Ancient Olympus, when we entered Olympus in to the GPS it want to send us 600Kms to the north, the GPS doesn't know the ancient names.

Again it was an interesting drive through the mountains without seeing a straight road at any point, yet today we got on a motorway and it was most uncanny travelling at 90 kph on a straight road as far as the eye could see, we had nothing like that today.

We see in a lot of dead snakes on the road and so when we saw another turtle on the road in front of us, we stopped, Luda got out and carried the turtle to the other side of the road where hopefully it  got to carry on its journey, unless it gets disorientated and has to return to the spot where Luda picked him up.....

I've come to the conclusion it is a quiet way of life here in Greece, if you drive a car you can park your car just whenever you want to, and people drive around you, you don't have to worry about traffic police, they have the tourists to worry about!

Some of the roads we travel on round the mountains, looked like they just needed a little bit of an earthquake or a good rain and half of the road were just slide off down the mountain, there was quite a bump sometimes going on to this bit that was trying to make up its mind to stay part of the road or ago several hundred feet down into the valley and do its own thing.

Driving through these mountains at the high elevation that we are at it was not surprising to see a signpost pointing towards a ski resort some 12 km further into the mountains, where also been encountering several signposts indicating that chains were required when it was snowing, it would be quite an interesting road in the winter!

Looking down into the valley from our high vantage point we saw in the distance what we assumed were two atomic power stations with their massive cooling towers letting off plenty of steam.

It was quite a tiring day driving this swish back road, and when we saw, just off the road, an old building with lots of parking in front, we drove into it and found that it was a disused building so here we are far enough away from the road for it to be quiet and able to stop moving for a few hours.

Thursday 20th of May
We carried on this morning towards Pyrgos and that took us through lots of little villages with narrow roads, interesting parking, but we had a clean flow through every village without having to back up once. The roads themselves have been winding in and out of the hills, again all of the roads have been low speed, with many signs of roadworks trying to prevent the roads disappearing into the valleys.

The massive fires of last year had become very obvious as we drive through these valleys with all of the burnt trees, and piles of burnt logs ready for some sort of sawmill. It would not have been pleasant driving these roads last year.

We need a rescued another turtle, or totally confused the little blighter but we left him on the side of the road completely withdrawn into this house.

As we were getting close to Pyrgos we saw a road sign, in English, directing us towards Ancient Olympia, so that was quite easy, particularly when we tucked ourselves in behind a tourist bus and followed them all the way to the parking area, the parking area was like most in Greece, undefined so we parked where we thought was correct and Luda went off to look at the sites while I was getting ready to shift the motorhome if necessary.

After walking round the site and taking plenty of photographs, Luda return to the motorhome with the verdict that we saw much better ruins in Turkey last year and in much better condition.

With Ancient Olympia out of the way, we decided it was time to look for the nights resting spot so after about three visits to different beaches we found one totally deserted, Thines Beach and we are in a deserted car park 50 m from the sea and our nerves are being soothed by the sounds of the sea.

I had a look at the two buildings situated either side of the road that led to the beach, both had been abandoned possibly two or three years ago, we observed a few crash memorials as we drove to the beach, so assumed it was reasonably popular, popular enough for young ones to get boozed up and not make it home.

Friday 21st of May
We had very, very substantial rain on the night, and it carried right on through into this morning and we visualised spending another day at the beach and then at about 10:30 AM the sun came out and we had a blue sky so was no reason not to move on.

We carried on towards Killíni which was the location we thought had the largest castle in Greece, but it ended up as being a port from which we could catch a ferry to somewhere, so we turned around and headed towards the village of Kastro which had a large castle up on the hill, quite plain looking, again as far as castles are concerned it does not rank very high on the list of castles you must see.

We then decided to head back to Diakopto to see if we have any more luck catching a train up into the hills, and we had two routes one round by the coast, which was the shortest and probably fastest and the other into the centre of Western Greece which was the route we decided to take.

We very quickly got into the countryside, with the accompanying narrow roads and the growth from the sides of the road giving the driver's two choices, drive in the centre of the road or drive on your correct side of the road and have the overhang of the growth from the side of the road smashing against your vehicle, we saw very, very few vehicles until we got back onto the main road sometime later so the first choice was the easiest and with the volume of traffic quite safe.

Today's drive took us into the real countryside of Greece, way off the tourist path, winding in an out of villages and the recorded track of the GPS is just made up out of curves and switchbacks. The villages we went through were like the villagers did find in any old country and they all looked like they were all too small to be economical units.

We are passing quite a few trees that have a black sort of fruit, which drops onto the ground and stained it extremely badly, this was probably the original source of the black dye that is used on so many of the women's clothing to see in this country.

We stayed recently high elevation going around these hills and through the villages fluctuating between 600 and 900 m, naturally all the roads through the villages were extremely narrow but fortunately, as I commented, there was no traffic.