Saturday 25 June 2016

The Sixteenth Week

Sunday 19-6-16

Today was the exact midpoint of our trip, the day in the middle of our two Channel Tunnel crossing dates.  We’d had two days at the campsite on the island of Evia and it was time to see the rest of the place.  Unbeknown to us today would be a long one.  We left with a destination planned called Politico Beach.  This was 40 km away and when we found it at lunch it was obvious it wouldn’t do for an overnight stop.  It was a 1km long stretch of beach full of bars and cars parked either side of the road.  It took ten minutes to drive down it due to the traffic.  We fled inland and over the mountains.  Lots of mountains. When we did drop down to the coast we found a smaller beach, equally packed with people.  We found out why, it was the Sunday of the Greek Whitsun holiday.  It was also 35 degrees.  But on the way to this beach, 2km up the road we’d spotted a picnic spot with a water point.

It was in the shade, cooler and quiet.  After a long day it was ideal.  We relaxed with a beer and studied our map while we watched all the cars come off the beach head for home in the evening.  Then it was just us.

The dry riverbed next to the spot was full of frogs or toads.  They made a clucking sound like a chicken, which was odd.

Wild Camping Near Metochiou Beach, Evia, Greece. N38.64486 E023.95229

Monday 20-6-16

We woke up after a good nights sleep and decided to stop another.  We drove down to the beach early and got a parking space.  The plan was to spend the morning at the beach then head back to our shady spot to cool down in the heat of the afternoon.  First order of the day was coffee at the small beach bar.

We noticed tents on the beach that Greeks had spent the night in.  It reminded me of the photos of the migrants in tents on the Greek islands.  But these were locals.  After our morning at the seaside we drove back and had lunch at the picnic spot, slept the afternoon heat away and then had dinner. 

While we had lunch two blokes in a pick-up truck selling everything from plastic washing up bowls to potatoes turned up. They ate their lunch then got a pillow each out of the truck and laid down on the picnic bench for a siesta.  But not before cadging cigarettes off us and trying to sell us potatoes, successfully.   When we woke up they were packing away and off home after a hard day’s work.  That night we went to sleep listening to the clucking frogs.

Wild Camping Metochiou Beach, Evia, Greece. N38.64486 E023.95229

Tuesday 21-6-16

After two days at our picnic spot we decided to move on.  The road up from the beach was a seriously steep one but gave us a good look back down to the beach

We followed the coast via this mountain road, it had huge potholes and a serious lack of maintenance.  Just what we’d become used to here in Greece.  The hairpin bends and views were spectacular though.

By midday we hit the harbour town of Kymi.  It was fairly big and busy, we parked up and had a wander around.  This involved the inevitable coffee.

We hatched a plan.  We fancied a meal out tonight but not an afternoon sat in a hot harbour.  Around the bay was a beach.  We parked there for the afternoon and revelled in the cooling gusts of wind coming around the headland. 

Then at eight o’clock wandered back into town.  I found a quiet parking spot under a destitute catamaran and then we dined out.  While we sat eating I spotted the full moon low in the sky over the sea.  Using my professional photography skills I managed to capture its full glory.  It’s that fuzzy white blob under the palm tree.

Back at the port Van Brian was waiting for us with his shipmates.

Wild Camping at Kymi Harbour, Elvis, Greece. N38.62830 E024.12214

Wednesday 22-6-16

We woke up at the harbour after a surprisingly quiet night’s sleep, to say we were in the middle of the town.

There was another harbour further south marked on the map so we headed there.  We needed diesel and the first three stations we stopped at only took cash.  We only had enough cash for a meal and a coffee so we carried on till we found a credit card friendly one.  The young chap who filled us up also told us that the harbour we were heading to was a nice place.  And he was right.

We dumped the van behind an Italian one and had a walk about.  There was a small beach and a few bars and cafes.  But it was mainly fishing trawlers.  Big ones that we hadn’t seen in Greece before. We were also glad we’d come here in a van and not on a donkey.

It got to 35 degrees again in the afternoon and I resorted to beer as a coolant.  It didn’t cool me down but after a few I didn’t give a toss that I was hot anymore.  I also got to use my deck chair mounted beer holder.

That night the car park in the photo below filled up and people and children, they wandered around chatting and doing that Greek evening stroll thing they do until midnight, then the breeze dropped and it got hot in the van.  We both had a crap night’s kip.

Wild camping, Agioi Apostoloi Harbour, Elvia, Greece.  N38.41031 E024.19585

Thursday 23-6-16

After the noisy hot night we decided to move.  But first we needed cash, the satnav told us the nearest ATM was in Aliveri.  So we went there first and got ourselves all confused while trying to get back out again after getting some cash.  Some reversing and going down one way streets the wrong way sorted that out though.  Next we headed for another small harbour.  This one was a lot smaller and a lot quieter.

We spoke to the couple sat in the café, he was an Australian Greek and she was an Australian Italian.  He owned a company that made boat floats in Athens, had a house in this village and spent the summer here and the winter in Australia.  He showed us his product, it blows up under a boat and keeps it out of the water when not in use and also protects it from banging about while moored up.

We talked about today’s Brexit vote, Greeks, the language and the work ethic here.   He also told us of an unofficial camping area just around the bay on a beach, he said there were signs saying no camping but everyone just ignored them.  So we followed his directions and found it.

Along the beach there must have been thirty Greek caravans set up with awnings.  There were also a couple of motorhomes and a German 4x4 roof tent affair.  This seemed ideal so we found ourselves a spot under two Gum Trees, as the Ausie had called them.  I’m pretty sure they’re Eucalyptus Trees myself.

The night was quiet and a lot cooler.

Wild Camping at Panagia Beach, Evia, Greece. N38.28101 E024.15053

Friday 24-6-16

We decided to have another night at the unofficial beach camping.  I switched on 3G on my phone and found out the UK had voted to leave the EU and that the PM was stepping down.  It felt a long way away and not really of my concern.  I found a big ants nest next the van and they were dragging a big shiny green beetle into it, this interested me more.  At 10am a bread van came down the track and we got our daily half kilo of bread and a cheese pie.  Later I put my years of training in a top Paris salon as a ladies hairstylist to good use, and hacked at Lizzie's head with the clippers.

And all too soon it was Friday early doors time.  In an effort to cool down I’d sliced off the sleeves of an old tee shirt.  But on reflection I should probably have done this when I started sitting in the sun a few months ago to avoid the builders tan I’d acquired.

In the evening, when the sun had set, we boiled up some tortellini on the beach, it was all very relaxed.  Well at least I was after my early beers.

Wild Camping at Panagia Beach, Evia, Greece. N38.28101 E024.15053

Saturday 25-6-16

After six days wild camping and sixteen days since we’d last used a washing machine we needed a campsite with a laundry.  The only campsite was north at Eretria.  It was Saturday and we were worried it would be full of Athenians having a weekend away.  On the way we found a Lidl and refiled the fridge and cupboards.  And then we arrived at Milos Camping.  Yes they had a place for us, over by the sea, and yes they had washing machines, 3 euro a go, and yes they had Wi-Fi, all over the site, and yes they had a café that sold ice coffees, and yes they offered ACSI discount, 17 euro a night with electric hook-up.  And then the clincher, yes they had a TV and would be showing the Euro games.  I nearly wet myself.  I’d not seen one game yet and England play Iceland on Monday.  We’ll be stopping three days then.

I was also very impressed with the campsite man’s utility vehicle.  A Honda C50 with a trailer.  Brilliant.

So we’ve passed the halfway point of our odyssey.  We’re coping with the mid thirty degree heat and the budget is still holding up.  Thessaloniki and Halkidiki next and after that Eastern Europe, but that’s a month away yet.

Camping Milos, Eratria, Evia, Greece.  N38.39082 E023.77501

Cheers, the Van Brian Crew.

Below are the updated facts and figures for 109 days away.

Saturday 18 June 2016

The Fifteenth Week

Sunday 12-6-16, Monday 13-6-16 and Tuesday 14-6-16

So on Sunday we woke up at Chiliadu Beach and looked at our map.  Fancying a change of scenery we spotted a big lake north of here, up in the hills at Lidoriki.  We asked the sat nav to take us there and set off.  As usual as soon as you head inland we found ourselves driving up steep roads with lots of hairpin bends.  After about half an hour I glanced at the fuel gauge.  It was nearly empty, so I asked the sat nav to show me fuel stations along my current route.  None found.  Bugger, there was no way we could do 40 miles up and the 40 miles back down again.  So we turned around and went back to the town near the beach where there were three fuel stations.  But it was Sunday and they were all “kleestos” or in plain English shut.  Where was the next one? 30km around the coast, so we gave up on lakes and dedicated today to getting diesel.  Which we eventually got on the main coast road.  Then we needed somewhere to stop.  This we found on a beach just west of the port of Galaxio.

There were three vans here already and I said Bonjour to the Frenchman, Gut Morgen to the German and then drew a blank at the Czechoslovakian, so I said hello and he was happy with this.  The bay had a small ferry moored up in it and a little harbour used by a fish farming outfit.  On Monday morning a tanker lorry rolled onto the ferry and it sailed off coming back two hours later with the same lorry.  Liz did some snorkelling and said the bay was full of fish.

The Frenchman knew this too and spent a long time with a very long fishing rod trying to catch one.   Unsuccessfully, until a Greek chap came down to the beach and caught a bucket full of fish.  The Frenchman chatted with him and borrowed some “special” bait, he caught two fish straight away.
We had a walk over the hill and in the next bay a very nice yacht was moored up.

That evening the bloke on the yacht got in his little dingy and buzzed around to our bay.  He parked it on the beach, walked down the beach looking at the vans then back again, not saying anything to anyone, got back in his dingy and left.  Perhaps he just wanted to stretch his legs?  I’d brought with us 20m of nice yellow elastic cord, the type they make bungee straps out of.  So I spent some time making up straps for the windows, these stop the wind blowing the window up past the ratchet point and then falling back closed.  I also made a long one for tying down the awning.  Something else that flaps about if it gets breezy.  And it got breezy every night here for some reason, not enough to drop the temperature below the high twenties, in fact the breeze seemed to warm things up.  I think it’s something to do with the land heating up and the sea cooling, or something like that.

It was a great spot and we stayed three nights, it was quiet and the beach was great.

Wild camping at Anemokampi Beach, Greece.  N38.35183 E022.37989

Wednesday 15-6-16  

But today we had to move, we had no veggies, meat, beer or bottled water but something else urged us to move too.  The weather forecast predicted 40 degrees on the coast.  Time to head up into the hills.  Jokingly I asked the sat nav to find me ski resorts near to where we were.  Amazingly it found one 45km away.  So we waved bye bye to our beach and headed for the hills.  On the way we stopped at a supermarket and refreshed the cupboards.  Liz checked the till receipt as the lady was messing with our bank card and realised that the three chicken breasts we’d just bought were €10.  So they got put back and we caused a deal of confusion getting a refund.  But I found Greek Alpha beer at buy 6 get 4 free so it was worth it.  After that we climbed up to our ski resort destination.  We passed through Delphi on the way, which looked awful, tourist coaches, tat shops and fast food restaurants.  The ruins here draw the punters it seems.  The roads after Delphi started to get interesting.

We climbed right to the top, passing the ski resort and up to a phone mast, but this was a bit exposed and remote even for us.

The hills were falling onto the roads up here but there was room to drive around them.

So we backtracked a couple of km and found a nice spot at a pull in at the side of the road.

Temperature wise it was in the mid-twenties and a nice cool breeze was blowing.  We levelled the van up, switched the fridge to gas and that was us sorted for the night.  I like it when a plan comes together.

I got up at 3am and it was a glorious 16 degrees in the van, almost chilly.

Wild Camping, Near Parnassu Ski Resort, Greece. N38.54903 E022.57493

Thursday 16-6-16

We checked the captain’s log and found out it was our 100th day away today.  Much as we liked it up here in the cool there wasn’t an awful lot to do.  So we rolled down the other side of the hill heading north.  We needed our water tank filling and that’s not been a problem here in Greece.  All the petrol stations have a tap you can use and at the side of the road, when you’re in the wilds, they have taps set in stone walls every so often.  This is what we found on our way down.

Something else we found as we came out of the pine forests was a British military cemetery.  

It was immaculately kept, the grass was watered and cut.  In fact we’d not seen a patch of grass this well cared for anywhere else on our travels.  The borders had small rose bushes and flowers planted in them, there were no weeds anywhere.  Amongst the gravestones of British soldiers from lots of different regiments there were also four Russian soldiers of the Russian Labour Corp and one Maltese soldier. 

It was a fine resting place for them.  We drove on and hit the coast at a very big town called Lamia.  We did a big shop and then decided we’d like a campsite tonight.  I found one marked on the map but when we got there it was very much closed.  But it was on a gravel road by a beach, so we made our own campsite a bit further along the road.

That night we sat outside the van enjoying a cooling breeze off the sea, it’d got up to 33 degrees today.  We watched a ferry in the distance crossing the sea to the island of Evia.  We thought that would be a nice thing to do.

Wild Camping, Longos Beach, Greece. N38.75729 E022.93199

Friday 17-6-16

So that’s what we did.  We drove 20km around the coast to the small port of Arkitsa, bought a €31 ticket for a ferry leaving in half an hour, had a coffee in a café across the road and then got on it.

The crossing took half an hour and was very smooth, the sea was flat and there wasn’t a breeze.  We sat on the deck in the sun looking down on the filthy roof of our van.

The port at Loutra Epipsou on the island surprised us, we thought it’d be a small place, like the one we’d sailed from on the mainland.  But it was big and busy.

We had thought of having a night there, we’d had some good stopovers at harbours in the past, but it wasn’t that kind of place.  So we drove east around the island and found a campsite 15 km further on.  The pitches were shady and the showers were hot.  It’d do us.  We’d had a fun day but it’d worn me out.

Later on, the sight of the dirty van roof on the ferry got to me.  I called for all hands to the mast with orders to swab down and scrub the decks.  We needed to be ship shape and Bristol fashion.  I was getting the hang of this sea fairing lark.

And that was another week done. Tomorrow will be the half way point of our trip and we still have a lot of Greek coastline to explore before we head for Eastern Europe.  We don’t plan much, we just do what we feel like each day, which seems to work for us.  I wonder where we’ll go next week?

Camping Rovies, Isle of Evia, Greece. N38.83191 N23.19900

Cheers, the Van Brian Crew.

Below are the updated facts and figures for 101 days away.

Saturday 11 June 2016

The Fourteenth Week

Saturday 4-6-16

We left Camping Nicolas on Saturday morning along with the French couple we’d got to know.  They headed south and we headed north.  At the top of the hill out of the town we stopped and grabbed a photo. 

It was a nice place and we’d enjoyed the campsite there.  We didn’t plan on driving far today.  The first place we looked to stop at was in a very small town only 10 km down the road. But it was Saturday and all the locals were down on the beach so it wouldn’t do for an overnight stop.  But there was a small supermarket, so we got bread and tomatoes for lunch.  Another 20km on, at the end of a dead end road, was a harbour town called Korfos.  It had a quiet beach and a gravel road alongside it.  Perfect, we found some shade and parked up.

Over the course of the day three more vans turned up and blagged spots under the trees.  We walked along the beach into the harbour and had a failed attempt at getting a coffee in one of the harbour side cafes.  We sat for fifteen minutes but nobody was around to serve us.  So we gave up and saved ourselves €5. 

We had our lunch back at the van looking out to sea then we sunbathed, read and snoozed.

Wild camping at Korfos Beach, Greece.  N37.75807 E023.12073

Sunday 5-6-16

I got up very early and sat outside the van with a nice breeze and the sun coming up over the hill.

We decided to stay a second night here.  And at lunch another van turned up, a Spanish registered one.  The first one from Spain we’d seen.  So the row of vans parked went German, French, British, German, and Spanish.  At the far end were two French hippy busses and a Greek couple had plonked a tent on the beach in between us all.  A sudden influx considering it was just us here yesterday lunchtime.  Still time for a Dutch van to appear.

Wild camping at Korfos Beach, Greece.  N37.75807 E023.12073

Monday 6-6-16

No Dutch van but more Germans arrived this morning.  But it was time for us to leave.  As per usual we looked back at our camping spot from the hill as we drove out of town. The little group of trees on the bit sticking out to sea in the middle is where we'd been.

We headed north to Corinth.  The roads got busier and we counted 22 tourist coaches in a row heading south.  We found ourselves a Lidl just outside Corinth and also a shop selling camping stuff.  Here the kit on Van Brian got the addition of two small folding stools.  Handy to sit on, put your feet on when sat in the big chairs and use as little tables.  A bargain at €16 for the pair.  We also found The Blue Dolphin campsite and bagged ourselves a spot next to the sea.

The campsite lady said they’d got a group of 25 vans coming tomorrow.  I shuddered at the thought of trolling around with so many other vans.  We also decided we didn’t want to be there to witness this invasion so paid for the one night only.  What they did have on site was a small taverna, who after we asked, said they’d do us chips to take away if we brought them our bowl.  I fired up the BBQ, stuffed a chicken in it with some French beans and red peppers.  The result, an excellent evening meal.

After dinner we had sunset entertainment over the Ionian Sea.

Camping Blue Dolphin, Corinth, Greece. N37.93557 E022.86616

Tuesday 7-6-16, Wednesday 8-6-16 and Thursday 9-6-16

So before the massed hoards descended on us we packed up, dumped our waste and left.  They’re building a motorway from Corinth to Patras and so far they’ve managed to get two lanes done.  So we did 50 km over nice new tarmac with lots of road building action on both sides to keep us entertained.  Breakfast was a treat, a posh bakery had small warm quiche Lorraine, like they sell in French bakeries.  I’d offer you a photo of one if I had one but they got eaten far too quickly for a camera shutter to capture.  No spots for free camping made themselves known so we found the Camping Akrata and for the second day running bagged a spot looking out to sea. 

Manilos, the campsite man was very nice and said I could borrow a ladder to get on the van roof to sort out a stray solar panel wire that was flapping about. A casualty of one of the numerous olive trees we’d squeezed by.  He also said they did a Greek dish for €6 every day in the small taverna on site. We ordered ice coffee and decided to have two days here, blow the expense, it was time for a mini holiday.

A Dutchman and then later a German told us there might be thunderstorms tomorrow.  As we were heading into the mountains next it was probably wise to stay at the coast and see what happened.
Well we heard thunder and it got a bit blowy but there was no rain storm.  Last night’s temperature dropped to the low twenties and we both got a great night’s sleep.  I borrowed a ladder off Manilos and did the jobs on the roof.  The solar panel got all the sand and dust cleaned off it and the cables to it got secured back to the roof.  Zip ties and gaffer tape proving their worth yet again.   Then we did more or less the same as yesterday.  Coffee at the taverna and snoozes and sunbathing.  It’s a nice campsite as its small and all the vans park around a tree filled square in front of the taverna, nicer than the rows and rows of vans like most campsites here.  And we did like the taverna.

I had a very difficult conversation with a big old German chap, he spoke Greek but very little English.  He explained that he was 80 years old and when he was at school Hitler wouldn’t let them learn English.  I said that that was very unfair of Hitler but then realised that this possibly wasn’t the worse thing he ever did.  One of those posh overlanding 4x4 campers turned up and parked next to the Dutch people, next door to us.  They parked so their door was facing the poor Dutchman’s.  It’s one of those unwritten rules that you don’t do this, respecting other people’s privacy and all that.

Today’s special in the taverna was rice meatballs and beefsteak.  So after a few aperitifs we decided to dine out. For €30 we got Greek Salad, Tzatziki, two huge chargrilled steaks with chips, a litre of wine and a couple of cinnamon liqueurs, a speciality of Patras.

 And then two nights turned into three, we were having a good time here.  In the morning the sun would rise over the sea in front of the van and I’d boil up a strong coffee to wake me up.

And then we’d spend the rest of the day just pottering about.  On the last night we ate at the taverna again and the bill came to €25, we got served the best aubergine salad we’d ever had.   We even got the company of a praying mantis. 

That day I’d asked Toola, the campsite lady, if they sold Greek flag stickers.  I wanted one for the van but I’d not seen any in the shops.  She said nobody had asked for them so no, they didn’t.  After our meal she came over with a Greek flag sticker.  She’d been to town and got a man to print a sheet of them.  She wouldn’t take any money for it and said she’d give them to people if they ever asked again.

Camping Akrata Beach, Greece.  N38.17392 E022.33797

Friday 10-6-16

We packed up in the morning and paid Manolis, he said people had seen us getting ready to leave and kept asking him if they could move to our pitch.  We bought a couple of plastic bottles of the local wine from him and found some English books in reception.  Liz left some of the ones she’d read and took ones that took her fancy.  We headed south into the mountains.  There’s a place high up called Kalavrita that a small rack and pinion train goes to, it seemed popular with people who visit this area so we decided to go and have a look.. 

We got there and it was ok but nothing special.  I think the train ride is the only reason people come, and we didn't fancy that.  But what there also was in this area was a ski resort.  Out of season ski resorts tend to be nice quiet places for an overnight stop.  And after another 15km climbing up the mountain we found this to be true.  It was deserted apart from us, two dogs and a goat herder with his herd.  And they left over the hill after an hour.

The temperature was 16 degrees due to us being at 1700m and then in the late afternoon we had a shower of rain.  It was like Scotland.  The skylight above our bed leaked and I spent an hour taking it to bits and resealing it.   After dinner we got a sunset to go with our mountain views.

Wild Camping at Kalavrita Ski Resort, Greece. N38.00589 E022.19878

Saturday 11-6-16

We slept with the duvet on the bed for the first time since Italy.  When we woke on Saturday morning the two dogs were still outside our van.  Before we left we fed them on a tin of Spam, half a chorizo sausage, some left over beef stew and what was left of last night’s sweet and sour chicken.  They seemed extremely happy with all this.  It was our last day in the Peloponnese.  Today’s plan was to cross back over the bridge at Patras and then go east along the north shore of the Ionian Sea.  We did this after 70km of mountain roads and the temperature steadily rising. At the Lidl in Patras it was 32 degrees.  Then we paid the €13.30 to cross the lovely bridge.

A few miles around the coast we found a beach at Chiliadou.  It was busy with locals but they would be gone later and we’d have it to ourselves.  So that’s another week done and it’s been an odd one, lots of campsites and a trip to the mountains.  Wonder where we’ll go next week and where we’ll stop on our 100th day away?

Wild Camping at Chiliadou Beach, Greece. N38.39419 E021.92100

Cheers, the Van Brian Crew.

Below are the updated facts and figures for 95 days away.....