Up and away from Koroni was slightly easier said than done, our route took us out through what seemed some very tiny village streets. We squeezed the van through, with me congratulating Iain on negotiating widths that appeared not much more than an inch or two either side of us, at which point a massive draw-bar arctic appeared coming in the opposite direction. We reversed back to allow him through, no idea how he was going where we had come from but really glad we didn’t meet him a mile or two further back to find out. To be fair a lot of roads look way too small for much more than a car and then you see a coach or bus trundling along so they must be wider than they look. We have yet to see a width restriction on any road, that may be because they don’t have any signs or it maybe because they believe anything can go through if they just aim and put their foot down, the latter seems to be more likely.
From Koroni we followed the coast road up to the outskirts of Kalamata, for a visit to the mecca of motorhome shoppers – Lidl. Normally we limit ourselves to a basket at a supermarket, at Lidl its a trolley and we stock up on all the essentials for a good few weeks and then some. As at home Lidl stocks some weird and varied stuff but its all edible and its all reasonably cheap so it will do for us. Giant Greek Beans are going to be a theme on meals for a while now, way too cheap to leave on the shelves. We are limited for storage space, especially for chilled and frozen so we tend to shop carefully for those and go mad with the ambient. Letting Iain loose near the frozen was not a good plan, hope he likes lolly with salad as its on the menu this weekend 🙂
Around Kalamata it seems someone has been listening to my complaints that good fruit and vegetables are not widely available. Road side stalls selling fruit, veg, honey and olive oil (not olives) became very frequent. The quality looked good and it made us feel a bit nostalgic for Spain seeing the massive netted bags of oranges. The only problem with these stalls is if we stop we have to buy something, even if they don’t have what we want, or I feel guilty that they are sitting there all day without a sale. We stopped for lunch outside Kalamata and these rather natty standard lamps made from old tree branches were for sale on the road next to us! I just went for a look and the bloke appeared, I had to make a dash for it before his sad face convinced me we needed one of these to stand outside the van at night – in hindsight it may have looked rather good though.
We missed out Kalamata town, we couldn’t think of a reason to trudge around the shops and we don’t know of anything special to see so it seemed easier to pass it by and head down finger number two of the Peloponnese. We climbed for miles and were lucky that breaks in the clouds did give us some incredible views down towards the Mani and out to sea. The roads were good until you reach a village, then its a bit of a squeeze through for a few hundred metres and all ok again out the other side. Once we reached Kampos it was a series of hairpin bends winding steeply all the way back down to the coast
As we started to drop the landscape changed as did the houses. The land is more barren and the houses resemble small castles, the original Mani houses were towers and fortified dwellings from the times of the Ottoman occupation. It seems that even now this is very popular as every village had new developments taking place in the Mani style. As we came through Otitylo we spotted the castle on the hill in front of us, built in 1670 it was pretty much just walls, so we made a joint decision that you can see too many castles and skipped this one. We carried on down to the sea and stopped at Neo Oitylo for a look around the bay, despite being miles from civilization there is plenty of new building and renovations taking place some quite sympathetic with the surroundings but as many appeared to be designed to demonstrate wealth over taste. As it was another hour or so to the next campsite we decided to overnight on the promenade, well more on the wasteland next to the promenade as one of the tavernas had put up a sign saying free parking for motorhomes on the carpark so we thought it best to park where we were most welcome.
Tucked away on the right in our home for the night
from the village across the bay
From Neo Oitylo our plan was a little camperstop by a lake for the following night, found by me on the internet and looking quite good in the photo. I plotted coordinates on the Sat Nav and sat back rather pleased with myself. As we went along the route was a bit daunting to say the least, the road went from the quality of small lane to that of the an old goat herders track. It was so bad that 15 km took 40 minutes and those 40 minutes felt like 2 hours. The width of the road meant that if we met said goat herder he wasn’t passing us unless he was climbing down the sheer drops. Eventually we reached our destination – at the sea on the opposite side of the peninsular!! The photo looked like a lake but was actually the sea, the Sat Nav had taken us the shortest route, however it would have been 8 km more and 25 minutes less to take the main road route. Hence my credentials as a route planner and camperstop finder were shot to pieces – ooops!
So this lake that has turned into a sea is at Skoutari, a small quayside away from any houses or restaurants and looking pretty sheltered. Thinking it would do nicely for us now after the drama of getting there we pulled on and parked up, as the handbrake was lifting we just noticed the wave washing over the pier and flooding up around our wheels. Maybe not such a good spot for the night then, we moved up to the end by the road for a lunch stop and then headed out to find something a bit more suitable.
There was a chance we were going to get very wet
Just 8 km down the coast we came across a quiet village, Kotronas, where we found a lovely pier jutting out into the sea and a small harbour tucked in behind it. It didn’t look like any of the fishing boats were going out soon so we felt confident we would be ok for an overnight stop. We parked up, and went off for a walk around the village, stopping for a coffee in the local ‘brew of death shop’ where I indulged in a cup of the local sludge to further silt up my kidneys. I am of the firm opinion that the Greeks don’t even drink Greek coffee, the last two occasions I have ordered Greek coffee the waiters have said ‘are you sure?’ as if I am asking to be force fed liquid tar, they are not keen to sell it so I don’t think they really drink it.
We were just back at the van when we heard a Scottish voice shout “that’s €5 for the night”. We were shocked a) at a British voice b) that there was anyone around c) that we were going to have to pay for Wild Camping, luckily it was a and b, not c. Norman and Marion had ‘sneaked’ their monster 8.5 metre Carthago onto the pier behind us, no mean feat in the area concerned. They had been a few miles down the coast and looking through their binoculars saw a motorhome on the pier in the next village, then spotted it was a British registration and decided to come and check it out and say hello. Like us they hadn’t seen a motorhome for a couple of weeks, so we spent an hour comparing notes on our experiences, our notes were much shorter – we have been away 13 weeks, their notes are considerably longer as they have been away 15 years! After our visitors left to go back to their own motorhome we settled down to start tea, as we did the storm started. A few claps of thunder, a strong gust of wind that rocked the van and some decent waves breaking just a few feet from us were all we needed to help us decide to move off the pier and onto the harbour for some shelter overnight.
The best camping spot ever (as long as the wind doesn’t get up!)
That’s brings us on to the weather. Yes its been raining, and its been a bit cloudy too. Ok that isn’t the full story – its been torrential rain since Saturday lunchtime and there is buckets of it still coming down, last night we had thunder and lightening for over 3 hours. The sun has poked its head out a few times today for an hour or so but the rain is winning hands down. Of course ‘fried eggs’ on the weather map would be preferable but we can cope with a week or so of this, which is good as the forecast shows rain for at least 10 days but with the odd sunny afternoon here and there.
The rest of the Mani peninsular is on now on hold, again we would prefer good weather to see the views so see no point in trudging around it in the rain when we don’t need to. We left Kotronas handy on Saturday morning heading up the road to another little camperstop we had found, called Poseidon, 200 metres from the arrival point there was a ford to cross, which due to the last 48 hours of rain was looking fairly deep. We waited to see someone else go through to check on the depth, as we did conversation went to the Poseidon Adventure! We waited a few minutes and watched a 4×4 go through up to his wheel arches. The thought of our being stuck in a flooded ford could not have appealed less and now the visions of a Gene Hackman helping us climb out the windows was firmly lodged in my mind. I managed to convince adventure man not to take the risk and we headed for Camping Gythion Bay instead.
Commeth the rain, commeth the rainbow at our 2nd parking spot at Kotronas
We are now installed in said campsite, and find this is where most of the motorhomes in the Peloponnese who are not at Camping Finikes are hanging out. There are several nationalities here from all the usual motorhome spots including Norway, Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium, plus a couple of Brits in exceptionally large RV’s. The campsite is spacious and the pitches are big, set in an old olive grove which backs onto the beach. We have secured a pitch next to the swimming pool – obviously we wont be using it in this weather in but its lovely to look out the window and see a pool through the rain. In the middle of the site is what the campsite calls the winter room, a large wooden building with chairs, books and a log fire for people to use when they want to get out of their vans and its not too warm or dry, a good touch that’s being well used today.
It is election day here today, we have no idea what impact that may have but feel reasonably confident nothing will change for a while (if we are wrong the next Blog will be from Turkey or Bulgaria!)