Our stay at Camperstop Afrodites ended perfectly, the owners lovely 12 year old grandson appeared at our door mid evening with a plate of freshly fried doughnuts and some dipping syrup. Ok so the site needs a little work but we care not, it you are being given free fresh doughnuts then motorhomers should be visiting in their droves. There was a note hung up in reception to say the family were having a lamb roast on March 12th and anyone staying was invited to join them – where else does that happen? A lovely family, doing a sterling job at trying to set up a good stopover – more power to them and more visitors we hope too.
The National Road to Athens – not too shabby at all considering the views
Our next destination was Delphi, according to Sat Nav just over 7 hours away and 203 km, obviously thinks we are both over 85 years old and drive a Lada! We took the National Road which runs parallel to the motorway to Athens, both roads were quiet so we decided against paying out the €4.60 to sit in a lane a few yards to our left. Our choice was a bit twisty and had more than it’s share of potholes, but hugging the coast and giving views out to the islands it did its job well enough for us. About 30 or so miles before Athens we headed North over the mountains, a good wide road where we saw only a handful of other vehicles in over an hour. We actually saw more goat herders than pretty much anything, at least five different ones in the space of a few miles on one mountain. The landscape changed to being a bit more scrub-land, no olives or citrus just mile after mile of views over to the next sets of mountains.
Views heading North of the Peloponnese
At Distomo there is a powerful WWII memorial next to the main road. It commemorates the 1944 massacre by the SS of 214 Greek men, women and children all of whom were civilians living in the village. The first time we have seen anything relating to the war here, despite the fact Greece suffered some terrible atrocities.
We pulled in at a one donkey village to stock up with provisions and the shop owner and local Greek Orthodox Priest both started speaking to me. We established I was British, at which the Priest took a bit of a jolly fit, he spoke no English but according to shopkeeper said Priest visited UK many years ago. This all resulted in Priest needing to do a little jig sort of dance, with me needing me to take part! Luckily only the shopkeeper and one member of staff were around to witness this, I brought what we needed and made a quick exit back to Iain in the van. I have to say I have never before danced a jig with an Orthodox Priest and I pretty much bet I will never do so again, it wasn’t on my Bucket List but probably should have been 🙂
The ski resort of Arachova was an unexpected pleasure, worth the winding route up the mountain to just over 3000 ft, where it is perched on the edge looking as if it belongs somewhere in the Alps (that says us who have never been to the Alps). Whilst there are a lot of ski shops, ski wear and people wandering around with ski looking equipment we didn’t see anywhere near enough of the white stuff for anyone to be seriously sliding anywhere. At a glance it seems a place where its good to be seen, a bit Nafplio on snow; plenty of trendy looking shops, lovely eateries and lots of beautiful people with crazy woollen headgear.
Arachova – Nafplio on snow (if you can find snow)
Just a few miles down the other side of the valley and we were at Delphi and our campsite, Apollon Camping. As campsites go it has a captive market in the winter, the others in the area are all closed. At €20 a night its a bit steep, especially as the ladies loos had a flood of 2 inches of water on the floor, the ceiling had started to collapse along with the light fittings and there wasn’t any hot water – all very not 5 Star. But as we looked out the front window at our view – right down to the Gulf of Corinth and over to the Peloponnese, the facilities didn’t matter so much.
The view from our windscreen
Whilst at Camping Apollon we suffered what we will from now be calling ‘dint day’. We decided at 7am to move the van from the lower level to the upper, slightly better view level before breakfast. Iain reversed off our pitch with my guidance – perfect, I climbed back in the van. We then had to reverse up behind the other pitches and oooops – we took out an electric post! How? cutting a long story short my shouting “oh watch it” without giving a bit more information meant Iain has no idea what to watch, therefore he watched something else close on his side! We now have a poorly rear bumper panel 😦 not to worry, gaffer tape cures all, should last until we are home when Paint & Trim will wave its wand and perform a no doubt faultless repair. On the upside, we now blend in much more with the locals – they all have smashed and dented panels on their cars and vans, it seems no one ever gets anything repaired. A dent here is a badge of honour and we are wearing ours proudly. Of course it could have been worse, I could have been driving!
We agreed Ancient Delphi was going to be the absolutely last archaeological site for us and we are seriously thinking of a theme park next week to go to the opposite end of the holiday experience. At first glance it is just another very well excavated city, climbing up the side of Mount Parnassus. What apparently makes this site so special is that it is the site of the ancient Oracle. For us, and we are not real archaeological buffs, it was impressive but not as much so as Olympia or the Theatre of Epidauvrus. May have been the coach loads of tourists, of which there were several even at 9 o’clock in the morning; may have been the theatre wasn’t quite so impressive or it may have been we have seen way too many partially rebuilt temples. For us the views down to the coast over mile over mile after mile of olive groves, or the view up into the snow capped mountains were just as good a reason to visit Delphi as the more famous attractions.
We left Delphi Friday morning heading for Camping Hellas on the coast near Volos. Heading back the way we came to the National Road, from where it should have been a good 20-30 minutes to the motorway. Time dragged a bit and I saw a sign for a town I was sure was South of us, a quick check of the atlas and yup indeedy, Sat Nav is taking us back down the National Road to join the motorway 40 odd miles South of where we could have joined. Bloody brilliant then that is an extra 80 miles (we were way to far along when I spotted it to change route and we still don’t have a proper map, just the large scale atlas). To add insult it cost us €12.50 in tolls to get back to where we had started an hour before.
Once we arrived at Volos we negotiated the city reasonably easily (second biggest in Greece and yet the roads weren’t too chaotic) At the junction for the coast road, massive bollards – the road was shut! Words resembling ‘massive bollards’ were bandied around the van. Our options were take the Sat Nav 88km diversion or if we wanted to stay at another campsite, the nearest one 230 km in Athens. We went with the diversion, a quick check on screen showed another mountain pass coming up but Iain is taking these in his stride now. This mountain was a seriously high one at 5000 ft, Mt Pelion, amazing switch backs for miles upon miles, Greek ‘alpine’ villages and good 2 ft of snow around as we climbed over the top (although the road had been snow ploughed so was clear). It took us 3 hours to do 88 km, amazing road, shame we couldn’t see anything much for fog 😦 Did everyone seriously know Greece was this mountainous and not bother to tell us? People continually warn us not to go to Bulgaria too early due to bad weather in the mountains, how can it be any worse than here – we dread to think.
We pulled in at a bakery just before the campsite (cheese pies and cakes required). Iain mentioned our long diversion, baker says “No, road isn’t closed”. Apparently the actual diversion is less than a mile back onto the coast road. If we read Greek we could have read the sign, epic fail from us, more epic from flipping Sat Nav who is in danger of being dropped off the top of the next mountain pass. Oh well, we did it, another mountain ticked off and Iain is fast becoming a candidate for Greek Mountain Motorhome Guide of the year. Yes, we know, we need a decent map and we will be buying one soon and then we will start to plan the odd journey and we know that will mean smoother trips, but possibly not as much fun.
the red line alongside our actual ‘switch-back’ route
Seven hours after leaving Delphi we finally arrived at Camping Hellas, looked brilliant but not a single motor-home or caravan on site! For one awful moment we thought it was closed. Then the wonderful Antonios appears, he says they are doing work on the site for the season so not fully open, no facilities, loos, showers etc, but we can stay. We have a cheaper rate than the normal discount rate so what’s not to like. It is beautiful here, we are on the beach, literally our front wheels are less then 10 ft from the sea. We love it, it was more than worth the journey, just us, a whole campsite to ourselves and our own private beach. We are both feeling like we have just left the UK on a airplane and arrived at our holiday beach, we have been just a bit giddy and over excited 🙂 The weather forecast was for torrential rain today – wrong! its been glorious. For the rest of the week we have a scorchio forecast, 22 / 76 degrees by the middle of the week.
Our very own beach
Due to good weather, our own beach and because we can, the plan has slightly changed – we are staying for a while, at least a week. We are rebelling against cultural attractions and we are going to sit on our beach, get suntans read books, cycle and walk into the village for very tasty spinach pies from the local bakery.
Its a tough life but he is up to the job!
If you don’t hear from us don’t worry, we are on holiday. The Grand Depart will be back on in a week or so when we can tear ourselves away.
Dora’s spot just off the beach