We left Italy with a last feast of home-cooked pork chops, potatoes and two veg, cooked in the port whilst waiting to board. There was some doubt as to whether the chops might have been horse meat as we brought them from a local market, but if they were, they did a good impression of very tasty pork.
The sixteen-hour crossing to Patra with Grimaldi Lines remained as ever with Grimaldi – Grim. A two-hour delay, an exclusive booked cabin that was already occupied, along with crew and passengers that look like they would slit your throats as soon as look at you. Disembarking was beyond scary as David and I squeezed our way through the juggernauts who already had their engines started ready to go to Buster who had been shoved in amongst them.
In honesty we should have stood our ground or spot and waited until the bulk of them had driven off, because one slight move forward and we would have been crushed! But hey-ho we live to tell the tale and we were soon on the road heading to a lovely campsite only some 90 minutes further south on the Peloponnese part of the Greek mainland. Cats in abundance, no-one worrying about checking in or passports or even taking any money and a lovely sea-front view as well. All good with our world or so we thought.
Next day the bikes were off the van ready to explore the nearby town, have our first Greek salad, perhaps some freshly cooked fish. Batteries in bikes, power switches on but for the newest bike nothing-no lights flashing on saying ready to go- nothing. So, we did all the usual stuff (well David did) put the battery in and out again, run it again on the charger, but still nothing, Betsy Bike was not playing ball after only her fourth outing. To say we were a bit peeved was an understatement and after phone calls back to the UK the only solution was to take it back to a Specialised bike dealer in the port that we had arrived in. So, the next day at relative crack of dawn we did the Encore back to Patras and the bike shop.
After many “never seen this before” from various bike people in Greece and HO in Holland, the answer was that a new battery would have to be shipped from Holland to Athens, which could take a while. Disheartened but impressed with the lovely bike man in Patras we headed off to Olympia-home of the first ever said games.
What a lovely place Olympia is and after parking up in the empty main town car park we had an explore. As per LP this place is heaving in the main tourist season but thankfully in mid-February, we were able to wander around and get a good feel for this small town. As it was a Friday a couple of late afternoon drinks were had, while we worked out our re-routing to take in Athens main town and to collect the battery whenever it arrived. Dinner was cooked in by me while David wandered around outside.
For no apparent reason I felt slightly ill at ease in our spot whilst cooking but after dinner we again, having the luxury of bars and nightlife very close had another wander. A significant purchase was made in a lovely arty, jewellery shop and we headed back for the night happily despite our bike misfortunes. The night then took a turn for us as just after locking the van we were bombarded with (as we now know) oranges hitting the windscreen, roof and side panels. Instinctively David flew out of Buster to witness three youths riding away shouting and jeering. Not knowing what to do exactly as there was no-one else local or otherwise about, we armed with a trusty golf umbrella and heavy torch hung outside by the van in case they returned. The night was obviously unsettled but thankfully there was no further occurrence and Buster despite his slightly orange splattered decoration was none the worse for wear.
Thankfully the bike, battery situation was resolved by the Athens people as they had a spare battery and could courier it to us at a more convenient spot. The best option given our direction of travel was a delightful island by the name of Spetses, so we are heading there within the week to collect the battery and also tick this island of our list. Thank you for Athens, Patra and UK Specialized bike people – although worryingly we have no idea what caused the problem.
As we write this blog with the sun setting into a beautiful orange, red hue we are sat on a campsite with again a front row seat and view of the beach and sea. Since the ‘orange troubles’ we spent a further two nights parking off grid taking in whilst travelling some amazing scenery, many olive groves, beautiful small villages just beginning to open their tourist eyes ready for the spring and the influx of visitors. We have benefited from this being able to get to and stop more easily than we might be able as the months progress, but it has not been untroubled.
Gialova is a small amazing pretty bay just outside the more historic harbour town of Pylos. We again were to off gird at both these places maybe spending a couple of nights in each. On the Saturday morning we congratulated ourselves for not parking in the original Park 4 Night spot as teams of lorries arrived at 7.30am and started tipping sand and waste on that patch of ground. Our congratulations were short lived when David took to his bike in search of a nearby golf club for ball markers to add to his collection. At the entrance to the unsurfaced olive grove-based parking spot a ditch was being dug with a JCB rendering us unable to get out and move on unless Buster turned into Evil Knievel and did a jump over it, not likely. The workman shrugged their shoulders when we tried to ask how long it would take. We just hoped that they wouldn’t be putting up a height restriction as well otherwise it might have been like the Eagles song-you can check out anytime, but you can never leave.
We eventually took the chance a few hours later and drove over the wet tarmac to head the few kilometres to Pylos. Pylos or Navarino as it was formerly known was decisive in the War of Independence with British, French and Russian fleets defeating Turkish, Egyptian &Tunisian fleets. Our parking spot here was in the harbour, which again is a fairly large unutilised area and we parked up with two other German vans. According to Park for Night, motorhomes had been moved on, mainly in spring and summer when as we could see from the photos on the site quite a few vans were parked up. As it was a Saturday and we were in a town we decided to eat out and what a wise choice that was – the taverna was excellent and we had a true feast there all for the princely sum of €45 avoiding any more Greek salads for the moment as we both seem to have been affected by the overindulgence of either cucumber or fresh tomatoes!. The night again was disruptive as not only were we three motorhomes parked up but other commercial vehicles and the night was a series of engines starting, doors slamming before the first set of church bells began to chime, That’s when we decided to head for the current campsite, the toilet now ready to be emptied (it’s definitely a sign of older age as we have noticed the toilet now needs emptying more often as obviously our bladders do!), and hopefully a less disruptive night’s sleep.
This is the joy of deciding where and how to stop and here in Greece even not it’s not the height of season parking off – grid is not as easy as we had hoped with no other amenities than camp sites or taking a chance. Wherever we are and whenever we take a chance, we do also respect the local’s community and certainly do assist the local economy always- why wouldn’t you,
The night is now closing, and we have had another near-death experience brought on by salmon. With more local stray cats than you can shake a stick at it was no wonder that our evening dinner of salmon became of upmost interest to them, with a whole string of them following me to the kitchen area as I took the skin off. I had no doubt one false move by me and I would have been on the floor suffocated whilst they dined out on the fish. I run hot foot back to the van, thankful for my recent Olympia training throwing the fish at David and taking cover in the van. The cats again waiting in prey at every angle as David attempted to cook the fish on the gas BBQ, working as a team to try and outwit him, but it was David’s dancing that saved the day as his nifty footwork fooled each of them.
We are hoping for a quiet night without any cat revenge but who knows what these fiendish characters will get up to next, but at least they can’t throw oranges.
So, the week was a first off’s for us in many ways- our first experience of bad behaviour from locals, our first mosquito as well- bloody big thing it was although completely dopey unlike the local cats and also our first BBQ.
Top Tips of the Week
Don’t succumb to hard selling Greek salesman who give you weak orange juice (I thought it was a local hooch) – we’re now long on toilet products. Actually, that’s not a bad thing!
Now in Greece remember to throw your loo paper in the bin not the toilet, saves for a lot of effort clearing the loo.