Monday, 27 June 2011


First of all apologies for neglecting this blog - we have received your reprimands and feel duly chastised. In our defence, we spent a month in the wilds of Greece with not a sniff of an internet connection (more on this later) and since then, the opportunities to post have been scarce and our enthusiasm to do so even scarcer.

We took a ferry from Ancona to Patras in the Pelloponese at the end of April. When we booked this ferry back in March, our intention had been to drive to Athens from Patras and get another ferry to Crete. This plan changed when we found out that the family members we had hoped to meet up with (Emma's brother, Jamie, and his wife, Miranda, whose mum lives there) were buggering off to Trinidad and Tobago in May instead. Taking into account the extra driving and expense we would incur travelling to Crete, we decided to explore the Pelloponese instead. This proved to be a very good move - the area is largely undeveloped, has glorious beaches, coastal forests, rural economy, all of which made for excellent wild camping opportunities.

We stayed at a number of beautiful coastal park ups on the west coast, all unoffical and therefore free. Our favourite of these, and the one at which we stayed for the longest (almost three weeks) we called Elia, though this is actually the name of the whole region. The place we stayed, as far as we know, doesn't have a name as it is nothing but forest and beach, but the nearest town is Kalo Nero. Our camp was in one of Greece's last remaining coastal forests and it couldn't have been more idyllic. A ten mile stretch of near deserted white sand, sheep passing by our own private glade every day (much to Frankie's excitement), cooking on the bbq nearly every day, a local man coming by every day selling fresh milk, bread, oranges and whatever else he had that day (turning up in a beaten up van that Will had to help him break into one day as all the locks were broken), fresh water from standpipes and just a handful of other campers, three of whom became our good friends.

We met Nick, Sandy and their 11 month old son Noah at our first park up but got to know them properly when, by chance, they arrived at Elia a few days after us. After initial suspicion, toy theft and minor violence, Frankie and Noah became firm friends. We spent many happy afternoons on the beach, drinking coffee and eating pancakes together, forest walks with the boys in their pushchairs. We really enjoyed living such a simple life, taking care of the basic needs and being close to nature in all its guises, including plenty of big, scary bugs.

We left Elia once a week to drive 14km to the nearest town, which luckily had a Lidl, so our weekly expenditure was about as small as it could be. Despite our lack of real cultural engagement with Greece, its current economic crisis was evident in our visit to town. Tension in the air - we came across a protest in the town of Kalamata - hugely inflated prices and people barely scratching a living from the rural economy. The biggest industry in Elia was melon growing, sold off the back of lorries for 0.99 euros a kilo, and we really wondered how these people could be surviving.

Approaching the end of May, the insects in Elia had increased in size and quantity and we decided it was time to leave. We left with our friends, the two vans in convoy, and stopped for a few nights at Kastro, about 60km south of Patras. One night we were woken by the van shaking and rocking quite violently, as if blown by a massive gust of wind. We peered out of the curtains to see a night as still as could be decided that the only explanation was that the van had been pushed quite hard. But there was no one in sights. In our sleep muddled state, Emma concluded that someone had climbed up the ladder on the back of the van and was still on the roof. Will rather reluctantly volunteered to investigate, and with no better weapon to hand, leapt from the van brandishing a frying pan. It is a great pity that no one witnessed this act of heroism. After some time, other campers began emerging from their vans having experienced the same phenomenon, which turned out to be an earthquake, measuring 2 on the Richter Scale.

With a return ferry to Bari in Italy booked for 30 May, we said goodbye to Greece, and our friends, with regret but many happy memories.

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