Our first initial thoughts when we hit Greece was “YAY SUN!” then “are there road rules??” and sadly “look at all the rubbish”.
Fortunately our first impression was improved upon as we moved away from Patras and out in the “fingers”. I have been following an instagram account for a while now called @endless_on_wheels and they have been a wonderful source of encouragement and help throughout the planning and initiating phases of our trip. They also spend a lot of time in Greece! With the limited time that we have our basic plan was to tour the Peloponnese island and squeeze in some Greek islands if we could. With some great tips on wild camps and things to see we decided to follow the coast line around the four “fingers” of the Peloponnese and spend some time relaxing.
We spent the first night in a campsite just to get our bearings and then realized how easy it is to wild camp despite it being technically illegal. We discovered pretty quickly that the Greek’s have an awesome laid back attitude and sometimes so laid back they are almost lying down. We had been given information that water is readily available and free due to them not having to pay water bills. Apparently a British guy moved to Greece and it took him two months to track down who he had to pay for water. Then he had to chase them down each quarter to get his bill. After 2 years of that he gave up and that was 10 years ago! So when we stopped for petrol we were also able to fill up with water for free. A motorhoming dream. Water is the one thing that ties you to facilites and campsites. We generate our own electricity and have chemical to break down the toilet and in a pinch we also can empty the grey water into gardens or bush land. But run out of water and you are screwed ??
Our first official day in Greece was spent at Ancient Olympia. It is the site of the first ever Olympic Games complete with the first running track, stadium, bath houses, athletes accommodations, medal presentation areas etc. It is also where the Olympic torch is still lit from every four years.
The ruins were impressive and in surprisingly good condition. The area itself was huge though and closed at 3pm in the offseason which we weren’t aware of. At 2.45pm we had some short little Greek gentlemen start blowing their whistles and trying to herd us like sheep towards to exit. Pretending we did not speak Greek or ‘whistle’ we bolted in the other direction to see as much as we could. They caught up with us though and continued blowing aggressively until we moved in the direction they wanted. We still had 15 mins though and we were going to get our whole €6 worth even if it deafened us.
Our first wild camp was at Kale Nero with 2 other motorhomes and some local friendly stray dogs. At first I thought they must have belonged to someone because they appeared very healthy however we picked up pretty quickly that this is very common through Greece and there are dogs and cats EVERYWHERE. So each stop we had a dog adopt us for 24 hours, much to Angus’ delight.
Kale Nero was on a pebble beach with lovely coloured rocks that were identical to the stones Bunnings likes to charge though the teeth for. And there they were, just laying there! While Jeremy gave Angus a rock skimming lesson I collected the three different types and found three similar sized ones to take home and polish up. I’m thinking paperweights…? Or defensive devices in the event of a home invasion? ? Either way I think they add at least a kg to our luggage so I’ll be impressed if Jeremy lets me smuggle them home!
We had dinner that night at the local tavern and had our first experience at cheap and awesome Greek food. Everybody still smokes inside though so I had to gently request a table away from everyone else. As much as we want to be ‘amongst it’ with the locals unfortunately it is one thing we can’t get used to. After it being illegal so long at home both Jeremy and I feel like we are suffocating, let alone how the boys must feel!
Our next stop was a small coastal town called Stoupa, and we were able to camp in the church car park. We got our bikes off the next morning and rode along the coast in the sunshine. We were very impressed with Angus who almost made it the whole 6kms! We saw some big unfinished houses that we wanted to buy and contact Grand Designs about. We found out later that Greek’s do not pay tax on a house until it is complete though…. so this unfinished look is normal! Most of the houses have the metal spikes still poking out of the top permanently.
Needing to charge the laptop and wanting a break we decided to spend the night night in a campsite. The only one open anywhere near us was on the 3rd finger and was overrun with the usual cats and dogs. I thought it was bad at the wild camps but this one was crazy!
We set up Beryl and made a play area for the boys only to have 9 cats and a dog join us. The poor things were starving and the owners had warned us not to touch them due to some parasite in the earth. Not quite so easy with 2 animal loving little boys! It was quite sad and the level of their starvation became apparent when Jeremy tried to deter them from the boys playmat by throwing some water on them. They actually lunged towards the water thinking it was food. I’ve never seen a cat react that way towards water before. It was heart breaking and I have a new appreciation for Australia’s desexing regulations.
That night we had dinner with the local residents of the caravan park. David, an 82 year old British man who lived for 20 years in Perth WA and still works 4 days a week in the Lakes District in the UK. He spends each winter at the Greek campsite and seems permanently toasted. Then there was Lizbeth, a Norwegian, and her husband, a Zimbabwean who Angus thought was Santa Claus. It was a very interesting dinner with all three of them very fond of Ouzo and louder than Angus, which I didn’t realise was a possibility! When they started force feeding us a Greek whisky called Metaxa I gladly used the boys as an excuse to fade away and left Jeremy to take one for the team! (Sometimes it is VERY handy having children) Poor Jeremy emerged 2 hours later as they would not let him leave until he had had 2 whole glasses of Metaxa!! I had had one sip of mine and subtly pushed it into the welcoming hands of our sloshed friend David. There was also another couple motorhoming around who we waved to from a distance, not realizing they would soon become our buds (Watch this space).
After one night we decided we were happy to go and pushed on to the best wild camp we have had yet. Boza! We pulled up expecting the place to ourselves but there was a van and 4 people sitting around a campfire on the beach. One came towards us speaking German (cue our frequent explanation about the van) and we thought he was going to ask us to leave but instead asked for salt! He was eating tomatoes. Rock on. As he was handing it back another van trundled in and low and behold, it was the couple from the previous campsite!
The tomato eaters took off shortly after so it was just the two vans hanging out. We decided to relight the beach fire and after the little boys passed out we got to have a night of adult conversation!
Gill and Chris are a lovely British couple motorhoming around with their 16 year old cat Tammy and no end date. Very inspiring! They have a blog as well and write in real time!! ALL the time!! Gill is the type of blogger I aspire to be but am failing miserably. Anyhoo after a discussion about where they were headed next and it was the same as us, we realized we were using the same wild camping website. Small world!
After a beautiful morning chilling out on the beach in the sun we dragged our feet and decided to keep pushing forward. Gill and Chris still weren’t sure if they were leaving that day or the next so we said fare-thee-well and hopefully we’ll see you again. Fortunately they decided to go as well because as we pulled into the next spot we turned into the road and immediately sunk into the sand. Bogged. Both front wheels. In sand. And the holes were filling with water.
Jeremy did not appeared fazed and started getting us out while I snapped away thinking how hilarious this will be on the blog. After 2 hours I was well and truly over it with all humor gone from the situation. AND THEN!!!! Our new buddies trundled around the corner probably wishing to high heaven that they hadn’t. We got bogged at 4pm and Chris and Jeremy tried until midnight to get us out. We had only moved a metre and a half. Gill and Chris were amazing and let the boys and I hang in their van while this was all going on. In true fashion Archie knocked over a whole glass of red wine and Angus cleared them out of biscuits. When we decided to call it a night the poor fellas were drenched, freezing and covered in sand. None of us had eaten and everyone was exhausted.
Jeremy didn’t sleep much and was up before his alarm to try and find more things to fill the hole with and help with traction. He found a wall that he pushed over and grabbed the bricks. It was probably an archeological site that has been there for thousands of years but we were beyond caring. The boys kicked off again at 8am and by 10am it was apparent we needed more help.
A local farmer leant us his rope and a French motorhomer leant us two long pieces of timber that he keeps in his van. As you do. Turns out that was the perfect combination and by 11am we were freeeeeeeeeeee! (I have tried numerous times to upload the video but can’t due to dodgy wifi so i have linked the video I gave Gill to upload to her blog: please excuse my shouting – I was a tad excited).
I was definitely ready for a stiff drink so I can’t imagine how Jeremy and Chris were feeling. We moved the vans a few metres on REALLY hard ground and called it a day. And even though Chris and Gill had spent all evening, night and morning helping us out they then spent their afternoon with Angus. He was in heaven with “his” new friends.
And in true muppet fashion we invited Gill and Chris over for drink that night, to thank them, BEFORE realizing we only had enough wine for one glass and one beer. But they showed up with gin-in-hand so all was well. We had a really lovely evening being taught Texas 42 with dominoes, and eating biscuits and chocolate under the soothing sounds of Angus’ snoring. How good is not being in a hole!!!!?? It was great!