It seems like ages since I last did a blog post as my usual weekly ramble was a bit different a couple of weeks ago. I had intended to update the blog with another post on what we had been up to but then I thought ‘now come on Jane, don’t over stretch yourself’ so it never happened. Then, of course, time went on and before I knew it another two weeks had evaporated into thin air. In truth, I could faff all day with a blog post. I procrastinate on what to say, which photos to choose, what to put in, what to leave out. How other people knock out a blog post everyday is beyond me. Writing to me is not a natural thing and being confronted with a blank page can set me off into a bit of a panic. Hence, I’ll always find other things to do. In fact, I’ve already made a cup of tea, as a distraction, half way through writing this first paragraph. If anyone has any hints on how to overcome these tendencies then I’d love to hear them!
In a nutshell our last two three weeks have looked a bit like this:·
- Number of historical sites visited – Nil
- Number of bike rides – Four
- Number of walks – A fair few
- Number of idle days – Too embarrassing to say
We’ve been bimbling. The Urban Dictionary defines bimbling as ‘to wander in a happy but slightly disengaged state, though with some harmless or ineffective intent’. That kind of sums up nicely our last two three weeks.
We trundled around the Sithonia peninsular stopping for one or two nights at a time at beaches or harbours. The roads were quiet and we’ve enjoyed parking up close to the sea as few people have been about and the resorts are mostly closed up for the winter. It’s a beautiful under developed area perfect for beach walking, mooching about and watching the fishermen go about their day.
Mount Athos, the highest point on Chalkidiki’s eastern most peninsular, is a no go area for regular folk like us. Athos is an autonomous republic ruled by the 1700 monks living in its twenty monasteries dotted around the peninsular and is a unique area of Greece. Strictly no females are allowed to visit and only adult males can visit by applying to the Pilgrim’s Bureau in Thessaloniki for a ‘Diamenterion’ (official permit). We took a walk up to the perimeter fence just to see how cut off it really is. There weren’t any rabid dogs patrolling up and down or anything but the signs weren’t particularly welcoming and as we didn’t really fancy being arrested we had to make do with a walk up the hill where we could just get a glimpse of one of the monasteries.
………..and some pigs.
Boat trips can be taken from Ouranoúpoli to see some of the monasteries from the water but they aren’t allowed to dock anywhere on Athos.
We moseyed up the coast as far as Olympiada, where we were accompanied for the night at the harbour by a Bulgarian van, before retreating back to Thessaloniki for a couple of nights.
We went back to the camper stop at Zampetas principally as it broke the journey up on our way further south and also because they have a coveted item there. A washing machine. Washing machines are like Hens Teeth in Greece so when you know where you are likely to be able to utilise one you seize the opportunity. Once pitched up and settled in I stripped the bed, hoovered up every scrap of dirty washing, and skipped off with my bag of laundry to the machine. Happy days. Not quite. The machine was broken. Oh, the disappointment. What a waste of a breezy sunny day if you can’t use it to dry your freshly laundered smalls.
The next option was to do some hand washing. Nope. Can’t be bovved. I don’t mind doing cycling kit and underwear but I draw the line at hand washing bedding. A quick internet search turned up two self service launderettes in the centre of Thessaloniki……..two bus rides away. No matter, I was on a mission. I wanted that laundry done and I wasn’t going to be deterred by a mere bus ride or two getting in my way. The four hour round trip went without a hitch. The second bus dropped us off a minutes walk from the launderette. The brilliant huge drummed machine at €3 a wash took care of the whole bag of washing. €3 for the drier and everything was turned around in less than ninety minutes. The free internet at the launderette kept me entertained whilst Tim went off in search of a few music shops in the town. He conveniently arrived back just as I was folding the last T-towel into the bag. Two buses back and a quick pitstop at Lidl for a celebration doughnut and our mission was complete.
Our next stop was Volos, a thriving port city with a very pleasant seafront and the gateway to the Pelion peninsular.
After a couple of nights just outside Volos, which we visited on the bikes, we moved round to the little village of Kato Gatzea. We were looking forward to a couple of nights on a campsite. We’d been in Greece over a month and we’d only seen one other British van so imagine our surprise when we were shown around the campsite by the owner to find that the three other vans on site were all British. Like buses they are, like buses!
Our neighbours, Mick and Janette, were on a similar trip to us. They had also rented out their house and shed all their stuff to travel for an extended period so it was nice to swap a few stories. The other couple, Grant and Janet, turned out to be from New Zealand and were travelling throughout Europe for three years and will return to NZ in 2019. The other chap, Jim, was also on an extended tour staying on the campsite until the New Year.
We ended up staying six days on the site as we had a superb pitch overlooking the bay, the weather was great and it was nice not to have to drive for a while. I took to the bike to explore the very beautiful but very hilly peninsular whilst Tim took to the beach with his clarinet for a bit of al fresco practice.
The hills in this area rise to over 1600 metres and much of the area is covered by dense woodland and produces apples, pears, peaches and olives. My legs felt every one of those hills but with little traffic I had a couple of challenging but rewarding rides in the area taking in some of the mountain villages with far reaching views across the bay.
One of the restored mansion houses in Vysitza.
It is olive picking season and every second vehicle you see is an olive mobile (aka pick up truck). All over this region we’ve seen them tooing and froing between the small olive processing plants that are dotted about.
We reluctantly left the campsite and headed south towards Glyfa where we could catch a ferry to Evvoia, the second largest Greek island after Crete. The island is linked to the mainland by two main bridges but that would have meant a longer drive and wouldn’t be as much fun.
τα λέμε αργότερα!