And so to the Máni, finger number three, of our clockwise tour of the Peloponnese. It was in bright sunshine that we said a sad farewell to the colourful little town of Gytheio heading for the southern most point of the Peloponnese. It would take us a few days to get there as we were, once again, in need of a washing machine. After a long drive of 4.9km we pitched up at Mani camping for the night to get everything turned around as it would be our last chance to find an open campsite until we reached Kalamata which was several days away. Washing done, waste tanks emptied, water tanks brimming and campsite cats fed we commenced our meander down the Máni.
Dominated by the Tygetos mountain range it is wild and rugged, quite different to anywhere else we have been to in Greece. The fiercely independent Maniots have left their indelible mark on the landscape. Villages made up of distinct tower houses and byzantine churches clinging to the hillsides blend in with the landscape.
The area’s population of over 30 000 in the early 19th Century had slowly dwindled to less than 5000 by the early 1990’s. We made our way down the eastern side of the peninsular taking it all in. Having read and heard that the roads were particularly narrow we were quite relieved to see that, other than a few tight spots through the odd village, the roads were pretty good. It also helped that we only passed a handful of cars coming in the other direction.
On our second day we parked up in a large layby six kilometres from the end of the peninsular preferring to walk to the end rather than drive all the way to the tiny hamlet of Kokkinogia as the road did seem to get a tad narrow at that point. Also the exercise would do us good.
We got out of the van making ready for our assault on the southern most tip of the Peloponnese to a strong smell that I can only describe as smelling like cannabis. Mmm. Weird. The smell followed us all the way to the village. Either the Maniot inhabitants have found a more lucrative way to make money or there is another plant that smells similar growing in the area. We never did get to the bottom of it and with nobody about to ask it will remain a mystery.
The weather started to get a bit blustery but we made it down to the lighthouse for a spot of lunch without the weather closing in on us.
Once back at the van, though, the weather did get more menacing. Squally showers came and went in waves.
We went to bed that night being buffeted by gusts of wind on our very picturesque but exposed spot on the cliffs above the beach. It was a loooonnnng looooonnng night. I’d spent most of it thinking we were doomed. The wind was snatching at the roof vents, which Tim had secured a few days previously with a Wallace and Gromitesque series of suction hooks and rubber bands. They were doing a fine job. If they hadn’t been there I think we’d have probably had three gaping holes in the roof by the morning. It was reminiscent of a very windy night we’d had in Tarifa in Spain the previous winter but without the luxury of a town to hunker down in a couple of miles away. Tim did even confess to having had a disturbed night and to thinking, at one point, that we had actually taken off. My mild hysteria, then, wasn’t completely unfounded.
We had planned on staying another night to do another walk but thought it prudent to ‘get the hell out of there’ before we did, in fact, blow away. We slowly pulled away from our parking spot heading back up the steep winding road praying that all four wheels remained in contact with the tarmac. We took refuge in the pretty little port village of Gerolimenas to sit out the weather. Over several hours, torrential rain came and went until the storm finally blew itself out. Phew. When the Máni’s in a mood it’s not a particularly hospitable place to be.
Further north we parked up and pottered around Areópoli, the main town on the western side of the peninsular.
A pretty little place it is too where a footpath from the bottom of the town took us round to the next bay.
We’d parked in the large carpark just outside the village next to the school and bus station. We spent the evening in the adjacent cafe watching the Six Nations Rugby on the laptop whilst troughing pizza, chips, beer and half a kilo of Rosé. The locals were probably a bit bemused by us eating and drinking glued to the laptop with our headphones on and not exchanging a word. Who says romance is dead!
Our six night Máni meander, then, came to an end as we reached the Lidl on the outskirts of Kalamata. As always, coming back to civilisation is a two edged sword. We quite like to see more people again but instantly miss the solitude of rolling hills and wilder places. The marina at Kalamata provides a handy stopover to do all the necessaries for another week of wandering. Kalamata itself, as far as we made out, didn’t have much to recommend it except for a stroll through the ‘Railway Park’.
We just stayed the one night and made ready to head off to Koróni but not without first speaking to our English neighbours, Jay and Fi, who had arrived late afternoon the previous day. They turned out to be an interesting travelling troubadour couple from Edinburgh who seem to have sussed out the ‘work, life, balance’ conundrum. Work for six months, travel for six months. They had a big bouncing fluffy white puppy with them who we suspected hadn’t come with them from Scotland. Said puppy was one lucky girl. They’d spotted her foraging amongst rubbish on the outskirts of Olympia, gained her trust and taken her in. You can read about her on their Website.
So I’ll end on that happy story:)
μέχρι την επόμενη φορά!