Thursday, 29 October 2015

The thing about travel...

Monday, 26th October that not only is each day different, and disconnected from yesterday and tomorrow, but that moments can be haphazard too. So, having only moments previously posted an ostensibly well observed piece about my tendency for introspection and the reserved nature of the British, we immediately fell into a lively conversation with the English couple from the van next door. They were much younger than us and travelling long term without an end date in mind. We discovered we had been to many of the places they had been to, stayed at the same camp-sites and shared similar grim experiences around Brindisi and suffered sleepless nights thanks to Grimaldi ferries - lovely people, see, I can be sociable... I need to keep repeating this!

Next, after all the moaning about the idiosyncratic nature of Greek campsite facilities, I discovered what I took to be a really Heath Robinson contraption for draining the grey water tank was in fact rather clever. By attaching a hefty foot long end section of guttering to an extending length of flexible hose pipe, it meant you can place the drain point exactly under the van outlet instead of having to reverse the vehicle over a fixed drain on a concrete apron. Ingenious! The campsite owner came out of reception to see us off, all very affable and attentive.

It was one of those days when the gods of motorhoming were on our side. After shopping in the supermarket in Koroni we arrived at what was going to be our camper stop by lunchtime. We decided to carry on beyond Kalamata towards the villages of the Mani. This meant driving through the middle of Kalamata, a small city. The traffic was fine and we happened upon a handy Lidl and stocked up on 'non Greek' essentials. Soon we were climbing steeply towards the mountains of the Mani peninsula, white like the Lefkas Ori in Crete, and almost as high, at 8000 feet.

Koroni's very own out of town shopping emporium

Blimey! traffic, Kalamata's drivers were well behaved, by Italian standards.

The older you get, generally the less surprising the world becomes, and though you may have pleasing experiences, those rare moments that 'knock your socks off' get far and few between. The drive through the Mani is seriously sock removing. The road winds upwards through a series of dizzying hairpin bends. As you ascend, you pass quickly through a series of different landscapes. Steeply terraced olive groves punctuated by finger-thin dark green cypresses give way to spectacular limestone ravines. On the whole the road is good, though worryingly narrow at times as you squeeze past oncoming tipper trucks and chunky cement mixers. Next you cross an upland plateaux, the white peaks high above, as you pass through the tower-villages of the ancient Mani bandit country. A brow of a hill approaches with nothing but blue sky above, then down you go, the sea flashes into view, silver towards the sun in the west, deep blue to the south. As you wind along the shore you pass the small resort of Stoupa, compared to much of what we have seen so far, the place looks upmarket and stylish.

Evening light, Agion Nikolaos
Our Camperstop was a few kilometres south of here in a small fishing village called Agios Nikolaos. It's lovely, though getting to the harbour was a bit fraught, meeting two tour buses in the narrows streets required some nifty reversing and brilliant arm waving on the part of Gill to protect Maisy from bruising her bum, but we got here, and it's great. We watched the sunset as the fishing boats returned. The quayside cafés filled with people gathering for a drink to watch the sun go down, including the local priest plugged into his iPod. I'm sure a taste for Ibiza Trance is not in itself heretical... The thing about travel is you can never quite tell when the reality of it is going to exceed your dreams. It hardly ever does, but today it did. Tonight there is even a full moon over the mountains, how good is that?

Sent from my iPhone


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