Kalogria (Round 2)

With Orthodox Easter this weekend and with many places consequently closed. We’ve take the very decadent option of staying in a campsite for the past 4 nights. It’s been well worth it!


We arrived in the little town of Kalogria, somewhat hyped by the flamboyant descriptions in the local tourist guide. To quote:

A few kilometers from Kalamata, almost 42km. The beach is an oasis in the wild landscape of Mani. It is truly beautiful and it is hard for someone who has visited it to be able to forget it. It is a beach with green blue waters, that on seeing it captivates the traveler and makes him believe that he is on a paradise on earth. The impressive beach has cool and almost frozen waters since four of the springs of Taigetos end in its sandy seabed.

On arriving here on Wednesday afternoon we were less than impressed. The sky was grey, the visibility hazed in smoke and mist. This was made worse when, on occasion, it drizzled red mud, leaving the windscreen an opaque mess. A huge weather system over the Sahara has blown dust as far north as Belgium. Here, further south, the effects are quite dramatic, with the snow covered peaks turning ochre, vehicles looking like participants in the Paris-Dakar, and our moods slightly inhibited. The weather remained pretty much the same on Thursday, Friday the weather cleared, Saturday was a ‘Wow – so this is what they were talking about’, Sunday was, well, Sunday – more below, and now it’s Easter Monday, and we’ll eventually get back on the road. We’ve never spent three nights anywhere, so this has been a novel experience.

IMG_6291We are camped at Camping Kalogria – a very friendly site in a park that has been left somewhat to nature – draw your own conclusions. We are directly opposite the house owned by Niko Kazantzaki who moved here in 1917 and met a local character by the name of George Zorbas as foreman in his newly acquired coal mine. So who are all these people? Well, this is the basis of ‘Zorba the Greek’. Don’t plead ignorance on this. This is ‘Eat Pray Love’ for the Pre-Millennials (aka ‘The Selfie Generation’) …

We took the opportunity to cycle to the next town of Agio Nikolaos, along a very well-maintained coastal cycle path. Breakfast on the harbour consisted, for Niki, of pancakes and about half litre of honey – no skimping on sweets in this country.

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Sunday we strolled down to the beach at 10:00am (dawn is late in Greece …) beset by aromatic smoke. The tradition on Easter Sunday is that everybody has spit roast lamb. Yes!!! Lamb on the beach with ice cold beer.

IMG-20190429-WA0000As it turned out, however, this didn’t happen. Our very nice neighbours (hi Rus & Juliet) informed us that our campground was putting on a free lunch – the owner was most offended when inquired of the price. We, of course, got there very late. Nevertheless, the manager and his crew gathered up lamb, tzatziki, roast potatoes and red-dyed eggs … and glasses of wine. What a pleasant afternoon spent with people who may well have been strangers, but, given the time, turned out to be a joyous group of friends.


So, it’s been a lazy few days, a little out of our character, but thoroughly enjoyable for all that. Our plan for today is to head off to the parking lot at the Diros Caves, hoping that the recent rains which resulted in shortened cave visits would be a thing of the past – time will tell.



We are parked at the tiny harbour at Kardamili (substitute ‘y’ for ‘i’ anywhere) and it is simply gorgeous. This followed a fantastic drive from Agio Konstantinos, all of 45km away – but, in my defence, a very interesting 45km!


To make up for this, our next stop is only 8km away … The road went up and over the spine of the Peloponnese, mostly in very good condition and drivers who were very considerate of our bumbling progress. The air was quite thick with smoke – this is obviously burning season, and even the snow capped peaks in the near distance took on a very brownish hue. The van is just caked – it seemed to drizzle for 10 seconds every half hour, and that has coated the van with a thick brown goo – our lovely skylight is now a washed brown curtain. Hope our next campsite has a hose?

Mount Taygetus 2407m

The walk through Kardamili was lovely. This was the major harbour for Sparta in ancient times, and is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as one of 7 cities that were offered to Achilles by Agememnon as dowry to marry one of his daughters. The Old Town also has Venetian fortifications from the 17th C, although not in a great state of repair, but with an interesting mix of Venetian, Byzantine and Greek architecture.

The town now seems to be on the up, with numerous new residential and tourist accommodations being built, occasionally even tastefully done.  Tomorrow off to another Kalogria beach – caused havoc when Niki first put in our coordinates a week ago, but now much easier to find as it’s just around the headland. Weather is set to improve (marginally), and I’m working myself up to getting the wetsuit on and doing some snorkelling… time and temperature will tell.

Koroni & Agios Kanstantinos

We travelled all of 40km from Methoni to Koroni yesterday, alnong a very winding, but mercifully empty, road that took us over the spines from the westernmost finger of the Peloponnese to the next large bay.

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That took us to the ancient town (well, they’re all ancient, no?) of Koroni. It too has a marvellous Venetian fortress overlooking the town, which, unfortunately, is in poor state of repair. Again, just really impressive the way the walls and towers rise from sea level, but a bit saddened to see so much of the curtain wall collapsed, and significant damage to the main walled structure itself.

Venetian fortress, Koroni

The town was pretty much what we had been anticipating for small villages along the coast, but perhaps in better repair and with a sense of more money spent on infrastructure than I had anticipated. Narrow streets paralleled the quay but seemed more optimistic than similar towns in Italy. Perhaps that’s what it means to be Greek?

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Out for dinner at a very Greek restaurant (ie catering for Greeks rather than on the harbour catering for visitors): €2.50 for half litre of wine, €5 for delicious stuffed tomatoes and green pepper, €8.50 for lamb shanks – I think that, even with our €450 ferry costs we’ll still be looking good in this month’s budget. We’ve also filled our fridge with essentials from the supermarket, such as 5 litres of white wine (€10!! Sorry New Zealand, but it don’t got to be boutique Chardonnay all the time!), 1kg of home made olives (€5), and, today, a pile of strawberries for… yes, you guessed right, €5.

Today’s drive of 45km was a little more challenging and took over an hour, even though I managed to hit 60km/h on the two straight sections. Driving through towns can be a little stressful. There are not many towns where the main street actually allows two cars to pass each other. To add to that, I’m constantly met by cars who insist on scrambling towards me, then stopping dead in the street unable to decide how to now scrape by. I have become the most courteous driver in Greece, happily pulling into parking bays to allow oncoming traffic to squeeze by – but you can end up parked all day if you don’t venture down the road yourself!

IMG_6242Camping at Koroni was a little … rustic. Our need to empty our toilet cassette means two nights free camping followed by a night in a campsite, pretty much determined by the complete absence of dumping facilities along the coast, and I couldn’t be bothered sneaking our cassette into public toilets or gas station toilets. If you can bear with me, please explain how this toilet designer was allowed near pen and paper: Imagine looking at the toilet bowl from the front towards the back. Like a medieval castle’s glacis the porcelain slopes from the top under the water cistern, towards the front of the bowl, in the process passing directly underneath your bottom. The waste pipe is located right at the front of the toilet ie towards your knees should you be seated. If you’ve imagined this correctly, you would have a grimace about now as you imagine where your deposits now land. Add to that a trickle of water dripping out of calcified pipes and the result is, clearly, a mess. I may well start a separate page on toilets because, for all the horror they can generate, they really are needed.


IMG_6237Koroni also seems to be the country’s cat capital – never seen so many cats in one town, slinking about and begging for scraps. Again I’m a little sorry that the numerous red tailed hawks seem reluctant to take a chance on a feline feed. This fellow seemed comfortable.

Tonight we are camped just up from the beach. Weather is a little grim – breeze blowing, overcast, and the mountains just to the North-East are still snow-covered. Campers just across the narrow hump-backed bridge from us who have been coming this way for 30 years are complaining this is the coldest April they’ve ever had. Hmmm – will get better sometime.


Pylos to Methoni

We continue to make breakneck progress down the west Peloponnese coast, doing 11km today and 8km yesterday. At this rate we’ll be taking out Greek citizenship before we leave. And why would that be a bad thing?


We are still in the vicinity of  Navarino Bay,  site of an important victory for the Greeks in their War of Independence against the Turks in 1827. The battle itself must surely count as one of the most lop-sided in history, with the combined Allied fleet suffering 700 dead and wounded, 0 ships lost; Turko-Egyptian, 4,000 dead and wounded, 60 ships destroyed. It was the last great engagement of wooden ships of war.


The area is redolent with history. We spent the better part of the day at the fortress in Methoni. This was an unexpected WOW! We were up early this morning and on our bicycles by 9:00am, really enjoying the 11km ride from Pylos to Methoni. A pre-intellectual cup of coffee was enjoyed along the town’s main road, offering us plenty of oohaaah moments as we watched traffic negotiate, in both directions, a single lane road with cars parked on both sides. From the comfort of my coffee table I still generated nervous sweat rings!

Niki carefully coordinated her colour schemes with local coffee shops

The castle is huge at around 93 acres, and I’d much rather use the term fortress. It encompassed some 800 buildings at its peak, but the purpose was always as a defensive fortification against the Turks, with defensive walls 11 metres high and 4m thick. Built in 1209 it retains the sense of magnitude and power it must have projected in the region. It fell in 1500AD, just 50 years after the fall of Constantinople. The site itself has been fortified since the 7thC BC, and was a very important trading area for the Byzantine empire, until taken over by the Venetians (1209)), lost to the Turks (1500), Venetians (1685), Turks (1715), and eventually Greeks (well, French actually, but nevertheless) in 1828.

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We were so impressed with Methoni that we decided to move from our perfectly OK spot on the wharf at Pylos. This was made easier by Methoni having a very accessible beach, and our discovery of Modon Restaurant, where Niki’s new best friend served us the absolutely best Tzatziki and Taramasalata (fish roe salad) we’ve ever had. For €12 we had a homemade lemonade, homemade Tarama and Tzatziki, loads of great bread and a large beer – we left full.

So, a great day in Pylos, which is just stunningly beautiful, followed by a stunning day (and great swim) in Methoni.

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If the weather plays along we might spend two nights here, catch up with some beach bats and suntan – tough, tough life! Greece is really turning out to be just as everyone said: Beautiful scenery, amazingly friendly and generous people … and some challenging roads. Oh – and to think that we are currently less than 1° from being at the furtherest point south of the entire mainland Europe!!

Katakolo -Elia Beach – Kalo Nero – Pylos

It’s been a lazy few days as we move down the coast. Today we are in the little town of Gialova, just across from our next destination at Pylos. And today, Ta-Dah, first swim of the European summer! If you know Niki you’ll know her virulent opposition to cold water. Hence the wetsuit top. Nevertheless, thoroughly enjoyed the swim on a sun-swept beach, hardly a breeze, but with a thunderstorm building over the mountains behind us, with a near constant roll of thunder.

We are at the Erodios Campsite, a little luxury afforded as this is our first paid campsite in 10 days, and necessitated, in part, by our need to get some washing done. We are spending two nights here as the campsite is great and we have a section 2 meters from the beach. The view from the van is simply stunning: Headlands sweep round both right and left, aquamarine  waters, islands in the bay, and the town of Pylos to the left, spreading up from the small harbour.

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We took the bikes out yesterday and cycled along a good gravel road, sea to the left, marshlands and lakes to the right, to arrive at a stunning headland. Not content with our short cycle we headed around the lakes to what has been described as Greece’s most beautiful beach. Wow!

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The road there went from good gravel to rutted gravel to no gravel to farmtrack to deply gouged mud track … You get the picture. I captured this on film, with Niki coming off her bike as the front wheel sticks in mud at the bottom of a deep rut. Unfortunately, due the the language it contains and the fact that Niki teaches young children, I’m not going to post it – but boy, is it worth a laugh! So, with mud spread all over Niki’s neatest shorts we arrived at the beach. On the way home we decided to avoid our original track and proceed on tar, before heading across to the campsite along another track. Bad move, as it turned out that the track simply disappeared into the marsh. Backtracked, took another route, same result, backtracked … Eventually back home before sundown to enjoy an unlimited hot water shower and more wine.

And the road deteriorates …
Niki’s cycle route …

The last few days we’ve been in the company of two very nice German couples, sharing campsites as we migrate down the Peloponnese.   It’s been very stress-free as everyone has met in the afternoon, having shared GPS coordinates earlier in the day – Thanks Niki. It has provided a bit of security, but now we are back on our own as everyone has set off according to their own timeframes and agendas.

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We are definitely not going to rush down the coast but it probably means fewer posts over the next few weeks …