From Cannibals to Anschluss

Yes, this is one of those days that seem to pile experiences atop each other until the cup really does run over.

But before that:

From Tyros to Epidavros via Nafplio

Washing Day

We spent 3 nights at Zaritsi Beach Camp, a delightful stop that turned from one night into three as we lazed around the Peloponnese. The weather, unfortunately, had a bit to do with this as the wind picked up strength, the sea went to dark grey, and whitecaps enlivened the bays. With such a strong wind we opted to remain in the protection of the campsite for an extra couple of days, before heading off to a couple of free camp sites. The first of these, at Paralia Agiou Andrea, a name that has 4 times as many vowels than the number of town inhabitants, was removed from the road, a small harbour with 2? Houses… Nondescript would be apt.


IMG_6614Nafplio was a little different. We parked on the huge carpark fronting the small boat harbour, which housed everything but small boats. Price tags to these boats runs into tens of millions of dollars: `Bliss`, for example, rents out at €135,000 per week. No wonder there is an increasing conversation about the ‘have-alls’!




We climbed the 800+ steps from Nafplio to the Venetian Palamidi Fortress up the hill. Built during the Second Venetian period (1711-1715) it was conquered by the Ottomans before completion, passing to the Greeks in 1822 on liberation. The fortress is stunning, with such clear examples of interlocking bastions and covering fields of fire that make you realise what an art form the design and construction of this fortress was, particularly taking the improvements gunpowder technology was bringing to the battlefield.

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The Old Town was, again, a lovely place to spend dinner (yes, Niki eating out again!), but also nice to spend with fellow travellers Russ and Juliet. Feeding 4 of us, including 2 litres of wine and coffees for just on €50 explains, to an extent, our growing appreciation of the opportunities offered by travelling Greece.

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I continue to appreciate Greek parking…

I don’t think we have yet encountered anyone expressing to us a New Zealanders (apologies to both Japies and Kiwis) their concern for ongoing cannibalism being experienced in NZ’s deepest, most removed jungles. Hmmm… here was a clear case of a little knowledge being a very dangerous thing. Our otherwise very nice (although garrulous to the nth degree) seller of prime Greek honey, had, at some stage, read a book (article?) that indicated the Maori had resorted on occasion to cannibalism, and was concerned the practice continued. I did, to be fair, try hard to alleviate her fears in this regard. Add that to conversations in a shop we had stopped at to buy some gifts that went something like this: ‘Yes, the stone in that necklace clearly aligns with your aura…` ‘I know, I know, and the crystal has such healing properties that I simply must …’ Aargh – bit my tongue, remained silent, apart from a bit of a laugh when Niki looked at me, waiting, perhaps, for an outburst. Nafplio is clearly not an international centre of cultural knowledge?

Our neutral Swiss van post Anschluss

Which brings me to the Anschluss bit of the post. Picture, for a moment, the campsite. Limited waterfront parking for 4 campervans willing to cough up the extra €5 per night for the privilege. One row back, German campers. To the left, German campers. In we come with our little neutral Swiss van and park in our (paid for) allocated spot – which, unfortunately, cuts off the rear Germans from their seaside view. Sorry. We’d just put our our mat, chairs and table when, with a ‘humpff’, our rear neighbours packed up their tables and chairs and proceeded to relocate to our front, cutting our poor Swiss van (neutral, surrounded, and now land-locked) from a resource fairly paid for. Consequently, I end up reflecting on poor Austria and its neighbourly Anschluss in 1938 …

Boys and their multi-million dollar toys … 🙂

So, hoping for good weather tomorrow so we can snorkel over the drowned town of Epidavros (multiple spellings!!), if I can persuade Niki that summer is, indeed, here!

Monomvasia to Tyros: What a Drive!

Let’s do this as a travel blog kind of day, starting with my photo of the day! This is us trying to navigate through one of the many small towns from Monomvasia around the coast to Tyros:


Seriously – this is the main coastal road around the Peloponnese! What the photo doesn’t show is that to get around any corner we had to fold in the side mirrors. It also doesn’t show that this is a TWO-WAY ROAD. As I’m a pretty ordinary driver, but a pretty crap reverser, I think my aura preceded me and all oncoming traffic pulled off the road or reversed. And just to show this was not isolated, heres a little montage from the next village:

Yes Susi, you do drive through the town square to get through the village.

So, drenched in sweat after each village we breathed, drank in the scenery, and thoroughly enjoyed the drive. To put some perspective to this, I think this was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever had. This is, no doubt, aided by the fact that the van remained undamaged, we never really had a nervous break-down, town pressures were alleviated by smiling inhabitants waving us by and the day’s end brought us to this:


I’ve put together a slide-show of just some of the sights taken in over the day, but this necessarily lacks the smells of the forest, sea, orange blossoms and fynbos as we moved around the various headlands. What a day!

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Earlier we had climbed to the top town in Monomvasia, and it would be wrong to ignore just how pretty this Venetian fortified town is. Built in the 12thC, with its church still standing, and some of the frescoes still somewhat intact. As with all the religious buildings in Greece, this underwent original Frankish building and ownership, Venetian improvements, surrender to the Ottoman Turks after the collapse of Constantinople, return to Venice for less than 100 years before returning to the Turks, and then, finally, emancipation in the 1820’s.

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Gythio -Monemvasia

Continuing our slow perambulation around the Peloponnese we stayed for two nights at the campsite right on the beach at Gythio, the original Spartan harbour. A short cycle from the campsite to the town was rewarded with great views … and indescribable traffic chaos on May Day (but clearly better natured than similar chaos in France!).

Gythio main street … Hmmm!

Still, it gave plenty of opportunity to have a beer and watch the world crawl by – slowly. Our brother-in-law, a traffic connoisseur of note, would be hard-pressed to choose between this and Bangkok street scenes – the latter might win as a result of the great traffic magnitude. But, all friendly, no hooters, no raised voices – Doable.


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Yesterday we drove from Gythio to Monemvasia along some pretty good roads, although, as everywhere, travelling through the towns was tight, slow, and dependent on oncoming traffic’s goodwill. We are currently parked on the wharf at the end of the causeway  leading to the old town and fortress of Monemvasia, the first town to be liberated in the Greek War of Independence, 1821. It is gorgeous!

Monemvasia town square (Lower Town) with the Upper Town walls visible on the cliffs above.
23 churches for a town of a couple of hundred. Hmm.

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We’ve also been lucky in bumping into nice neighbours and have spent the last few days meeting up at the end of the day and having a few beers as well as some shared dinners- it’s been great.

With new neighbours, Russ & Juliet

Some Bad News!

Getting the timing right to drop off the van for sale in Switzerland and move our household goods, currently stored in the middle of France (Thanks Scott & Marthe-Sophie) in part to New Zealand, in part to Luanda, Angola, was always going to be tricky. Well, it’s proven more difficult than that!

To sell the van back to the company we bought it from is the easiest solution, and I accept the significant hit we’ll take in doing so. Unfortunately, they have also demanded the van before the end of May. Consequently … No Sardinia and, shortly, bye-bye van. We will drop the van off in Basel on May 28, travel back to NZ for 6 weeks (sorry kids) and then return to ship our stuff from France to NZ and Luanda, before heading to Luanda for Niki’s new job. Chuck in closing bank accounts, moving TVs from Germany to France somewhere in the mix, not yet being able to book the (rapidly filling) Luanda flights etc etc … If it sounds complex, that may well be the truth. We’re feeling a little dejected today at the sudden termination of our tour, but it seems we have little choice here – might as well get on with it.

On the upside – what a blast it’s been. Check our neighbours exhibiting non-camping behaviour in a restricted zone 🙂


April 2019 Budget

It’s budget time again!

I’ve quite looked forward to our monthly accounting and to see how we are doing against budget. This month has been mostly in Greece, hailed as one of the cheaper European options. We arrived in Greece on 9th April, with the previous 9 days spent in Italy, another perceived cheaper option.

So, how did we do?


Pretty well, actually. Our big blowout was for the ferry from Bari to Patras at €485, although this is a return ticket. Eating and drinking out was over budget, but this is easily explained by the number of pictures taken this past month of Niki sitting at various restaurants. This has been more than balanced by our reduction in purchasing supermarket food.


Given that we are having a beer and appetizer on a daily basis, and add the frequent dinners, I’m amazed we have anything in our budget at all. A 500ml beer today, at a restaurant and seated right at the water’s edge, cost €3. A half litre of wine has generally cost €3, and its drinkable (although, to be fair, I’m pretty indiscriminate!). A full meal is in the €8 range, appetizers are €3-€5, and we are now in the habit of each having one of those rather than a meal – just can’t eat all that food.

So we are €463 under budget, but living very well. We have spent far more time in campsites than ever before, but then only used one tank of diesel.

A couple of potential problems coming up though. In order to get our work visas for our next job we need to send our passports off to Singapore. Not quite sure how to do this and travel. We are also going to be facing a potential problem in selling our van at the end of this trip – If anyone knows of someone looking for an outstanding Bürstner campervan, with 22000km on the clock and still under warranty, let me know!

IMG_6475.JPGIn the meantime, sun is out, just been for a swim, and tomorrow will be heading off to an island noted (again) as the most beautiful in the Aegean. Can’t all be worries, can it?

Diros Cave

It’s been an idyllic overnight stop at the beach just over the hill from Diros Caves – and this really is a Must See!


To get here took some time. Not the brightest move, travelling on Easter Monday. The traffic was certainly much heavier than its been, made up, partially, by the lack of heavy trucks. Just to put this in perspective, take a look at these 4 shots of the main road (yes, seriously, the main coastal road) between Kalogria (Stupa) and Diros:

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As a pretty average driver I think I’m tested about every 4 minutes. On the upside, my sweat pores just close up due to over-exertion, and the latter part of the day passes in relative physical comfort.

To make up for this, the drive is beautiful. The slide show below is taken by Niki as we wind our way down the coast.

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Campsite last night was on the beach, 10 minute walk from the cave entrance. Stunning sunset capped a great day.


IMG_6394Up at the (relative) crack of dawn saw us arrive too early at the ticket office, too early for the boat trip, too early for the staff at the (open) coffee shop, and too early to avail ourselves of the opportunity to avail ourselves of providing constructive feedback. Don’t you love the non-pc ‘Complaints’, supported by the absolute lack of a mechanism by which you can complain – no forms, papers nor pens. I like that…

The trip through the cave was just fantastic. Lighting was kept to a reasonable level, the tourist boats were remarkably quiet, the local penchant for smoking everywhere was curtailed … and the environment was simply superb. A massive arrangement of stalactites and other features mirrored in the still waters around the boat. Two negatives: Niki asked our guide if he could translate to English (he speaks English) to be told, ‘No’. No buggering around here! Second, is that we could have spent hours there, rather than the half hour tour. I understand time is money, but we’ll not be this way again, and the experience has been unique. Reflecting – the tickets were €13, and I’d guess a NZ experience of anything similar would set you back 10 x that (hello, Waitomo Caves!). The slide show below is just some of what you see.

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The wind has come up a bit, so no swimming today. A pity as yesterday the water temp was up to 19° due to the bay and wind direction – glad I made use of the opportunity when I did. We’ll spend another night here before heading off to Gythio on hopefully quieter roads tomorrow.