Dave the motorhome’s in a car park hacked out from the rock face, 80m from the little cove beach of Lambinou (N39.36015 E23.21332). We don’t work for the Times Travel section, or we might describe this place as an undiscovered paradise, a divine get-away from it all, escapism in perfect Greek form, or whatever. Truth be told, this is one special little place, the kind of place I find hard to believe still exists. Once again we’re feeling pretty lucky to have found it, to have free run of it, and to be able to stay here for free.
With the darkness last night came House, we’re ploughing through 2 or 3 episodes a night, addicted to it! As we watched Hugh Lawrie earning £250,000 an episode or some such, a couple of groups of locals gathered together firewood on the beach. They got fires going and sat around chatting until it became too cool and then drifted off.
After a morning dip in the Aegean, the blue water looking all computer-generated as I splashed about with a shoal of optimistic fish darting at the detritus I was kicking up, we pulled Dave in a U turn and left. As we passed the place below, we wondered how such a magnificent location could go to such waste. If you’re reading Jamie Evans (our mate), maybe this could be your next Money Pit?
Whenever I’ve read anything about the Pelion region, the words ‘tortuous’, ‘switchback’, ‘hairpin’, ‘steep’, ‘precipitous’ and ‘narrow’ feature heavily. Driving about in an aged, wide and 3 tonne motorhome, this gives me cause for concern. In other words, I was already sweaty-palmed as we left Horefto, the first gear ascent at the end of the village didn’t help. Dave’s front end goes light when the going gets steep, to the point we eventually lose grip and it’s backwards we go. Thankfully this has only happened once in all our time on the road, and although we had a bit of wheel spin at one point, it didn’t happen today either.
Once Dave had hauled us out of the village to the road above, things got flatter and wider, we even had a double white line to nominally separate us from oncoming traffic. Not that there was much of it, we passed maybe 10 cars (or more accurately 5 cars and 5 pick-ups) all day. The twists and turns stayed and we pootled along at about 25mph, taking in the lush scenery. The rock here’s been cut into sharp knuckles of land, and the road follows a contour along each of them, running inland up to a dry waterway and accompanying little bridge, then swinging back out towards the sea. This gives a great view of the valley sides, and we could see settlements we’d passed or were about to see, spread vertically, explaining why they looked like just a few houses when we were actually in among them.
Once in a while a pick-up would appear from a side road, coming up at such a steep angle they appeared to be being thrust from a rabbit hole. We were careful about which turn-offs we took today, going down one of these tracks would have been a one-way journey, at least until we could find a seriously big tractor and tow rope.
We have a beautiful ‘Le Pelion’ brochure given to us by a Canadian couple we met a few weeks ago. It has a photo of the murals covering the interior of St Marina’s church at Kissos. While I’m about as religious as Richard Dawkins, something drew me towards the place and we decided to risk the side road up there. As it turned out, it was only a couple of km and full-sized coaches were squeezing up to see it. We had no trouble, parking up and eyed the ‘no camping’ sign, wondering if the lack of a ‘no’ meant some locals were happy for motorhomes to stay?
The interior of the church was grim-grey, unlit, tiny windows allowing in a little light. There was only me in there, thankfully as I’d sneaked in wearing shorts and a T shirt, neither deemed acceptable by Orthodox sensibilities. A good part of the ceiling was being held up by metal props. I could just about make out the art work, the camera’s flash came into play as the ‘pay €1 here to get the lights on’ box of tricks was missing. The place was stunning, I went a bit mad grabbing as many photos as I could before a black-clad gent appeared to boot me out (he never did, although a lady outside the door stared at me as though I was wearing a lion skin loin cloth).
Out into the light, we had a wander about the village for a while. These places on the peninsular have been well isolated in the past, and have hung onto much of their charm. The odd English and German voice catches our ear from time to time, and the donkeys which used to be the single form of transport on five hour treks, slipping on steep cobbled paths, have gone. They’re still fascinating. Once we’d done walking we nipped into a shop to buy bread, a local chap waiting patiently as I looked up the word ‘psomi’ in our phrasebook. Shaking his hand, he smiled and pointed down the street. Into the supermarket, again no bread, the younger owner spoke English and pointed town the street ’20 meters’. Ah, the bakers! Stood next to the ovens the baker knocked over his batch of loaves waiting on the shelf, laughed, and popped one in a paper bag for us.
Dave trundled back along to the main road, and turned right towards Lambinou. This place came up tops out of all the places to visit next, as it (a) had a magnificent photo in the French brochure and (b) came up as a place we could stay in our borrowed womo.de German guide. The drive took a good while, more 25mph cruising and the odd ‘elbows in’ moment as a car came around a corner slightly on our side of the road. At one point an oncoming Land Rover pulled in behind a car for us to pass, and we noticed its UK registration plate as we crawled alongside. ‘Hi, how ya doin?’ I asked out of the open window, involuntarily searching the faces within the Landy for someone who looked old enough to drive. They all stared back, dumb struck. I wondered after if they were reciprocally scanning Dave’s cab for someone young enough to be camper-vanning around Greece?
The road was quite spectacular in points, a true mountain goat of a corniche, and we managed to find a few spots to pull over and grab photos.
Navigation’s not been a problem today; there are few decent roads and the signs have been good. The one for here was pretty obvious, and we rolled off down it like a tuppeny falls coin, on a marathon race to the bottom. Nothing Dave’s first gear can’t cope with though. At the bottom a large car park appeared, phew, and a sign saying ‘go no further’. Parked up and on foot we passed a couple of cars parked beyond the ‘go no further’ point in a desperate attempt to find shade (it’s sunny, very sunny). 80m brought us to a beautiful blue and white taverna, it’s all-but-empty tables looking out over a perfect cove. Get, in! This place is the jackpot, it’s just awesome.
The taverna’s not got a menu. In between forays to the beach for snorkelling, just staring at it and lying about in the sun, we nipped in. Just us, the lady owner and, we assume, her husband. He sat in silence, although he’d shown he was amiable earlier as he’d pulled in in an aged (1970’s?) motor and pointed at Charlie lugging a piece of driftwood his own size back to Dave. Ju ordered some ice cream, Hagen Dass no less. I went for the Greek Salad and Tzatziki, as these were the only things proffered (hang on, I could have had ‘small fish’ too, but declined). About half an hour later the World’s Biggest Salad appears with hunks of grainy bread big enough to sleep on. It was topped off with some dark green plants. As the lady sat and watched us eat (nothing much else to do I guess) I waved her over and asked what they were. She spoke a few words of English, but not enough to explain this, and eagerly legged it off, bringing back one jar and then another: ‘this one from the mountains’, ‘this one from near the sea’. ‘I put them in wine for 6 months’. They were both lovely to eat.
Having accidentally ordered way too much, as we always seem to do in Greece, we were a bit taken aback when the smiling lady arrived with a couple of house-brick slabs of feta-filled pastry. ‘Complimentary’. Unable to eat them, she wrapped them in tin foil and I legged it up the hill to pop ’em in Dave’s fridge. As I just sat back down she appeared with a plate of melon and kiwi fruit. We looked at each other and grinned. Total cost for this stomach stretcher with a killer view: €15, we left a couple of euros tip for all the free stuff.
The sun’s slowly setting now. The forecast’s for more clear days, 30 degree highs, and our Le Pelion Visite Guidee is promising more awesome spots along the coast. Happy days!