Dave the motorhome is beautifully warm, stood a few metres from an isolated pebble beach on the eastern Sunshine Coast of the Lower Mani, about a kilometre from the village of Kamares (N36.67857 E22.52288). There are three other motorhomes with us, one of which is Peter’s. Ju freaked him out a bit when we arrived. As he ambled over, tanned, sporting shorts, sandals and a smile, he asked in perfect English if we were from the UK. ‘Yeah’ I replied, ‘what about you’? ‘I’m from Sweden’. At this point Ju say’s ‘Oh, hi Peter’. His jaw drops a tiny bit as he tries to work it out. Denis and Carol had told us about Peter being here a week or two back as we travelled south. He’s here fixing the entire floor on his motorhome after water got in and rotted the previous one. It’s not an old van, he has just a few hand tools and 20 years of experience working with wood. It’s taken him since December but he’s just about completed it. It’s probably not worth saying he has a ‘can do’ attitude.
A German chap chatted with me as I was half way into the sea yesterday at Kotronas. His name escapes me but not his story. After a little while of talking he explained that he was there, parked in the same place he had been a few years ago with his wife. He told me to keep and eye on the fishermen. ‘If they move their boats from here’, pointing at where they currently where on the quayside, ‘to over there’, pointing at a small beach mooring under the low cliffs opposite, ‘then be careful’. This had happened to him and his wife all those years ago and cost them their shoes, which they left under the van as huge waves crashed in and swept them off! Sadly he was there on a pilgrimage. He was married to a New Zealand lady, and still had that nation’s flag in his window. Someone had lost control and hit them while driving, and she was killed. My heart bled for the guy. He left later with a handshake and a smile, off to get his van serviced in Kalamata, planning to return to the same spot in a few days.
Into the evening the noise of voices ran along the quay. Earlier some children had petted Charlie, explaining they were from Athens but had come back to see their family for Easter (they later came back with their month-old Cav pup – a delightful little fella). This seems to be a running theme, as the tiny villages which guide books and blogs often indicate are all but completely dead have a thread of life running through this week, it feels as if it is just for us. A few families wandered the dock until about 11pm when all went quiet and we slept, Ju waking just the once to the sound of lapping water and pulling the curtain to one side to check we weren’t about to be washed away.
I don’t think we’ve seen three British motorhomes together since we were at Lake Bled about a year ago, certainly we haven’t seen that many parked together outside the confines of a campsite, but that what was on the quayside at Kotronas last night and it was wonderful to chat. Parked up with Mike and Jacqui we were joined by veteran travellers Marion and John, it turned out we all live with an hour drive of each other in the UK. Marion and John had managed to get a UK insurer to cover them for Albania (wow!), after a long old search, so had travelled south from the tip of Croatia through Montenegro. Marion pointed at the rocks piled up to protect the mole: ‘Albanian roads are like driving on these’. Apart from the poor surfaces they’d loved the place, finding folks there hugely gregarious and accommodating.
As we talked a Greek man turned up with a bag of fish, €5 for one Kg, half the price of the last lot we bought. Everyone bought a few, and I immediately regretted it. I’ve gutted a few fish on the trip, and none have honked like these evil-stinking things, their guts a dark green, apparently full of roe. I managed four of them, getting spiked by one’s savage dorsal fin and having to leg it outside at one point close to being ill. They’re in the freezer, I can’t bring myself to think about eating them yet, I can still smell ’em. The other guys gutted theirs and didn’t detect anything unusual with the niff, so maybe I’m pregnant, and they’re not 3 days old and rotting!
Being on the Eastern side of the ridge of mountains which runs down the Mani means an early day break, the sunlight glancing off Dave from erm, early. The weather’s been glorious for a week, and the weather forecast says highs of 29°C or 30°C for another week or so. Heatwave! Back in July and August of last year we headed south through Croatia, then north through Bosnia and Hungary, and we ROASTED. Charlie was on maximum tongue extension most of the day and the heat drove us to argue, something we thankfully don’t do much, after all, we’re practically in heaven. It’s not like that at the moment though. Mike asked us if we were heating water with old bottles, popping them in the windscreen to heat. Doh! Great idea, and never occurred to us. We’re doing it now, giving us solar hot water for pot washing, so it’s hot enough for that, just not so hot we’re swamped in sweat all day.
John and Marion headed off first, going the opposite way to us. Jacqui and Mike left next, off up to Githio where we hope to meet ’em again tomorrow for some Easter fun, Greek Orthodox Style (which seems to mean mucho lamb eating). With no-one to chat with, Ju ploughed on with her Essential Motorhome Packing List and I nipped into the village and walked over to the tiny island-ish bit of land, connected to the mainland with a bungee of pebbles. On my way there I could hear a commotion as an old lady and, I assume, her grand-daughter wrestled with a branch, spotting me and dropping it at the side of the path. As I caught up I pointed at it and imitated wringing a chicken’s neck as a question – did they want me to break it? They did and thankfully my scrawny arms were up to the task – the old lady wanted to use half of it as a walking stick.
The little island had some metre thick walls, indicative of someone fearful of being attacked in the past, a small church and a good deal of dried cow dung spread among the olive trees. It was a beautiful, abandoned spot. As I walked back, the old lady and kids were, oddly, listening to some banging tunes while splashing about in the shallow water. Easter’s here. Party time? A few pictures of the island-ish bit of land below.
Finally the packing list was done! It’s taken Ju hours and hours, at one point losing several of said hours after our laptop gave up the ghost at the end of a marathon typing session. She didn’t give up though, good on her. To celebrate we packed up and headed north, through the unlikely-looking narrow road which John had come down through saying it was narrow in places but passable. After a kilometre or two the thing spread its wings, turning into a wide, smooth two lane stretch, complete with white lines and crash barrier! I guess some EU cash came flooding this way at some point as (a) it was near totally devoid of other traffic and (b) one small section had collapsed into the sea, pinching it down to a single lane with no obvious sign of it ever getting fixed – EU cash being used for paying off monumental debts these days?
If you come this way and decide to pop down to Kamares (which I’d strongly recommend if you fancy a night or two in a free, peaceful, sea-side spot) then unless you’ve a satnav you might have the same fun as us. The village wasn’t signed, where there are signs they’re all in Greek, and the road’s a concrete one-laner hugged by leaning olive trees. It was worth all the ‘err’ and ‘is this it?’ and ‘it can’t be, can it’? ponderings as we rumbled along. It was also worth the bathroom cabinet door falling off with all the bounding about, one of the mirrored cupboards ones, since we’re jammy swines and it didn’t break.
It’s serious chill-out time now. The fridge is about empty of food so we’re making the best of the space filling it with bottles of water (yup – it’s a month off the beer for my deserving liver). The sea’s about 8 metres away and I’ve been in twice for a cool swim. At this end of the bay a fresh water source flows out, leaving the water beautifully cool and giving it a treacle-texture as you wave your hand through it, forcing the fresh and salty stuff to mix. Ju’s reading Venice by Jan Morris (a fabulous book, a real eye-opener on the past) and I’m typing this, contemplating another swim, feeling a bit nauseous at the thought of that humming pile of fish guts…