Dave the motorhome has a misty view from the hilltop village of Karytena, out over the forested hillsides of Arcadia, Greece (N37.48493 E22.04166). We’re parked right in the centre of the village, as it seems you can do in any of the small towns here, and are planning to spend the night. As the population of the place has dropped from 20,000 in 1209 to only 232 in 2011, there aren’t many people for us to upset. It was a toss-up on whether we stay here or plough on back to the coast, but we opted to stay as the weather forecast for tomorrow is good, and the dank mist and persistent rain have already seen us quickly past the region’s best sights.
As you may have guessed from the post title, we’re not used to the rain! It hammered down last night as we pulled our coats around us on the all-of-20-metres shuffle to one of the tavernas we’d eyed up earlier. There were 3 or 4 tavernas in Langadia and they all looked the real deal, not too touristy, no pictures of food to be seen. This one had a fire though, complete with a log currently in the process of being devoured by roaring flames. In we went.
An hour or two later we exited the place, stuffed full of chips, kebab and fried chicken, muscles loosened by a few glasses of vino. I later found my chosen seat was below the telly, explaining why all the staff stared in my direction the whole time! No other punters arrived, although plenty of locals turned up in twos and threes to join a circle of wine-quaffers, chatting quietly, sharing the same pot of rose. We’d ordered red (from a choice of red, rose or white – just like an English pub), and we too got rose, maybe that’s all they had, or more likely our Greek is rubbish. I’d fancied kebab (souvlaki on the menu), wondering how many sticks I should go for at €1.80 each. A couple did the trick nicely, one of the staff getting up from watching the TV to cook ’em (which was silent by this point, as Greek traditional music had been popped onto the sound systems and some more logs fetched and thrown on the fire). She came back afterwards, we wondered if we should smile at her while munching. Not knowing whether Ju’s chicken came with chips, we ended up with a table full of them!
This morning we topped up Dave’s water tank from a nearby tap, looked about with no luck for a stray dog which had made friends with us last night, and took off through the mist, heading for Dimitsana, another hill village further south. The map showed the road narrowing on the way and there are no rock-holding nets here like across much of Europe – the rocks just fall. No worries through, the tyre-munchers were all on the other side of the road and it was an easy run, starting off as a corniche sliced into a steep hillside, morphing into a pleasant valley run. The landscape in these ‘ere parts is rugged stuff, forests and rock, streams and slithers of pasture land. A soaked shepherd raised his crook and cocked his head as we crept past his flock in the road, his dogs, rather less enamoured with the interloper, bared teeth and snarled at Dave’s skin as we sped up to leave.
This would be and surely is a beautiful part of the world, but for the awful weather. Pulling into a roadside stop-off just outside Dimitsana, I think we both knew we’d not be staying here the night. After a brief walk about the town, which was vaguely alive with the noise of kids in school, shops selling honey and craftwork and disgruntled-looking blokes stood on the steps of an open doored building, we squeezed Dave through the streets and cruised onwards.
More rain poured down. After Dimitsana, the Prodhromou Monastery stands on a 300m high stack of rock ‘stuck onto the cliff like a swallow’s nest’ says the Rough Guide. As we couldn’t see much further than Dave’s front bumper, the chances of being greeted by this sight were zero. Onwards we went, slowly. Next up, The village of Stemnitsa. All we saw of this was the back end of a school bus, which we gratefully hugged through the just-wide-enough-for-a-bus streets.
Ancient Gortys is next, ‘one of the most stirring of all Greek sights’. In this weather? As visibility dropped to next to nothing we pulled over for some lunch beside a wooden water trough with an unlikely tap erupting from the rocky ground.
By this point the thought of just running for the coast and hopefully hitting some sunshine nagged at the two of us, what about all this stuff we’re missing up here? Folks who’ve previously passed this way and blogged about it have told us there’s good snorkelling on our planned route around the ‘fingers’ of the Peloponnese coast. The possibility of swimming with a turtle, spotting an octopus or cuttlefish easily trumps most ruinous sights, for me at least. We fought the urge to just keep driving though, twisting down off the edge of the Lousios Gorge we’d been following, over a few hills and back up a switchback or two we’ve called a halt here.
The rain’s called a halt to play as I write these last few words. I just checked the forecast for the next big town on the coast, check it out:
The BBC has just told us Margaret Thatcher has passed away. Being the son of a coal miner, I should perhaps not be dismayed by this passing, but as it happens her policy to close the pits probably saved my beloved father’s life, his lungs being what they are. It’s funny how life works. RIP Margaret Thatcher.