We were up, ready to leave our camping place at Athens at the un-earthly hour of 07.30. Why? So many people use the back streets to park; to catch the train into Athens. The streets are narrow anyway. With all the cars parked either side of the road; it would be impossible to drive our motorhomes through, to get onto the main road. The only way is to drive the wrong way up a shortish stretch of a one-way road. We left early in the hope we wouldn’t meet anybody coming the other way. All exciting stuff and not quite the thing I am used to doing. All went well turning onto the main road but the downside of leaving early is that we got caught in Greece’s capital city, rush hour traffic. We all felt that we had had enough of ancient relics and that we all needed a bit of beach time.
We drove to Sikia, in the Pelion region, which is situated in the Pegasetic Gulf. When we got to the campsite we were lucky enough to get two pitches, side by side, right by the beach. Instantly, we knew we had found paradise. The campsite is one of the best we have stayed on anywhere. The Gulf is protected on all four sides, so the sea barely gets up more than a ripple. The water is so clear that it is a perfect swimming place. There is a great restaurant and bar and the shop had just been opened when we arrived. The weather now is constant blue skies and sunny, and the temperature in the shade is averaging around 28 degrees centigrade each day.
Almost immediately we got chatting with the other campers in the area we were in. We were made to feel at home which certainly doesn’t happen quite so much at other sites we have been on.
There is a convenience store on the main road and either side of Sikia there are restaurants and beach bars at Kato Gatzea on one side and Kala Nera on the other side. Both small villages are within easy walking distance. Every hour and a half, a bus runs each way passed the campsite. One way takes you down the Pelion region and the other takes you into Volos. Volos is a coastal, port city situated 205 miles north of Athens and 137 miles south of Thessalonika and is the capital of the region.
Mount Pilio dominates the sky line and everyone warned us against taking our motorhomes up the mountains to visit the bays on the other side. Our first bus trip took us to Argalisti so we could go to the weekly market that is held there. We got some great views as we were driven quite high up the mountain range to get to the small town.
After the market and our walk around the town we went to a café in the square and enjoyed some more of the Greek cuisine. Sometimes, it is pot luck if you get what you think you have ordered. One habit that the Greeks have is that they drop food off their plates to feed the many stray cats and dogs that hang around everywhere. That means you are pestered by the strays whenever food is brought to your table.
We became quite adept about taking the bus into Volos and the centre is about 14 km from the campsite. We had thought about getting a boat trip from one of the many boats tied up on the water fronts. but learnt that we were just a bit early to find what we wanted.
We now know that it is the 1st of May and onward when the tourists start flocking to the area. The boat owners were busy readying their crafts for the busy season to come. Many campsites do not open until the 1st and some do not open until the 15th of the month. Volos is a bustling city and if you enjoy shopping then you will enjoy Volos.
The similarity between Greece and Spain is that they both have great climates. The big difference is the way the people treat us. We have found that once the Greeks get from behind the wheel of their cars they become such nice people. Already, in the six weeks we have been here, we have witnessed and received help, smiles and waves. Take this one example. Whilst enjoying a great Greek meat dish I bit down on a hidden bone. I broke a tooth. We went into Volos looking for a dentist. We searched in vain and we asked the waiter if he knew where I could get help. He asked a chap who was enjoying a coffee and he came over to help. The proprietor then phoned the dentist and handed me the phone. He said he would see me straight away. Then a map was drawn for me and off I went. It was not easy to find so I went to the fire station with all the firemen sitting around waiting for the next shout. I got smiles and greeting from all the men and the chap from the office came out and walked me down the street chatting away like he had known me forever. The dentist did a great job and the problem was over.
Back on the campsite we enjoyed the swimming and the friendliness of the campers around us. One couple I must mention are Luigi and Elanor. Luigi is Italian and Elanor is Russian. What a fascinating couple and are both multilingual. We were introduced to their friends, Jim and Sue who live in the next village and Barrie who lives with his cats up in the mountains above us.
We all spent a wonderful afternoon together enjoying tsipoura (a Greek spirit) together. Each time another round came out, the more complementary meze food was put on the table. Later we visited Jim and Sue’s house to round off the afternoon drinking wine in their front garden.
We were reluctant to leave this paradise of a site, so we hired a car for two days, so we could explore the area further. The first day we drove down almost to the tip. The roads were almost deserted, and we got great views and further down we could see the sea either side of the peninsula.
When we got to Trikeri we stopped at a tabepna (a bar) right on the edge of the town that had a terrace with a fabulous view.
We went on down to the very end to Agia Kyriaki. Unfortunately, the only way back was to drive all the way back on the same road. It had been another hot day, so a swim was the order of the day.
The next day we headed up Mount Pilio, the mountain that dominates the whole area. The map showed the whole route as a series of very severe sharp bends and we were heading for some of the small towns and villages on the east side. In lots of places the roadway had collapsed and in others it looked like repairs had been started, but never finished. All along the route we could see the little religious houses signifying where another Greek had lost their life because of the way they drive.
Ironically, the speed limit all over the mountain is 90km an hour and we were passed by maniacs doing that speed or more. Periodically we would pass a hamlet or small village and it was a wonder why people should choose to live up there. Going down is as bad as going up, but finally we reached the first of the small sea side resorts and stopped for coffee. We continued to the adjoining seaside village, Damouchari which was one of the locations for the filming of Mama Mia. None of the towns link up so you have to drive back up to the road along the top before getting to the next steep road going downwards. At one stage the sat nav wanted to take us onto a very narrow dirt road to continue onward but we turned around to find a better route.
We then came to a village right by the ski centre and had a great meal before heading back to the camp.
In the morning we headed into Volos to return the car and dropped Wendy and Elaine off to get to a hairdresser. Brian and I went off to find the station and saw all these abandoned old locos.
We then all returned to the camp to prepare for the off the next day. All good things must come to an end sometime. We said our goodbyes to all the people we had met whilst there.
As the weather has been so good we have had some quite nice sunsets. Here are a sample of the many such pictures I have taken.