Andreas on board
30 December 2012 | Messolonghi
Monday 10th December
We both slept well, but woke to a dripping wet and cold boat, nothing that 20mins on the heater would not cure? Andrea was soon of for a shower while I gave the cabin a wipe down. My turn for the shower and the waters just gorgeous and hot, well worth the 30cents. It's to wet for brekkie in the cockpit, so it's tea and toast down below. The luxury lifestyle of living outside in the sun takes a beating when your stuck inside a 31 ft yacht, and the rains falling down? But Andrea does not seem to bothered about it all. Luckily we have the car, and we are soon of to Lidl's for some supplies and then onto Carrefour, I do like to give all my guests the grand tour of my favourite supermarkets? We head out of town along the coast road and soon pass a shanty town, made up of plastic sheeting and mostly plywood by the side of the lagoon. It makes me wonder just what conditions must be like for the people living there, I should think that they would swap there home for the luxury of Nanjos cabin anytime? We turn around and head back to Messolonghi, then decide to drive down to the point. We get there just as the suns going down and it creates a gorgeous sunset, well worth a couple of photo's. We are both hungry now, and Andrea decides she would like to eat in town. I manage to park the car down a back street, where we had parked earlier and we find a small place for a meal. I just had a small beer and Andrea is on the wine, I'm still cautious about drinking and driving, even though people say it's ok here? The giros plate I had was superb and the pork Andrea had was huge as well. Were soon back on board and the heaters turned on to warm the cabin up, while I get the wine and glasses out. Andrea had picked up some cheeses and nibbles earlier so we tuck into them to round the evening of.
Tuesday 11th December
More rain during the night, the port settee is now covered in plastic because of the drips, and no chance of me trying to do a better job in the rain to seal the windows. The usual morning routine of heater on and then having a shower before breakfast, followed by tea and toast. Andreas putting up with it really well, but I must be honest that after the gorgeous summer days I've had, I can see why people go home for the winter months. We've decided to go of and explore today and find the amphieatre at Oinades, I've only got a very basic map that I picked up in the marina office, but Andrea agrees to navigate. It's well marked on the map, so we have a rough direction to head for, out past the shanty town again. The rains stopped and as we drive past, all there carpets and belongings seem to be hanging up on a line,it does put a perspective on my little moans about a bit of damp and cold, at least I have an electric heater and dry clothes to change into. I think I've missed a turn of so pull over on the side of the road while we both try to make sense of the map. The empty road is now the busiest one I've seen here, and people are pulling in all around me, maybe they are lost as well? We decide that a U turn and back to the next roundabout should do it, after a few minutes of waiting for a gap, I've realised that there probably won't be one, and everybody just pulls out and makes a space. It's time to put my Greek driving head on and drive like the locals, a quick indication (most don't bother) and I'm across the road and heading back to town.Andrea spots a promising dark brown sign and the writing looks just the same as the place we are looking for, so we follow the direction. I reckon that it's the same as we get back in the UK to show the way to places of interest. So we follow it for mile after mile, through small villages, down very small winding roads and onto a main road. All the time I'm telling Andrea we are heading in the right direction, eventually we reach the end, you've probably guessed by now, it lead us to a large wooden wharehouse at the side of the road. Now, I'm still convinced that the Greeks have covered the ampheatre up to preserve it, it's only when we see a truck coming out of the wharehouse. We both think thats just what it is a wharehouse! Andrea remembers a sign further back, where I took a picture of an old truck at the side of the road, so back we go. Find the truck and the road, well it's more a rutted single track path. Andrea points to a broken sign hanging of a shed, which looks like it says Oiniades, to be honest, I'm not convinced. This is meant to be an important site, where they have plays in the summer, and somehow I just can't see bus loads of people driving up that road? I tell Andrea, she's wrong and we should head somewhere else, well, you know that look women give you when they are not happy that your not taking there advice. That's the look I got then! Back on the road and we are driving through some very small villages, and you can see the real Greek way of life, we get plenty of looks as we drive through, and most of the time they look even more confused when we drive back again. Eventually we find a sign for a monastery at Panagia Lesiniotissa, which is actually on my map, and the map shows what look like streets leading from the monastery to the amphieatre. So we follow it for a few miles, approaching a farm entrance, we are attacked by a couple of vicious large dogs, one of them actually lept at the side of the car and hit the passenger door. The other kept pace as I was trying to drive away, we both felt glad we did not break down there. Just around the bend was a large flock of goats, but they slowly moved out of the way. Only another few hundred yards and we had reached the monastery, to be greated by it being closed and a dead end! The marks on the map I thought were un-named roads turned out to be irrigation canals, nothing for it but to back track all the way. The goats were not a problem, but neither of us fancied the dogs, who we reckoned would be waiting for us this time? Luckily an old pick-up truck pulled in front of us, so we thought we would let him go first. The old boy driving knew where all the pot holes were and was jigging from side to side to avoid them, as he approached the dogs he did not slow down, and the buggers actually went for his truck as well. Our turn and they went for us as well, but this time we just kept going fast. Now I like dogs, but I would have gladly got out (wearing a suit of armour) and belted those two. Back on the main road and we are beginning to think we will never find this place, as we drive through villages for the fourth time. Then Andrea spots a small wooden hand painted sign, nailed to a tree, pointing the way. Unbelievably only a few miles up the road we find it, and oh yes, it's closed. There is a side door left open, and I was really tempted to go and have a look, having been driving for hours. But, the thought of getting locked in overnight put me of. It's a large site from what we could see of it, and we have decided to come back again when it's open.We had picked up a couple of pies earlier and just sat at the gate eating our late lunch. Now, you would think getting back to Messolonghi would be easy, now we knew where we were, but no. Somehow I took a wrong turning, and we are driving along side one of the irrigation canals, for miles. We pass a pick up truck with a flat tyre being changed, and he just gives us a suprised look. Not much further up the road and it's a dead end, finishing at a small church.So back we go, the pick up guy waves us down, he does not speak much English, but Andrea works out he wanted a light for his ciggarette, we don't smoke, but Andrea spots the cigar lighter in the car, health and safety must have put it there as it's just a plastic dummy one. We show the guy our map and point to Messolonghi, as I said it's not a good map, and even he had trouble working out where we were on it. Eventually he points to a place and then points to the road, we're a little confused as he gets in his truck to drive away, should we follow him? We set of behind for a few yards then he waves his arm out of the window and shoots off. Andrea reckons he was waving us goodbye, I reckoned he was waving us to follow him? I decide to take Andreas advice this time and follow her directions, we end up in a town that looks very familiar, think it was the 6th time of going through it now. Andrea spots a sign for Messolonghi and we both breathe a sigh of relief. The rest of the way back to town went pretty easily, I only went wrong once. Back on board for a freshen up and relax, the rains been stopped for ages, and it's a nice evening. Andrea fancies a fish dinner and a trip back to the nice taverna with the big log fire. At least I know how to find that place, we are soon there and the fire is raging, the xmas tree is all decorated and the place looks lovely. The woman recognises us and gives us a menu. It's 99% fish, we both order a starter and Andrea orders fish while I go for the pork. The woman recommends the fish for both of us and gets her husband to bring some out to show us. Well, he brings out to very fresh fish one large and one small. Andrea convinces me it's time to try fish again, so she picks the large one for the two of us, the woman says it will be filleted and grilled. Luckily there is a large bowl of toasted garlic bread, for me to eat. It's a lovely atmosphere as we are enjoying our starters and wine, the old boy is keeping the fire well stoked with large logs. The fish arrives and it's my worst nightmare, it's just been cut down the middle through it's head and opened up, head and tail still attached as well. So much for the filleting, Andrea notices the look on my face and instantly says she will sort out the fish for me and put it on my plate. If your a fish lover then, good for you. Personnally I reckon they should just be left in the sea, it's just so much faffing about for so little boney return? I must be honest it tasted better than expected, we both have no idea what make of fish it was, but Andrea really enjoyed it. As for me, I was hungry, but if she had placed a pitta giros on my plate I would have been 100% happier. The kg of red wine helped take the taste away, and they were a lovely couple who ran the place, there were only a coule of other people there. A 10min drive back and we were soon on Nanjo with the heater going, and settling down to some more wine and cheese.
Wednesday 12th December
Slept well, and we woke to a dry day for a change, a quick shower and a breakfast in the cockpit for a change. Now this is a bit better, out came the map and we decided that a drive into the surrounding mountains would be nice. There looked an obvious route, drive out of town to Kokori then hang a left up a nice looking winding road to Elinka then follow the road back to Messolonghi. What could be easier? Well, we found what we thought was Kokori, and the road to the mountains was closed, Andrea susspected because of snow, we later thought more of landslides/rockfalls. So we carried on the national road toward Patra bridge, it's a really lovely coast road with stunning views, we stopped often and took pictures of the flat sea below us. I had no intention of crossing the bridge and paying the tolls again, so we bypassed it and decided to take the first decent looking road and see where it lead to. My choice and I turn left, down a single track road, past a large solar panel farm, then the road just stops! No wonder the people collecting the olives in a field gave us a funny look. Back to the main road again and this time it's Andreas turn to pick a road.We stop at a viewing point past the bridge, and notice a castle in the distance and it's walls running all the way down to the sea and a small harbour and town. We decide that it's well worth a look, I must say now that we had no idea what it was called, as I had left the big map behind on Nanjo. Andrea spotted a road going down from the mountain we were on so we set of. The next few miles were hair raising, sheer drops, hairpin bends, crumbling road, I was really glad we were in a small car. If you went over the edge with no barriers what so ever, you would not be getting out! We, soon ended up driving into the town called Naftpaxos and found a spot along the sea front to park up. It was a short walk back to the lovely harbour, after a look around it, I reckoned Nanjo would fit in easily. But as Andrea said, I reckon that in summer it would be a crowded place pretty quickly. We stopped for a coffee and admired the views, then went for a walk around. It's a lovely town and well worth another look in the summer, when we both reckoned it would be heaving. Back to the car and, we decide to find the road we came down to get out again. Andrea soon found it, so up we went. We came to a fork, which I didn't remember, Andrea said we took the right fork and it was a very tight bend, I had to reverse to get round it. Up we went, and you know that feeling you get, which says this is not safe and the way we came? Well I soon got it, as the road got narrower and more crumbly, it ended up at somebodies house! Trying to back up in the small turning space they had made scared the pants of me, but we were soon heading back the way we came. How those people drive there amazes me, you could not do it at night in the pitch black? We were soon on the slightly larger road and heading up and away from Naftpaxos, the views were really great, but I was more interested in the road. At the top we stopped for some more pictures then set of again, finding a road which we felt would lead us over the mountains and be a short cut back to Messolonghi? It started out really well, as we climbed up, there was some loose rocks about, obviously fallen down in the heavy rain. After a couple of miles, the road started to get narrower and more rutted. We passed a small church and then the road really got bad, as we were driving round fallen rocks and avoiding the large potholes. It wasn't long before we both realised this was not a good idea, and as it would be getting dark soon, this is not the place to be. With no turning place, I had to reverse back to the church. Once again I was glad of a small car, with good visibility. We ended up driving all the way back to the main road again. We both decided that we had done enough off road exploring and would stick to the main road back to Messolonghi now. Driving along we saw signs for a service area, so fancying a leak and a hot drink we decided to stop. By the time I'd realised it, I had driven past the entrance, no problem I will drive in the "out" entrance I thought. Past the No Entry sign, and head for the cafe, only to see a Police car parked outside and two policemen looking out the window at me. Typical, you don't see one all day, and here they are. As we went in, I was given the look over by them. We both went straight to the loo, then bought some drinks and a cake. I was expecting a tap on the shoulder as the police got up to leave, but nothing. We soon left, and further up the road, I spotted them at the side of the road with a speed gun out. I've only seen 2 fixed roadside speed cameras in Greece but plenty of cops with cameras. It was an easy drive back to Messolonghi, luckily the turn of we needed had road works on it, so I did not get lost. Back on board for a freshen up, then out for dinner. We went into town for a walk around, and soon found a pizza/fast food place which looked perfect. They made the pizzas in house and we sat near the large clay oven. Luckily the owner found some English menus, he had put away for the year, and we ordered a mixed pizza. Andrea fancied a coffee, which he ended up going across the street to fetch from another shop, which made us both laugh. You couldn't imagine it back home happening. The pizza when it arrived was just delish, and one of the best I've had. We could not finnish it, so got a take out box for later. A walk around town looking in the shop windows then back to Nanjo and wine and nibbles.
Thursday 13th December
Woke to another lovely day here. Andreas getting used to the dripping condensation now, and having to climb over the bow to get ashore. It's a lot easier having my bow ladder, and I pull Nanjo in as much as I can for her. A quick lovely hot shower, and brekkie in the cockpit again, I quickly scoff yesterdays pizza no problem. We've decided to drive to Preveza today, Andrea never saw it when she came out in September. At least I roughly know the way there this time. We are soon in the car and heading out past the shanty town and on the motorway towards Preveza, I only go wrong once and we do a U turn at the start of another dual carriageway. The only time we hit major traffic is going through Arta a large town. There are some spectacular views on the way, and the snow on the mountains is really impressive. We pass loads of small fruit stalls selling large bags of oranges, and decide we will stop on the way back and buy a bag. It's a lovely bright day as we drive past some ruins on the outskirts of Preveza, which I never knew existed. I park in the bays opposite the marina, and then show Andrea all around the town. I take her to my favoutite internet bar and I have the large club sandwich and Andrea just a toasted one. I'm amazed at how many bars are closed, and the waterfront is completely empty. We pick up some dog biscuits for the dogs at the marina and I get some silicon seal for my windows. I do like Preveza, it's just like Messolonghi always bustling and a lot going on. Back in the car I decide we will drive around the other side of the inland sea to Amfilochia, so go under the toll underpass and head out past the new road works. It looks like a new motorways being built? It's a lovely winding road with plenty of places to stop and take pictures. Once through Amfilochia I'm on a road I've been on before, so tell Andrea to put the map away, silly mistake. It's not long before I'm going through towns that don't ring a bell or look familiar, and I'm soon wondering when the motorway/dual carriageway we drove up will appear? Reaching a very large town I finally pull over, and say to Andrea that nothing looks familiar, she has had that same feeling for some time as well but didn't want to say anything? We are at a town called Arta, and it's a huge place, luckily we find it on the map and the good news is we are at least heading the right way, so carry on. Just outside Arta, we turn a bend and drive through the most amazing gorge we have seen, absolutely spectacular. I slow down so we can get a better look, then Andrea spots a small church carved out of the rocks up high, we both decide that we have to find this place again tomorrow. It's not long before I'm back to a familiar roundabout and we are heading back to Nanjo. Back on board for a freshen up and we are just stepping off, when Ulla says we must get back on board. She is dressed up and so is Sonny, it's dark now, so we climb back onto Nanjos bow and are soon joined by another British couple who have been told to come to my boat and get aboard.It turns out to be a Swedish custom, and soon there are 7 Swedes singing and carrying candles. Stopping at all the yachts with people onboard and giving us hot mulled wine and a piece of cake. It's all really very nice, and Ulla explains it's a custom in Sweden. We have a chat with the British couple who are on board and then hand our glasses back and jump in the car for town and our Greek night at Dimitris. There is nowhere to park, so after a slow drive around I do what others have done and park in the taxi bays, expecting to get clamped or towed away. It's 20:30 as we enter Dimitris taverna and there are only a few other people here. He comes over and introduces himself and we have a long chat, a very interesting guy, who has spent a lot of time in the Uk owning various restaurants, and tells us all about the famous people he has met. We order a starter and main, and typically we are just half way through the starter and the large main course arrives, our tables soon full of food and drink. There are two guys playing, one on guitar and the other on a bazooki and they are very good. There are about a dozen of us enjoying the music, when a bunch of distinguished very old boys turn up and sit behind us. One of them just looks great dressed all in black wearing a brilliant black trilby, Dimitri tells us he was a prominent lawyer and they all meet there once a week. They were singing along and with really good voices, we were on our 2nd jug of wine now and decided we would go when it's finished. Just as it ran out, another appeared and the waiter said it was on the house from Dimitri, oh well. The table in front was really having a good time, and one of the guys got up to dance, really very good. Dimitri said it was the dance for the area and he was a fisherman who dances it really well. I must be honest, it's the kind of dance I would like to learn. He got a large round of applause when he had finished. The wine was nearly gone so Andrea popped of to the loo, while she was gone, another jug of wine appeared, it was a present from the guys on the table in front. So we drank there health, Andreas face was a picture when she saw the new jug of wine though, and I had visions of leaving the car in the taxi rank for the night? We finally managed to get out about 2am, it was a lovely evening and had been a long day for both of us. I felt ok, so drove the car back to the marina no problem. It wasn't long before we were tucked up and asleep.
Friday 14th December
I slept really well, but woke with a sore head and a really bad taste in my mouth. I still think it was the fish from days ago? On with the heater and make Andrea a cup of tea, then shower and brekkie in the cockpit again. This is just so much nicer when the suns out, the whole place seems 100% better and so does the town. We are heading of to the gorge today, so not far to drive. This time we do pack the binoculars after saying we should have every day, and pick up a couple of pies on our way out of town. We had asked Dimitri about the gorge and he said that it was formed by a large earthquake and it's possible to park and walk up to the church as well. We were soon there and found a layby to pull into and take some pictures. We then drove slowly through it, and were suprised to see laybys everywhere, when yesterday we noticed none. Once through we turned around and went back, this time stopping at a layby and then parking in the parking lot near the church, We were the only car there, and could see a kiosk selling stuff, but we passed it and started to walk up the steps. It's an easy walk up and the views just get better as you go higher, we stopped a few times to take a break and some photos and eventually reached the small church, which was luckily open. Inside it was marvelous, with painted ceilings and a small altar. We both donated some money and lit a candle, there were 12 chairs inside and it was about the size of the average lounge. Water was dripping down the walls, we sat for a while and just enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the place. Andrea spotted the close circuit tv cameras, discretly hidden. The views outside were really great, but it was cloudy and hazy. Dimitri had said on a clear day you can see Kefalonia and Zakinthos, at least I spotted the motorway we had missed on our way back yesterday. We were both glad that we did, or we would have never known about this place. As we were walking back down, a small truck came grinding it's way up. We were half way back down when we could hear him flying back down the track, really glad that he had not offered us a lift down? We noticed a dog laying on the grass, so I went to offer it a dog biscuit and it ran of down to the kiosk. We stopped there and the lady had made some fresh cakes and pies, after sampling a couple we bought some, I offered her the dog biscuits and we thought she was going to eat them. It was only when I made some dog signs she realised they were for her dog, Andrea did say later that I should have made Woof Woof noises instead? It was a really great place to visit and I'm glad it was dry and we did it without hoards of tourists as well. We drove into town and got some dinner before heading back to Nanjo. Where we turned on the heater and got out the wine/cheese and nibbles, for Andreas last night on board.
Saturday 15th December
We both slept well, although I seem to have the start of a cold with my nose running. It's another dry day but rain is forecast for later, shower and brekkie in the cockpit, then Andreas packing her bag and getting ready for her flight home. We left Nanjo and had a really easy drive out to Patra bridge, then the crossing was great as the sun was out and the sea was so smooth. The roads were really empty, and the only hoild ups were the toll booths we had to stop at.We talked about stopping at the same service area and seeing if I could get a refund on my i Pad and phone, but figured the mafia might not be that glad to see me again? I was soon at the airport and looking for somewhere to park up, the arrivals only has a set down place, so I ended up parking in virtually the same spot I had picked Andrea up a week earlier. Into the airport and her check in's open so the bag is dropped of quickly, then we find a fast food place for a bite to eat before her flight home. Andreas got a long day ahead as she will get a coach from Gatwick to London then a coach out to Milton keynes. It's soon time to say goodbye, it's been a really great week having her on board, and she has put up with me and living on a cold, wet yacht brilliantly. A big hug and I wave her goodbye, but we will soon meet up again when I return in March. The drive back was uneventfull, and was ok as it was mostly done in daylight this time. I stopped at Lidls for a few bits and then back to Nanjo and on with the heater. I must admit I had a little nap and then woke and made a simple dinner washed down with a can of Fix. Andrea contacted me and said she had arrived ok, which was great news. I turned in about 23:30 after leaving the heater on in the back cabin for 20mins to take the chill off.
Sunday 16th December
I slept really well, but woke early as I had to clean the hire car out. I had plenty of washing to do, so that could get done as well. Brekkie in the cockpit, then drive the car and park it outside the marina office. There was not much rubbish in it, mostly the motorway toll receipts. I was suprised to see we had covered 900 miles in the week. It was due to be picked up at 9am, so I went to the laundry room and made a start on my washing. 10am and the cars not been picked up, so I rang the company. They told me they had nobody around to collect it, so just leave the keys under the drivers mat and they would collect it later that day? They did say I could use it if I wanted to, but after filling the tank up I didn't really need a car that badly. Washing done and it's soon on the line drying. Time to jump on my bike and pop into town for a ride, luckily the bread shop was open so treat myself to a pie, to eat on my way back. Nanjo was a lot quieter without Andrea onboard with her laughter and chat, I will have to get used to being onboard on my own again. I'm not expecting anybody else out now. I spent the afternoon tidying up and having a nap, I soon got back into my old routine? A throw together dinner and a couple of glasses of wine finished the evening nicely.