Dodgy mountain roads - again!
14 June 2018 | Karlovassi, Samos- 7,150 NM
Hot and Sunny - Northerly Winds
We had a very unpleasant passage to Samos just a stones throw from the Turkish coast. We left very early in the morning, because of the arrival of the water tanker, and initially it was a beautiful still morning as we left Patmos. The wind picked up a little and the sails came out and we thought we were going to have a lovely sail but then the sea became very choppy as we cleared the island and then the wind dropped, the Genoa was furled and the engine came back on with the sea still being very choppy making it very uncomfortable and boring. Then the wind returned but right on our nose making it very slow as well as uncomfortable and boring. Anyway, we eventually got to Samos and moored on the quay in Pythagorio which was a relief.
Pythagorio is the birth place of Pythagoras hence the name - and sadly exciting! It's a really pretty harbour where the summer season is definitely underway and so very lively. We really like it apart from the loud music from the tavernas lining the quay until the early hours of every morning! We will be here for a few days waiting for a weather window enabling us to head north to Chios. We've cleaned the boat which was very necessary, been to the small beach and explored the town which again has so much history with piles of stones (ruins) everywhere. Nearby are the Eupalinus tunnels which are 2km long and were literally chiselled from the mountain 2,600 years ago channelling water from a spring to the city. The project started from both ends and managed to meet in the middle. There are 2 tunnels - one with the water that flowed through terracotta pipes and a service tunnel above it where 4,000 slaves lived and worked for the 10 years it took to build. They believed they were working for their freedom but were all murdered at the end as the tunnel was to be secret!
On our tour we were joined by a Turkish couple who were great fun. As we left and started to walk back to town they offered us a lift which was very welcome as it was very hot. Once in the car they invited us to join them to visit a cave church and a village in the mountains - and so off we went. The church was in a very big, deep cave and was fascinating but the village which was supposed to be famous for ceramics was a bit disappointing. There were a few potteries spread out along the main road but the village itself, although very pretty was very closed and dead. We suspected it was all holiday homes which is very sad as there is no life left. We invited our new friends to join us for a drink when they dropped us off - several bottles of wine later and long chats about our lives in England and Turkey and of course putting them all right we said good bye. We will try to meet up with them again when we get to their home town in Izmir.
Freya needed diesel and it couldn't be brought to the quay and we needed to explore the island and so a hire car was the answer. The day started with huge thunderstorms which was not part of the plan. After filling the fuel cans our first stop was Vathi and Samos town on the north of the island. It was remarkably untouristy compared to Pythagorio. It's setting is spectacular and it has some 'normal' shops and not a lot to see but we enjoyed exploring while dodging the showers. We'd thought about volunteering in one of the refugee camps and there's a big one on the outskirts of Vathi. Considering there are thousands of people in it it was very well hidden but eventually and by accident we passed a building with a big sign 'Samos Volunteers'. We stopped for a chat but discovered that their main focus is entertaining and educating the refugees. The aid agencies deal with day to day needs and nothing more can be done as they are at the mercy of politicians. Probably not for us!
Next was Kikkari which was so pretty and made a very nice lunch stop. Samos is very green and fertile compared to most of the Aegean islands we've visited. The drive into the mountains was stunning with grape vines mixed in with olive groves, cypress trees and forest as well as the stunning views of blue sea. While in the mountains we saw a road sign to another village on our map and so we headed that way - mistake, we were having another Nisan Almera moment! It was only 6 km but the road had turned into a track in no time with no turning spaces. We were getting out to see if the car could clear the boulders and holes but after 3 km we simply couldn't persuade the car to climb a steep, dusty patch and we had to admit defeat. Luckily there was a sort of turning point and so after a 15 point turn, back we came to continue our way along the coast.
We had a quick stop in Karlovassi, potentiality our next sailing stop, as it had mixed reviews. There was nothing there apart from the ferry harbour and a couple of bars, so it didn't take long. Finally, Potemi waterfalls - except we missed them! We found the sign, parked and walked through a lovely forest passing an old church and a castle. Eventually the path stopped where the stream went into a canyon filled with water. There was a steep, very rickety staircase to a cafe on one side which Paul climbed part of but still no sign of the waterfall. On the other side was a signpost saying waterfall in several languages and a very steep, rough path up the mountain. We decided that must be the way - we climbed up and up through the trees and it got rougher and rougher - we were wondering how we'd ever get down! Eventually we came to a road! With a sign pointing down the way we'd come to the waterfalls - we'd missed them! We had read a review that said 'don't forget your swimsuits' but we'd assumed that was for a swim in the probably freezing pool at the bottom of the falls but we then realised it was because you had to wade through the canyon to the falls! We weren't going back down that 'path' and so we walked down the road which we figured had to take us back to the sea - which it did and it was a lovely walk if a bit long. On the way back over the mountains to the south coast we stopped at Marakompos, a pretty little village with a small port before taking the main road through the mountains, one of the most spectacular drives we've done, to Pythagorio dropping our car off with 4 minutes to spare and getting back to Freya just as the heavens opened.
We had a couple more very pleasant days in Pythagorio going to the beach, drinking wine with our South African neighbours and doing boaty things while waiting for our weather window to go north. A few days later the wind had gone and so we motored 33 miles to the port of Karlovassi on Samos' north coast. The journey was uneventful, apart from four separate sightings of dolphins, as always quite magical