25 June to 2 July
Pelion, Meteora and Lefkas
To our amazement the temperatures still kept on rising and our new neighbours were very concerned about how the children were managing in the increasing heat. (They were also concerned at how hard Mummy and Daddy worked each day to look after the children and every evening gave us lots of lovely wine!) They ensured that when a sea-side pitch became available later that day we moved into it so as to benefit from the sea breeze (which felt like a hair dryer!) The temperature steadily began to rise day by day and we found ourselves touring the peninsular in our air-conditioned van between the hours of 12 and 4pm. We got to see the incredible inland scenery which was mountainous with pretty, little villages scattered throughout. On our first day out the temperature hit 45° C whilst we were touring Mount Pelion. Over the next two days we eventually hit 53.5° with a sultry 35° at night.
The campervan external thermometer (it got hotter!)
We continued exploring, as well as shopping in Volos which had some great air conditioned shops and supermarkets and the rest of the time we dipped in and out of the sea which was on our doorstep. We managed to construct a makeshift mosquito net from a roll of netting and bungees we tracked down in Volos and also bought a small electric fan. At least we could have a bit of air through the van at night and actually we all slept pretty well. The weather continued to amaze us - one day when we were swimming a freaky hot wind got up turning over everything on the beach. People fled from the sea trying to catch airborne lilos, umbrellas, towels and clothes. It was such a strange sight. The sea became really rough and, once we had secured our own possessions (thank you again wonderful neighbours for catching our washing!), we had a fun afternoon jumping the waves and boogie boarding. Both Zach and Louis stunned onlookers, and us, with their boogie boarding antics – totally no fear!
Our pitch by the sea
We had planned to spend only a couple of nights here but the heat kept us here for four nights in the end. When a cool breeze came one morning we grabbed the opportunity to pack up and head off. As we took down the awning and loaded up the van roaring aircrafts shattered the quiet and we saw the most incredible spectacle of fire planes loading up sea water. Unbeknown to us devastating fires were raging on the other side of the peninsular and elsewhere in Greece – it was only when we reached Volos later that morning, and saw every newspaper with rampaging fires on the front page, we realised what a serious situation was unfolding. Back at the campsite it had been such a mesmerising sight. The skill of the pilots was breathtaking as they glided down to scoop up the sea and then with a huge roar the engines were powered to lift themselves back into the sky, water streaming from their hold. Zach and Louis couldn’t believe their luck – a fire plane show on their doorstep. It seemed a sad way to be leaving Pelion, not knowing for sure what the outcome would be for a place we had enjoyed so much.
We had decided to try and meet up with Steve’s aunt and uncle in Lefkas, an Ionian island on the west side of Greece. In order to break up the journey we were going to visit Meteora, one of the most visited places in Greece (we had never heard of it!). Just driving into it was quite spectacular.
Driving into Meteora
These, once submerged, huge pinnacles of rock rose out from the town below. This amazing landscape was formed about 10 million years ago by tectonic movements when the area was sumbmerged by an inland sea. In 11AD hermit monks decided to build monasteries, precariously balanced, on the inaccessible rock summits, to seek refuge from the bloodshed of Turkish incursions. The monks reached their monasteries in baskets which were lowered and raised on ropes – a risky business as ropes inevitably did break from time to time. This was also the only way to bring any supplies into the monasteries. Luckily for us today a road runs around the clusters of monasteries. What is most amazing is how sophisticated the buildings are considering they were built so long ago and in such inaccessible locations.
One of the many monestries
We stayed in a lovely campsite, ‘Boufidis’ (The Cave), right beneath the rocks. It had a great swimming pool and it was incredible to swim with these huge towering rocks looming above.
In the evening we headed into Kalambaka, the local town, for dinner. We were amazed at how touristy and developed the place was, it was pretty much a town of bars and restaurants. After dinner we drove back to the campsite through the huge pinnacles of rock which were spectacularly lit up. In the light of an incredible full moon we settled down for the night.
Kalabaka at dusk
Meteora was just a stopover so the next morning we got back on the motorway (well quite big road!) and made our way westward towards Lefkas. The drive was really beautiful, the interior of Greece totally fascinating. Without the luxury of satellite navigation we had estimated that the journey would take three or four hours but it was much more mountainous and greener that we had anticipated and took us nearer to five. We were once again treated to more stunning scenery and breathtaking views as we screeched our way around yet more hair pin bends and hazardous ascents and descents. One of the most enlightening parts of our drive through Europe has been how impressively and extensively mountainous it is. Greece, particularly, more so than we had ever imagined. Throughout our drive we have seen an incredible number of ski resorts scattered across the mountains and again here in Greece we passed snow cannons and Gondolas and resorts that looked more Austrian. Despite some very windy and narrow roads we were lucky to find a stretch of a newly completed section of EU funded motorway, which will, no doubt once finished will reduce the journey time across Greece considerably. It was great to reach the sea again on the western coast. The drive down from Igoumenitsa along the coast was really refreshing. We stopped at the windswept Agios Ioannis beach to watch the wind- and kite-surfing which was perfectly suited to the huge, windy bay. We parked alongside a row of about half a dozen campervans and were immediately attracted to thought of the high adrenaline, wild camping lifestyle - perhaps when the boys are a little older. Zach and Louis were of course suitably impressed by the huge para kites and people zooming back and forth jumping high over huge waves. The weather was still hot but thankfully the breeze felt less like a hairdryer and it was definitely cooler than the heat of Volos and Pelion.
We crossed on to Lefkas along a causeway and headed to Nidri, the island’s capital. We had been instructed by Steve’s aunt and uncle, Peter and Anne, to catch a boat at Nidri to Porto Spilla on Meganisi, one of Lekas’s satellite islands. On the boat to Meganisi the Greek passengers anxiously watched the boat’s TVs which were full of the fires raging across the country. We learned from another passenger that the reports were that the intense heat had melted the electricity cables and the sparks had in turn easily ignited the already baked and dry trees and land. They were made worse by the high winds which had fanned the flames enabling the fires to spread uncontrollably. People we literally fleeing for their lives and those not directly in the fire’s path were affected by widespread power cuts and other disruptions in basic services.
Coming into Porto Spilia
As the boat docked a very suntanned, Peter and Anne were there to meet us. They took us to a taverna where they had arranged for us to park our van for the night and then it was off to their boat for drinks. Zach and Louis were really excited by the prospect of actually boarding a sailing boat having seen so many in all the ports we had been to on our travels. They were not to be disappointed. We all enjoyed a grand tour of the compact, well equipped living quarters - it was our first time to on a sailing boat and we were surprised how spacious and accommodating it was down below deck.
Peter and Anne's boat
Zach and Louis were in awe as Peter gave them instructions on how to wind up rope on a winch.
Zach and Louis mesmorised by Peter
We went back to the van to set up for the night. We were literally a stones throw away from the harbour, it was basically a piece of land at the side of a restaurant full of olive trees and more basic than most places we had stayed at but with everything we needed including shower facilities, oh and heaps of mosquitos!! We were to be the only people camping here and the family running the restaurant were so delighted we had arrived they weren't bothered about charging us anything to stay! We were thoroughly spoilt and once we had set up camp for the night we were treated to a delicious meal in a beachside taverna a short walk from our campervan.
The next morning we joined Peter and Anne on their boat once more where the children fed bread to the most enormous fish which gathered at the back of the boat. This was Anne and Peter’s last day of their holiday and they had to take the boat back to Nidri before collecting their campervan and setting off on their drive back to the UK. We sadly waved them off at the harbour as they made their way back to Lefkas. The next ferry to Leftkas for us to leave on wasn’t for another few hours so we took some time exploring the island and its beaches. It was such a pretty little place with secluded coves, little clusters of houses and turquoise sea in every direction. It was, unsurprisingly, very popular with “yachties” who had the great advantage of mooring up in the most spectacular, isolated and inaccessible of bays. Finally it was time to leave and we boarded the ferry. Zach and Louis were allowed to drive it to Lefkas thanks to the really lovely captain. They couldn’t believe it!
With Peter and Anne on their boat
We made our way out of Nidri and headed for Vasiliki and another Kastri camping. We had been tipped off by a German couple while staying at the Kastri Campsite in Pelion, that this was the only place to stay in Lefkas. We left the tourism of Nidri behind us and the roads got smaller as we wound our way through the rural landscape. After passing through little farmsteads we finally reached the campsite. We pitched up in a great spot overlooking the sea with Kefalonia in the distance. It was one of the most beautiful and natural sites we had come across, it had its own private beach and a swimming pool carved into the rocks below the panoramic bar.
The rock pool at Kastri
On our second morning the local fruit and veg man pulled up in a rickety lorry piled high with delicous fresh produce. We stocked up and he gave the children huge slabs of melon to eat.
Louis enjoying fresh watermelon!
We spent the first couple of days just chilling out in these amazing surroundings before going on to explore more of the island.
The erratic weather and hot temperatures culminating in some terrifying fires.
Greece, one of our main motivations for coming on this trip!!
Stats Total miles 4,111
Night time boogie board practice!
Louis doing his boogie board workout!
Leaving Sikia Camping near Volos
Another precariously balanced monastry!
The spectacular landscape
Zach and Louis observing the view!
Leaving Lefkas for Meganisi
Going out for supper with Great Uncle Peter!
Louis at the restaurant
Path down to the beach at Kastri