It turned out to be a wonderfully calm crossing from Bari to Igoumenitsu on the north west coast of Greece on the 1st June.

It was our first “camping on board” experience. Choc a block with every kind of vehicle,truck, campervan, caravans and even a boat. Part of the sides of the ferry on the car deck were open and we could go up to the lounges, restaurants etc but we had a picnic in the camper instead before sleeping in our bed in the camper. We had electrical connections for the airconditioning and lighting but there was no cooking allowed via gas or electricity. The view of the Anek’s sister ship should tell you why! The Costa Delizioso, a sister to the Costa Concordia was also next to us.
The ship had cages and a peeing area (for the pets) – all very civilised.
It was beautiful up on deck – nice and warm and a there was a beautiful sunset in Italy followed by an amazing sunrise in Greece. It was rather cool when we arrived (it was 0530) and we drove through a lot of fog in the mountains towards Meteora which took us about three hours after a stop for breakfast and a Greek coffee – no cappuccino but a strong espresso in a very small, local village where the conversation stopped for a minute as we arrived.
Yellow fragrant bushes along the mountain roads as well as the new green foliage and colourful pink thistle like flowers were in abundance.

We drove at a leisurely pace along the excellent highway and then secondary road to Meteora. There were a couple of toll roads and the first pay station decided to charge us six euros and the second 2.40euros instead of six. In Greece they take the height of the vehicle as opposed to the length (taken in every other country we have visited). The first girl decided to add on the height of the airconditioner – All Greek to me.

Meteora is known for it’s enormous rock formations, many with monasteries perched on top. A truly magical sight. The weather was perfect and we managed to avoid a lot of the bus loads of tourists who were arriving as we were leaving to find our “Camping Kastraki” campsite which was below some of the spectacular formations.

We visited a couple of the monasteries the following day climbing the steep steps without too many people again and then driving further up into the mountains where the air was very fresh and the views spectacular. The rock formations are restricted to a small area compared with the expanse of mountain ranges around them. We stopped at a cafe at the top and had a drink before we headed back down the slopes, stopping to avoid a couple of tortoises, one of which we nearly ran over. I got out of the van and urged him back onto the grass and we then saw his partner across the road and another one further down trying to cross the road. When he saw us coming he retreated pretty quickly.
There were a number of stray dogs wandering on their own along the road and a few cats waiting for some titbits near the entrance to the monasteries.

A leaking gas connection sent us to the camping personnel who referred us to a shop in town to be told they could do nothing but they then referred us to another shop. This went on for six shops until we finally found Mr Fallas (unfortunate name) just out of town who was more than helpful and fixed the problem. He showed us pictures of his seven male cousins in Sydney and also his motorbike that he was restoring in his shop. It took about an hour to solve the problem (which he hesitantly said was Maurice who had tightened the fitting too much). He said to Maurice that he spoke nice English but he couldn’t understand him. The conversation was lively without much comprehension on either side. He refused any payment so we went back the following morning with a couple of bottles of wine for him. Such a lovely man.

That evening we went for a drink to a new restaurant “Panorama” aptly named for it’s view of the town and some of the rock formations near the campsite. Maurice happened to look up and see a trail of goats making their way along the very precarious edges of the rockface and into it’s crevices. No wonder they are called mountain goats. They obviously stayed in one of the crevices for the night as they were still there sunning themselves when we left in the morning..

We found in the couple of days that we had been in Greece that English comprehension is very limited to language involved with selling souvenirs. The camping ground staff speak enough of about four languages to say what they need to but anything beyond that is pretty restricted.
Having said that, every one we have dealt with has been more than helpful (with sign language) and very friendly. I suppose
they really need to be to encourage as much tourism as possible given their current economic state.

The highways, roads and tunnels many of which appear brand new were probably built with EU money and made for very easy driving. Many of the cars were very old utes (30-40years old) and not in very good condition. There were however many new and large two storey houses dotted around the countryside and not many vacant shops in the villages and towns so things didn’t appear desperate. The coffee shops around the towns were also bursting with locals and many of the shops only took cash.

We left Meteora and took all day to drive up and down the very winding beautiful mountain roads with very little traffic to Arta. It reached 31degrees high up in the mountains and we stopped and had lunch in the van overlooking a wide valley. Vast forested areas covered most of the mountains and the wafting scent of the pines was all around us.
There were only a few little villages with scattered houses (not like the tightly packed hilltop villages in Italy).There were many scattered rocks on the road and a couple of minor landslides to avoid.
we saw another tortoise by the side of the road as well as a couple of dead badger like animals and a dead snake. It was more wildlife than we had seen in the entire last year of travel in the van.

Nearer to the coast the hills were a lot drier and covered with olive trees. We turned off and followed the road with it’s banks of oleander bushes to ” Enjoy Lichnos” campsite near Parga where we decided to have a couple of days by the beach. The campsite was right on the beach in a lovely bay and was touted as the most beautiful beach on the Ionian coast. It was indeed lovely and after an hour’s steep walk up and over the hill into Parga town we took the boat back to the campsite and had a swim. The weather was very changeable with sunshine, clouds and a bit of rain and sunshine again but it was nice and warm. The water was beautifully clear but getting in was a bit bracing!

More rain was expected the following day so we headed for Patras stopping along the way to have some lunch and to buy more fruit and honey from a roadside stall. The owner was very generous and gave us extra bananas and oranges even though the price was very reasonable. We passed through a lot of agricultural land with wheat and corn crops and thousands of kiwi fruit

We drove over the very impressive Rio-Antarrio bridge with a 13.20euro toll and to the large city of Patras for a look around and a coffee. Most of the bars and restaurants were well patronised, mainly with Greeks. We got our heart rates up for the day by climbing the 200 odd stairs to get a good view of the city and down to the sea.

Aginara Beach was our stop for the next couple of days and it was a beautiful spot on the coast overlooking the island of Zakynthos. It had a lovely bar overlooking the sea where we met up with two lovely couples Australians Bruce and Mary Rose from Mackay and Norma and Reece from South Africa. The Juventus/Barcelona match was showing but we all sat and chatted which made for a very pleasant evening. It was a lovely quiet camping place with a mixture of Dutch, German, Austrian and British campervans and caravans.
Our umbrella went up for the first time and our new table and chairs and so we had breakfast outside. The rest of Sunday was spent doing the washing, cooking and doing general household things. It was rather overcast for some of the day and we even had some spots of rain about 8pm. It didn’t get dark until about 9.30pm.

There was more rain forecast so we headed to Olympia to see the home of the Olympic games, the archeological ruins and museum. Many kilometres before and after Olympia there was an enormous amount of garbage at intervals along both sides of the road. We both said we wouldn’t want to be there in the height of Summer if it still hadn’t been collected.

We were again lucky with few tourists wandering around in the 31 degrees at the site. The ruins and museum took us about two hours. We noticed one sign which said that there was an interesting mosaic on the floor of one of the buildings. We however couldn’t enter the building so I asked one of the staff who was sitting on a rock why this was.
He said that some tourists had taken some pieces of the mosaic as souvenirs so the Greeks just covered it with sand and closed it off! We stopped by an orange orchard to have lunch and after fueling up (diesel is 30euro cents cheaper here than Italy) headed further south to Camping Kalogria after stopping at the lovely town of Kardamyli for a “cappuccino freddo” for me. We were astounded to see that there were at least twelve bars around the main centre of town. We stopped at Kalamata and bought some olives.
The temperature dropped to a cooler 24degrees as we drove over the mountains and there was much cloud and a bit of rain around.

Rain wasn’t on our menu for Greece and the locals said it was very unseasonal so we looked at the weather forecast and decided to press on to the east coast near Corinth to get some welcome sunshine for a few days. At least it wasn’t cold.
We didn’t pass any large shopping centres like the ones found in Italy and other European places only some small super markets and fresh fruit stalls where we bought delicious apricots and cherries for 2.50euros a kilo. There seemed to be more German spoken here than English which we found a bit surprising. Even some of the shop signs were in Greek and German.

South of Kalamata were many beautiful stone houses, old and new and these continued for much of the coast down past Aeropoli where we bought some good bread and had a break. The Greeks seem to be fond of sesame seeds which we found on most bread products.
We circled the middle southern finger of the Peloponnese which was spectacularly scenic from the very high mountain roads down to the sea.

There were also some abandoned and derelict stone houses in the small villages in that area and much of the terraced stone walled plots had long been left without any further cultivation. We left Areopoli and took the road through the mountains and valleys and across to the west coast town of Palaia Epidavros. We landed a prime site at “Bekas camping” about 4metres from the sea with lovely views to various islands. We settled in for a few days and walked in the morning along the beach to find a gaggle of geese enjoying the water and looking for cockles buried in the sand. Scores of orange and lemon orchards and some beautiful bouganvillea lined the streets into the town with it’s picturesque harbour and good coffee! A fish shop lured us in to buy a very fresh fish which we grilled for dinner that night.

This was the best camping spot we have found so far so decided to stay for four nights. The next day we walked to the ancient small theatre of Epidaurus and then over the hill to the town where we sat and enjoyed
the scenery over a coffee and then walked back along the foreshore to have a swim. The water was not as cold as on the west coast but not exactly warm. We saw the geese wandering around again as though they owned the place.

We had been recommended to eat fresh fish at Muria restaurant on the water’s edge not far from the campsite and were not disappointed. The meal of homemade dolmades, tomato, onion and caper salad and baked fetta with tomatoes followed by two kinds of grilled fresh fish was delicious washed down with some decent Rose.
Eleven kilometres outside the town was a much larger Amphitheatre at set amongst the pine covered hills. It was an amazing structure and so well preserved. Maurice stood in the centre and his voice carried right to the top of the theatre.
Someone explained that there were three acoustic zones and that from each of those zones the dialogue could be heard perfectly around the whole amphitheatre. That was another good climb to the top.

Another relaxing day followed with an hour’s walk into town with the scent of olive and fig trees and jasmine hedges then back for a swim in the crystal clear water.
Eating outside was a pleasure with no flies or mosquitoes.

On the 13th June we left the idyllic town and campsite of Palaia Epidavros and visited the ancient ruins of Corinth, an hour away before leaving the Peloponnese and driving on to the port of Piraeus to take the camper on the ferry (70euros) to the island of Aegina which is the closest inhabited island to Athens off the west coast.

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