A short post from a long week.
We took fewer photos this week than we usually take in a day. Normal service will resume in the New Year!
What happened was…
There can be no doubt that people with a plan get more done.
But people with a plan are more likely to see the wheels come off that plan, simply by virtue of it existing.
For us the wheels didn’t so much come off the road as the road ceased to exist.
I finished my last post with words to the effect of “We’ll be on Evia for six weeks and we’re excited to explore.”
We didn’t manage a week.
We booked Villa Freedom months ago.
It’s a modest villa less than ten miles from Pefki on the north coast of the island. Pefki is where we spent our Friday night laughing in a bar with a couple of dozen old men on their card night. They watched each other, and they kept an eye on the dreadful TV programme Animal Fight Club, but all that attention went when a young woman stepped into their zone.
The bar keeper was delighted to have us as a diversion from the old boys and she kept us topped up with enough nuts and crisps to substitute dinner. Oh yea, baby. We live well.
We were within a bike ride of our island home when we received a message from its owner to warn us of diversions. The bridge to her nearest village had been washed away.
We were a little concerned, but hey, after 35,000+ miles across Europe we’ve seen a good few diversions and have lived to tell the tale. And after all we’re used to it, bits of home get washed away most winters.
On Saturday we set off to find the house. The plan was to get there, give it a nod, then move on to its nearest port and explore the sights.
We didn’t make it.
The bridge was well and truly closed, a deep pile of rubble had been spread a couple of metres high across its access, there was no sign of work.
We started down the lane diversion that Google suggested. But time after time lanes disintegrated into tracks that’d challenge the best 4×4 and which were impossible in ArchieVan.
After the third stupidly difficult multi point turn we decided on trying the (very) long main road diversion. When I say long I’m talking about extending a drive of less than 10 miles into a bloody hard 65 mile hack across mountains through freezing fog where the road itself had frequently fallen badly into disrepair and occasionally disappeared altogether.
We all drive roads trusting that they’re solid.
In winter we may question the surface. It’s good to know whether it’s icy, whether it has a slick of oil. But when was the last time you asked whether a tarmac road could actually support the weight of your car?
As I strolled along the coast I noticed holes where core samples had been taken. Core samples that showed nothing whatsoever beneath the hard-core that supported the tarmac.
We got to the nearest port. Tired. Concerned. Tired did I say? Absolutely knackered more like.
We parked up. Ate sparingly. Slept a bad night. Our folks are too old to be messed around. The drive we’d done today was not one I’d want anyone to have to do. Should you choose it as a challenge, well that’s up to you, but out of necessity…
In the morning we approached the house taking the only open route. The flood damage became all the more obvious.
Trees carried a debris of flotsam over a metre from their base. The roads, even though they’d been cleared, were deep in silt and rubble.
At the house we had no choice but to say “no” to Panagotis who’d struggled up from Athens to meet us.
Having managed holiday homes for years I could understand the effort he’d made to ready the house for us. He’d suffered flooding there too.
Talking English on the phone to his sister in far away Lefkada I had to try to explain how I couldn’t put our families through the several extra hours hard driving that we’d endured for their Christmas holiday. I gave him what we agreed was generous compensation and we drove away with heavy heart.
It’s only after our yearned for break had been taken away that we realised how much we’d been holding out for it.
Evia and a fishy dinner.
Evia is stunningly beautiful.
As we headed south it was obvious that this isn’t a tourist haven.
Few signs are in Roman script. That makes the whole experience of navigation so much more exciting.
For scores of miles we drove through pine forest. At home that makes for a dull experience, but here pine forest is so different. Rather than the serried ranks of machine planted spruce we might experience in Scotland, here pine forest is a beautiful thing. Aleppo, Montery, Cyprus and other interesting shaped, but commercially challenging trees grow across the hillside. Long views occasionally open to the sea. Now and then there are vegetable patches along the roadside. The odd stall sells produce, or fierce fire water. There are few villages and very little is remotely commercial.
Finally we begin our descent from on high, a descent that seems longer, steeper than anything we’ve experienced in a long while. Twenty minutes later we’re on the flat. On the east of the island. North of the main city of Haldika.
And ArchieVan rolled to a stop outside a fabulous fish taverna.
Brothers and big hair.
At the Kala Kathumena fish taverna late on a Sunday there were just two tables still occupied after a busy afternoon, these were the tables that had hit the tsiporo the hardest.
The elder brother welcomed us and I was delighted to realise that he didn’t speak a word of English.
We ordered strong liquor and a menu.
Elder brother ordered younger brother to order our order.
Younger brother, who was deep into his 70s, sat to take a rest and think about things.
Twenty minutes later our drinks arrived. Although there was no one else to serve. We didn’t care. The comedy value had already lifted our spirits.
When it was time to order food the elder brother’s big haired wife shuffled along like an over aged Barbara Windsor and suggested whitebait instead of the sardines I’d requested.
Meanwhile the fluorescent lights blinded and the football continued on the TV.
Greek salad. Deep fried whitebait. A heavenly sweet bread. Alpha beer. Tsiporo.
These simple elements conspired to deliver a dinner that relieved our melancholy and satisfied bellies and minds.
By the time we left only Barbara Windsor was serving. We want to come again. For the full experience. When we’re not strung out on tension, fatigue, let down and fear.
Forget the peanut bar. This is where messengers raced 42kms back to Athens with battle news and unwittingly started a craze that’s still growing a couple of thousand years later.
The valley is now flooded, but the marathon lake is pretty enough and served as a base to recover our strength for two nights.
Early in the mornings we witnessed the curious oxymoron of high visibility camouflage.
Greeks love to hunt. Anything. But they have a tendency towards shooting each other. So these days hunters wear high visibility jackets, bizarrely with camouflage print.
Men arrive at dawn in their pick-ups, dogs howling in the boxes mounted on the back.
They don their bright jackets and guns. They send their dogs to run amuck through the undergrowth, to flush out the few remaining fluffy creatures towards the waiting guns of their masters.
A dog walk for Polly and I in these parts has unknown risk. Defenceless, we dare not challenge those who’d take a twelve bore to a starling.
ArchieVan tries to avoid capital cites, so we skirted Athens, passed the airport and 15kms later climbed to our home for the week above Lagonisi.
Instead of the basic pad we’re used to Villa Lagonisi is a large, comfortable and smart house on a hill with views out to sea. Ideal to play host to our families.
Getting ArchieVan into the street is a multi point manoeuvre that will put me off driving anywhere, but beyond that it’ll suit us fine.
Amanda’s step-dad Rick arrived on a flight from Manchester on Friday. My mum and sis will arrive tomorrow, and we’ll hopefully settle into a gentle routine of unambitious sight-seeing and sleeping over the week to come.
There won’t be a blog next week, we’ll catch up the week after.
Thank you all for your support, comments and suggestions over the past year. Everyone’s comments are so encouraging and help ensure that the next post happens.
Have great Christmases one and all.