It was late, all the transfer buses had arrived and the new guests were settled into their rooms and most the staff had turned in for the night. I was on my way home too, only a man around forty-odd with a back pack and easy-going style, stepped out of a taxi in front of the hotel and was lucky to catch me. The guy had arranged his own flights as he was on holiday from his job in the Arctic! Immediately hooked on this mans story, I was eager to catch up with him the following day. I probed him with questions for the next few days and he sparked a fireball inside of me. He had lent me a DVD during the week which I took back and watched on my portable DVD player. The film showed a field of scientists and explorers working at a research station in the Arctic. Each day they would head out through the glaciers by boat or snow mobiles and conduct difference research projects. One such extract recorded them cutting a circle in the ice, perhaps 2 feet wide and more than a metre deep, heaving it out with hook, chains and appropriate machinery before sending two underwater divers into the hole. Attached to lines, the divers moved under the thick blanket of ice above and captured video footage of two walrus's swimming in the icy waters.. This is the moment that I knew I could never do a normal job or at least, I had to get out and see this stuff for myself somehow..
Unrested and no chores dealt with, we forced ourselves to get our kit sorted, i.e washing, maintenance and administration. The room was soon turned into a Chinese laundry with clothes strung out, tent pitched in the room and a bike workshop set up on the terrace. Other guests looked on curiously, some stopped to ask what on earth we were up to! And that was it, word soon got around and we became Sunsail celebrities! The days kept passing, we kept booking in for another night and the fun didn't stop. Eventually we gave up on our goal to get moving again and decided to make the most of it whilst we had the opportunity. We met so many fantastic people during the week and it was just smashing to totally relax and not worry about where our bikes are, where we would sleep that night or simply battling with a language barrier every time we want to order breakfast.
Two superb weeks passed on cloud nine and it was definitely time to get going. We were feeling fit, for sure, but it was change-over day and new guests were arriving, including my very good friends Kim, Ceri and Mike from home. We had to stay another day!
We wrung every last minute out of the extra day with our friends and even signed ourselves up once again for the BBQ and punch party on the beach, all you can drink punch! At 10 minutes before midnight, it was certainly tempting to crawl back to our crisp white sheets, but instead, we stuck to our guns and slipped our cycling shoes on, wrapped up some leftovers for breakfast and cycled out of Sunsail to take up residence on a beach further down the road. I think Kim and Mike found the whole scenario slightly surreal but on the other hand, they would expect nothing less from us!
This route was far from tedious, but our eyes felt as heavy as our legs and we were on the hunt for a good place to take a siesta. Your going to think that we have a thing for churches now because another little secluded chapel is exactly what we found. It was perfect, we opened all the windows up to let the breeze pass through and lay on the cold floor. A couple of hours passed before we packed up and headed back out to the road to ride into the evening.
A tiny island called Aitoliko, nestled in the middle of two lagoons (Messolongi Lagoon to the south/ Aitolikon Lagoon to the north) and connected by land bridges on both sides, caught our attention on the map and had camping written all over it. To be honest, with its idyllic setting we were expecting something a little more flash than what we actually found on arrival, but we scouted around the perimeter of the island and found a good enough position next to the water and earmarked it to come back to after a look through the town. The town looked sad, there was an ageing population, signs of unemployment and a lot of general maintenance work needed to be done. It was a shame because there was a community here and my guess is that once upon a time, it would have been thriving with the large salt works to the east and a once thriving fishing industry. Apparently, these waters have some of the most abundant fish stocks in Greece, but due to poor waste management and contamination from agricultural pesticides, we were advised by a local to not even swim in the waters here. The Football World Cup had just began and it was a great picture to see so many TV's wheeled outside the bars and cafes, everyone braced for the game. Other than that, not much was going on, so we got the tent up and totally crashed!
Later in the day we dropped down to a pretty little village on the sea, hoping to follow the waters edge for a while but ended up finding an idyllic camp spot amongst some pine trees on the beach. The Gulf of Corinth was whipping up a furious storm with waves surging onshore, a howling wind and the threat of heavy rain and lightening. We took the opportunity to pitch up and put our Hilleberg to the test. It was when we were playing in the waves that we met a lady called Maria that lived in a stunning house just behind our temporary base. Maria's home was actually a renovated watermill including a renovated aqueduct that along with her husband they had passionately restored. Maria kindly showed us around the property and it was absolutely exquisite..
The temperature was now soaring into the 40's, the ferocious winds had resulted in another sleepless night and we were really struggling to get a move on. 'Inch by inch' we kept telling ourselves and continued plugging away. We were guzzling through our now hot water, but nothing was satisfying our thirst, all we could think about was sitting on a waterfront somewhere and smashing into an ice-cold watermelon! So that is exactly what we did. It was merely by chance that we managed to pick one of the most beautiful towns along the coast to buy our melon and it was not until we had cycled to the waterfront of Galaxidi that we realised there was a very quaint harbour too. The marina was busy with small sailing yachts seeking shelter from the winds in the Corinth and as we sat under the shade sinking our teeth into the life-saving melon, the first of the sailors came to find out what we were up to. We chatted with a crew of Irish sailors and then were invited onboard a small catamaran with a German couple for a few hours and just as we were setting off, we were invited to join Mike and Rose on the aft deck of their beautiful catamaran too! Literally distracted by every sailor and his boat, we managed to talk our way through the entire afternoon and evening before insisting that we had to take off and take advantage of the coolness of the night!
Lights were on, we said goodbye to everyone we had met that day and cycled off around the corner to grab something to eat and that is when we were invited by Martin and Elenie to have dinner with them at the Olive Mill Tavern! It was such a wonderful treat and so interesting meeting them as most of Elenie's relatives were from the village of Galaxidi, which is how they knew the best restaurant in town! We would like to say thank you again to you both, extraordinary act of kindness and such a pleasure to meet you..
Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d'aghaidh
Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.
May you have a successful journey.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.