Naar Griekenland met vakantie! Zeker weten!

"ISLAND HOPPING & NORTHERN GREECE" from May 3rd until June 10th 2010

Reisverslag, geschreven door een van de Britse deelneemsters, mevrouw Rita Bentley,

Our adventure began at Camping Fusina on the outskirts of Venice. A very convenient venue because there is a water-bus service only 3 minutes walk away which will take one right into the city. Wonderful value for money at 22 euros for a days unlimited travel on the canals and many of the Islands. Lenny and Rinus Biggelaar and Ricky and Theo van Schaijk were our rally team and they lost no time is presenting us with our goodies bag and “Blue Bible” which was one of the most comprehensive tour books ever seen; very able translated into English by Theo van der Zee. We were truly an international group, with representatives from USA, New Zealand and Spain, Holland and UK.,

The first briefing and buffet was , as always, a noisy affair, meeting friends old and new. The bad news was that Venice port was on strike and there was a possibility that we would not sail in time. The following daytime was free, with a boat trip and supper around the Venice canals. Thankfully, it was confirmed we would sail on Minoan Lines ferry the following morning for our 22 hour trip along the Adriatic to Igoumenitsa. What chaos the embarkation was, come back P & O etc. all is forgiven! Once boarded we found the facilities with hook-ups and shower and WC facilities very good. We had an excellent dinner on board, a good night sleep in our own vehicles and were refreshed to tackle our first day on Greek soil.

Our destination was the island of Lefkada and we were very relieved to see Lenny's smiling face when we arrived at Kariotes Beach Campsite. From whence we had an amazing coach trip around the island, our first experience of Greece's very skilled coach drivers who negotiate mountain bends with aplomb. The introduction to many Mesa meals and the heady perfume of broome, orleander and bougainvillea will stay in our memories for ever.

On the lighter side, it was here that we discovered yet another ICA talent when David G. repaired Molly's tooth with super-glue, but alas, I fear it was not successful enough for her to enjoy the delicious savoury pastries at the Happy Hour?

The blue, blue water took us from Vassiliki port, a very pretty little spot, to Sami on the island of Kephalonia and the camsite only 5 minutes drive away. Some hardy folk followed a walk up to a ruined monastery and then over a rough track to the next bay to swim in the clear water. We had day cruise to the island of Ithaki and then a free day to relax, before tackling the next fiasco embarking for our first mainland destination.

Our target was Delphi 200km away. Again, we were pleased to see Lenny on hand with her engaging smile and a goodie each. Camping Apollon was just a road-train's ride away from the famous ruins and most people spent sa long day exploring the amazing site with its amphitheatre, running track, Temple of Atheni etc. Despite the torrential rain, some returned the following day to the museum. The alternative was a ceramics workshop which produced some very original results. A coach trip took us to the very beautifully restored monestery of Ossios Loukas and around the coast to Galaxidi where we ate another enormous Mesa lunch.

Only 90km to Camping Venezuela near Serafim where we were warmly greeted by the owners. Ricky and Theo organised a Fête de Boules, a mammoth task which saw the whole campsite turned into boules pitches, it was great fun, and only made possible by Ricky & Theo's superb organisation. Phil Mansen won the Ladies Trophy and John Moran the Mens (yours-truly took the booby after a play-off with the campsite owner!). We were sorry to wave farewell to the friendly owners but not their Mossies!

Camping Sikia Fig Tree was the destination, after negotiating our way through Volos wth its traffic bollards and dubble parking. Worth the stress because Camping Sikia is a wonderful site, situated virtually on the beach, we swam and swam in the clear, warm waters of the Pagasitikos Gulf. Many took the opportunity to try their hand at Greek Cooking and we enjoyed the fruits of there labours (Moussaka) in the camp restaurant that evening (or was it one the chef made earlier?). Then a rare rainy day but made bearable with a bus trip over the Pilion Mountains, with superb views over Volos.

Sadly we said good-bye to Sikia and moved to a site where Rinus suffered more than most – they forgot his supper in the restaurant!! We stayed only long enough to visit the ancient ruins and museum at Dion and more importantly Vergina, with its museum full of treasures and tombs of Alexander the Great and his father Phillip II. These were only recently found (1977). This excursion is a “must see”in Greece, set below Mount Olympus and amongst the orchards of kiwi fruit that are unique to that area, our guide made the day so intriguing that even the ANTI-historians were hooked.

Now our travels took us to the Chalkidiki peninsula of Sithonia to Camping Stavros, yet another well kept site with its own beach. Again, for 5 halcyon days we swam and relaxed and enjoyed a lesson in Greek Dancing, dubbed a “Pensioners Promenade”(don't think we ever got fast enough!). This was a prelude to another adventure on a “pirate ship” (very crowded) to view the monastic island of Athos. No woman are allowed on the island and only men who have a Visitors' Permit (12 per day are issued) may enter. Hence our extended viewing from the boat. The Greek dancing cami in handy on the way back when we were entertained and invited to join the professionals.

Day 28 and we are off to Camping Kastraki, which lies at the base of the Meteora Monasteries built high on the surrounding volcanic mountains. This is not a trip for faint-hearted because there are many, many steps to climb. However the rewards are great. Nearby Kalambaka is a useful little town in which to shop.

Elenas Beach near Igoumenitsa, our last site on the mainland and penultimate of the rally. It was a long drive and by now Greece had become very busy, so gone were the half empty sites and it was “sardine time”! The Caravan Club would have a fit. However, we were only 10 miles from the ferry which would take us to Corfu. This time we had to reverse onto the boat for the short journey to the Ionic isle of Corfu and the village of Dassia where we found Camping Karda Beach. Next morning saw us on the coach at 8.15 a.m. for a trip to the Palace of Empress Catherine of Austria, an extraordinary lady with elegant taste which is reflected in the palace and has one of the most imposing views on the island. The afternoon saw us at the monastery of Virgin Mary high in the mountain (another incredible coach driver). Finally a visit to a kumquat factory to taste the liqueurs, jam, bottled fruits etc. The free day gave the opportunity to visit Corfu Town on the bus (1.3 euros each way). Interesting Old Jewish Quarter, two fortifications and a fine museum.

Alas, now it was time for the FIRST Final Meal a grand affair with a folk dancing group, which gave way to a Greek version of the Conga and some pretty ambitious table-dancing performances by two of our number, tutored by one of the beautiful young woman. (Think Greek plastic tables must be stronger than British ones). We were pleased to share the celebration of Phil & Stuart's wedding anniversary.

Thanks and tokens of appreciation were given – Herman doing a brave job in speaking both in Dutch and English, but whichever way it's said, this was a fantastic adventure, which our Rally Team had worked incredibly hard to achieve. Apart from the majorresponsibilities, it was the little touches such as sweeties on the coach and cool drinks when we reached a site after a long sticky drive, that put the icing on the cake. It seems too little just to say “Thank You”.

Footnote: Some very headds the next morning resulted in an extremely quiet day, which culminated in the SeCOND Final Meal taking place, in the guise of a mioni-Mesa meal with drinks at the camp-site restaurant, another jolly evening but this time we went quietly to our units to get some sleep. We had to be up in time to catch the 7.00 am ferry back to Venice. However, the ferry did not depart until 9.15 am!

Rinus's parting surprise was a THIRD Final Meal, yet another excellent repast on board the Minoan Lines ship. The disembarking in Venice was as chaotic as our other experiences of Greek shipping but, who cares, we've had the time of our lives.

Rita Bentley


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