Our English pages (8)
10.02.10 Menton (F). Tuesday we left Nieuwpoort, by car, to reach Menton, where we plan to stay a few weeks till our return to Lefkas mid-march. The story.
Chronicle of a stay in Menton (F).
Tuesday. From Nieuwpoort we go to Lyon, passing by Kortrijk (B), Lille (F) and Reims. Courseulles, Douai, Cambrai, St-Quentin. These names are familar to us. The memories are still present. Pargny, Reims: till Châlons-en-Champagne many times the motorway is crossing the canals we were cruising in 2007 on the way to the Med. But thereafter too, road panels are still indicating our stop places. Vitry-le-François, St-Dizier, Joinville, Chaumont, Langres, Pontailler. But today it's poor weather, the sky is grey and misty, snow showers make driving a little difficult. Approaching Lyon we hear the advice given by Info-route at FM 107.7: the motorway is in very bad condition due to the frost. Between Lyon and Vienne many holes appeared making traffic hazardous, urgent repairs are going on; and even, now it's snowing heavy and the forecast is rather pessimistic for the département du Rhône. So an advice is given to leave the motorway A6 just before Lyon and follow the deviation by the A43 and A48 in the direction of Grenoble to reach Valence by the A49.
At about 6.30 p.m. we enter the parking place of the Etap-hotel, in town centre, along the left bank of the river Rhône, where we made a on-line reservation. Just next to the place de l'Université we find a nice restaurant well visited on this weekday, La Strada. After this tiring day - 10 hours driving - we enjoy a nice dinner: starting with a ravioli of aubergines, and, a warm goat cheese en papillote with bacon, we choose, for main plate, with rosemary grilled gambas; the cool white Orvieto wine takes the last rests of stress away.
Wednesday. At 8.30 a.m. we are on the way to Avignon. The Cité des Papes was on August 21st 2007 our last stop crossing France to Port-Saint-Louis-du- Rhône and the Med. We needed 47 days, 197 engine hours and 247 locks, now, by car, two days, 1300km, 14 hours and 8 toll stations where we paid 99.9 euros. The traffic flowing freely on the A7 motorway we arrive at Lançon toll station at 10.15 a.m. despite the cold weather and the strong mistral, this particular feeling of the Midi is grabbing us when we cross the Provence. Although we are following the trace of the motorway, again we are charmed by the varied beauty of this region. While the typical big parasol pines are hardly shacked by the strong northerly wind, we forget by the clear light of the winter sun in the nice blue sky, the darkness of yesterday. About 11.30 a.m. we are passing La Napoule and we see the sea... Cannes. Nice. Much more traffic now. Monaco. It's about 1 p.m.when we arrive at the apartment of Mady and Michel. Around the lunch table they prepared for us, we have a lot to tell each other after 15 months.
12.02.10 This time too we enjoy the hospitality of our friends. We stay on their sailing boat berthed in the harbour of Menton-Garavan, a marina we appreciate particularly since our wintering here in 2007/2008. But the winter refuses to give up, even at the Côte d'Azur. When on thursday the snow is falling on many regions, the Côte d'Azur too is colouring white. While in the harbour thick snowflakes are falling, the mountains of the hinterland make us thinking more about the Haute-Savoie than the Alpes-Maritimes. The motorway A8 to Italy remains - partly -closed the whole day. The evening news of Antenne 2 television shows nice sceneries but we also hear about the very difficult situation on the roads - in Belgium 900 km queue ... so we had a great luck ... But today, Friday, the sun is shining and we walk along the boulevard de Garavan, where we have this marvelous and wide view from the Italian capo della Mortola till cap Martin, and the Vieille ville of Menton.
07.03.10 But our stay in Menton isn't going on completely like we had imagined. The weather is not really participating: perturbations pass regularly on the South of France getting the wind and the rain the leisure of determining the atmosphere. The real beautiful days are rare. This last week, by a stormy day, Eric made an unexpected dive in the cold, by the swell hunted waters of the harbour, when, suddenly, the footbridge tipped over. Now our initiatives of walks are also limited by a serious sprain of the knee and an beautiful bruise on the shin.
Fortunately the boat of our friends is spacious and comfortable and as soon as the too shy sun appears we take advantage of this opportunity in the cockpit or on deck.
Suddenly our friend seriously falls ill. Her health, considered as severe, is a heavy distress for her husband; in front of the feeling of powerlessness and of the threatening loss of courage, the sincere common sympathy of all the friends can contribute to the indispensable support.
In Greece the access to the media is determined by the language barrier while here we can, without any limitation, follow fascinating broadcasts on e.g. France Inter; in the evening there is always a choice of an interesting broadcast thanks to the numerous channels of the (French) DTT. In the cinema of Menton we see "Océan", Jacques Perrin's new, very beautiful movie. We had seen a report of the three years long shooting in one of the last issues of Thalassa of Georges Pernoud, every Friday evening on France 3. Impressive images of a great poetic beauty, but also hard, calling out scenes, and also very imposing shots, great or mysterious. But while on a beautiful day we do the long walk of Super Garavan, while we cross the old town or while we walk along the seaside Promenade before savouring a nice coffee or an Italian chocolate, or while we simply take advantage of the comfort on board by heavy rainy weather, in the world things are further going on... The television news, the non-stop information on France-Info, the fascinating 07.00 to 10.00 a.m. broadcast of Nicolas Demorand, or " Le téléphone sonne [The telephone rings] " of Alain Bédouet at 7:15 pm on France Inter, make of us spectators and witnesses. In Le Monde and Le Nouvel Observateur - here always in time - we find additional information and critical quality analysis. Profusion of information? Apparently yes. But in fact, quite not!
Since our departure of Lefkas and our coming home, we have appreciated this " knowing ". Margareth Thatcher - of whom we think that her contribution was not little important in what certainly wasn't making a better world - was considering that there were only individuals and no society. On the opposite of her opinion, we feel participants of the " world society " and our voyages have only pushed back the borders. So we feel ourselves just as much concerned by the consequences of the policies of Nicolas Sarkozy, Barak Obama, Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown or Sylvio Berlusconi. What is decided in China determines as well the economy in Europe, in Belgium. Human rights in Russia, in Burma and in Tunisia call finally to our ideal of freedom. The implosion of the Spanish real estate bubble, the amoral schemes of bankers and traders threaten prosperity. When the bad situation of Greece is annoying us, it's because Greece is our neighbour, and because their errors, because their corruption and their irresponsible schemes for years, have not only consequences for the Greeks. And when we see how the European Union - Germany in head - forced - strictly but inevitably - the Greek left government to straighten its financial situation, we wonder about the equity of the measures, we wonder if the austerity does not touch firstly, as too often, those who are the least guilty, the weakest. Again we are afraid that the answer is evident, affirmative. Again the ones touched are the easiest targets.
That it is about environment, about economy, about finances, about social policies or about health, the interpenetration is omnipresent, the interaction permanent. We thus want to be well informed wherever we are. It is the first condition of the solidarity. The objection that we couldn't exercise any influence, to justify the only individual schemes and the fold on oneself, leaves us stunned...
Back to Greece
19.03.10 Lefkas Marina (GR). On Tuesday we left towards Lefkas, this time, by car. Finally, after a lot of reflections, we have decided to stay one more year in Greece. The story.
A 17 hours long trip, by car and by boat, towards Lefkas ( GR).
Tuesday. Since a few days the weather is finally beautiful in Menton , but today - undoubtedly in honour of our departure! - the spring makes a particular effort. We have already loaded the car yesterday so that at 9:30 am - after a last cleaning of the boat of our friends - we can set off. Yesterday evening, once more we have said goodbye to Michel, always worried for the evolution of the health of Mady. With Rinaldo and Maryse a meeting in Greece, at the end of the summer, is not excluded; they leave at the end of the month for Samos where their boat wintered.
There isn't too much traffic on the Autostrada dei Fiori, where tunnels, bridges and viaducts succeed one to another. Arriving at Genoa we go north in the direction of Alessandria. and an hour later eastward, towards Piacenza, Parma, Modena and Bologna. The traffic is rather intense now and at noon parking areas are crowded by lorries. These Italian highways, following widely the Via Emilia, are much less pleasant than the French: less parking places and rest areas and the equipments are mostly not so well maintained. The Autostrada del Sole towards Ancona too is not in very good condition. There was a time it was different! The sun is already very low when we arrive in Ancona. An inattention when leaving toll station (Menton - Ancona-N: 43,90 euros) will cost us a detour of 20 km - we were driving in the direction of Rome! - and it's well stressed that we look for the check-inn desk of the Minoan lines. Yeah, it's more than 20 years since we took the ferry to Greece from Ancona, later we always preferred Bari or Venice. After finding the check-inn in the more recent part of the harbour, we are looking for the quay B where is the Olympia Palace is moored. Departure at 7:00 pm! Again we go the wrong way It's really not our day! And now we have to cross the railroad twice, waiting for the same slow dragging train... Unbelievable, we are arrived. We have to board immediately. It is 6:30 pm.
At 7:10 pm the Olympia Palace leaves Ancona. Contrary to the Minoan-ferry we took last year from Venice, this boat is very pleasant and very clean. We know that it can be different! By the website of Minoan ferries we reserved on-line two " deck passages " and the car passage; on board we want to ask for a cabin. Sometimes this can be cheaper, but this time we save only 12 euros. The inside cabin is very ok. After a meal in the self-service - rather poor value for the price- and a short tour of the boat, we decide rather quickly to get back to our cabin. By the sound of some Greek melodies we quickly fall asleep, tired by the road and the stress of our rather confused arrival.
08:00 am. Nice blue sky. During breakfast we see through the large windows of the restaurant the Albanian coast : the Olympia Palace is approaching the Mali i Karaburunit peninsula at approximately 20NM. At about 10 am the small Greek islands of Ereikoussa and Othonoi are on starboard. 10:30 am. While we have entered the narrow channel between Corfu and the mainland we think again of the very provocative and particularly hurtful words of some German politicians and a certain populist press of besides the Rhine - Focus and Bild were not absent in this - suggesting that the Greeks better should putting on sale Corfu or some islands of the Cyclades to find a way out for the debt ...
11:45 am. From Igoumenitsa to Lefkas it is about hundred kilometres, but we want to have a look in Plataria and in Sivota-Mourtos.12H30. Plataria. The village seems rather deserted. Everything still seems as in wintering. In the small harbour some sailboats are moored; they seem to have spent the winter here, what, in our opinion, didn't get them a rejuvenation treatment. In some streets they apparently waited till March to start important works... Some pupils leave the school accompanied by their teacher. What future they will get here? But when you're 11 you don't yet think too much about those problems... We observe them, hesitating, worried and pensive...
Sivota-Mourtos hasn't yet found nothing again of its charming summer animation. Along the quay where some small boats dance on the little swell some workers redo the natural stone surface of the Promenade. We hear that the recently finished pavement had to be reopened because they had realised - a little late - that the big pipes of water evacuation had not been put... We meet the husband of Angy, who runs The Blue Coast. The restaurant only will reopen at the end of April because ... now it's still always winter break: time to relaxed like usual in Greece, we are told.... In the small new harbour still no sign of lazy lines, but brand new toll boxes for the water and the current supplies'. Let's hope it will work and continue to work... Here also some sailboats have wintered. A few - but one particularly - have suffered from the winter storms. Leaving your boat here, it's, in our opinion, incomprehensible!
So, let's go to Lefkas with an empty stomach. Along the road we find a small supermarket where we buy some fruits. Inland apples and oranges, their appearance convinces hardly, but their taste is excellent!
About 2 pm we arrive at Lefkas Marina. We hurry towards our boat. It seems that Nehalinnia is waiting for our return, peacefully and patiently, showing here and there some traces of red-yellow powdery sand. We hear that the winter was particularly wet and windy. Not really pleasant.
We are happy to be back, but before any other thing an inevitable serious cleaning, especially to chase away the winter...
(See also Kortom 4.9.3 )
19.03.10 Lefkas Marina. The spring finally seems to push away this too long, too cold, too hard winter. The recurring winter troubles fade when the nice season is coming back, but the last onslaught of the winter by way of last-ditch struggle, was, on February 28th, by the combined effects of the storm and the night spring tide, a tragedy which, only in the southwest of France, will remain for a long time in the memory: 53 people died and hundreds houses were destroyed...
Even if it's still cold, finally in Lefkas too, the blue sky and the sun won the game.
We are very busy to reorganize the boat. A lot of what we had too much piled up on board necessarily must give up the place to what we brought now from Belgium and France. We meet again quite a lot of friends and acquaintances. Many of them are preparing to leave the marina before April 1st, the beginning of the high season and its higher harbour fees, even if destinations aren't yet decided, are vague or imprint of hesitations. Croatia, too expensive, Turkey, too difficult or even impossible due to new, more and more restricting environmental regulations. By choosing to stay one year more in Greece we had decided to pay the annual mooring fees cash what gives us a reduction of 17 % for paying in advance, increased by the 6 % reduction as member of the Cruising Association. By this annual settlement we enjoy an attractive price and the guarantee to have at any time a berth at our disposal.
In Lefkas a diffuse anxiety reigns regarding the coming tourist season. Will the indispensable tourists come while doubts, uncertainties, warnings and negative news are spread almost daily by the media? This is the question which people ask us frequently. In the shops we get a new kindness, an undeniable contrast. We returned to Paramythi. Twice we were, except for two other clients, the only customers. But maybe it is a fate. What we hear is sometimes very contradictory. the petrol attendant where we fill up, questions us, complains about the price of the fuel, testifies to the poor purchasing power of his customers. Others steep their selves in a little haughty dumbness while, even, others deny by laughing what they present as exaggerations. We visit Peter in Alisson who, since one year, are running To Katoghi, in Vafkeri. The welcome is nice and the meal they serve delicious, value for our money above every criticism. Alexandros and Helena took a few days holiday. : they are in London for a longer weekend trip; next week, on March 25th, it's the national day. We just hardly had the opportunity to agree for meeting after they get back.
When we come back from Vafkeri, late in the night, we get the sad message. Mady died today, at noon ...
Deeply affected we remember this last pleasant afternoon together after our arrival at Menton on February 10th. We had spoken about their cruise to Porquerolles this summer, about their trip to Paris. We had spoken about the next summer, a possible meeting, maybe. To Kaat she had spoken about this big fatigue. Did we read a more anxiety in Michel's look? All together we had gone to their boat in the harbour of Garavan. They had given us these advices which are warm in the heart, concerned about our comfort.
We shall not forget your kindness, your generous interest, your enthusiasm, your soft smile, particularly your courage ... We will miss you very hard, Mady. The beautiful moments we spent together, with you and Michel, your husband, we shall not forget the nice walks in the hinterland of Menton, we want to cherish them as one of the most beautiful experiences of the long voyage with our boat.
To you, Michel, we offer our profound sympathy. We know that these days will be very distressing, sad. When the inevitable tension will disappear, then only the friendship and the uncountable good memories can bring a gentle consolation.
The so numerous, short and longer sailing trips, during more than 40 years with Michel, are not irrelevant to the choice of scattering her ashes at sea. It is there, above all, that Mady will remain alive in Michel's memory and in the memory of all her sailing friends...
While we were working hard on the sanding of the teak deck of Nehalinnia, the negotiations concerning the assistance to the Greek crises resulted in a compromise which in fact stigmatised the powerlessness of Europe to get on a common economic and financial policy. Humbled by the German attitude, the Greeks are furious of having been abandoned and betrayed by a country which during years made them import expensive products, under a hardly disguised pressure, and - to believe them, often and at least - sign little scrupulously honoured contracts. Anger also towards this government which to protect, up to the obsession, a financial and budgetary (!) virginity, leans on a populist and contemptuous public opinion - jealous, say some - towards Greece.
... boat maintenance
22.04.10: Lefkas Marina. Since Monday Nehalinnia is on the hard at Lefkas Marina. The numerous forecasted showers have spared us the time of the hauling out but they took their revenge when we were cleaning the waterline, a job which we wanted to do ourselves carefully and with all precautions, after the pressure wash of the hull. With a surprising regularity we were abundantly "watered", the precipitations having decided to be very present on this Monday. Christos, the harbormaster had dragged us from our berth to the travellift because our propeller well fouled had provoked worrying vibrations during a test last week. Or was it a rope making it difficult for our prop? When we had asked Spyros, the manager, for an intervention of the diver of the marina, he had made us this kind proposition; the brief intervention of the diver just before hauling out would have cost us 50 euros: so, accepting this - free - proposition was an easy choice... Many thanks!
Before some disturbances probably bring grey skys and rain on Lefkas on Friday and Saturday, if we believe the forecasts, we take advantage of three days of nice and dry weather. The maintenance works are following one after the other, they are the routine of the hauling out. The day before yesterday we have cleaned , inspected and greased all sea cocks. This year we give also more particularly attention on the toilet and on the holding tank of black waters: to prevent problems as much as possible - these are always arising at the most inconvenient moments - we replace the toilet pump and the main pipes. The three-year-old pump, completely cleaned and serviced, the critical pieces replaced by the spare kit we had taken on our departure, will act as extra pump ready to install in case of problems.
In the meantime the ash cloud of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull was paralyzing the air space many days long, Jean-Luc Dehaene, former Belgian prime minister, is finishing his royal assignment in the never ending Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde story between the Flemish and the French-speaking communities while the Open VLD-party is threatening with leaving the government in case of no-solution, and Greece seems to get inexorably closer to the request of the activation of the of financial assistance plan finalized by Europe and the IMF. We are afraid that all these facts and evolutions are the forerunners of new important disturbing developments. The images on the TV, the titles on newspapers and internet sites of press are very explicit. The French newspaper Le Monde tells in his on-line edition of April 21 2010 " Le volcan révèle la fragilité de la mondialisation", and " la paralysie du trafic aérien en Europe à la suite de l'éruption d'un volcan en Islande, a coûté pour l'instant aux compagnies aériennes affectées 1,26 milliard d'euros de manque à gagner" [ transl. The volcano reveals the fragility of the globalisation, the paralysis of the air traffic in Europe following the eruption of a volcano in Iceland, costs at the moment to the affected companies 1,26 billion of euros of loss of income ". The predictions for a solution in the Belgian story of the split of the district Bruxelles-Halle-Vilvoorde seem very pessimistic: " Dehaene vindt geen akkoord over BHV " [ transl. Dehaene does not find an agreement for BHV ] is titling the Flemish newspaper De Standaard. " Jean-Luc Dehaene is er gisteren niet in geslaagd om een akkoord over de splitsing van B-H-V te smeden. Premier Yves Leterme onderhandelt voort, maar een regeringscrisis komt steeds dichter " [transl. Yesterday Jean-Luc Dehaene did not succeed to realise an agreement on the split of B-H-V. Prime Minister Yves Leterme continues the negotiations but a government crisis is coming closer and closer ], we read in the press review of yesterday. When today the Flemish liberals execute their threat, Prime Minister Leterme can only present the resignation of his government to the king. His majesty defers his decision to proceed to consultations...
Without wanting to overturn into absolute pessimism we see an acceleration of negative developments, which only in appearance seem far away from our occupations. Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, new days of strike in Greece ...
03.06.10: Lefkas Marina. May passed without that in fact we realized it. The life on board, now that we enjoy this additional year in Greece, is going according a very quiet rhythm. Friends arrived and already left, also numerous sailors who have wintered in the marina. Some had a well defined, sometimes very ambitious project. Wil and Jeanine from the Windswept are now on the way to northern Greece after sailing around the Peloponnisos. Guy and Christine of M Balthazar are on the way towards Lebanon, a project which they want to finish in five months, returning to Lefkas is planned for October. Thanks to illustrated parts of their logbook which they send us regularly by email we can follow them in this sailing voyage which leaves us admiring but which we would not dare to undertake. We wait for soon the arrival to Lefkas of Guy and Martine from Roving Topsy.
We share our time between strolls in the inner sea between Lefkas and the adjacent islands - short goings out, like we told and so many times have done in Nieuwpoort -, trips by car on the island, heliotherapy-days at Milos beach near Agios Nikitas, where, on May 27th - finally! - we judged the water not too cold for swimming, and beautiful walks e.g. around the lagoon and in the South of the island. Small works on board, to improve some elements of comfort, are also a part of our occupations. In brief, during this a little hesitating spring we really live in a kind of laziness, reading being doubtless the most steady activity! A real dolce farniente ... on the Greek way!
... a trip to the Zagorohoria and the Vikos Gorges
09.06.10: Zagoria Chora, Aristi. Our too brief stay in the very beautiful region of Zagorohoria is already over but the memories of these magnificent landscapes do not leave us.
[ free maps: GNTO www.gnto.gr ]
We have reserved rooms in the very comfortable and very quiet Gamila Rocks hotel in Aristi [www.gamilarocks.com]. This recent adventure resort doubtless has strongly contributed towards the charm of our stay!
With thanks to Keith P. Rimmer from the Sea Trek who took this picture and many others for us
Click on the panoramic picture to start the visit of the Zagorochoria with us!
[ free map: GNTO www.gnto.gr ]
Day 2. While Keith - who is always looking out for the professional photo opportunities - and Penny have planned a trek on horse-back, Kaat and I want to go down into the gorges. The descent begins near the kiosk in Vikos, from where the panorama is particularly impressive. The descent follows the old donkey path which, rather narrow, like a ribbon of sometimes very narrow hairpin curves, then like a spiral staircase, runs along the mountain side. The view which dives into the depth of the gorges is breathtakingly great, magnificent. Far below the river Voidomatsis clears itself a passage between blocks of rocks. From our path we perceive the brilliant turquoise blue water sparkling between a variety of greens in a charming play of lights. We wear good walking shoes that assures a good grip on the path stones that the weather and the time made sometimes slippery and uneven. The descent takes us a little more than one hour - our stops for pictures and discovering included! -, then the path winds sometimes with difficulty in the canyon where the vegetation is very dense. I open the walking assuring as much as possible a secure progress avoiding possible snakes by means of a big branch. In spite of our vigilance, during the way up - we shall not go as far as Monodendri -, a small snake of a good half-meter did slither just before of the Kaat's feet. We go in search of the springs of the Voidomatsis which we should find, if the small placard is correct, a little more downstream to the summer bed of the river, because in this time of the year the bed is dry, the river being then subterranean in this place. It is by listening that we shall find the springs and to our great surprise we notice that after some meters the Voidomatis carries already quite a lot of water. Crystalline-clear and fresh at 6 °C! Shouts draw our attention. A group of a dozen Israeli walkers appears out of the undergrowth. Since quite a lot of time they are in search of the trail towards Papingo. We think we can inform them having perceived some marks. Exchange of experiences. Questionings. Then each pursues his road. We have to go back way up a little if we want to find the crosspath which leads to the rests of a small monastery situated in a clearing at the bottom of gorges, and which we were able to perceive before the way down. There we shall stop for a picnic. Near the small construction a group is making pictures which will illustrate the catalog of a German brand well known for trekking equipment and material. We need to go back to Vikos because again, dark and menacing clouds are slowly appearing. The way up will take a full one and a half hour. Arrived near the kiosk we meet a young couple of Americans. They are on a long honeymoon; during their sabbatical they plan to join, from London where they started, Capetown in South Africa. They are New Yorkers, young, nice; they laugh by discovering their beautiful white teeth when they learn that Kaat and I have been together for 35 years. If we already were in Africa? No ... or hardly, in fact, me, in Morocco, yes. Our boat is small. Yeah ... to Greece, we have crossed the Corinth Canal. Again this laughter, nice and charming. We exchange our respective addresses of site and blog [ www.birthfromthebackseat.blogspot.com ]. When they leave wearing their bikers suit the first big rainy drops are falling. We take refuge into a taverna and order frappés and Vikos water...
In the hotel we find Penny and Keith and under a nice stormy rain we drive towards Papingo. With umbrella and raincoats we cross through both parts of the village. At Mikro Papingo we visit the office of the WWF. We speak about bears and about wolves, about the absence of environment policy and the treatment of wastes in Greece, about the new and good Minister of the Environment, Tina Birbili, bearer of hope (a small panda bear is hanging in our cabin in memory of this interesting visit).
In the evening we return for a pleasant dinner to Vikos, in the small taverna where Kaat and I had found refuge for the thunderstorm.
Day 3. After a copious breakfast at the buffet of our Gamila Rocks hotel, Kaat and I get ready for the rafting. The shuttle of Alpine zone [ www.alpinezone.gr ] comes for us at the hotel where we made the reservation. Today - it's low season - there are only our two registrations, so we shall get boat and instructor only for us ; for him too it's a good thing because a group of six can give quite a lot problems. We try wetsuits, life jackets, helmets. At the bridge on the Voidomatsis we put our raft in the water and after some clearly expressed instructions we start our short discovery. We have made a lot of kayak in the rivers of the Belgian Ardennes, but rafting we have never done before. But the water level guarantees a rather peaceful rafting. Branches, some fallen trees, this and some bigger rocks, a few eddies and rapids presenting little difficulty, that's it for the rafting strictly speaking. And the silence? And the nature? The beauty of the landscape? The transparency of the water? A delight!
A salad and a pâté of fresh olives at the terrace of Gamila Rocks quickly eased our hunger.
On the way back to Lefkas we have made by a big detour which allowed us to discover the central and the east Zagoria: via Kalpaki - where we were able to fill up - we pass by the remarkable bridges of Agia Mina and Evreos - the Kokonis bridge - on the way towards the charming village of Koukouli, with his very suggestive name, and towards Kipi where we saw the old Milos bridge with the three arcs. To reach Miliotades where we shall leave the Zagoria, we cross a beautiful and very woody region where only some small villages such Dipotamo betray the human presence.
When we stopped for a few moments above the lake of Ioanina, on the ancient transhellenic road from Igoumenita to Alexandropolis - which now is recently replaced by the new Egnatia highway - to admire the panorama, we are certain that the Zagoria was maybe a nice dream and that we suddenly returned well to the real Greece. Heaps of garbage and waste, stuck by the wind against the fence of the parking, do not allow the slightest doubt.
At 8:30 pm we arrive at the parking of Marina Lefkadas, but my eyes are still seeing the nice blue water of the river Voidomatsis ...
[ Following site - although commercial - maybe usefully consulted http://www.greeka.com/epirus/zagoria/zagoria/voidomatis-river.htm ]
... just sailing!
During our stop in Reggio di Calabria, two years ago, we had to replace our batteries then only one year old. But now we notice that these batteries should be, again, replaced soon. The installation which during almost fifteen years gave satisfaction does not correspond any more to our use: we thus decide to modify our system which includes only two batteries of 80Ah in parallel, a charger and a switch. In the magazine Boat Owner the renovation of the electric installation of a Vancouver 27 was clearly explained. We decide to be inspired by it and to ask for the execution Yacht Electrics (mobile 6938569143), recommended by many sailors here. Two days later, to our full satisfaction, the renewed installation is in use.
From our lazy "oversummering " we also continue to follow the trips of sailors we have met. With big interest and admiration we read the emails from Christine and Guy they sent us from Alanya on the way towards Lebanon on their 30', M.Balthazar; we enjoy the news sent by Paul and Christine of the Gaviotta, who are just arrived on the island of Lesbos. We expect the next return of Jeanine and Wil from the Windswept. Michel sailed his Plouf back to Menton after a long Corsica trip; Marise and Rinaldo from the Zoé were the last days in the Pagasitikos gulf and at Milina where we spent the summer of 2009. Sandy and Stewart, owners of a beautiful Halberg Rassy, went back, for some time to the UK. Others are here on the island, Keith and Penny, Kevin and Linda, Mark and Maureen, Denise and Andrew. And Mark with his recent Casini.But still, others than sailors are living fascinating adventures: Nico, Kaat's brother and Joke are, still during their sabbatical, after Australia and New Zealand, in their trip through the US, on the way towards Salt Lake City, Elisabeth and Jason whom we have met in Vikos, want to join Cape Town by motorcycle. We wait for the arrival to Lefkas of Brigitte and Kris, old friends with whom we spent numerous holidays in the snow and in the sun...
And then, but not without some anxiety for their long trip on the Balkans, it is the arrival of Olivier and Helen that we expect at the end of week...
16.07.10: Lefkas Marina. Helen and Olivier arrived last week on Thursday: in two and a half days they made the trip of 2700 km from Nieuwpoort to Lefkas. a tiring trip which they would prefer not to do any more. The crossing of the countries of former Yugoslavia was particularly unpleasant not only because of the very often sad state of the roads and the annoying checks on the borders but still more due to the generally unpleasant atmosphere and the absence of kindness of the people, on behalf of the Serbs and the Macedonians in particular. A real incentive to pursue their road without lingering!
29.09.10: Lefkas Marina. At the beginning of September we attend a real change in the weather: it's becoming more whimsical and the last days the autumn, presaging too wet Ionian winters, seems to have definitively chased away the summer. Although we still have temperatures of 23 C-degrees ( and 25 also ) at midday, humidity is more present and we are amazed at the speed with which days decrease.
After a nice dinner together in Preveza we had to say a very friendly goodbye to Jeanine and Wil from the Windswept who at the end of the week go back home to the Netherlands for the winter. Their sailing around the Peloponnisos ended finally by the visit of Thessaloniki in the north of the Aegean! Christine and Paul from the Gaviota have sent us an enthusiastic mail while sailing in the Turkish archipelago of Ayvalik. On their Roving Topsy Guy and Martine get discover harbours and anchorages of the Inland Sea and the gulfs of Patras and Corinth by Griselda and David, their son. For the nice young Chilean woman this sailings are her first experiences in yachting! And then yesterday, the immense surprise: hardly before a heavy rain cleans the marina, Mr Balthazar appeared at the end of the pontoon! On their 31' Christine and Guy realized successfully a magnificent project - and in our humble opinion, deserving of the admiration which we owe to good sailors: the round trip from Lefkas to Jounieh in Lebanon. During their cruising of hardly five months they were not afraid of the long trips nor of the many time difficult conditions: so from Turkish Alanya to Jounieh M.Balthazar has sailed 320 NM in 56 hours! Yesterday evening, by raising the glasses on their successful navigation - arak from Lebanon - we were delighted by their return, congratulating and thanking them for the numerous excerpta of their logbook which they sent us regularly!
... leaving Greece
At October the 20th the boat goes on the hard and at the 25th we take the ferry from Igoumenitsa to Venice. After one week in Menton we go home in Nieuwpoort for a few winter months.
After our trip in the Peloponnese we had in fact two weeks to prepare the boat for the wintering on the hard at Lefkas marina. More than enough, we thought. The weather decided otherwise. After a few days it started almost continuous raining over Lefkas during almost all the period. So we had to take use of every small dry period and the slightest sunshine. The day before hauling out the weather was rather clement, but the next day Nehalinnia was going to her winter cradle under a threatening sky between two heavy showers. Then it remained dry during the days till our departure. These few relatively sunny days and the comfort we found in the small house we had rent on the heights of Lefkas - Tony's house villa Athene ( websitelink, update 2013 ) made it possible to dry well sails, sprayhood, covers and tents, and to end our works.
Rapidly the day of the departure arrived. After a last visit to Alison and Peter and the Katoghi in Vafkeri and to our friends in the marina we loaded the car. At 4 a.m. the next morning we left for Igoumenitsa where we arrived 1:30 hour later, having seen hardly six cars and a few lorries In the valleys strong fog patches reminded us of being in the autumn, while the wind already was increasing and big clouds were masking the moon: the forecasted bad weather seemed too in time!
At seven o'clock the Lefka Ori, coming from Patras, moored at the new quay.
After the departure, at eight o'clock, the wind quickly increased to force 7 from E- SE and it started raining heavily for the rest of the trip, so that we had to stay inside. By this stormy weather we appreciate particularly the comfort of this big boat and our nice cabin!
On arrival in Venice, 22 hours later, it was still dark and always raining. So we were not able to admire all the magnificence of the sailing up of the Canal Grande and the Canale della Giudecca like at our return towards Lefkas in the autumn of 2008 ( last March we had we sailed from Ancona ).
It is in full peak hour that we took the highway to Menton at 550 km. The whole time - and particularly up to the bifurcation towards the Brenner and Austria the traffic was intense but we were also surprised finding back "normal" drivers ...
By this beautiful Friday, we sailed out with Michel. Red roses on the sea, together we had a very emotional thought for Mady ...
Blue sky, big sun at the day of our return to Nieuwpoort. Again a lot of traffic. Then quickly, the greyness of the North; cold! We made a overnight stop in Nuit-Saint-Georges. A little disappointing: rather deserted, most of the restaurants closed.
See also Kortom 4.9.6, for information and data