Saturday 25 July 2015

Mystra and the Outer Mani

Greece, 11th – 15th June 2015

The Langadha Pass -  60km long winding mountain route with great views


The Langadha Pass and Mystra

We had a 7:45 alarm so we could get over to Mystra at a reasonable time as I’d read about a 3pm closing time, however we found when we got there that it was 8pm for summer opening hours. We drove via Kalamata over the Langadha Pass winding up and down the Taiyetos mountain sides to a peak of 4265ft, stopping a couple of times to take photos and look at
the views along the 60km route that took us a bit over 2 hours.

Twisting roads on the Langadha pass!
Mystra is a well-preserved Byzantine city set on hillside that once had a population of 20,000 people. It consists of ancient houses, churches, monumental gates, a palace and a castle at the top of the hill. It is split into a lower and an upper town and then the castle beyond this on the top of the hill. Parts of the lower town were lived in until the 1950s when the residents got moved out to make the site into a visitor’s attraction. When getting our tickets (€5 each), the ticket man had suggested seeing the lower town then driving up to the car park at the upper entrance to see the upper town. We walked around the site in the sun and decided to tackle the whole site from the lower entrance. It was a tiring climb in the heat up the rough ancient steps to the upper town and the castle. There were great views from up here looking over Mystra and the surrounding areas. We went through the nuns’ residence in Pantanassa, the only occupied area, where there were about eight cats chilling in the sun.

One of the old buildings at Mystra

The view of the upper town (and lower town in the
background) from the castle
The view from the top of the castle at Mystra - the town in the background is Sparta
More pictures of both the Langadha pass and Mystra at the end of the blog post!

Our overnight spot between Mystra and Sparta
After three and a half hours walking around we were tired out and hungry so when we got back to the van and had a late lunch. It started raining and poured it down so rather than make the journey back over the pass with water flowing off the mountainsides and possibly rocks dislodged we headed to a parking area under some trees by a stream at the side of the road between Mystra and Sparta that Adam and Sophie from Europe by Camper had used (GPS: N37.07283 E22.41479). During the short journey here we noticed large drops of water running between the inner and outer parts of the double glazed skylight over the cab which turned into a pool inside the bottom edge of the skylight. Whilst driving along near to the peak of the mountain pass in the morning we’d heard a bang that sounded like it was on the roof but couldn’t see any sign of anything, it was now clear what this was, the adhesive join between the inner and outer parts had suddenly separated at one side presumably due to the pressure change, maybe combined with the temperature.

The next morning making the return journey over the Langadha Pass we saw quite a few rocks and debris that had been washed into the road confirming it was the right decision to wait until today to travel back. We stopped at Lidl in Kalamata but were disappointed to find the bakery nearly empty but managed to get the last ciabatta. After lunch in the car park I nipped back in after realising we needed more cheese to find the croissants had been replenished, result!

The Outer Mani

We made our way down the Mani peninsula, the second finger of the Peloponnese stopping at a small port at Kardamyli where Our Tour had stayed in a little spot overlooking the sea. Unfortunately the flat patch here had a pile of rubble dumped on it now so wasn’t usable. Whilst we went to investigate the tap on the port Jo offended a resident duck that chased after us quacking before stopping in front of her feet and having a loud messy poo! We waited for some people in a power boat that had just docked to leave before making use of the tap to fill our water tank. We continued down the coast to Agios Nikolaos and crept past the tavernas on the narrow water front road to the parking area overlooking the sea, another Our Tour spot (GPS: N36.82293 E22.28325), joining an Italian van that was already there. Later another arrived and a French stealth van identifiable only by the one window in a back door and the camping chairs they pulled out within moments of stopping!  For dinner we had Lidl meatballs with mash, peas and gravy that tasted just like Ikea, we were just missing the Loganberry sauce and had to manage with ketchup instead!

The harbour at Agios Nikolaos
A interesting planter
The town of Agios Nikolaos - Spot our motorhome
We had a morning walk around Agios Nikolaos before heading to Neo Itilo where we parked at the side of the sea front road (N36.69328 E22.38920) where there’s a concrete wall and steps down onto the stony beach. It was a nice spot, we got our chairs out and spent the day relaxing, reading in the sun and going in the sea, the first time for a while (since Kalo Nero a week and a half ago).

The view of the bay of Neo Itilo from the approach road
Overnight spot on the seafront at Neo Itilo

The beach (stony, but judging by the piles of sand they are
attempting to change that)
The motorhome parking section at Camping Meltemi
We’d have liked to stay at Neo Itilo longer than the one night but we’d run out of water, the grey tank and toilet were full so we needed somewhere with services. There was nowhere nearby mentioned in other blogs or our book so we cut across the main road over the peninsula 18 miles to the east coast. There are several campsites here south of Githio, so we went to Camping Meltemi (GPS: N36.73083, E22.55333, €16 inc. electric and WiFi with ACSI discount), another one of Dennis & Kate’s recommendations. After using the service point we got parked under one of the sun shades. We could pick up the WiFi with our booster aerial so didn’t need to go over to the ‘Internet Wagon’, a trailer with benches, tables and electric points to sit on to use the internet. In the afternoon we had a swim in the sea and had burgers for dinner cooked on the Cadac.

In the morning whilst we had internet I Skyped my parents for the first time since Venice so had a long catch-up for about an hour, and we got organised ready to leave, including using the service point again to prepare us for as long off-site as possible. The front skylight had now been left for a few days to dry out in the sun so I sealed it with clear Duck tape until we get chance to have it repaired.

A Brush with the Law

We drove back across to Areopoli to continue where we left off down the west coast to our next planned stopover near Pirgos Dirou close to the Pirgos Caves (N36.64240, E22.38357).  A single track concrete road that was quite steep in places led down to a white large stone beach in a bay where there were six other motorhomes of a mixture of nationalities. We got our chairs out and put the awning out a short way for some shade as it was 34°C and I had a swim in the sea. Whilst sat out reading a Policeman turned up and visited each of the vans in turn to move us on for the night, the first time we’ve ever had this happen. He was friendly and polite about it saying free camping wasn’t allowed here, and chairs and awnings had to be put away before they revisited later or he’d have to issue a €300 ticket. When I confirmed that we couldn’t park here overnight he advised the nearest free place was in Neo Itilo where there’s a sign saying Campers Free Parking.
One of the most beautiful spots we have come across near Pirgos Dirou - it's a shame we couldn't have stayed longer

Free parking provided by a taverna in Neo Itilo
We got packed up and planned to park back where we were before on the sea front in Neo Itilo but as we passed it and saw there were no vans there thought that people may have been moved on from there too. So we followed the sign to the free parking area on the edge of the bay that is near to and owned by a taverna (GPS: N36.69611 E22.37800). As we passed the taverna a man there waved us through saying free parking, water and WiFi. There were two vans here plus two that had come from where we were, one of which was a Dutch man in a Karmann van that I spoke to. He was travelling the opposite way around the Peloponnese (like it seems everyone else is). He leant us his German WOMO book of stopovers for the Peloponnese to note some down. It seemed to have some good places in and indicated where you can get water so I wrote down a selection of about twenty for our route ahead, and Jo made him a list of our favourite stopovers. We’d been planning to go to the taverna for a drink but it was getting on and was now dark so decided not to.

- Matt

More Photos:

The Langadha Pass

There are no height or width restriction warnings anywhere along the Langadha pass, and then all of a sudden, after about
two hours of driving towards Sparta and about 80% of the way there, you come across this

There were a couple of points like this where the road had collapsed away and been filled in with dirt that didn't look like they were going to be repaired any time soon
On the way out of Kalamata at the start of the pass the locals have turned the concrete supporting walls into a great place for graffiti artwork, this is just a small selection


Remains of someone's plaited hair in the museum

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