Sunday 26 July 2015

The Inner Mani – Porto Kagio and Kamares

Greece, 16th – 18th June 2015

We continued on our way into the deep/inner Mani (the bottom half of the peninsula) calling at Mezapos. It was very tight through the village then after the last turning for the beach it looked too narrow to get any further so we turned around here whilst I just had space to. We continued to Gerolimenas, which was quite narrow to access but ok, it’s an attractive small village set around a white stone beach and small port with several tavernas and a hotel. There is a small car park area which isn’t clear whether it’s for the hotel and limited parking at the side of the road so wasn’t suitable as a stopover in season while everywhere is open.

The Mani peninsula is made up of a lot of rocky soil that is very poor for growing things in.  Historically, when the population of the Mani grew in the 14th century thanks to an influx of Byzantine refugees, the
land conditions made it very difficult to sustain the population and the local clans started to have several bloody fueds.  This lead to the construction of towers amongst the villages that were several stories high; once a fued started, the male members of the clans (women were left untargeted and free to move about) would confine themselves to their towers, used as a base for attack, and would not leave until the fued ended or a temporary truce declared.  Signs of these towers can be seen in several of the villages throughout the Mani.

The hillside town of Vathia and its array of Maniot towers
Overnight parking at Taverna Porto at Porto Kagio

Porto Kagio

We drove through Vathia, a hillside town of Maniot towers, and continued on to a spot at Marmaria from the Womo book. There is a nice sandy bay here but with a hotel overlooking it and taking over half of it with their sunloungers. The parking was at the side of the road above the cliffs close to the hotel where we just stopped for lunch before continuing to Porto Kagio. We drove along the compacted ground on the small beach that runs in front of the row of three tavernas to the car park of the last one, Taverna Porto, that allows motorhome overnight parking for customers (GPS: N36.42811 E22.48697). A young lady from the taverna came to say hello and that there was no charge to stay here and we could eat and drink in the taverna or in the van, no problem. After getting parked at the front facing the water in the remaining quite tight space, due to the two other motorhomes having their awnings out, we went to the taverna for a drink. Sitting at a table at the waters’ edge on the stoney beach with a Coke for Jo and a bottle of FIX Hellas beer for me we relaxed and read on our tablets (others blog posts for me). It’s a very chilled out place.

The bay of Porto Kagio
A German man we met in the next town along (see below) mentioned that when he last visited Porto Kagio several years ago there was no piped water supply because of the village’s location and it had to be delivered to the village via a tanker. During our visit I noticed that a narrow strip along the road into Porto Kagio had been dug up and re-tarmacked all of the way into the town, so this might be the source of a new fresh water supply.

The view from the seafront tables at Taverna Porto
Small church we found walking around the headland
We walked along a rough path around the headland across the mouth of the bay that led to a small church before I got the snorkel out and snorkelled around the jetties and moored boats to the other end of the bay. Jo then joined me in the water for a snorkel. I was considering going out windsurfing as there was a good wind blowing through a gap in the mountains across the middle of the enclosed bay, but decided against it due to limited access points to the water and moored boats potentially causing obstructions to sail in and out. I got a chair out and sat in the shade of the van reading and noticed a nail stuck in a front tyre which was likely to have punctured through so I left it in place until we were nearer somewhere it could be repaired. Around dinner time I went to look at the taverna menu and was given one to take back to the camper, but it was mainly fish and nothing we fancied so made it awkward to return it. Jo cooked us a Carbonara instead.

In the morning we set off at around 10 heading up the east coast of the Mani along very scenic small twisty hillside roads that were steep for a while with some hairpins having to be taken in first gear. We passed through small villages including Lagia and Kokala and then saw a British couple in a large tag axle 14-reg Swift Kontiki coming the opposite way. We stopped for a short chat through the cab windows about where we’d been but had to move on when a pickup came up behind us. It was a shame they’d just left Kamares where we were heading, as otherwise we’d have met them there and had more chance to chat.

Greek roads are covered in lots of small shrines; someone decided to take it a step further when they placed this!

We came into Kotronas and parked on the port’s pier, as it was about 34°C I went straight into the sea to cool off and had a snorkel around the pier. Afterwards I spoke to a German man in a VW Westfalia camper parked up on the end of the pier who spoke very good English and mentioned his wife was from New Zealand so must’ve been the same chap that was in the same place again as he was when Our Tour visited here 2 years ago. After lunch and another dip in the sea, but not for long this time as it had got rougher, we filled up our water tank at the tap on the port and continued on our way.

Skoutari and Kamares

Windsurfing at Kamares
We called to look at Skoutari where there’s a small port on its own separate from the village where it’s possible to overnight, or a parking area in a clearing in the olive trees near the beach at the next turning off the main road. Further along the coast Kamares was one of the spots I was most looking forward to from the picture in our Camperstop book. The road leading to it is narrow with olive trees brushing both sides of the van in places so I took it very steady. It is worth it though as here you can park on the quiet undeveloped beach about 8m from the sea (GPS: N36.68217 E22.52087), it’s a really great spot. I was surprised to find no other motorhomes here. We had a swim in the sea and snorkelled and I got a chair out and read some of the Rough Guide for places coming up.

A view of the bay at Kamares
Back at Tholo Beach we had experienced an insect making a
nest on our first aid kit - we found this one in the morning
on top of the bathroom fly screen whilst staying at Kamares
After breakfast the next morning we had another swim and snorkel in the sea. I’d read that a bread van stopped here in a morning (like they do at popular motorhome stopover spots) but after no sign of one it didn’t look like it was going to, and then at 12pm it arrived which was handy as we needed some bread so bought a loaf for €1. After lunch there was a strong offshore wind blowing so I rigged my windsurf kit and went out. It was a bit too much for my 6m sail especially in the gusts but I had a good session with some fast runs. I was out most of the afternoon until the wind picked up further plus I was worn out. Jo had another snorkel with a lot more fish about than earlier. We then had a lot of tidying up to do with stuff left all over in the camper.

Skoutari Port
We decided to move back along to Skoutari port for the night to be more sheltered from the wind for the night and as I’d noted that there should be water available so we could wash down my windsurf kit in the morning. There didn’t seem to be a tap at the port so maybe it’s a shower at the beach or is in the village. We got parked up for the night, had a late dinner around 9pm and did some catching up writing our daily log.

- Matt

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