Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Dimitrios Shipwreck and our first venture into Urban Exploration

Greece, 19th – 23rd June 2015



Matt and I have always had a bit of a mutual interest in derelict, abandoned things.  Back in the UK, this is an interest that we have never really indulged, partially due to never having the time to seriously consider doing it, but also due to most closed-down buildings or similar being either immediately knocked down for new developments or patrolled by security thanks to the joys of health and safety.

After leaving our overnight spot in the port of Skoutari we drove through the town of Gythio, which we found was starting to get a bit busy with the summer season.  After finding a place to pull in, we decided that we wouldn’t really be missing too much if we gave the tourist town a miss, and instead headed north of Gythio in pursuit of something better aligned with our interests: an abandoned shipwreck.

The Dimitrios Shipwreck and Valtaki Beach



The Dimitrios Shipwreck, sited a few kilometres north of Gythio, sits wedged in the shallows on the long, sandy stretch that is Valtaki beach, where it has rested since 1981.  Looking at Wikipedia there are several stories that relate to how the boat got there; the more plausible of which is the story that the ship docked in Gythio in 1980 whilst the captain needed medical treatment, and ended up stuck there because of financial problems until it was swept away in November 1981 in severe weather conditions after its mooring ropes had gradually worn away.  The slightly less sensible is the suggestion that it is a ghost ship.  My personal favourite is the story that it was an impounded cigarette smuggling ship travelling between Turkey and Italy that was deliberately released from the port and set on fire in a cover-up operation.

Inside the shipwreck
The bow of the ship

I found the shipwreck fascinating, even if for the very fact that it was just left there.  The wreck is huge, and other than a sign on each side warning ‘It is forbidden to approach the wreck’ (which I only noticed on the way back to the van), the local authorities don’t seem at all concerned about its presence.  If we were in the UK, the whole thing would probably have been dismantled and removed from the public’s presence because one person would have inevitably found a way to injure themselves.

More pictures of the wreck at the end!

Our overnight spot at Valtaki Beach
Valtaki beach itself was fairly quiet spare for several vehicles parked up by the beach bar and a handful of campers dotted around, so we ended up staying here for two nights (GPS: N36.78903 E22.58241).  The first night was very quiet; the second, considerably less so, as Saturday night at the beach bar/restaurant was taken over by a wedding party.  We seem to have noticed a pattern out here that a wedding in Greece can be identified by the procession of cars that travels along beeping their horns.  The Greeks sure know how to party; we were just close enough to the beach bar that I struggled to sleep, and instead was left to track the progression of their music patterns.  It seemed to be fairly consistent for the most part: we were treated to a long stretch of traditional Greek music up until around 3am when we received an inexplicable hour of 80s classics such as Funkytown.  At 4am there was a brief 20 minutes of modern dance, before drifting back to Greek for the 5am finish.

This property near the entrance to Valtaki
beach has an interesting way of wording their
'Private Property' sign...
We left our spot at Valtaki beach on two separate expeditions; on our first day there, we left to rekindle our love for Lidl at the town of Skala, after a difficult 7 days parting (as well as having a bit on the side with the nearby Carrefour, where we purchased some flip-flops to replace my pair that were rapidly falling to pieces).  On this trip we went to check out a potential overnight point south of Skala from the WOMO book, where we stopped at a tyre place we spotted en-route to get the nail in the front tyre fixed.  The staff didn’t really speak any English, but after Matt showed the man the actual tyre he realised straight away what we were asking for and set to work repairing it at the cost of 10 euros and 15 minutes of time.  We noticed that all of the tyres on the racks were for scooters; presumably if they need tyres for a car, they have to get them ordered in.  We carried on to the spot from the WOMO book at Paralia Astéri, which seemed to be alright (just a bit of beach parking in the middle of nowhere), but it was a bit stormy and wasn’t particularly appealing, so we decided Valtaki was a better spot so headed back there.

The remains of a theatre in Gythio
Our other expedition away from Valtaki was on our second day there; we’d heard from Matt’s dad via text, who said that he’d heard that because of the economic situation in Greece, cash machines may be getting switched off soon.  We were aware that Greece was having problems due to the bailout situation with the EU, but we hadn’t experienced any signs of trouble until now.  To be on the safe side, we called into Gythio and each withdrew the maximum amount we could on our cards to see us through for the foreseeable future.

After leaving Valtaki, we went back to Camping Meltemi, south of Gythio, for a couple of nights.  Matt needed to upload his final thesis before the graduation deadline as well as go somewhere to wash his windsurf kit down after the last use, and we had a couple of weeks of washing building up that neither of us particularly wanted to handwash.  Whilst here I also got our financial accounts up to date, and we spent a lot of time working on getting our blog set up and adding some posts that we’d written a while ago but never uploaded about our first leg of the trip down into Portugal.  We purchased the eurotouring URL, but then found that getting it actually connected to our blog to be something of a nightmare thanks to the majority of instructions we could find being out of date for the current interface on our domain hosting site, and wasted a great deal more time on that than we would have liked.  When we finally did realise what we were supposed to do, it was actually a relatively simple procedure.

Urban Exploring at Lakonis Bungalows


We found this sign, as well as the stencils that would have
been used to make the road signs, in the main basement
of the complex
As usual, we left the campsite after two nights at the last possible moment (despite the generous check-out time of 2pm) and, after a bakery stop, parked back up at Valtaki for lunch while we decided what to do next.  Between Gythio and Valtaki, we had on several occasions clocked an interesting looking dilapidated circular building with panoramic views of the bay and decaying signs for ‘sea view bungalows’, and decided to satisfy our curiosity by trekking there.  After the long walk there up an unshaded road in the heat, of which Matt has written in our logbook included ‘a lot of moaning from somebody’ (I refuse to comment), we arrived, and had a look around.

The main building as seen from the outside

The remaining debris in the storage rooms beneath reception
We looked in the reception and the main building first, which was very interesting to see.  All of the windows were long since smashed or removed, along with the majority of the contents, but there were still a few signs of what the rooms must once have been before.  Wiring had been stripped out and metal drain covers removed.  Beneath the reception were several buildings that would have been used for storage and administration; in here we found lots of hotel paraphernalia such as brochures, old phones, bar order pads and rolls of paper for till receipts.  A hand written note we spotted amongst the debris was dated from the year ’81; it’s possible that the resort has been abandoned for as long as the shipwreck, which would explain why all of the brochures we saw looked like we’d fallen into a time machine set for the 80’s.  Perhaps the wedding party at Valtaki had also fallen into the machine with us.

One of the 'bungalows'
In the holiday bungalows themselves (which were basically series of en-suite hotel rooms that were in terraced groups built onto the hillside looking out over the water), the majority of furniture had been taken out but the odd bed frame or sagging fitted wardrobe was still in place in a couple, and a few torn curtains and TV stands still hung from the walls.  It appeared that the majority of sinks had been removed, but toilets and bathtubs were still in place.  Further down the hill was a decaying beach bar, with the framework that would have held a canopy for shade falling to pieces.  We'll put some more pictures at the end for anyone who is into that kind of thing!




Overnight parking at Paralia Astéri
After our adventure, we decided to give the WOMO spot we had stopped by at a few days ago a try.  The road to the spot was down a series of dirt tracks between orange groves, and several times we had to fight the urge to pluck a few oranges straight from the trees (in proper British fashion, we probably would have felt guilty about it if we’d taken some) that lined the path.  We arrived at Paralia Astéri (GPS: N36.80579 E22.72835), which looked a little more promising now that the windy weather had calmed and the sea didn’t look so much of a mess.  No other vans were here, but there was a group of around eight French 4x4s with tents and roof tents set up, who all had their tables joined together in one long run.  I hadn’t slept again last night (up until 5am again, for no real reason other than an inability to sleep), so I got to rest whilst Matt made the dinner – I am training him well!

Next stop: Monemvasia.

- Jo

More Pictures:

The Dimitrios Shipwreck


Lakonis Bungalows:
Inside the circular foyer of the main building - possibly a dining room or games room?

The walls of workshop in the basement
The kitchens
Anyone fancy a quick dip?
The tiers of bungalows
Not such an appealing beach bar in its current state...

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