Friday 31 July 2015

A Weeks’ Windsurfing Holiday in Vassiliki

Greece, 13th – 20th July 2015

Vassiliki Bay
We left Krioneri with the aim of getting to our next main destination during that day, the island of Lefkada where there’s one of the world’s top windsurf locations at Vassiliki. On the journey we kept seeing evidence of a new motorway being built following the same route up the west coast, presumably to connect Igoumenitsa to Patra. A section of it was marked on our map and was open, which our sat nav took us along before coming off at a slip road just before where the road stopped a
short way beyond. We got onto Lefkada over the floating bridge that connects it to the mainland. Driving around the top spit head looking for somewhere to park for lunch we stopped in a car park on the edge of Lefkas overlooking the lagoon.

We drove down the west coast looking for an overnight spot using the Womo points we had, passing through Vlicho where I noticed quite a few British registered vehicles, the first place in Greece we’ve seen more than the occasional one or two. We tried a couple of places but didn’t have any luck so got to Vassiliki already where we were ultimately going to end up to spend a while there for me to windsurf. The parking area next to the beach that I’d planned to go to which my parents had shown us on photos from when they were last on holiday there turned out to not be accessible due to some incomplete work of the storm drains running through it.

Further along we found a patch of rough grassy land between the hotels where five motorhomes were staying to windsurf plus cars were parked for the day but there wasn’t enough space for us to fit in. I wasn’t impressed with Vassiliki (Vass) on first impressions; it was very busy and touristy, in stark contrast to the quiet places where we’ve been spending time for the previous weeks in Greece, and the motorhome parking opportunities were much more restrictive than I was expecting. I was thinking at this point we’d just have to have a couple of nights on the campsite then move on.

As we couldn’t see anywhere to park we headed back north to where we’d seen what looked like a couple of motorhomes parked by the water’s edge just outside Vlicho but when we got near it turned out they were gypsies’ trucks. We tried the portside parking in the village where overnighting is tolerated but being at the side of the main coast road decided against it as it was likely to be noisy. The only option we had now was to head to a Womo spot on the opposite coast another hours drive away. However, as we drove through Vassiliki again, now around 8:30pm, the parking area we’d seen earlier looked quieter and luckily there was a space we could get into and settled there for the night. It had been a lot of travelling today doing 150 miles which was the most we’d done in a long while.

A Night on a Camp Site

Jo's friend at the camp site
After struggling to get a parking spot we had to leave it again in the morning as the toilet was almost full and we were getting low on water. We drove a mile to Camping Vassiliki Bay (GPS: N38.63045 E20.60690, €25.50 inc electric and WiFi) now having to pay full price rather than ACSI discount price as we were into peak season. Our electric tester showed no earth on the wiring but we needed it for the laptop for working on the blog so decided to just use it anyway. I spent the rest of the morning washing the van as it hadn’t been done since leaving the UK, using the solar shower and a bucket. I got as far as the LHS and cab before lunch then the rest had to be left to another time.

The wind picked up in the afternoon so we rigged my windsurf kit and carried it down to the beach. There ended up being too much wind for my 6m sail (the smallest I have), other people were out on 4-5m’s, but I stuck at it and had some good fast runs taking regular breaks. After the wind got even stronger I packed up and we worked on getting some blog entries published and had some more Lidl (Ikea-like) meatballs and mash for dinner.

After having showers and using the services as usual we checked out. The grey water emptying place is a raised drain point that wasn’t possible for us to position over due to its location so we emptied the tank by draining a washing up bowl full out at a time and pouring it in. This is also the chemical toilet emptying point just outside reception by the main entrance! It is quite a basic site that can’t be recommended for the cost, other than for if you need a site in Vass.

The Week in Vass

The main town at Vassiliki (we got our Pita Gyros from
Ionio Café on the right)
At the parking spot we were at before luckily there were spaces so we could go straight back there. We then stayed here for six nights so that I could get some windsurfing in whilst I’d got the opportunity to be in Vass. The wind here usually is light in the morning and picks up at some point in the afternoon, which tended to be around 3-5pm while we were there. We generally spent the days relaxing in the van reading and swimming in the sea. We had a couple of walks into town, once for lunch to sample a Pita Gyros – A pork kebab with salad, sauce and chips in the pitta. It was nice, Jo wasn’t keen on having the chips in it though, and was a bargain at €2 each. I also tried my first Greek coffee with it and we got ice creams to take away after, cookies and cream for Jo and strawberry for me in nice cones for only €1.50 a go. Whilst wandering around the area I noticed that most of the cars were Romanian, Polish and Serbian registered.

I had one excellent afternoon windsurfing session where I went out whilst the wind was steady but picked up and I was the first out on the water planing and the wind was ideal. It then gradually increased so I was overpowered but still great fun and was blasting up and down on every run. I was totally worn out afterwards though with sore hands, I struggled to walk to the mini-market that evening.

Overall the wind was quite annoying for the time we were there as it generally altered between none or too much. There were two days where when the wind came it was too much for my sail size making it hard work and I was struggling with it, and there were three days with no wind. On the third of these days I went out for a couple of hours anyway to practice techniques I’d been reading up on.

An Excursion out of Vassiliki

On the fourth day after I’d been out windsurfing all the previous afternoons Jo was getting fed up on the beach on her own so we decided to had an excursion to do some shopping, see more of the island and stay at a different place on the west coast for the night. We decided we’d go up to Levkas to the Lidl we’d spotted on the way through when we arrived unless we saw anywhere else suitable on the way (which we didn’t) then visit places on the way back down. The roads up the west coast were much more tricky than the east coast, they are smaller and twistier with some narrow sections through villages. After doing the shopping we went to look at Kathisma which is a highly developed beach with bars and restaurants and was packed with cars. There was no chance of us parking so we found somewhere to turn around and continued. The next place we had noted, Kalamitsi, there was only space for 1-2 campers and from the photo of the page from the Womo book the description (in German) said something about not for vehicles larger than VW-size so we decided to skip that one. Next along off the Porto Katsiki road was Gialos but we turned off to find the road turned into a rough track so had to leave that one too. We weren’t having much luck with finding anywhere to stay!

A nice looking beach on the west coast of Lefkada
The last place we had to try which looked and sounded very nice on Europe by Camper’s blog was Porto Katsiki. The road was awkward to get along in our size of motorhome being quite narrow with very little room at the sides of the road due to either cliffs, drop offs or trees, and during the peak season it was quite busy with tourists, so we had some tight passes with oncoming cars. About 5km from the end when passing an Italian VW camper the driver hand signalled that it was tight, which I wasn’t sure if he meant the passing space here or the road ahead for us. A short distance along when we took the next turning at a junction it quickly became clear that he meant the road ahead as it became only slightly wider than a single track road. Going further would be asking for trouble and it had been stressful enough for both of us getting this far, so we pulled onto a gravel area just along the road to turn around and go back. It’s a shame we couldn’t get to Porto Katsiki, we will have to wait until next time when in a more compact vehicle out of season.

This was the last spot we knew of before being back at Vass, so headed back there. In a one way section through Athani, a small village, the only way back out of town was up a very steep uphill section of concrete road which I thought might cause us problems so I changed down to first gear and accelerated up it to try to keep up some momentum but partway up the grip started to give up and the front wheels started to spin intermittently so the traction control kicked in. We rounded a corner momentarily finding a bit more grip to speed up, then just managed to keep moving, we were both very relieved as we pulled over the top of the hill! Back in Vass we got back in our parking space that was clear.

After the initial problems finding parking, when we got settled we had a good week in Vass. I think it would only be a place of interest for people that want to windsurf or sail though. It’s a shame the wind hadn’t been more consistent for windsurfing during our visit. Lefkada it seems is not motorhome friendly during the season, it may be better at other times, and access to places would be easier in a more compact campervan.

- Matt

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