Making travel friends

Winter in Greece Pt 2

By the time that we’d been travelling in our motorhome for 2 months we had met a few people along the way to spend a couple of days with, share a beer and travel stories (or even a Halloween party!) but no-one that was going in the same direction as us who we really bonded with. That is, until we met Cony & Ari (& their dog Jagger) from GetonTrip. We had been wild camping since we had arrived in Greece and desperately needed to empty our toilet & grey water and refill our clean water. We’d also had quite a few days of rain and thunderstorms so were running low on electricity. This meant that we HAD to find a campsite. Being in Greece out of season had so far been a good thing for us; we had been able to camp at the beach in Halkidiki and had a lot of space to ourselves. It did however, mean that a lot of the campsites were closed.

With Cony & Ari from GetonTrip

Our next stop was Mount Olympus so we used our park4night app to guide us towards an area that had quite a few campsites and was heading in the right direction. We had been either following or were being followed by this other camper van, who was obviously also looking for a site to stop at. We passed two sites, they were both closed so looked at the app again to find two other sites that were next to each other. We drove on a little further. The first site had excellent reviews for everything. The other site next to it did not… in fact, the recommendations were to avoid it. We pulled up outside the first site, with the other white van closely behind us, only to find that the campsite was closed. I frantically looked through the app again, to find anywhere to stay, as Callum got out to chat to the owners of the van behind us. The gaudy pink gates of the second campsite had opened and two dogs ran out. Suddenly there were dogs everywhere; barking and running around. The two from the campsite, other dogs from within the first campsite and a dog from inside the white van! During the bedlam a lady walks out of the second campsite to round up the dogs and says “You need a campsite? We are open” Callum and I look at each other and at the people in the other van. What do we do? We really needed to empty the toilet and fill the water. It can’t be THAT bad, surely? We decided to give it a go and told the drivers of the other van (Cony & Ari) that we’d stay here. They said that they would too. We drove in and were introduced to the owner and his wife. He was Greek and spoke very little English and she was Russian and only really spoke Russian. The site had clearly been closed for a while and the white van had disappeared. They’d run away and left us! The whole place, I mean EVERYTHING- walls, gates, taps- was painted in what (I presume) had once been a baby pink but now looked a sickly pink/grey. They guided us through overgrown trees and grass onto a ‘pitch’ that we struggled to work our way onto, all whilst the dogs were barking away and running around the motorhome. The owner showed us the toilet block (best to avoid!) and he was very proud of his ‘warm shower’ (4 pieces of upright corrugated iron with a door, also painted pink). We thanked him & headed back to our motorhome where his wife was waiting with a plastic bag. “Gift for you” she said, passing us the bag. “No thank you” we said, not wanting to buy anything. “It’s free. It’s a gift” In that case… “Thank you” and she left. It was a huge bag of fruit from the trees growing at the campsite. Apples, kiwis and persimmons. That fed us for more than a week. It was a bit run down and a bit strange but the owners were friendly and had opened up for us so we decided to make the most of it. We walked through the campsite to the beach, took a walk around and headed back to the van… where we found the other white van! Cony & Ari hadn’t abandoned us at all, they had just gone to get cash to pay for the campsite. Hallelujah!

They set up next to us, we started chatting. They told us about travelling with their dog Jagger (we thought he was called Shagger initially) all the way from Argentina. That night we had a campfire, a few drinks and some food and made friends immediately. As we were all going to Mount Olympus the next day we decided to go together. We drove to a car park at the bottom of Mount Olympus and spent the day hiking (shooting some drone footage) and enjoying the magnificent views. On the maps on our phones we could see a restaurant halfway up the other side of the mountain, that was also a parking spot on park4night. We decided to head over that way and eat there that night. The route that we were given on Google maps sent us up the mountain through the old town. We led the way but after squeezing through some very narrow streets we decided to follow them. The van they were driving was much smaller than ours- narrower, shorter and lower but even fitting that through the down was difficult. I don’t know quite how we managed to get ourselves out of the town but, thanks to Callum’s excellent driving, we did. We headed back down to the car park and looked for another route up. This one looked much easier, nearly all on actual roads. It’s certainly a day of driving we will never forget. You can watch the video here- hold your breath!

Mount Olympus, Greece

We finally made it to the restaurant, still in one piece. We asked the waiter if they were still serving food, he said yes. As we walked in we saw a group of women on a big table piled high with food. Yes! All that effort to get here was worth it, this was the place to be. The waiter said some of the things were not available but we still had quite a lot to choose from. We asked for 4 traditional Greek Souvlaki (pork belly kebabs) with chips. After a day of hiking and stressful driving we needed a proper dinner. It took quite a while for the food to come from the kitchen and we were all really hungry by now. The waiter came with our food & put them down in front of us. 4 tiny plates of miniature kebabs with about a dozen thin french fries each! Callum & I looked at each other with a knowing “I’m going to need more than this” but didn’t know how Cony & Ari would react, we’d only known them for 24hrs. They looked at each other, we looked at them then we all burst out laughing. We were going to need more food. When the waiter returned we simply said “4 more like this”. We laughed and talked all evening, ending the night by watching a movie in our motorhome, with Jagger the dog & Theodore (our cat) too.

Cony & Ari were heading to Sikia, which we had never heard of, but it was heading in the right direction, further along the coast, so we decided to go too. We are very glad we did! What an incredibly beautiful place. There were only another two or three vans at Camping Sikia so we chose pitches right on the beach. Every morning we woke up to the sunrise and saw the sun set over the sea. The little town was just a 10 minute walk along the beach and it had a wonderful restaurant where we ate a couple of times. The sea was crystal clear and we had the beach to ourselves. It was paradise! (See our video here) Cony & Ari had a ferry to catch in a few days so had to head north. We were so sad to see them go but we knew this wouldn’t be the last time we were with them. We loved it so much that we sent an extra two nights at Camping Sikia after they left.

Camping by the sea, Sikia, Greece

For the next few days we ambled south along the coast. From Sikia we went to Larissa then onto Paralia Almirou and Arkitsa. We had got into the swing of wild camping now and we were loving it! Finding empty spaces to spend the night or asking if we can stay in the restaurant car park (if we ate food and drink there), filming a bit of drone footage, watching the sunrise and set, swimming in the sea in December and only being woken by the wild dogs. What a wonderful life to be living. It was rough around the edges but we had fallen in love with Greece.

We had always loved wild swimming (in lakes and rivers) but in Greece we found hot thermal springs! Our first thermal springs were in Thermopylae (named after the hot springs). The surrounding area was a bit ‘industrial’ to look at but we decided to try them anyway. They were incredible! We were addicted and vowed to hunt down as many hot springs as we could which led us to taking a ferry from Arkitsa to Edipsou on Evia Island and the greatest thermal springs we have seen so far. The ran off the cliff, at the side of the road, causing a hot waterfall that landed in the cool ocean. On the other side of the beach there were natural pools of warm water that were filled by the spring that burst out of the rock. What an amazing thing to experience. We stayed one night right on the beach (another off season perk) and made our way down through Evia island the next day- not a usual route for drivers of huge vehicles, but by now we could drive just about anywhere. We saw one of the oldest olive tree in the world and drove on mountain roads that suddenly disappeared, were still being laid or sporadically had too much tarmac on them. It was certainly an adventure!
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After Evia Island we wanted to experience a bit more Greek history so we stopped at Marathon, where the modern day marathon race got it’s name. We stayed at the Olympic Rowing Centre, Schinias, home of the 2004 Olympics and also now a National Park & Wetlands (parking on park4night). It was a really wet and windy day but we just had to get the bikes down and cycle around an Olympic venue! This was our last stop before we headed to Athens and met new travel friends, one of our favourite things about travelling… but more on that next time 🙂

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