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Published: July 15th 2019
Issy is feeling a bit tired, so I set off on my own in our trusty little hire car. I climb the narrow road up the precipitous cliffs behind Paleokastritsa Harbour. The views are spectacular.
The road is very narrow. I stop behind another car at a set of traffic lights. It seems that the road through the village in front of me is so narrow that there’s only just enough room for one lane of cars, so I wait for the lights to change so that I can take my turn. A car pulls up behind me, and a very attractive young lady jumps out of the passenger seat and crosses the road to take some happy snaps, while her partner waits patiently in the car for a green light to appear. She finishes and comes to get back in the car, but she goes to the wrong car. She pulls angrily on my passenger door which has self locked, and curses under her breath. Twenty something me would have been more than happy to let her in. She glares in through the window, and is then more than a bit shocked to see yours truly looking back at
That’s our hotel top left
her, trying very hard to keep a straight face. She scampers back to her own car looking very embarrassed.
I turn off the main road down an even narrower road and reach the start of the path that leads up to Angelokastro, which is a fortress which sits high on a rocky crag overlooking the sea and everything else around it. I read that this was a key part of Corfu’s defence system for many centuries. The earliest documented evidence of its existence is 1272, but it may have been around from as early as fifth century Byzantine times. It was Corfu’s capital from 1387 to the end of the sixteenth century; it protected residents during three Ottoman sieges and was never conquered. Parts of the ramparts are still intact. There’s a small stone church at the top, and the views in all directions are spectacular.
I set off towards the northern end of the island. We bought a SIM card for Issy’s phone yesterday, so I have the ever reliable Google Maps to guide me. It tells me to turn off the main road. This road is very narrow and windy, and its surface barely exists; it’s
just a foaming mass of potholes. Our trusty little car skids in the gravel as it struggles to pull itself up out of a gully. I wait for the obligatory “in 300 metres do a U-turn”, but the phone stays silent. Several kilometres and thousands of potholes later there’s relief, as I’m directed to turn onto a much better road, well relatively speaking at least. The relief is short lived. Two hundred metres later and I’m directed down another “road”, although that’s being kind; it looks like it’s much better suited to goats than cars. It now feels like a long time since I’ve seen another human being. I can’t get Issy’s phone to send messages, so I’m not sure how she’s going to send the rescue teams to come and find me when the car slips off a cliff into a ravine. I’m aware that Google Maps has buttons you can press to select the fastest route, or the shortest route, or the route with no tolls, but I wasn’t previously aware of the button I’ve clearly pushed to select the route most likely to result in your death.
I arrive at the village of Sidari on the
island’s north coast and walk down to Canal d’Amour Beach. I think this means Channel of Love in French, and maybe also in Greek, although on reflection the latter seems a bit unlikely. The Canal is an inlet that the sea has cut into the cliffs, with a small beach at the end of it. There’s a hurricane blowing, and surf is well and truly up. The waves slurp into the inlet, and the few brave bathers swimming here are being tossed around like corks. If this is supposed to be symbolic of love, then it’s a very tempestuous relationship.
I walk past another small beach in the bay next to the Canal. The wind is howling and the waves are pounding in here as well, but the brave souls sitting on sun lounges on the sand are soaking up the sun undeterred. No problem for them that half the sun lounges have been swept out to sea, or that they’re lying at the base of a four metre high vertical sand cliff that looks like it’s ready to collapse on them at any moment. How can this possibly be even remotely enjoyable. You’d get more peace trying to
sleep in a tumble drier.
A lot of the tourists here seem to be English, and I suspect that some of them might think that Corfu is still a British Protectorate. Most of them seem to be involved in a competition to see who can get the most sunburnt. I wonder what the prize is; two weeks bed and breakfast in the burns unit of your local hospital when you get home would seem to be a good candidate. I wonder why Europeans seem to be so much less aware of the dangers of sun exposure than we are back in Oz. I think we Aussies used to have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world before decades of awareness campaigns curbed our national desire to fry ourselves at every opportunity. I’m pretty sure all schools in Oz now have a "no hat, no play" policy. I suspect European attitudes are a long way behind this if what’s on display here is anything to go by.
Back at Paleokastritsa we spend what‘s left of the afternoon relaxing, before heading off to a small restaurant tucked away in a gully next to the hotel. The food is good, at least I think it‘s good, but I seem to be getting more than a little distracted monitoring the Cricket World Cup Final on my phone. “Getting a little distracted” turns to full on absorption as the extraordinary finish plays out. Even Issy’s drawn in. The young Indian guy on the next table can’t get reception, so we’re keeping him in the loop as well. It’s a tie, so they go to a “super over” to decide the outcome. That’s a tie as well, so it’s all decided on some obscure rule based on the numbers of boundaries scored. England wins. I’m feeling absolutely gutted for the poor old Kiwis. It seems that they had some terrible luck go against them in the final overs.
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