Celebrating our 60th day on the bus as we hit Greece


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Europe » Greece
May 11th 1974
Published: September 17th 2021
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We made an early start from Istanbul in pouring rain, and it took around 4 hours to the Turkey-Greece border travelling through fairly modern villages and lush farming country, although this was not easy to view with the windows all fogged up. We had a pretty easy run at both borders, with the dual formalities taking less than an hour, which we gained by turning our clocks back an hour anyway. Most of the time was spent cashing money for the upcoming weekend and buying duty free booze – I invested USD4 in a bottle of Bacardi.

As if rehearsed, the rain disappeared and the sun came out as soon as we crossed over into Greece. About another 4-hour drive took us down to the fishing village of Kavalla. The countryside is very lush and used for farming, with also some light industry evident. There was plenty of variation in trees and shrubs, and frequent views across to the Aegean Coast. It was pretty flat, but I suspected that would change as we got further into the south of the country. It looked quite a good camping area for what was to be a 2-day stay. Due to our late arrival, we ate in town where we had a good fish meal, but we certainly paid a price for it.

The next day was pretty relaxing, just sitting on the beach at Kavalla and taking it easy. After about 10 days of rain (or so we were told), Greece turned on a scorcher, and a number of us were quite burnt by the end of the day. The beach had clean, white sand and the water was clear but cold. We spent the day lazing, playing rugby, handball (with a first up win against the Pacemakers) and booting balls all around the beach. Late in the day, we met up with an old buddy from university days who was training as a courier for Pacemakers, so we had a few grogs with him and his crew after dinner.

We left camp next day at around 8am to inspect the ruins at Philippi, where Paul supposedly preached his first sermon in Europe. This was nothing out of the ordinary, and we moved on after about 30 minutes. The trip was once again through farm country, with frequent fields of red poppies really contrasting with the green. We had lunch at Thessaloniki, the second city of ancient Greece, after a quick look around the town. The last part of the trip was very swift, along an excellent toll road, to the Poseidon Campground, some 15 kms short of Platamon.

It was a good campsite, with a long, sandy beach and, once again, good volleyball facilities. I couldn’t really join in much of the action as I was on cooking roster, which included a 5am rise in the morning. Still, it was a pretty smooth meal of soup, rissoles and veges (eggplant and zucchini, no less), followed by peaches and custard. I sat in the local bar for an hour or so after dinner, reading and listening to Greek music.

We arose to the magnificent sight of a snow-covered Mt Olympus after a heavy overnight snowfall. After yet another early breakfast, we were on the road by 7.30am heading for Delphi. We passed some very attractive farming country, but nothing really special to report. We had a good run early along toll roads, but much slower over the last 100kms as we rose into the mountains – we even dropped back into second gear on a few occasions.

We reached Delphi early afternoon and went straight up to the ruins. Once again, we baulked at the 30Dr admission, but I’m sure they don’t care too much about cheapskates like us with some dozen or so tourist buses pulling in while we were there. We were back at the campsite by 4pm to a beautiful view of the Sea of Corinth, unfortunately a little restricted by a haze that lay over the valley. Dinner took some 3 hours to prepare, including hors d’oevres, fish and potato salad, rice and cherries. Late evening entertainment was in the bar cum disco attached to the campsite. The drink of the night was a very pleasant and moderately cheap ouzo and coke.

It was a beautiful clear morning for our early run around the bay at 6am as we headed for Athens. Once again, we got a great view of the bay, although there seems to be a permanent haze over the area. The trip into Athens was short but slow, due to twisty mountain roads. The roads were also generally of poor quality most of the way, except for a section over the plains, which were bordered by wheat fields interspersed with magnificent poppy fields.

We hit Athens around midday and made straight for the Hotel Florida, where I picked up a good mail score and we were reunited with Jenny and Ro, the former back to almost full health. We strolled with them down to American Express to pick up some money that had been sent from home. We then had a general checkout of Constitutional Square and the Plaka, the big nightclub and tourist area. This area was chockers full of cars, screaming around corners – the Greek mechanics must do great business on tyres and brakes! We had a dinner of moussaka before I took off alone to the Dora Stratton Theatre for an exhibition of Greek dancing. There were some great costumes and instruments on display, but I would have preferred some faster movements.

The next morning, the whole bus went en masse to the Bulgarian Embassy to get visas only to be told they weren’t needed. We then wasted over an hour at the Australian Embassy voting in the Federal election before heading off to the blood bank off Omonia Square. Here I managed to pick up a neat 360Dr for 400cc of blood, complete with a pleasant snack.

The afternoon’s activity was making it down to the Acropolis, where not surprisingly, the place was teeming with people, to the degree that it lost a lot of its appeal for me. I noticed a lot of Africans, which seems to be a common sight in the Athens touristy areas. On the way back to the hotel, I bought a pair of shorts, and checked out the red-light district nearby (but honest, officer, I didn’t inhale!).

About half the bus went for a night out to the harbour suburb of Piraeus, where we dined at the Vassilis restaurant on a magnificent repast of fish, octopus, squid, cheese, salad and fruit. This was all washed down with copious quantities of retsina, a local resinated white wine, which to my mind would be better utilised in stripping paint! Total cost for the night was a modest 130Dr, and we returned to the hotel late and a little the worst for wear.

We were fortunate to have yet another quiet day in Athens. Three of us left the hotel around 9am and took the bus from Constitutional Square down to Voula Beach. We got off the bus at a small secluded (and free!) beach just short of there, where Jenny, Ro and myself spent about 3 hours just relaxing and chatting. It was very pleasant except that it was close to the airport and we had to put up with the constant buzz of jets taking off all day. We met up with two American students who were here on vacation and spent a couple of hours chatting with them. We then returned to the hotel for a rest and cleanup, before setting off to the Plaka for a great dinner of donner kebab, salad, beer and chocolate pudding. I managed to pick up a shoulder bag, Greek style, on the way home, before an early night.

We left Athens early the following morning to return to Platamon in spitting rain after overnight showers. There was nothing particularly eventful on the road with the exception of the misfortune of our Penn Overland friends who had basically been following us since India. Their bus had skidded on the road just short of Larissa, taking out two concrete poles and catapulting out two of their older male passengers. Fortunately, noone was badly injured but the bus was pretty stoved in on one side. Luckily, they were relatively close to the UK by that time and no doubt the dependable (and more expensive!) Penn group would have sent out another bus.

The delay through assisting them meant a late arrival at the Poseidon campsite at Platamon, and our arrival was in pouring rain. Putting up the tents and arranging the meals was a real fiasco, but the hassles were lightened by a few Bacardis. We were joined at the campsite by two other European Tour buses, one from Atlas Expeditions, and the other from another Sundowners group. We spent a pleasant few hours out of the rain chatting to both groups – first a Melbourne pharmacist named Lorraine, and then a delightful Brit named Sue. I returned with the latter and the whole Atlas crowd for a bungalow party which ended in the very early hours.

I was far from fit for the next day’s 7.30am start after less than 3 nearly sleepless hours. It was still pouring when we left and the campsite was a real mess, especially the cooking tent. We had virtual non-stop rain all the way to the Bulgaria border, which we reached at around 1.30pm.


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20th September 2021

1974 Revisited
I wonder how my life would have been different if I'd made this kind of journey at a younger age. I was much older than you when I had the opportunity to begin traveling oversees. The path not taken.... I love every inch of the Plaka and Delphi!
20th September 2021

1974
I understand your point completely. We potentially react differently to the same situation at different stages of our lives as we bring to the table a wider range of prior experiences and an added maturity at an older age. I know my life would certainly have been a lot different if I hadn't done these travels in 1974. As you will see soon, if you don't get bored with reading my blogs, I actually met my future wife during my travels in September of that year. Currently, we are still at June.

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