Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gallipoli to Mount Olympus

Lang and Bev Gallipoli

Gallipoli Turkish memorial

Alexandroupolis and in to Greece

Early in the morning the whole team left our camp at Kum Hotel near Kapatepe and assembled at ANZAC Cove for a photo shoot. We managed to have the whole place to ourselves and got some nice photos of all the vehicles lined up together for the first time. Well known Gallipoli features such as the Sphinx and North Beach formed the background to our shots.

Three couples with their vehicles decided to stay on the Peninsular and the rest of us headed for the Turkish – Greek Border. We had to go through four checkpoints on the Turkish side and one on the Greek side. Other than it was pouring rain, all went very smoothly.

We had an overnight in Alexandroupoli where most of the group decided to stay out of the rain in a motel and we stayed in a beach front campsite with the self contained truck owners and braved the down pour.

From Alexandroupoli we had an easy day down the highway to Keramoti where we boarded a ferry that took us over to Thasos Island. Lang and I had been to the island previously and thought this would be the perfect spot to enjoy two days of typical Greek scenery and hospitality away from the cities and highways. On our free day we went exploring and climbed a hill at the back of Thasos town to see a 2nd century amphitheatre and Lang managed to get to the top where there was a medieval castle.

Most of the group fanned out in all different directions and some of the brave even hired motor scooters to do their sightseeing.

Some of us left the island by a different ferry direct to Kavala while the others went back by the slightly cheaper original ferry to Keramoti to cut us off on the highway. I had trouble finding any of the camping sites around Thessaloniki open so early for the summer so we opted to drive the extra distance (about 300km) and camp two nights at the foot of Mount Olympus.

It appears that because the weather hasn't been so great so far this season along with the economic downturn a lot of seasonal camping areas have elected to delay their opening until well into May. The upside of longer daily runs is that we are finding two nights in the one spot is great for running mechanical repairs, more thorough sight-seeing and the usual domestic chores. It is nice not to have to pack up every morning.

On our free day near Mount Olympus, Lang and I drove up an amazing switch-back road to the little village of Karya where we had a great lunch of fresh salad and char grilled lamb, so close to the snow covered peak. This remote, narrow laned, village is closed off by snow for many months of the year and the 2 or 3 little bar/coffee shops were full of old boys playing with their worry beads while chatting, smoking or playing cards. We created quite a spectacle in our old Chev and after reading the Greek translation of our journey they welcomed us profusely.

Again our camp site was beach front, and on the first night, although the restaurant was not operating, the pizza man was able to satisfy our appetites with beautiful hot pizzas straight from the oven. We even had an impromptu musical recital from Sam Cutajar on his saxaphone and a fairly tunefully woeful but energetic sing along.

Today was an easy run of 150 kms to another beach site campsite outside Volos. This is the best camp site yet – parked on fresh grass beneath 400 year old olive trees 20 metres from the water. We have been so lucky that any rain we have had seems to be on our motoring days and the sun shines on our relaxing sightseeing days.

All the vehicles are running well, with just general maintenance being done. We have our fingers crossed that this pattern continues.