Sunday, July 31, 2011

Passage to Greece – 2nd Half

[Kyle]About midway across the Ionian Sea, the wind finally picked up in earnest. We had initially steered a course north of our destination in order to have a better angle for our arrival in the newly arrived strong winds. We managed to cover more distance in the first few hours than we had in the previous two days.

A watch or so later, I awoke to find Greece making an appearance as a thin line of hills on the horizon. As the distant hills grew imperceptibly larger in my field of view, I found myself amazed, as I always seem to be when arriving somewhere new, that we were actually here. All of the hoping and then planning and then preparation actually worked. Here was Greece before us and I was steering toward it. Amazing!

Arriving in Greece - note the modern lighthouse with columns - so cute!

Greece has a special place for me in this whole European adventure of ours. When I first conceived of sailing to Europe several years ago, the first thought I had was, “We could go to Greece!” In fact, truth be told, coming to Greece was my main reason for crossing the Atlantic in the first place. I figured there would be plenty of nice places along the way, and there certainly have been, but Greece is what I came for.

Yet, I have very little preconception of what Greece was supposed to be like. My long yearning to come here is based on seeds that were planted many years ago in my mind. There is nothing specific I can recall, it’s just a hodgepodge of pictures from magazines, scenes from old movies and the background as Carl Sagan strolled along narrating his series, “Cosmos”, explaining the birth of science. Added to that are images from my own imagination – probably wrong – conjured up while studying Greek Mythology in college as sets for all of the action. The resulting blend is a vague sense of a place whose only specific features are scrubby, sun bleached hills, Caribbean blue water and crumbling ruins.

I think this is good. Had I come here expecting to retrace the voyages of Odysseus, I would have had all of these expectations of what it should be like. Instead, I find myself filled with contentment at finally being here, happy to let our Greek experience unfold into something that will eventually become our own.

As we sailed further still, the hills grew and grew, revealing high cliffs beneath. I had initially planned our landfall on the island of Kalymnos, for little other reason than it was the nearest to our course from the toe of Italy. Our new northern course gave us the additional option of Argostoli on Kefalonia. This landfall turned out to give us a better wind angle for the subsequent trip, so we decided to pull in there.

Our entry into the harbor deep within the island required a terrible bash to windward to make it into the town center, turning me from content to desperate to get it over with. The visitor’s quay was protected from the wind by a large customs dock. For the first time, we Med-moored by dropping the anchor and then backing to the quay. This is actually harder than straight anchoring because the placement of the anchor must be much more precise, allowing the boat to be backed to within a couple of feet of the wall within the lateral limits of a designated berth. We were probably a bit slow and cautious, but we managed to pull of the whole thing without any embarrassments.

Fun sights from Argostoli - spare tyre anyone? & the loggerhead turtle poses for photos

Argostoli (the capital of Keffalonia), while not interesting in any grand historic sense, (most of the island’s infrastructure was destroyed in a 1953 earthquake) was just wonderful. We arrived just as it got dark and the whole town was out on its’ evening walk. Even though it was late (about 10:30pm) entire families were strolling along the quay, taking in the warm night air. Despite being tired from the passage and having much to do to secure Footprint and tidy up from our voyage, we too found time for a brief evening walk to orient ourselves with the town (busy with a Friday night of socializing). I was pleased to find a shop that sold home made ice cream to fuel us through the walk, and we eventually ended up at a small waterfront café overlooking Footprint on the quay, where we enjoyed a large plate of meze and a couple of beers (for around €5 total), relived our passage and celebrated our arrival. We’d also purchased baklava from a local friendly baker for our messy but delicious desert back on the boat – it’s a tough life.

The following day, after completing entry formalities, basic grocery provisioning and sourcing wifi for yet another new country – we found ourselves at the same café for lunch. I had a ‘village sandwich’ that turned out to be a 6” sub stuffed with tomatoes, cucumber, feta and olives (€3). All the food here we’ve found to be simple but tasty and relatively inexpensive.

Views from our walk

After lunch we took an aimless walk towards the nearest high point (across a disused causeway bisecting the harbor). Alongside the bay on her morning chores Maryanne had seen several turtles, and we were lucky enough to see another while walking together. After crossing the causeway Maryanne noticed a traffic sign for a cave and we chose that direction at a crossroads. At one point a local car stopped and asked us if we needed a ride (where on earth were we headed for in the middle of nowhere? We didn’t even know ourselves. We were very grateful for the offer but happy just to wander and discover).

About 1km up a steep hill from the road sign that set us off to the cave, we found a gas station with a friendly attendant who advised us it was another 35km (we had no idea the island was even that large!) We abandoned that quest for the cave and decided to settle for a walk the long way around the lagoon back to Footprint. By then we were hungry again and stopped at another restaurant for a basic meal and a litre of local wine (not too bad - €12 total). We have really taken a shine to this town. While lingering over dinner at the restaurant we enjoyed watching several groups of 3-4 old men with their trousers just a little too high, sitting together on benches or at tables and chatting away to each other in animated Greek. Everyone here has been exceedingly friendly, and we’re enjoying the food too, very happy to be here in Greece at last. The waiter at our ‘local’ restaurant once realizing I was American assumed we wanted ketchup with everything (even beer!); I assured him it was Tabasco!


Mommy Dearest said...

Well, Congratulations on your arrival and the fulfillment of your dream, Kyle. Don't know if Maryanne has been there before, but this is truly exciting. I love that you are wide-eyed as a child to discover whatever is there, just letting Greece be Greece. Bravo on your safe passage!

kate said...

"Oooooh!" and "Ahhhhh..." Please don't be tired of Greece before we get there. That would totally bum me out. And, I'm hungry now.