Friday, 16 August 2013

Greek Odyssey (Guest bloggers Kathy, Leonie and Steve)

Well that's the price you have to pay for a holiday aboard Common Sense - just like the first day back at school after a vacation, or the test after an excursion: you have to write about it! Here is the Saronic cruise from the perspective of our fantastic crew.

After the most amazing two week Greek Odyssey, there are only two questions that remain….

Why did we come back????

Did we ever really go???

THUD!!!  The sound of the wall you hit when you realise the aquamarine blue of the Agean has been replaced by the cloudy winter grey of Bunbury, the water we were immersed in for the past two weeks is now leaking from the sky and the local wine, olives, feta and yummy red, red tomatoes have become cups of Nescafe and cracker biscuits in the staff room…………….

Cloudless blue skies, warm, crystal-clear sea, the company of multi million dollar super yachts, cheap coffee, food and wine everywhere, and 5 great friends with nothing else to do except enjoy every experience.  Under the competent direction of Captain Terry and his most accomplished Admiral Carol, the ‘motley crew’ didn’t really have a care in the world…….or we weren’t trusted to assist.  Sailing the Greek Islands is one of these idyllic holidays that everyone ‘gasps’ at when you describe where you have been.  Well, we are here to tell you that it absolutely is everything that you think it is going to be, plus more. 

The local ‘Adonis’ and ‘Artemis’ of the Greek population were friendly, relaxed and welcoming, except the keeper of the ‘beach lounges’ who was determined to collect his 3 Euros for leaving our belongings there while enjoying our daily dip!!  In fact, we created an ‘Adonis scale’ for our own entertainment, pre-Adonis, Adonis, post-Adonis and Archimedes….Archimedes appeared on the beach on our first day and it was clear that a couple of decades on from attaining Adonis status, and after years of good food, wine and the traditional afternoon ‘siesta’, the body shape of many mature Greeks assisted with the displacement of water theory made famous by the Greek mathematician.  But the Greeks love their beaches and it is refreshing to see that these people of the sea continue to fully utilise their beautiful surroundings, no matter which stage of the Adonis scale they are on!!  There should be more of it.

The super yachts in the lovely Zea Marina, our meeting point with Common Sense, may well be modest in comparison to those in the more pricey marinas to the east of Athens but we were gobsmacked by their size and opulence (from the outside), and many an hour was spent looking and speculating as to what and who lived on them, or if they were having as much fun as we were – which was not possible really. Our front and back ‘yards’ were magnificent, and did not require lawn mowing duties, or weeding. The ‘patio’ was comfortable, everything was within reach, and there was more food and wine/beer than these 5 people needed. The company was magnificent and with the Mediterranean tradition of staying up until all hours of the night, your neighbours did not complain about the noise. Not that we made any because the gentle rocking of the yacht put us soundly to sleep every night. For us newbies, far were the worries of anchors holding, running aground, wind changes or anything else that might have had the Captain and Admiral scrambling checking during the night.  Fortunately, we were blessed by perfect weather as well.

A daily dip, or 10, straight from the stern of Common Sense, was one of the many simple pleasures available to us, particularly when anchored in the countless bays around the islands in the Saronic Gulf.  The islands of Aegina, Poros, Ermione and the town of Epidavros on the Peloponnese coast were our landing pads and the villages were postcard perfect, the tavernas plentiful along the sea walls and even remote beaches, and life was languid.   Strolling through the small squares and streets, stopping for refreshments or provisions and investigating where we might have dinner that night were about the most demanding things we had to do.


Except….when our exploring and enquiring minds got the better of us, plus adventure is the spice of life, so a day of scooter hire across the hilly landscape of Poros brought about a couple of challenges!  Without much scooter experience, or licences, plus driving on the opposite side of the road, we still decided it was for us, otherwise the delights we encountered would have been unattainable.  In the traditional Greek way of riding a scooter, helmetless, we set off to the highest point on Poros, the Temple of Poseidon.  A dry, overgrown ‘patch’ with the appropriate ruins, it could have been anything, except for the magnificent view over the kilometres of Poseidon’s kingdom, the sea….Downhill to a beautiful bay below for a swim and a beer, and then  our circumnavigation of Poros, something akin to the ‘Mod Squad’.  Each turn of the winding, elevated roads unveiled another astounding outlook across the Saronic Gulf, it was absolutely breath taking.  We were riding like professionals by the end of the day, we had encountered local traffic, pedestrians, gravel tracks, double fuel tankers, unknown road rules and still were grinning from ear to ear.  To end our exploits, a beer with fellow sailors, Olivier and Lauren, friends of the Captain and the Admiral, and back to Common Sense for a cleansing dip and a late bbq dinner on the ‘patio’…..what a magic day!!

We had the exploring bug, and were also determined to visit some of the amazing historical sites that surrounded us, so our plans were made to visit Epidavros and make our way to the Palace of Agamemnon.  We negotiated the hire of a very comfortable Volvo and appointed bag boy (beer boy, wine boy, anchor boy, ropes boy….you’ve got the idea) Steve, as our ‘land skipper’ with Captain Terry and his ipad as our navigation system.  All went according to plan in the early stages, and a comfortable trip to the palace was very worthwhile.  As confidence crept in, we decided to broaden our horizons as we headed back toward Epidavros to visit the largest Amphitheatre in Greece.  Well, one wrong turn in a foreign country, already on the wrong side of the road, and you end up on the ‘scenic route’.  Apart from the state of the road, its many switchbacks and no other signs of life (almost), this proved to show us a little more of Greece than we had planned.  ‘Nav’ was confident he knew where we were and eventually the olive groves and dry river beds gave way to houses, tavernas and road signs.  Back on track, we found our way to the Amphitheatre, where a rendition of Advance Australia Fair was essential. Another wrong turn saw us rewarded with the most awesome view, looking out on to our idyllic bay with Common Sense moored just beyond the church, and then on to the beach, of course, and an opportunity to snorkel over a very well preserved sunken village ruin.

Time was closing in on us to head for home and sadly our return leg back to Athens was planned.  Unfortunately, the weather forecast the Captain had worked toward came a day early, and we motored our way back to Piraeus in strong winds, gusting up to 45 knots at times, with a reasonable bow wave as well.  We noticed we were quite lone sailors on this day!  However, after a highly skilled manoeuvre into a very slim berth at Zea Marina, the bumpy ride was over and the crew abandoned ship for a well-deserved shower, coffee and comfortable (land) couch.
We spent the last of this day exploring the wonderful markets of Monastiraki and being wowed by glow of the evening view of the Acropolis looming over this part of the city. It is always difficult to comprehend the magnificence of such ruins when we live in relatively young country. It was also astounding to us the number of restaurants and tavernas that abound everywhere, but I guess that the Greeks live a different life to us, eating out more often and strolling the streets late into the night, even the children and the babies.

Our last day together ended up slightly different to what we had planned. Back on dry land we were at the mercy of the 4 million Athenians, or at least those who were protesting at the parliament, necessitating a two hour detour of the streets after an incredible walking tour of the Acropolis.  We had a very hurried return to Common Sense just in time for our departure to the airport. It definitely made one long for the wide open water we had been blessed with for the past 10 days.

Sometimes hurried farewells are the best, as it doesn’t give anyone too much time to get emotional, usually!  However, it was certainly with deep regret, and many, many thanks, that we piled into our yellow getaway taxi, left Terry and Carol and headed home to reality.

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