Friday, 5 October 2012

Leisurely drive from Athens to Ioannina, Greece (1-5 Oct 2012)

We left Athens and made our way west, driving along the coastal road towards the city of Patra. At Kamari beach near Kineta, we camped for two nights and whiled our time away swimming in the cool waters of the Gulf of Corinth, reading, studying our route and watching locals fishing. Mum and dad took long morning walks along the beach taking in the clear waters and beautiful people. Mum made pancakes for breakfast and we ate them with honey we bought in Turkey. Next, we made our way to Lykopria, Diakoplo, Kamares and Rodini.
Beach front houses facing the Gulf of Corinth.
  Dad chit chatting with a local family near Rodini
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On Oct 4th, we arrived at Patra and wanted to take the ferry across to Antirrio. Unfortunately, our GPS took us to the wrong ferry terminal. The locals were not helpful at all and the few we managed to speak to pointed in all directions, each different from the previous person. After driving to two terminals, at the third one (the one next to the Rio-Antirrio Bridge) we managed to get the right ferry and made our crossing.
Our Sorento onboard the ferry that will take us to Antirrio.

Rio-Antirrio Bridge – world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge. Located in an area with high seismic activity, this bridge is considered an engineering masterpiece. To accommodate tectonic movements, the piers have been built to slide on their gravel beds. We made the crossing from Patra to the mainland via ferry as it was cheaper and comes with a good view of the bridge too.

Another view of the Rio-Antirrio Bridge – officially called the Charilaos Trikupis, after the Greek Prime Minister of the late 1800s who dreamed up the construction of the bridge.
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Once on the mainland, we headed north west. At noon, we crossed the Evinos Bridge and came across the ruins of the Ancient city of Kalydon. Driving from Evinos to Astakos, drove passed olive farms, beaches, rolling hills and mountains.

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Ancient city of Kalydon, located west of the Evinos Bridge
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We reached Astakos at 6pm. There were lots of luxury yachts from other European countries docked here. Astakos is also a fishing port and distribution centre. We met and chatted with a couple from Holland who were having home made dinner complete with wine just outside their caravan.
Along the bay, anglers were trying their luck – a lady angler caught some fishes but kept throwing them back into the crystal clear waters below, probably just to while away her time before bed. We treated ourselves to seafood dinner with fresh calamaries and fish roe salad. Astakos means lobster in Greek, but we did not see any lobsters around.

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Fish roe salad (left) and hot cheese salad (right) with some toasted bread. The fish roe salad was excellent.
Fried squids
Fried pork with chips
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We stayed the night at Astakos. On the next day, we continued our journey round the bay of Astakos towards Palairos keeping to the coast of the Ionian sea. The landscape is one of rugged bare rocks layered with the occasional patches of green with goats and cows grazing on one side and on the other great views of the rocky beaches of the Ionian Sea.
Not something you see everyday - Goats sunbathing!
This little one has been given look out duty while the rest gets to laze around in the sun.
Slightly narrow but very good roads along the coast of the Ionian Sea. Traffic is so few and far between, making this one of the most relaxing scenic drive.
Rocky beaches, taken about 9km south of Palairos.
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Another view of the coastline. Also taken less than 9km south of Palairos.
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By noon, we reached Vonitsa and stopped at a local bakery for some cakes, croissants and bread. The owner could speak English and gave us a little history lesson on the Greek Orthodox religion.
This bread with sesame topping is made only for special days (eg. name day). On the day itself, the bread will be brought to the Greek Orthodox church. After blessing with wine, the priest will break the bread and offer it to the church goers. On not so jovial occasions (like a funeral), a similar bread minus the sesame topping will be brought to church for blessings and later shared. These breads used to be made at home, but these days, some prefer to order them from the bakery instead.
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Next, we headed to Aktio, on the Ambracian gulf, where a wrong turn took us into Cleopatra Marina with luxury boats and yachts of all sizes bobbing up and down to the rhythm of the waves. It is windy and cold here.
Retracing back our steps we managed to find the right road and took the undersea tunnel to Preveza. We then made our way north to Ioannina, stopping mid way at Befra for some pastries and pizzas.
Tea break at this unoccupied hut facing the Ambracian Gulf.
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Ancient Nikopolis, taken at the roundabout about 8km north of Preveza.

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