Monday was the day for moving on …. for me at any rate. I just hope that Greece and the rest of Europe followed my example.
I had sussed out a potential hotel in Areopoli on the internet, e-mailed about availability and they had, without being asked, e-mailed back with bus times and connexions. I had originally planned to catch a bus from Kardamili at 08.00. Perfectly do-able but a little early to be able to take on board a caffeine fix and spot of breakfast. I should explain that though this transfer was entirely on the West coast of the Mani Peninsula it involved two buses. There is a bus from Kalamata to Itilo via Kardamili and another from Athens via Geithio on the East coast which completed the journey to Areopoli. They met up once a day in Itilo for the final leg of my journey.
The information from the Areopoli hotel suggested catching a bus at 14.15 from Kardamili so I went along with that. It gave me plenty of time to faff about in the morning and have a leisurely, and very enjoyable, breakfast in the coffee shop as I had eaten all the provisions in the fridge.
As I have mentioned a number of times in the last few days, I have been reading a book on perception of time which I have found very interesting and insightful. But, practically speaking, I couldn’t help becoming a bit concerned, even up-tight, when the bus still hadn’t turned up in Kardamili 10 minutes after it was due. I couldn’t forget the number of incidences at home when the bus just hadn’t turned up at all. Nor could I forget the unceremonious dumping of passengers in obscure lay-bys at the edge of town which I had already experienced this trip. The fact that I had waited hours on harboursides for ferries to turn up without turning a hair meant nothing. I had a connexion to make! Didn’t they realise that!!!
I started to work out alternative scenarios. Finding a place to stay the night in Itilo. Forking out money on a taxi yet again. I took to pacing the pavement instead of sitting placidly and patiently in the taverna in the square by the bus stop. I even wondered if I was in the right place and had to keep reminding myself that the road through the centre of Kardamili is the only road south. The bus couldn’t possibly have gone any other way. Thank goodness for the Viros Gorge, it pushed the road right to the edge of the sea. Why my brain couldn’t accept this I don’t know. I guess it shows how irrational we are all capable of being, imaging the worst rather than hoping for the best and expecting an actuality somewhere in between the two.
Eventually, 20 minutes late, the bus turned up. A great welter of people who had been loafing around the square all queued up to get on board. I was clearly the novice at this. By the time it left Kardamili virtually every seat on the bus was occupied. Most got off at Stoupa, a holiday place and the first major stop on the route. Most of the rest got off in Agios Nikolaos, a very pleasant fishing village where the bus had to breath in to get along the harbourside. From there the bus ground its way very, I mean VERY, laboriously up into the mountains. It stopped at tiny villages ever higher and higher, seemingly with one person getting off or on each time.
The landscape became increasingly rugged and rock-strewn, the mountain peaks of the Taygetos towering above us. It was clear that this was a different world. We were now in ‘Meso Mani, the ‘Deep’ Mani rather than ‘Exo Mani’, ‘Outer’ Mani.
The views were breathtaking but progress was very, I mean VERY, slow.
I gave up hope of making the connexion to Areopoli and started homing in more closely on contingency plans. Then all of a sudden, rounding a bend the bus pulled into a dirt lay-by with a curtained tour bus parked and, underneath a large shade tree, a rusty old pickup truck laden with fruit and veg and two itinerant vendors stretched out having a siesta on the long roof rack. The driver switched the engine off and shouted up to me ‘Itilo’.
For quite a time now I had been the only passenger left on board. It seemed that we were on the outskirts of Itilo and this was the bus ‘terminus’. No KTEL buildings or tavernas or signs any kind. The driver started unloading boxes from underneath the bus and carrying them around to the other side of the tour bus …. which turned out to be the scheduled bus to Areopoli. It was waiting for the bus from Kalamata with its parcels and any stray tourists who might have strayed this far south. I was the only person on that bus as well.
At 16.30 the bus stopped at what was, in comparison to Itilo, a proper bus terminus at the edge of town. It had a ‘stathmos’ sign, a café and another bus parked up. Tumbleweed blew across the parking lot. Though that might have been in my imagination.
I trundled my Big Bag to the centre of town, about 400 metres away, and found the hotel I had sussed out occupied one side of the man square. Everywhere seemed hushed and closed, the broken wheel on my Big Bag echoing embarrassingly as I trundled it over the paving. The hotel was a haven of cool and the reception staff couldn’t have been more helpful. There is no WiFi in the room but there is an Ethernet connection, cable supplied.
When I emerged back into the sunlight after sorting myself out in the hotel the town was starting to come to life after the siesta. Checking the map and the 8 foot high copies of it in the square outside the hotel, it was clear that there is a lot of good walking here including two mountains called Profitis Ilias to climb and lots of ‘must see’ places to visit.
I can’t close today’s blog post without reference to the fact that in front of the hotel is the famous statue of Black Michael himself. More about him tomorrow.
So now in almost as deep as I can get into the Mani. But not quite.