After our two long, nasty wind days hiding out in Vlikho Bay, we were treated to a glorious calm. We later learned that our hurricane hidey hole was THE one place that was hit the worst by the winds. After talking with one of the charter operators in the bay, he told us they had clocked 60 knot gusts. We were happy to once again be on our way.
We had a wonderful sail to the island of Ithaca, anchoring in Ormos Pera Pigadi. This is a tight little bay with a number of boats, but we found a nice spot near a beach and stern tied to the shore (anchoring the front of the boat and tying 2 lines to big rocks on the shore from each back corner of the boat).
Ithaca is an island steeped in mythological tales of Odysseus from Homer. After a little beach exploration, our friend Emil discovered a trail leading to Arethousa Krini, a fresh water spring high on the slope of a steep cliff. Of course we had to explore it! We headed into the beach to start the hike up the steep cliffs. As has been our experience, there was a lot of bushwhacking involved (and let’s not skip the very narrow sections of trail along a sheer drop off to certain death….yes, that is the way my mind works….but it is true). When I say the trail was basically a goat path, it’s no lie. The truth was soon revealed as we stumbled upon several goats. They quickly scampered up the sheer rock face of the cliff to avoid our presence. To say they are impressive climbers in an understatement. We made it up to the cliff face and found a small opening into the cliff that dropped deep into the rock. There were two very old buckets outside the hole, but after lowering one in, we discovered the well was dry (at least for now).
According to Homer, Arethousa Krini was a source of fresh water at the time of Ulysses’ reign. The story says that Korax, who lived on Ithaca, fell off the cliff to his death while hunting. His mother, Arethousa, was said to have hung herself out of grief next to the spring. The spring was then named after her, and the steep rock was named after her son, Korakos Petra, which means Crow’s Rock. We marveled at the views and chatted with the goats (Emil speaks fluent goat, and they happily bleated back to him). It was time to head back down to the boat and cool off with a swim. As usual, we were hiking in the heat of the day.
Soon we were on our way to the island of Zakinthos (one of our favorites). Before we got underway, we noticed that 2 of the 3 pontoons on the dinghy were very low on air. It was very apparent that we had a serious leak. We spend the next hour pumping up the dinghy and spraying it down with soapy water in the hopes of finding and patching the leak. We could not find a leak anywhere. By the time we reached our first stop, Agios Nikolaos, our dinghy was once again flat. Now this, was a big problem. Since we are strictly in anchorages, this is the only means we have for venturing off the boat. It was very evident that this was not just a leak. We were tied up to a mooring ball by one of the local tavernas (you get the ball free if you eat at their restaurant) and the marinero was nice enough to give us a ride to and from the restaurant. This was one of my least favorite spots given how tight we were to all the other boats tied up as well. I will say that the taverna, La Storia, was fantastic!
At this point, we have determined that it’s time to get a new dinghy. Dan began researching, but our choices were a bit limited because of the summer season rush. He was not able to acquire his “dream dinghy,” but he found one in stock that he felt really good about, and it would arrive in Cleopatra marina in the next few days. Perfect! We had to return to the marina anyway to pick up our newest guest.
We spent two blissful days anchored in the bay at Spartia on the island of Cephalonia. Here we had beautiful sandstone cliffs, crystal waters and the occasional sea turtle. Unfortunately, we were completely boat bound.
As we continued our way north, we were greeted on two different occasions by pods of dolphins jumping and spinning in the air. We spent one night in Vassiliki bay before moving on to the island of Kastos. On our way, we encountered two big schools of tuna jumping out of the water. We quickly threw out a line and immediately hooked a big one….but we lost him….and our awesome squid lure 🙁
We anchored in a tiny bay on Kastos with a windmill bar up on the hill. That evening we took the kayak and SUP into a small rocky cove and climbed the hill to Milos bar for a great evening and amazing views.
It was time for our new dinghy to arrive, so we made our way back through the swing bridge and up to the marina. Since we were there a day early for our next guest, we decided to do some more land explorations. We loaded into the car and drove an hour up into the mountains to Acheron Springs. This river winds through a narrow canyon and was believed to serve as the gates to Hades (the underworld). The myth says that you pay Charon to ferry the souls of the dead up the river to the entrance of the underworld. At one point, I discovered a big, red cross painted on the rocks above one of the springs. Someone might be a little spooked by the mythology surrounding the Gates of Hades.
The hike starts out along a picturesque path through a variety of vegetation as it follows a rapidly flowing river. Soon you exit the trail, and now the fun really begins. You spend most of your time trekking through the river, sometimes against very strong currents, surrounded by steep canyon walls. The water is extremely cold, but eventually you get used to it (because you have become numb). There are several areas where the water bubbles up from the springs deep inside the canyon, and other areas where you can hear the roaring of the water behind the canyon walls. It creates a very eerie experience. The trek is 11.5 km, but we have not made it that far as of yet. As you get further up, there is some swimming involved in this very cold water. It is one of the most stunning hikes we have done in Greece, and definitely one of our all time favorites. One of these days, we will do the entire hike.
After re-provisioning the boat, we picked up our newest guest, Tim. When Dan’s job moved to Dallas, the three guys lived together for 5 years. I joined them all for one year of adventures in Dallas. The three musketeers were happy to be reunited, and we set sail the next day. We took the guys to a few of our favorite hangouts. In Two Rock Bay, Emil entertained us with more of his acrobatic antics off the boat, and Dan decided he needed to race his new dinghy against our new friends from “Sailbattical.” He was beaten quite thoroughly, but I should mention that our friend has a 20hp motor and ours is a measly 8hp. It’s safe to say that Dan now has motor envy 🙂 We also spent a great night in Lakka Bay riding out another big blow and then headed to Corfu town the following day. We are spending two nights here since Tim leaves today, and Emil leaves tomorrow (plus we had to get them in for Covid tests before their flights). We have reached our northern most island for adventure before we head to Montenegro in about a week. Right now we are watching for a weather window that might provide us with a southern wind (not very common here) so that we can sail our way north.
My finger is no longer black and blue, but I still have swelling, pain and limited mobility….but there is progress. I never realized how much strength the middle finger provides for the use of you hand!
We are down to 1 SUP since mine blew up in the heat 🙁 I am very sad as this was my first and very favorite SUP.
We are down one old, crappy, ugly dinghy. However, we are up one beautiful and more stable brand new dinghy!
One final sombering note: As I was on deck this morning finishing up this blog entry, our boat neighbor appeared to be struggling to get his boat underway. Because he anchored very close to the castle wall, he had deployed a stern anchor which seemed to be stuck. It looked like someone was in the water watching as he maneuvered the boat. Eventually he got free and moved on. When he motored away, what I thought was his anchor spotter was still in the water. By now, all four of us were on deck trying to figure out what exactly was floating in the water. It looked like it could be a rock, but the coloring was all wrong, and none of us recalled seeing a rock in that area. It wasn’t long before we determined that it was not a rock but a floating body. Needless to say, we were all horrified and called the police. It was over an hour, and two different authorities came by to verify the scene while the body washed around at the wall of the fortress. Eventually the Coast Guard came and placed him in a body bag. To make matters even worse, a few hours later, we witnessed a woman plunge to her death over the fortress wall. At this time we don’t know whether she fell or jumped, but it was a gruesome scene that left us all traumatized. Needless to say, it has been a very sombering day for us all.
Stay safe out there!