Definitely off the beaten track in Greece

Having enjoyed two wonderful, relatively sedate days; jogging on the beach each morning, strolling to various beach bars, exploring the lazy lanes up to the nearby Kastro castle and taking a dip every now and then to cool down, it was time for something a little more adventurous.

great camping near arkoudhi

We walked to the very end of our long sandy beach, which at first glance looked like the end of the walk, we found that there was a way, albeit clambering, through the big boulders to the next couple of bays. The explorer in us then kicked in, what if it was possible to walk all the way to Kilini (the ferry port town about 10km north) along this rugged coastline?

So next day we donned our walking shoes, filled our bladder packs with water and set off along the sandy beach at quite a different pace to everyone else spread-eagled under their umbrellas. Passing our speedo clad camper neighbours on their morning stroll, ‘Kalimera’ (good morning)! we chimed as we romped past, ‘Kalimera?!,’ they replied with a questioning lilt of their heads. It was only half an hour ago they had put their thumbs up as we returned, hot and panting, from our morning run during their breakfast. I guess they were wondering what we were up to now.

Peaceful beach walk Peloponnese

We clambered confidently over the first boulders and quickly disappeared around the corner to the next, pebbly, deserted beach.   It was like stepping ‘through the wardrobe’, a totally different atmosphere, just us and the beach stretching ahead to the next clamber point. Looking back, we noticed the path through the rocks was marked with a trail of red dots painted on the rocks. Some kind soul, who enjoyed this path frequently obviously wanted others to share…

Following these marks we made great progress from one secluded beach to another, clearly only accessible from the road via intermittent dirt tracks and local knowledge but probably way easier than clambering over the rocks.  The red marks disappeared and a long sandy beach stretched out in front of us, at the end all we could see was a tall, rugged rock face.  We trudged on, optimistic we would find a way past, our legs were regretting our morning jog on the beach as they worked to make progress in the deep pebbles.

coast walk ArkhoudiFinally we reached the end of and the tall rock face that blocked our way.  We were so pleased to find that probably that, probably, same intrepid, kind soul had rigged up a knotted rope dangling down from the top.  We pulled to test it, all good and scrambled up and over to the yet another long empty beach.

Kastro beach coast walk diversion

After two hours, now hoping that we must be nearing Kilini, we came to a curving rocky bay leading to what we thought was the final headland on the other side the bay.  As we set off, crunching through the pebbles, we announced our presence to two big Doberman type dogs patrolling the other side of the beach who replied with loud barks. “Rabies?” we both thought simultaneously…

Decision time, our three options; keep walking forwards and chance the dogs who stood their ground, barking and growling at us across the bay; pack our clothes and shoes into our water proof bags and swim round until we had passed them and could get out again (there was 300m or so to swim that we could see and we didn’t know how far round the corner before we would be able to climb ashore again) or retrace our steps across the pebbles of the last two beaches and find a track up to the road. We challenged ourselves to be adventurous but this time “what’s the worst that can happen” scared us enough…

Though our legs didn’t like it, we therefore took option three.  Trudging back down the beach of pebbles, clambering back over the tall rock and easing back down the rope on the other side back the length of the long sandy beach a mile or so, we found a dirt track and a little further on a narrow tarmac track.  Of course we should take the tarmac track, with no map and in the heat of the day however frustrated that our adventure had been curtailed by the dogs and still determined to get to  Kilini, we decided to set off up the dirt track which seemed to head more in the direction we wanted to go.

secluded tracks Arkhoudi Peloponnese

After a few hundred metres, the track split. What now? With nothing but wise old olive trees to guide us, we went right. Just a short way around the corner we spotted a man with few teeth piling water melons onto his moped. “Kalimera”, we said then making lots of scarecrow-like gestures, tried to ask which way to Kilini. After realising we spoke no Greek, he too resorted to a scarecrow poses and with a toothless smile, pointed to Kilini with one arm and Kastro with the other, of course completely the opposite to what our guidance system had assumed. We turned back yet again.

The track seemed to be never ending, our stomachs were calling lunchtime and our shoulders reddened beneath a glaze of sweat.  We stopped and switched to t-shirts.

Another climb brought us to the main road at the top of a hill where we could see Kilini in the distance.  We could also see the extent of the headland that we had considered swimming around and realised that swimming was absolutely not the right thing to do. The dogs had probably saved us as it was much further around the coast to Kilini than we had a assumed.

Finally we reached Kalini after 5 hours just in time for siesta! All of the shops and restaurants appeared shut but around the corner a large sandy beach stretched alongside the harbour and, behind it, several restaurants touted for our business each with a couple of customers.  We have never been quite so pleased to see tourists.

We chose one away from the others that looked a little more local; no pictures of their food, no fancy painted sign and printed menus with too many choices, instead a chalk board with today’s special in Greek and a hand written menu.  Being the day of the Greek referendum on whether to accept the terms of the EU bailout the waiter was keen to ask why we came despite their problems and to tell us his views on the situation.  “The Greek people will say ‘no’ but a vote yes or no does not matter.  We simply need help and we need tourists.  Where are my tourists?” he said looking out across the beach with his hand held to his forehead.  Of his 30 tables 3 were occupied, “Now we should be full” he said “so now I fear we may not be fat in time for winter this year.”

Every restaurant in every place we visited in Greece so far has been the same, you can see the concern in the eyes and bodies of everyone as they welcome us warmly and always thank us for coming. Emotionally and very full, we thanked him, wished him luck for the season and set off to retrace our steps down the dirt track and along the beach, back to the campsite.

Kastro coast walk

A couple of beaches prior to home and just before the last, most difficult rocky scramble we were tempted by some steep steps and a bar/restaurant sign. Our drained legs managed the steep steps and perched on the cliff above was the small restaurant that had been our oasis the day before when we walked and found a dead end. They recognised us and waved as we emerged at the top of the steps.  ‘Thyio Mythos parakalor’ (two beers please) I panted.  ‘You come from camping?’ he asked as he delivered our fantastic beers in two iced glasses, ‘Yes from camping but then to Kilini and then here’ Adam explained. ‘Ooof, wow!’ he replied and left us probably thinking ‘Crazy English!’

Our legs and mood were very light as we followed the red dots, clambered back through the last boulders and ‘out of the wardrobe’, onto the sandy beach, landing next to a startled family building a sand castle.  Another great little adventure, an off the beaten track Greek coast walk and a day of exploring just as we like it.

Rock pools in sunshine on Kastro beach

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