Posted: 17 September 2011
Yasas everyone from Crete. Yay – at last an island you all recognise the name of. Since we last emailed you we visited a little island of Elafonnissos which had the most beautiful white sand and clear water but unfortunately did have a bit of a roll coming in which was just as well as we may have stayed there too long otherwise. Good to take an amble up some sand dunes though. We had a good sail to here from the harbour of Monemvasia where we finished up at the end of our last meandering. This included rounding from east to west Ak Maleas into the Southern Ionian. This is a cape with a fearsome reputation and boats can spend several weeks anchored at Elafonnissos waiting for favourable winds to continue their passage west. It was very meek as we rounded on a clear sunny day with light winds and calm seas. Next up was Nisos Kithera and we anchored in a place called Dhiakofti. Bit disconcerting though when you are anchored right in front of a wreck of a ship that got its navigation horribly wrong and ploughed straight up onto rocks!
Next, further south along the coast, was a lovely little spot to anchor called Avelomona Limani – our sort of village. Typical Greek village, right on the water, small and beautiful. We wandered around, looking at the grapes in people’s front gardens, looking at the interesting ways they had decorated their front fences (with pumpkins) and of course having to force ourselves to go out to dinner there. The local ladies do not have coffee groups here, they bob about in the water with their sunhats on, chatting merrily for ages. Must end up like wrinkled up little prunes when they get out.
Next was the lovely little harbour called Kapsali on the southern end of the island, with yet another walk up to yet another church with a lovely view out over the harbour and then it was off on our adventure to Crete, 60nm to the south. Our first stop on Crete was at Hania which used to be the capital but that has now switched to Iraklion. Hania has an old Venetian port and pretty little narrow streets that house lovely little touristy shops but hey guess where we had to tie up to – on the town wall, right next to the loudest bar in Crete that played their music all night and even when we got up for breakfast in the morning they still had customers.
We got all excited when we tied up at Hania because three boats along was a Kiwi boat tied up there and we had not seen another Antipodean boat for months. Unfortunately they must have hired a car and gone touring because for the two days that we were there, we never saw hide nor hair of them but we were tied up between two Greek yachts that were very friendly and helpful. On one side we had Erasmus, a beautifully sculpted young Greek sailor on his little keeler and on the other side, we had Odyssey (actually we think that may have been his boat’s name but something got a bit lost in translation). Well Odyssey was a bit of a hardcase and did offer to buy me off Bruce when he had finished with me because he reckoned his wife was not much use on the boat and not a good cook (good in bed though but apparently 1 out of 3 is not good enough)! This was not the most comfortable of harbours either as when the wind blew from the NW, which it does most of the time, it sends a surge rolling right through the harbour. This happened while we were there and it was not comfortable at all. The monohulls were rolling around all over the place. Good reason to be in a catamaran. 2 days here at a cost of 25 Euros though was pretty good including power.
Our next stop was at a small bay just outside of the port of Souda. This is a Greek naval and airforce base that is being currently used by NATO forces. The bay where we anchored used to be off limits but has now been made available to boaties. It was a lovely sheltered spot with clear water and anchored in about 4mtrs of water. However the radio was full of official chatter, “Souda Bay pilot this warship 61 etc (no answer from the pilot so repeated many times then when the pilot did answer the warship ignored him)” and airforce jets taking off and landing at the airfield just over the hill and roaring off into the atmosphere. Also regularly getting messages via the VHF telling us about the coalition forces and the powers they have and how we must obey all instructions etc issued by them.
All very entertaining to a couple of kiwis that never see or hear this type of thing in our part of the world. Our next port of call was Rethymno and hallelujah we tied up next to an Australian boat, Shirley Valentine with Craig and Lesley (what a good name) on board. Here we tied up in the marina, nobody to take your lines and you tie up stern to picking up lazy lines that are attached to permanent mooring lines. Well the mooring line was too short so after much manouvering we managed to get one of our lines through the loop and eventually we were well secured. This turned out to be another Greek Marina that is not fully operational although we did have power and water. All for the grand price of 42.50 Euro for a week! If only they were all like this. Craig can’t be a real Aussie as he does not drink much and he does not follow sports and his wife Lesley is Scottish but has lived in Australia for the last twenty years and still sounds as if she has only just left her homeland except when she would greet us with “Gidday mate” in the best Aussie twang. Well we had great fun with the two of them for three days. We hired a car and went adventuring in our little Hyundai Getz that Bruce drove around the mountain roads like it was an off roader. “Look at that down there” Craig would say frequently. Not me, I am not looking at anything way down those mountain sides but Bruce would try to look AND HE WAS DRIVING!!! Oh lordy I swear I have got more grey hairs.
We visited Knossoss, an ancient ruined Minoan palace dating from 6000 BC where they had recreated some of the beautiful wall paintings. In our little touring of the mountain villages we stopped at one and as we were wandering through this little old lady beckoned us in to her little café. Well it had about two tables inside and three outside, looking over the valley, where we sat and had little espresso cups of strong, sweet coffee (strong enough to put hairs on your chest) plus she gave us biscotti as well as some local cheese for free. She bought out some crochet work she had done and we asked how much she would sell it for (all this done with her speaking no English and us with about six Greek words). We got the gist of how long it took her to make these little crocheted head covering thingies but thought the 40 Euros each she was charging was a bit much so declined to buy them, much to her dismay. We thought she was a very enterprising little old Greek lady until we went further on in our travels to see the same crocheted thingies in a shop for 12 Euros! Here was us thinking she was such a sweet little old lady.
Our next stop was the Holy Monastery of Arkadi, originally built in the 13th century, but what we saw was the rebuilt monastery, built in the 1800’s. It is famous for the heroism of inhabitants in the Cretan Revolution against the Turks in 1866 when a large group died under their own hands, rather than be taken by the Turks. All that gruesome stuff aside, it was a very beautiful, peaceful place with a lovely little church. It made me laugh to see a little old nun remonstrating with a Greek lady taking photos of the icons in the church, right in front of the big sign that said the photo taking was prohibited. More beautiful grapes were hanging there and I am sure they were meant to feed the monks and nuns that lived and worked there but Bruce still had to try and sample them!
Our thoughts returned to home with the opening of the Rugby World Cup. We saw some of the opening spectacular on the internet and of course listened to the opening game and it was pleasing to see that NZ turned on such a magnificent spectacle, even if Auckland’s transport system did let us down. We went into a bar where we are at the moment, to watch the All Blacks annihilate Japan.
Seemed so weird sitting there with the sun blazing down outside, watching the All Blacks play at home, in the company of the English bar maid, the grumpy Greek owner of the café/bar and comments from the odd passer-by that understood what was playing on the TV. For me I got my kicks out of watching the adverts before the game and in half time. Shows how long it is since we have had TV to watch. Here is a photo of Bruce watching rugby – greek style minus the beer which he did have in the second half. (Please note Dr Nigel that my drink is the fresh squeezed orange juice whilst he-who-has-the-diabetes, has a frappe coffee WITH icecream WITH whipped cream WITH chocolate sauce on top of that!). He has been back today to watch the Wallabies lose to Ireland but I didn’t go this time so goodness only knows what he had to drink without my eagle-eyed supervision.
So that brings us to where we are now, in the Spinalonga lagoon, off the town of Eloundra. What a pretty spot and so sheltered. We visited Spinalonga Island itself today, which housed the most important defensive sea fortress in the Mediterranean in the late 16th Century. At the beginning of this century, it housed a Leper colony. If any of you have read “The Island” by Victoria Hislop, it is based here. (Good book by the way). We went by little local boat which was fun.
Had to put in here, Bruce’s good panoramic shot of the bay. The following are photos of the fortress, including a shot of Bruce pretending to make use of one of the guard posts as a loo and a shot of some of the medical bits from the leper colony for my rellies with medical backgrounds.
Well that is about all for now. Hope everyone is well and enjoying the feast of rugby. We will be in Crete for a couple more days and then off to Rhodes before returning to Turkey – well within our legal limit of time this year.
All the best Lesley and Bruce
PS: Ohhhhh Dingo Deans, sorry but your team looked a little out of sorts today. Great effort by the Irish but they didn’t have too many clues when it came to scoring tries either. Go the ASB’s!