The day after Terrible Tuesday started calm and gentle. We’d been ready to leave thinking every night was going to be like last night but we decided to stay and give it a chance. And we’re glad we did – Vathi is now one of our favourite places.
Once the exodus had ended there weren’t many boats left. We decided to have a walk ashore and a late breakfast treat of coffee and croissants. The town is lovely with good provisioning (an AB supermarket and a Carrefour, butchers, banks, several bakeries and fruit and veg shops), crafty, nicknack and jewellery shops and plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants. All the people we met were super friendly.
Wednesday evening was also a little windy although not quite so chaotic as Tuesday. A charter boat came in and just wasn’t having any luck with picking a spot that wasn’t too close to others, when they did find a spot they dragged – we even shouted at them from over on our friend’s boat. Colin then decided to give them a hand and went over in the dinghy – he suggested a spot, gave them advice on how to set the anchor and gave them a beer to apologise for shouting at them. They were ever so grateful and a lovely Austrian family and we felt much better having helped them than chased them away.
In keeping things balanced I should admit that our time there wasn’t all perfect. On Saturday night, the sailing club on the shore right next to us cranked up the rubbish party music and kept it going until gone 4am. I managed to find some ear plugs to keep the worst of the noise out of my head and eventually fell asleep.
I enjoy walking and exploring around the area we’re moored at. Sometimes my onshore expedition plans are thwarted by the weather (the heatwave in July was really energy sapping), sometimes we’re worried about leaving Emerald for various reasons (other boats, strong wind). Vathi was great in that the weather cooled down a few degrees and we were happy with our anchor spot, away from the main area which is in the south of the bay. We were over on the east side of the bay, which wasn’t too busy. Even better was that there were several walks around the area.
The Coastal Walk to a Chapel with Added Mild Peril From Flying Beasties and Scratchy Plants
One of the walks I was keen to do whilst here was the coastal path that runs north from Vathi. I’d spied the track running just above the shore as we came in on Tuesday. From our anchor spot it was a short run ashore and then a walk along the road to Pierou bay, a swimming beach and on the far side of there the track began (although there were no signs which was a little odd). The red soil track was well maintained and the larger branches of bushes that hung across the path chopped off. But unfortunately there were plenty of low down shrubs with scritchy scratchy arms and a couple of sections of mini holly bushes we had to shimmy through. We also faced an aerial bombardment from every hopping, flying and buzzing insect in the vicinity which launched themselves at us the instant our shadow darkened the bush in which they were hiding. Despite the mild peril, it was a lovely walk. Out at the point was a picturesque, whitewashed chapel with steps for resting on and watching the day’s exodus of boats.
Behind the church were steps leading upwards, but our progress was prevented by a locked gate with a private sign. Oh well, back along the track we went. Back at the beach we followed signs up to the ‘cannons’. We found the ruins of a Venetian fort with two cannons pointing out across the entrance to the bay, perfectly placed for repelling marauders.
Walk distance: 3.5 miles
Terrain: a well made, soil track, some scratchy bushes and one place we had to do a mini scramble.
This walk took us along the road to Sarakiniko Bay. We followed the road signs out from the south east corner of Vathi which said it was 2.5km. 5 minutes later we came across another sign that still said 2.5km! The road wound gradually uphill, past houses terraced into the hillside with views across the middle plain of south Vathi. Eventually we reached the road’s summit with a lovely view out to the bay and the islands beyond. The downhill to the bay was short and steep; we arrived at the pebbly cove in need of a swim. The water was cool and crystal clear but the cove was busy; behind the beach is a commune of ancient caravans and at the back of the furthest beach people had set up their tents.
The return was a reverse of the way out but we got the up out of the way in a short, sharp slog!
Walk distance: 3.2 miles
The Walk to the (Possible) Cave of the Nymphs and on to Paleochora
Being on Ithaka, the home of Odysseus (although there is some dispute), we thought we ought to visit one of the legendary sites. Nearby Vathi is a cave which has been labelled the cave of the nymphs and is supposed to be where a sleeping Odysseus was left when he returned to Ithaka. There’s lots of debate about its authenticity, not least that being 180m above sea level, it would have been a huge slog to carry Odysseus and all his gifts up there.
Being rubbish at getting up early we set off at 11am on another hot, Greek day. We were going to be the Mad Dog and Englishwoman. Following the road north out of Vathi, just past a petrol station we turned left and started the slog uphill. What we had been warned about, that the cave was closed, was confirmed by a notice at the bottom of the hill. But we were here so we thought we’d go up anyway for the virws. It wasn’t too steep as the road zigzagged its way up with a few level bits to catch our breath on.
Finally we arrived at the cave site, with a pull in for cars to park and another closed notice taped to a tree. We headed off the road and up the stone track to a fence with a locked gate surrounding an area with a dilapidated hut and some broken bench seats. In the cliff wall we could see another gate against a small opening in the rock. We can neither confirm, nor deny, that it may be possible to find a section of fence around the side pulled back to give access. Neither can we confirm, nor deny, that it may then be possible to pull the cave gate open to stick your head inside the dark opening. Maybe we saw someone else doing it….
Just before the fence, the stone track curved around to the left with a sign to Paleochora on it. Rather than head back the way we came we carried on up this track. It was well marked with arrows and rose gently on up giving us great views of Vathi and the southern end of Ithaka. We passed a tiny chapel (why do they build them right out here?) and a stone threshing floor passing through scrubby open areas and tree lined sections giving some welcome shade. Around 45 minutes later we arrived at a wooden picnic shelter and the remains of the stone buildings of what was once the medieval capital of Ithaka. An old bell tower and some houses could be seen but unfortunately we couldn’t linger as an ominous black cloud was poking its way over the hill above us with rumbling to match. It fizzled out before it got to us but up on the hill wasn’t a place we wanted to get caught in a storm.
Ten minutes later we arrived at the village of Perachori and began to wind our way down the hill. The village is pretty and set high on the hill above Vathi it has amazing views. We passed a cafe/bar but didn’t linger. Below the village we took a left fork onto a concrete track. What a slog it turned out to be! The track headed pretty much straight down with no zigzags to break up the steep slope. With aching legs we arrived back at Vathi where a couple of pies helped restore some energy.
The walk is signposted from Vathi, we just happened to do it in the opposite direction to the signs. It would be a steep slog up the hill to Perachori but at least you would then have all the height gain over with.
Walk distance: 5 miles
Terrain: road and well marked stone track
Height gained: 250m