A short hop from Ormo Varko around the corner brought us to Palairos, also on the mainland.
Approaching the small harbour at Palairos we could see the beach to the south with a couple of boats anchored to the north. It looked like there were a few bars lining the beach so for the sake of noise avoidance we joined the other boats north. The water gets shallow and we anchored in 3m in what looked like patches of weed and sand. The wind was blowing lightly from the south at this point.
When we arrived there were only 2 other boats anchored and 3 more arrived later. The next day had 8 boats anchored. There is a little harbour with fishing boats lining two sides of the square. The other two sides have drop your anchor Med mooring and the outside of the fourth has lazy lines (we learnt later that the harbour was free for visitors). Mid afternoon when we arrived the wind picked up and swung to the north east. I was swimming when Colin felt Emerald lurch backwards. I searched out the anchor and for the first time in as long as we’ve sailed Emerald, the anchor shank had flipped over and was now facing 180 degrees the opposite direction. Usually it would spin itself around, this time it had flipped and was bouncing up and down; it wasn’t holding well. We picked it up and dropped it in a different sandy patch and gave it a really good set and it held fine in the F5 gusts that followed. We had wanted to go ashore and eat but after resetting the anchor we thought it best to stay aboard.
Ashore is a pretty little town winding up the hill with the 1500m peaks of the Acarnanian range looming behind. Taverns and restaurants line the square and the seafront; further up the hill are a couple of small supermarkets and a butcher. An ATM was just next to the harbour and there’s a Carrefour on the road north to Vonitsa. All was quiet in town when we visited in the middle of the afternoon. It must be a laid back kind of place as the church bells chime the hour 11 minutes late.
Having failed to get ashore the first night, we took our chance on the next night as the wind was much lighter. We were slightly nervous about an Italian boat that had dragged elsewhere in the anchorage then decided to park right in front of us (why do we attract them?), but having kept an eye on them for a while they seemed to be set this time.
The Birdie Song is Alive and Well in Greece
It had livened up ashore as mostly Greek people enjoyed the warm evening. We had a beer and meze nibbles in the shady garden of a bar (I couldn’t work out its name) at the top corner of the square that seemed popular with older men enjoying an ouzo and reading the paper. In a lane behind the bar an old lady sat sewing outside her house whilst children played; another lady dressed all in black came in carrying an empty Orangina bottle and left a few minutes later with a full one. Young blokes zoomed around on their scooters and bikes, weaving amongst the people. From what we saw, sales of hair gel has not suffered during the Greek financial crisis; the guys sported some impressive gravity defying styles, and of course no helmets to flatten their hard work.
There was the usual Greek fare available at the restaurants but what we weren’t expecting was so many places offering curry. Colin had a chicken tika jalfrezi which was good though not as hot as he would like (he likes brain melting hot). We ate in the main square with a view of a children’s show; a man dressed in bright clothes with a severe sounding voice told jokes and made balloon animals. The children must have enjoyed it as there was lots of laughter; then the ‘Birdie Song’ in Greek with the actions which are universal! We were visited by two tiny kitties, one of them had learnt that a plaintive wowl would get it some food. I think the word must have gone out amongst the cats of Greece that we are soft touches when it comes to those big Puss eyes.
We have obviously seen the sunset in Greece since we arrived, but normally there’s been a great big lump of mountain in the way to stop us seeing the sun sink low. So we reckon this was our first proper sunset since the first evening of our crossing from Sicily. Palairos is a great place to watch the sunset from – look east to see the mountains turn pink, turn west to watch the sun turn the sky a burnished orange and disappear behind the low hills.
The Hills Are Alive….
When researching the place I found a walk mentioned that goes up to a monastery in the hills. From a travel bureau we got a map and directions as well as looking it up on Google Maps. I even got the map program to suggest a route, driving and walking; suffice to say there can never have been a vehicle do that journey….
The travel agent lady suggested walking along the coast road until we saw a sign pointing up to the monastery. It wasn’t a very pleasant walk. A dusty road with occasional lorries and lots of litter lining the route but a nice view of the sea. After nearly giving up we came to the sign and began to head up. First we passed what looked like the unofficial rubbish dumping ground with bags of unpleasant stuff littering the ground. As we climbed higher we did leave the rubbish behind and the views got better. We passed a small holding with goats, pigs and chickens roaming free and several bee keeper sites. As the road levelled out we spotted some stone buildings to our left and reckoned they were the monastery. The road wound a little further up then ended abruptly at a gate. There was a sign on the gate in Greek but the place didn’t look very inviting. We didn’t bother going in as we were mainly out to see the views and have a walk in the countryside.
However, we were worried about the abrupt ending of the road… we didn’t fancy retracing our route back in the building heat. Looking out into the scrubby land, Colin spotted a track just below us which we walked down to. It looked well made and could easily take an off road vehicle. We took a chance and headed down. At a fork in the track we choose to keep going down. Then we came to gate, but it was only secured with string so we walked on through. Then the track became very overgrown with bushes growing right in the middle – there’s definitely not been any Google StreetView cars down here!
The track got worse and turned into little more than a river bed but at least there were pretty butterflies to distract us. Oh and the spiders – not only did we have to look where we put our feet on the rocky, uneven path, we had to regularly look up to avoid walking into the giant spiders webs strung across the path!
Eventually the path widened out and improved and our hopes were raised for a return to civilisation when we saw another small holding ahead and a sheep on the track. Unfortunately the sheep wasn’t very happy with our presence and went running and baa’ing back into the compound with the bell round it’s neck sounding the alarm, setting off the dogs which came thundering out after us barking like crazy. They must have been well trained as they stopped just by the open gate the sheep had run through; even so we upped our pace until we were well past.
By now the track was tarmaced and we could see Palairos ahead, we could even see Emerald at anchor. Houses came into view and for the last few hundred meters lined what was now a narrow road and we finally joined back onto the main road we’d walked out on up at the back of the town. Dusty and tired we were glad to see the end of that walk!
The views were good, we saw plenty of wildlife – a black kite soaring overhead (possibly waiting for the chance to pick our bones), ‘scarce swallowtail’ butterflies, dragonflies with delicate see through wings and those millions of huge spiders. Higher up the landscape was scrubby with shrubs and small trees; as we got lower the track ran between olive grove and grape plantations. Maybe if we’d known about the track and not bothered with the road route we’d have enjoyed it more, but the travel agent lady never even mentioned it. So if anyone fancies walking it here are the directions to find the track: in Palairos follow the signs to the ‘New Mill Tavern’. When you get to it keep going to the top of the road and turn right. Then take the next road on the left which runs steep up between houses and keep on going up. And beware of the dogs! I reckon its about 7km round trip up the track to the monastery and back down the track.
13th July – Ormo Varko to Palairos: 6nm travelled (all motored)
Anchored in 3m in position: 38 47.0’N 20 52.64’E
Weather: sunny, dry, 30 degrees, light south east wind
Water and power available in the harbour.
Diesel delivery by truck.
Supermarkets, butchers, bakery in town.
Tie up dinghy in harbour.
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