Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Kefalonia - Part Six

Tuesday 24th

Huzzah! Katie's feeling better. After an unbroken night's sleep, we take the morning easy, reading and eating paine au chocolates until about 1100. Armed with our trusty map, an ice cream (for Katie), the camera, some euros and Kioni, we followed the bay around Agia Efimia, and out towards Sami. As the last day we have the car, let me just say that, flaw's aside, she's an economic little trooper. Given that we started the day between a quarter a tank of petrol and empty, and only added twenty euros (nudging the needle to just over halfway), and the amount of driving we did (which, you'll see, is a fair bit), she still retains about a quarter tank! I want a Chevrolet Aveo for my next car now (though new- without the hiccoughs Kioni suffers from).

First off, she has a tendency to be inconsistent. Sometimes, she loves third gear, and will rocket along quite happily in it for an age. Others, she'll slow down and moan like a baby until you change up or down. Fact is she sometimes won't even accept fourth in it's place, the fussy madam! Secondly, inclines. No, we're not even talking vertical climbs, in fact, the worst we encountered were only 10% inclines; but gentle slopes. Even a hint of a change in the horizontal/vertical orientation and she slows right down if in third or fourth and climbs in the manner of a stubborn mule. Third, second gear. Between 20 and 25 kph, she'll whine like crazy, but put your foot down a tad more and tadah! silent, smooth running! And don't get me started on first gear - try to idle along in the most basic of automobile functions and you'll shunt forward then slow suddenly without warning a moment later.

But, despite all the gear issues and attitude, she's got a brilliantly tight turning circle, augmented by a very responsive power steering, and second gear has a feisty kick when employed properly (all useful for these crazy Greek roads). The air conditioning works well enough and she's deceptively spacious - all in all, she's served her purpose well here on the island. Anyway; our trip.

We stopped to add fuel just outside of Sami, continuing through the town before striking out south on the mountain pass road, past Drograti caves. Around about the highest point the pass road reaches between Argostoli-Sami, 674m above sea level, we turned left, heading along the southern face of Mt. Roudi. Just after a quite randomly-located chapel, the going got much harder. After circling a bowl of flat land (yes, I know how contradictory those terms are, but it was a bowl-shaped area, flatter than the mountains around it, okay?), and bypassing a European Union radar station, we entered the proper mountain road. Or maybe lanes would be a more apt word. Flanked either side by towering firs and pines, the path wound back and forth with frequent hairpins and a constant lack of safety barriers. By more luck than judgement, we managed to reach the top without encountering another vehicle (though we did spot a playground about halfway up, and two downed telegraph poles!).

Eventually though, we reached the sloping plateau that served as the car park, the immediate area dominated by several large radio masts. A road ran around the fenced off metal spires, which we parked at the side of in true Greek fashion. To fully orientate and acclimatise ourselves to the altitude (1,384m above sea level, to be precise), we took a stroll around the circuit. Before we left the car we were marveling at how the cloud was rolling past a tree-level through their branches, so close were we! As we rounded the buildings that formed the foundation of the masts, it became apparent how far up we actually were - from the cliff we were stood on, nothing but cloud ws visible below! Completing the round trip, we took off down a dirt track that led away from the masts, directly opposite them across the plateau. A few twists in the path and we came across a couple of lone benches to one side, bare, unobstructed (nLots of it.

Further on, aside from two diversions involving a yellow butterfly and a beautiful red-winged cricket, we found a break in the trees that allowed us a view north, amazingly enough (though we only guess it at the time and confirmed the fact later), of the bay that hosts Sami and Agia Efimia! Photo opportunities were aplenty here, though the weather took a dynamic shift just before we turned around to head home. Thick, grey cloud swept down across the path and through thre trees - this time actually about us, not just close above. Everything took on a (-n even more) surreal quality, looking more and more like a horror story setting. By the time we got back to the car, the tallest radio mast, which rose close to 100 foot in height, had all but disappeared in the thick bank of cloud that had rolled in. And we were parked next to it, no more than a few foot from its base! Needless to say, visibility was low.

Carefully we descended, pausing at the random playground for some childishness and photos before continuing down. Between the playground and the chapel, the visibility was so low we were expecting to emerge into an apocalypse - the only people left alive on the island, left to fend for themselves against a horde of mindless, once-human creatures. Alas this tale is neither that exciting nor that morbid. We emerged, intact and not alone, as the intermittent traffic attested to. Reaching the mountain pass road once again, we clove west, heading for the island capitol. Continuing the bout of mundane, we took refreshment and did a little shopping there, before following the long coastal route north along the Gulf. Crossing over the western shoulder of the island between the relatively small Mt. Agrilla and Mt Imerovigli (455m and 994m - relative to Mt Aenos, that is), we found ourselves above the poster-bay of Kefalonia - Myrtos Beach. From the views we had, it's understandable why it has become so famous - cyan blue waters lap gently at a truly golden-yellow shoreline, the encroaching seaweed beds that are found everywhere starting fairly far out in comparison to other places we've seen. The only deterrent we could see was the road down, which in light of Mt Aenos roads, was an easy drive. But, we had a better target in mind.

Not far past Myrtos we turned off the road at what first look is a tarmac drop off the cliffside. Luckily for us it isn't and twists down to the gorgeous spur of land dubbed Assos. Unfortunately for us, Katie was feeling a little off-colour again, so we didn't take the steep walk up to the fortress that resrs there, but we sat and ate an ice lolly each and observed the sheltered inlet that serves as the villagers port, pool and beach all in one. It is (and was) a little slice of paradise. Soon enough though we piled back into our vehicular trooper and traversed the width of the island's headland to get back to our apartment, pausing just outside Agia Efimia to take a picture of the sign pointing down a lane to "Hectors" (my Grandma's dog is called Hector, for those of you who didn't know).

Back home, I sadly emptied Kioni and did a double-check through all the areas, ensuring we hadn't left anything behind. After a rest and a read we changed and headed out in a different direction - at the bottom of the drive we turned left up the road, searching for a well-hidden restaurant a couple, who had been on our minibus from the airport and were also staying in the Myrto apartments, had recommended highly to us. Well barely had we turned the corner than we were accosted by Karen. She approached us across the road, with a look in her eye that put us both in mind of the questionnaire/survey/religious convert people in busy town centres, that seem only to pop up into your path when your either really late or eager to get to a certain shop. You know the type.

Anyway, Karen was the complete opposite of the usual promotion/marketing sales rep. Ok, sure, she gave us the spiel about the hotel and restaurant, but was surprisingly unique and refreshing. We unanimously decided whether or not it was the recommended place, to give it a try. Karen came up to the hotel with us and waited on us, returning regularly throughout the night to make sure everything was alright. We shared a Feta Pocket for starters, which was the fancy, up-market name for the Feta cheese with pastry, honey and sesame seeds and, whilst I'm not saying Finikas' version wasn't nice (because it is - it's delicious), the Odyssey one was better. The whole dish lighter, and the honey just in enough quantities to off-set the Feta. Perfect. For main course, Katie had pizza carbonara, which is exactly as it sounds - carbonara with pizza replacing the pasta! I had BBQ pork ribs, served on a bed of the best french fries ever. And the sauce - so fruity but not over-sweet; just right! The hotel itself was beautiful, clean (like pretty much everything except the cars here in Greeg), and bright. We sat on a terrace-balcony overlooking the road, with a panoramic view of the bay spread before us. We were definitely going back.

Just a short walk back and we have time for a chill-out before bed. The next door "Up" dog (the spitting image of the lovable lab from the Disney classic) eyed us sleepily as we passed. Tomorrow old faithful Kioni gets taken from us, spelling the doomed countdown until the end of holiday. Until then, though, more sea, sun, and good food!

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