The Conquest of Zakynthos

Trip Start Feb 28, 2011
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Trip End May 26, 2011


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What I did
Conquered the Island

Flag of Greece  , Ionian Islands,
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That Tuesday I left the school early. In the atfernoon I was to set sail to the south. My rental car was a Fiat Panda, better than I had expected. After a short stop at a supermarket to stock up from sweets and liquids, I headed for west on the Egnatia Odos, alone this time :)


 The Egnatia is beautiful at dusk. And empty :) The deer signs are kind of funny when they are accompanied by "Watch out for brown bears" :) After just over a hundred kilometers, I turned left, towards south and I followed the national road that meanders along the Ionian coast. Sometimes, of course I took a photostop, you can see the results of attached ;). After 450kms (I love driving great distances!), just a little over midnight I arrived to the small port-town of Kyllini, the terminal point for the day.  I quickly checked the ferry times and the rates and I decided to leave the car anchored at the port, as it was the more cost-effective (and greener) way. Then I quickly converted the Panda into a Hilton Suite and went asleep. Sharply setting the alarm to 7 AM turned out to be causeless as the first ferry (from Kefallonia - an large island in the Central Ionian Sea - emphasizing its arrival multiple times, making sure it convinced everybody of its presence...) arrvied at 6.

After a short one hour cruise (what a great, luxurious ship Dionusos, Ionian ferries it was!) I arrived to Zakynthos Town port. Of course, my main objective (holding an elite position on the Bucket-list) was to see the Shipwreck (Navagio) and its bay. Altough I knew there were a lot of ships visiting the bay, I wanted the land route, as I thought it would offer me greater perspectives. I had my bet on a scooter, so, after a while I found a scooter rental facility. The scooter I got quickly reminded me that it has been a while since we met... I realized that there was no way I would make it to Navagio, unless the ambulance or the police took me there. So, I traded the scooter for a bike. I knew that Navagio was about 30 km-s away, but hey, I am fit, I got my GPS, what's the problem? The problem was nothing for the first couple of kilometres, which was a good thing, since I got used to the bike. It was a pretty neat bike actually, several hundred eruos, I suppose (Mongoose). Then the redeemer idea struck me: I should take a shortcut! I stopped for a minute or so for a careful and thorough study of the GPS map (which would soon loose its charge...) then I headed straight up the only mountain on the island :))) The road seemed okay at first, then it started to worsen. As I slowly ascended (here still full of strength, boosted by the adrenaline of my excitement to fulfill my quest) the villages started to disappear, then the sheep herds, then the trees, and eventualy it was only me, my bike and the rocks. It was a very exhausting ride, but when I arrived to the top of the mountain, I decided that it was already worth it. The scenery that emerged in front of my eyes was comparable to nothing. Zakynthos was a smaller and a far less commerce island than Corfu, so it had some really desolate regions. Like a lonely Pacific island, a perl in the blistering blue Ionian Sea... It was beautiful! 

The descent was in a creek bed that I think even the most agressive brooks would have been too frightened to engage... (Let me mention that when I was asked if I wanted a city or a mountain bike, I chose the former one. I would be riding only on tarmac anyway, and its more comfy...) Eventualy, it turned out to be a test more for me and less for the bike...

At the foothills, the tarmac returned, so after ~10km of endless ups&downs, I saw the western shore! This area of the island is very sparsely populated and only very few choose the land trip against the sea one, so it was very relaxing and enjoyable to drive down to the Navagio Bay from the settlement of Anafonitria. I quickly locked my bike, grabbed my camera and....

 
there it was: The Shipwreck at Navagio Bay!

 
Unquestionably a distinct experience, one of the most beuatiful sights I have seen in my entire life; not for the wreck itself, but instead for the unique sprakling blueness of the bay. I climbed down  the cliffs as far as I could and took the apex photos of the trip. It was this, after all, for which I have decied to drive over a thousand kilometers and spend a kindey worth of money to make this trip. And I think it deserved every cent and minute of it!

On the way back, I stuck with the tarmac road, despite the traffic - let's say the "bike" had enough off-road for the day. I even got ahead of schedule, so I had time for a gyros at a seaside restaurant and a quick splash - water not so salty than on Corfu.

Back to Kyllini, I got into the car and I stopped in a parking lot just after the Rio-Antirio bridge, near Napfaktos city. The upcoming 8 hours were one of the most deserved sleeps of mine, I think :) The fact that actually I was on the lowered passenger seat of a Fiat Panda in a sleeping bag, encircled by horde of baggages, in a outskirt parking lot did not matter at all :)

The morning saw me rested. I needed it, because I had redesigned the itinerary, as I choose not to go back on the Ionian (Western) shore (which would have been the shortest, but already travelled route) instead I would cut through the Southern Pindos Mountains (and through the country) towards Lamia and then I would follow the Aegean (Eastern) shore route (A1) through Larissa, the beach resorts under the Olympos, towards Thessaloniki and eventually Makedonia Airport (Halkidiki). I planned to avoid motorways as far as I could in order to see more, but from Larissa onwards, I was glued to the motorway by time concerns.

With this eagerness to explore, the trip back to Thessaloniki became 650kms instead of the planned 450, but it was worth it. I saw a lot of open-pit mines in the Southern Pindos Mountains, with a handful of truck hauling their cargo to the nearby cities of Amfissa, Gravia and Lamia. An instereting thing I noticed is that the typicial greek village is not built on the foothills (as it is usual here at home), but instead it is a couple of hundred meters uphill. And this was not a just a peculiarity of one village, I saw a lot of these, even on the islands (not so evident there though).


Just and hour before my flight I arrived to Makedonia Airport and checked in. 


Checks, checks, checks, ~27 kgs, three charmant glances at the miss and 



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