Saturday, 25 October 2008

Ay Eufimia to Frikes - Lakes and Caves

Tuesday 9th September

We awoke early again and watched Eufimia wake up while drinking a coffee on board and chatting to the South African catamaran owners next door. We then took a stroll up to the taxi rank and booked a Greek taxi driver to take us to the Melissani Lake. The lake is up to 20,000 years old and was officially discovered in 1951 where relics dating back to the Minoans were also found. Part of the roof of the cave collapsed during an earthquake, bringing sunlight into the interior and giving the water a beautiful blue/gree hue in the middle of the day when the sun is highest in the sky. The cave was opened to tourists in 1963 and a tunnel leads down to the edge of the water where you can pick up a rowing boat and be taken on a small tour around the lake. As we were very early, the cave had just opened and we were the only ones on the lake. This had obvious advantages over being in a long queue with coach parties of tourists. However, the down side is that the water isn't a very dramatic blue colour yet as the angle of the sun isn't high enough. But that didn't bother us - we're surrounded by blue water every day aren't we! So we marvelled at the stalegtites and little plants that are now able to grow in seemingly impossible places and listened to our Greek rowing guide telling us mythology stories about nymphs that used to live in the cave in ancient times.
The taxi driver made to take us back to the town but we mentioned that we wanted to see the Drogorati caves too so he performed a Greek U-turn (just do it and all the traffic will grind to a halt for you) and within moments we were at our destination. In many ways these caves were even more spectacular...stalagtites and mites, formed over thousands of years were displayed in a huge corridor that opened into a 30m x 40m room. Pictures were meant to be forbidden. However, that didn't stop the coach load of Saga tourists who snapped away to their hearts content - so early in the morning, the cave guides weren't awake enough to be bothered stopping them. We took a few pictures without flash and managed to get one or two that weren't blurred.

We were taken back to Eufimia and stocked up on breakfast goodies from a bakery along the promenade. The freshly baked pain-au-chocolat were sitting in trays next to an open oven and were still warm so we bought some and they were the best we've ever tasted.
At Ay Eufimia there is a little ticket office along the prom and, having investigated, found out that we were meant to pay for mooring and water/electricity. Unfortunately, we hadn't been provided with shore power by Sail Ionian. I imagine this is due to the fact that 90% of harbours don't have facilities, plus, as you need to motor everywhere for half the day, everything charges itself!
Having settled up with the harbourmaster, we weighed anchor and motored around to Ak Agriossiki, the little inlet that we'd seen on the way into Eufimia yesterday. It was as beautiful as it looked - from a distance. But when we got up close and dropped anchor we quickly discovered that the bay was full of wasps! Not only that, but I swam ashore to take some photos and was very disappointed to find the shore covered in broken glass, barbecue remains , plastic bottles etc. It really annoys me that people think someone else will come along and clear up their mess. Why do people think it's ok to leave their child's dirty nappy on a beach?? Grrr.....! Rant over, we decided not to stay but to motor across to Ithaka and a bay to the south.
Half way across, we looked back and saw junior bobbing around in the middle of the channel. Somehow the dinghy had untied itself. Time for a M.O.B. rehearsal - and we succeeded in retrieving it at the second attempt. It was fortunate that we discovered our loss quickly. Greek fishermen are always on the lookout for this sort of thing and there's a kind of finders keepers rule which means basically, that if "found" we would have to pay for it's safe other words it's a bit of a racket and a hassle that you don't need when you're on your hols!
When we got to our destination bay, a lot of boats had beaten us to it and several attempts by us to drop anchor in water that was either too deep or too close to the rocks failed so we ended up back in Pighada Bay, this time slightly nearer to 'rat island'. Had a swim and a late lunch in crystal clear water - lovely!
We then motored between Pighada and Ithaka and were encouraged to see sails up in the distance. Finding just 10kn of wind was all the encouragement Marco needed to hoist everything and we travelled all of a few feet before the wind died again and we were drifting. Suddenly, it picked up again and we were off...woo hoo! The first proper sail in three days - we were really moving and it was exhilerating to feel the wind through the sails and no motor sounds! Of course, our good fortune couldn't last and, already having reefed the main, Marco decided to put out more genoa..."just a little" which was way more than i was comfortable with. In no time we were doing 5kn in 16kn of wind. Then it all started to go wrong....The wind, which had been nice and consistent, suddenly became 25kn - bloody hell! Winspit heeled and Marco turned her back into the wind to right her. This was fine, but then we lost all our speed...bringing her back on course made her heel again. The genoa took a dip in the sea and my feet were glued to the vertical opposite coaming! It was all happening too quick to be scared but on writing about this now...hmm it wasn't great. Heeling again, anything in the saloon that wasn't tied down went crashing from one side to the other and I for one, was convinced we were going over. This seemed to give Marco a reality check as he shoved me onto the helm and quickly furled the genoa. Having little experience and also trying to keep my balance, we gybed and tacked rather badly for a while - fortunately, with the main pulled in, this wasn't a problem but it really showed us how ridiculously inexperienced we are! All the sheets ended up in a tangled mess and it was impossible to reef the main properly in these conditions so we stuck the motor back on and limped towards Frikes, covered in sea spray.
We followed a German boat into the harbour and once past the breakwater and floating pontoon, we did a reccy of the area. We had been warned against using the pontoon due to the wash from passing ferries, and we certainly weren't going against this good advice. I spotted the familiar sight of a Sail Ionian boat moored alongside on the west of the bay and asked if we could raft next to them. The chaps on Sandpiper all helped us to moor up with lines to shore and springs etc. and we were, at last, safely 'home' for the night and could relax with a beer and dissect the days events.
Having chatted to our new neighbours and had our sundowner, we went out for dinner and chose a little restaurant called Symposium. It is one of many around the bay. The food was ok but nothing special, and we finished our evening in a little bar, drinking Irish coffee and listening to the waves lapping on the shore.

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