Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Back to Leros and around

Following our northern tour, we motored down to Lakki from Arkhangelos in the morning of Thursday May 24th. We could not go into our usual place because we had almost no power (and a lot of noise) in reverse. Fortunately, the wind was blowing onto the quay by the main road, so we could let the wind back us in there. The first priority was to get the gearbox fixed. Georgos at Arkhangelos and Ray and Nigel had all recommended Dimitri, who has a workshop opposite the Port Police. At first he was reluctant to take it on, because he said the problem was one of time, because his health was bad and his son was a fisherman, but when I said that we had plenty of time and that I would take out the gearbox and bring it in, he agreed to look at it. As I was leaving, his son said that I should first see if it worked when I disconnected the cable. When I got back, I disconnected the cable and it seemed to work. Later that afternoon Steve came over to help me take out the gearbox and I told him what Dimitri’s son had said and that it seemed to work, so we checked it again. It seems that the problem was that the connector on the end of the cable was seized so that it could not rotate properly. Steve cleaned it with WD40 and greased it and reconnected the cable, and it worked like a dream!
The next day, Friday, we spent shopping, chilling and doing odd jobs. That evening Al and Kitty came to dinner and we had a very enjoyable evening, catching up on their success with the hotel.
The first swallows have arrived on Leros!

On Saturday, May 25th, we did a lot of shopping and odd jobs around the boat. We bought a frozen leg of Leros lamb from the Australian butcher, but it was not defrosted in time so we just had a cheese omelette for dinner. After dinner, Simon went to Poppy’s to watch the Champion’s League Final. He sat inside, where all the other people were refugees, all of whom supported Real Madrid.
On Sunday, May 26th, Sue and Steve came over at 9 to take the boat out for sea trials of the gearbox. It went into reverse, with full power, and all seemed fine. We anchored off Merikhia for the morning, where Lin swam, and watched with some amusement as a coach and a minibus arrived at the Sun Set taverna and disgorged a mass of Saga louts who were staying at Crithoni Paradise. They seemed to be hanging around until some music started playing and a van arrived from the cake shop. Presumably this was a feature of their island tour! We watched the petrol boat coming in and Sue noticed dolphins playing around its bow – we have never seen dolphins in Lakki bay before, but presumably they poach from the fish farms at the entrance to the bay. In the afternoon Simon went to Poppy’s to watch the grand prix and in the evening we had our Leros roast lamb, which was absolutely delicious.
On Monday, May 27th, we cycled over to Platanos and up to Christos, where we left our bikes to walk up to Apetiki, which saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Battle of Leros. We marveled at the young soldiers who were sent backwards and forwards from Meroviglia, on the opposite side of Platanos, due to the indecisiveness of Brigadier Tilney, the commanding officer, carrying their heavy packs and under fire, many dying on the way. (See our Battle of Leros blog for pictures of the battlefield).
The view to Pandeli and Lakki Bay from Apetiki
On the way down we stopped for coffee with Al and Kitty, then had a swim at Pandeli. As we cycled (or Lin pushed her bike) back up the hill from Pandeli we were passed by a group of IslandHopping cyclists, whose apparent ease was soon explained when we saw that almost all had electric bikes. In the afternoon we chilled, before going out to dinner at Lykhnari with Sue and Steve.
On Tuesday we did washing and shopping in the morning and took some cushions in to Yanni to be covered. After an early lunch aboard we went for a lovely walk, up the road past the marina office 

to the top, then along the ridge between Lakki and Gourna Bays, with great views in all directions, 
Lakki Bay

Gourna Bay

passing a scrawny donkey, 
some healthier horses,
 a lot of bee hives, some smelly chicken sheds 
and an enormous thyme bush. 

We were surprised how much of the stony ground was cultivated up there.
When we got to the ‘landfill crossroads’ we set off back along the low road, but some yappy little dogs were loose, though the big dog was chained, so Lin turned back and set off at great speed to return the way we had come. We finished with a walk down to Merikhia through a wood 
and swam from the stony beach by the Lime Bar, before walking home for cups of tea.
On Wednesday morning, May 29th, we cycled and walked up to Meroviglia, which was the British headquarters in the Battle of Leros and where Brigadier Tilney surrendered. We cycled up the backroad to the crossroads at the top of the hill, but Simon went the wrong way, so we ended up on some very rough tracks before we got back to the right road. We left the bikes at the Meroviglia turn-off to walk the rest of the way. At the top of the hill were some modern Greek military buildings and the remains of the Italian gun emplacements and associated ammunition stores, but we could not find Brigadier Tilney’s cave. Julie told us later that the photos on the internet are probably not of Tilney’s cave (though we could not find anything looking like the photos either) and that the entrances are lower down the hill, one near Gourna, because the cave complex was deep under the hill. There was a cave entrance on the track up to Meroviglia, but we didn’t have a torch so could not explore it.
There were amazing panoramic views over the island from the top – a good place for a headquarters, but a hell of a climb up and down for the defenders, and even more for the attacking Germans.
Apetiki and Pandeli from Meroviglia

The castle from Meroviglia

Lakki Bay from Meroviglia

Gourna from Meroviglia (The Windmill on the left)

Rakki Ridge from Meroviglia

Alinda Bay from Meroviglia

Agia Marina from Meroviglia

On Thursday, May 31st, we left Lakki to sail down to Xerokampos, a bay on the south of Leros. As usual, the wind swirled all over the place. We got onto a buoy off the Aloni restaurant.

 On the way, the fanbelt had started slipping again. After lunch, Simon got down to work, struggling to free the bolts that had stopped him tightening the fanbelt properly. Finally, with the help of WD40 and a sledgehammer, he loosened the bolts and tightened the fanbelt. We went for a rather disappointing dinner at Aloni. Phillipe and Concecao, who were on the white buoys, belonging to the new taverna, said that the food at the new taverna was very good, so we will try that one next time.
On Friday, May 31st, we set off early to walk to the east headland, past a little chapel, Panagia Kavouradina (The Virgin of the Crabs), built about 1700, whose icon was supposedly protected from destruction by the Turks because it was covered in crabs. 

Xerokampos from the headland
We scrambled down to the headland, where we saw the remains of an Italian gun emplacement 
an aerophone

and a ruined military building.
We then walked back up to the main track and followed that up the hill, 

through a series of hairpins, looking for the old Italian barracks, 
which has remarkably well-preserved wall paintings and a series of cartoons drawn by the German occupiers during the war. 

We had to make our way through hordes of goats to get to the barracks, which were occupied by even more goats and were deep in goat shit, but the paintings and cartoons were very impressive.
We met a lame baby goat going in to the main room, 
which was packed with goats
and the all paintings there were badly damaged.

After the barracks we followed a goat track to some farm buildings near the top of the hill.

The barracks from the north
According to our walk map the track should have continued to join a dirt road back down to Xerokampos, via Paliokastro, but we could not see any track. Simon walked over the rough ground across the next two ridges, but could not see any sign of a track or the dirt road, so we decided that the path had probably been swept away by the rains and we walked back the way we had come, passing a dried river valley with flowering bushes,
stopping for a beer at Aloni before we rowed back to the boat. That evening we had a better dinner at Aloni, of Maridaki and squid.
On Saturday, June 1st, we set off to sail down to Palionisos, on Kalymnos, where we had reserved a buoy. The wind died, as it often does close in to the east coast of Kalymnos, probably because the wind bounces back off the cliffs. When we arrived there were only a handful of boats in the bay. Pothitos was waiting for us in his dinghy and took our lines to feed them through the buoy.
We went up to the taverna for a beer and some delicious Symi shrimps, before spending the afternoon swimming, doing odd jobs and chilling. Late in the afternoon a group of four Austrian charter boats arrived. Although some of them already seemed the worse for drink when they arrived, we got a peaceful night’s sleep.
Pothitos has done a lot of repainting of the taverna over the winter, including a big Greek flag on his shed.
We gave him our old CA Blue Ensign to add to his display of ensigns and burgees.

On Sunday morning we walked along a path on the western side of the bay

to a newly opened climbing wall at Syki beach. The route was very well marked with blobs of blue paint (Pothitos later told us that he had painted the blobs because people were always getting lost – the path is very old and had been used by his father and grandfather to get to their goats. The path was rough and involved a bit of clambering in places, but quite manageable, and we arrived at Syki beach for a very welcome swim.

We walked back
and had a beer at Pothitos before we went to share a super-burger at the beach bar. In the afternoon we swam and read, before going for a fish dinner at Kalidonis.
On Monday, 4th June, we spent the morning gathering herbs from the mountainside – oregano and mountain tea, thribi is not ready until it has finished flowering. In the afternoon we swam and chilled before going to Pothitos for a lobster spaghetti in the evening.

On Tuesday we motored slowly down to Vathi, where we got a comfortable place on the quay. The man who took our lines advised us to pull off the quay at night, because if the ferry goes by it makes a dangerous surge. We then set off for a walk, though it was very hot. We walked as far as Platanos, through well-tended orchards and market gardens, with olives, figs, lemons, oranges, pomegranates, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes

and past houses with lovely garden flowers.

One thing we have noticed on Leros over the last few years is that most of the land is now cultivated, whereas before the crisis a lot of land was left unused.

We visited two interesting early Christian basilicas, both with the remains of their mosaic floors. The first was the sixth century basilica of Paleopanagiya, a large building, which had a cruciform font, mosaic floors and wall paintings, reusing some ancient stones.

Even more impressive was the 6th century basilica Taxiarchis Mikhaelis, which was built into the walls of the late 4th century BC Hellenistic fortress Embola, using many of the ancient stones, including a Macedonian type of tomb.

We got back for a light lunch in the taverna on the quay of maridaki, cheese-stuffed peppers and plenty of cold beer. We did not fancy swimming immediately because of the swarm of tripper boats on the end of the quay – we did not remember tripper boats coming on our previous visits. They have obviously added Vathi to their itinerary.
We had planned to stay another day in Vathi, take the early bus to Vathi and walk back over the "Italian Path", but we decided it was too hot to do the walk and did not want to stay in Vathi full of trippers, so we left early in the morning to motor-sail back to Lakki, via two inhabited islands that we had not yet visited.
We circumnnavigated Platy, a long rocky island to the west of Pserimos.
We could only see an uncompleted villa,
a small church and a beach where the tripper boats stop,
so perhaps the two recorded inhabitants are the lighthouse keeper and his daughter in the lighthouse on a rock north of the island.
We then sailed up to Kalolimnos, which is a military island northeast of Kalimnos. There were a number of military buildings around the island and a camp above a cove in the south of the island, where there was an armoured car parked. We did not try to land!

We got back to Lakki in the middle of the morning, hoping to anchor off the town beach, but that anchorage was already full, so we anchored close to Sue and Steve in the main town bay.
We pottered around Lakki for a couple of days, before going up to Arkhangelos for a short holiday.
We motored up to Arkhangelos on Friday, 8th June, and picked up a buoy. We went for a beer at Stigma at lunchtime, swam in the afternoon and went for dinner at Stigma, admiring Evropi's flowers

and the little kittens (these are just two of the five).
We spent the weekend chilling and swimming. On Saturday morning we got the news that Bob Fine had died that morning. Bob has been a friend of Simon's since they were at school together from 1953 to 1959 and then a colleague at Warwick since 1973. Although Bob's death was not unexpected, the news still came as a shock.
We left Arkhangelos on Monday morning, June 11th. We motored to Lakki round the East side of Leros, spotting the beaches and rocks on which the German troops had landed at the start of the Battle of Leros in November 1943. The Germans could not risk landing on any of the main beaches, because they were too heavily defended, so landed on the small beach at Vagia Bay
and on the rocks north and south of Sopra point, at Grifos Bay

and at the eastern foot of Apetiki.

In each case they had a steep climb over rough ground under heavy fire to attack the hill-top positions held by the British and Italians.
There was not enough wind to make it worth flying the genoa as we sailed down the coast and we were glad we had no sails up as we motored across the mouth of Xerokampos Bay and were hit by a Force 6 wind, which soon died to nothing under the cliffs. When we came round the corner to motor up to Lakki there was a big swell, which must have come down from the strong winds in the Cyclades, because we have had no significant northerly winds here for a week.
In Lakki we went into the marina to prepare the boat for John's arrival. Soon after we arrived Patrick and Margaret came in, having launched in Partheni in the morning, and we all went to Poppy's for a beer and lunch. That evening there was a massive thunderstorm, with a short burst of torrential rain, which washed the boat more thoroughly than we could ever have done.

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