Exploring Greece

Exploring Greece

By the time we arrived at Corfu, Adam and I felt well and truly at home on the boat. We ate most of our meals on it, slept on it and spent our days sailing on it. The thoughts and feelings about one day doing this ourselves were not going away in fact they were becoming stronger.

When we got to Corfu we pulled into the most beautiful harbour I have ever seen.

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It was right under the fort of Corfu and the views were unreal. As we were parking up, Adam and I were putting ourselves to use dropping down the fenders and getting the ropes ready for Audrey to tie us off. I was at the back of the boat with a rope ready to throw to the harbour man waiting for us on the dock. As I threw it to him, the rope caught one of the straps of my camera case and I felt the clasp break and watched in slow motion as our camera slipped into the sea. I would have jumped in straight away but I was the one in charge of tying us to the jetty. I threw the rope to the man and jumped into the water fully clothed. But alas, our camera had drowned.

We didn’t dwell too much on the demise of our beautiful camera. We had insurance for a reason and told ourselves that we would get a new one in Germany with our pay-out. This meant any photos we took in Greece would be on our iPhones.

Corfu was fun! We had to walk through the fort in order to get to the town which was hilarious as all the other tourists had to pay a hefty entrance fee just to get into it.

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We decided on our first full day in Corfu that we would hire quad bikes. This was the best fun! We had them for a full 24 hours which meant we could spend as long as we wanted exploring the island.

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Audrey and I were the passengers so we enjoyed a few celebratory cocktails throughout the day while the boys had fun mucking around on the quads.

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The weather was superb and the views were spectacular.

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After two fun filled days in Corfu we started our journey back to where we started, Lefkas. We decided to stop in for another glorious day/night in Lakka on our way.

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Our time with Audrey and Ryan was wrapping up. So we made our last day in Lefkas count by hiring scooters and riding around the whole Island.

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Again, the scenery was spectacular and we had so much fun discovering hidden beaches and in some cases private jetties.

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Our farewell to Audrey and Ryan was so sad. We had such an amazing, relaxing and fun time with them that we were almost considering staying for a few more weeks. But our flights were booked and we had to move on to the land of pretzels and beer. Germany.

Stowaways on a Greek Sailing Adventure

When our friends Audrey and Ryan told us that they had plans to take four months off work, buy a catamaran and sail around the Greek Islands we were amazed. When they invited us to share part of their journey we knew we would have to get ourselves to Greece no matter what.

Getting to Greece from Albania was harder than we imagined. I won’t go into all the details as it would probably take up three blog posts. Let’s just say, our border crossing involved:

1) a post-it with the words “please take us to the border” written in Albanian by our hostel owner,
2) nervously hitching a ride with a harmless but scary looking man in an old beat-up car,
3) almost being deported when the Greek border police miscalculated our time already spent in the Schengen area
4) and a 110 euro cab ride.

But somehow we made it to the island of Lefkada (Lefkas), only a couple of hours late and a bit shaky, where Audrey and Ryan were waiting for us with chilled beers and big smiles.

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The catamaran, Sibia AKA Salty Sea Dog, was fantastic. Audrey and Ryan bought it fully furnished from a Slovenian family who lived on it for years.

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It was surprisingly spacious. Adam and I had one of the four small but very cosy cabins to ourselves which made us feel at home -even if it was only temporary.

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That first night we explored the old town which was beautiful at night and caught up on each other’s adventures. We were so stoked to be with friends finally after 6 months of it just being the two of us. Audrey and Ryan were wonderful hosts making everything so easy for us and explaining the sailing plan for the week ahead. The idea was to head to Paxos for a few days before moving on to Corfu for another few days and then doubling back to Lefkada where we would have to say goodbye. I liked the sound of not packing too many places into our short time -it meant that we could relax into the Greek sailing way of life.

The only thing that made us a little nervous is the fact that Adam gets terrible motion sickness. We had stocked up on sea-sickness tablets in Albania but we weren’t sure how he would go for 10 days spending most of his time on the water.

The first day we were up early and sailed to the small bay, Monganissi. The weather started out quite overcast in the morning and the wind was quite low meaning that we had to motor most of the way. But once it picked up Audrey and Ryan got out the spinnaker and we had fun putting it up and using it to catch the light wind.

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Adam was doing okay with his sea-sickness and when we got to Monganissi we celebrated with an afternoon swim and some cold beers.

Lakka was our destination the next day. My god what a beautiful part of the world – the colour of the water blew us away.

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The place was swarming with mono-hulls parked up in the bay but because we were in a catamaran we glided past and tied ourselves to a small jetty in a shallower and less busy area.

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Adam and I were starting to learn the ropes a little and were able to help out in small ways which was both satisfying and fun.

The weather was absolutely crazy the next day on our way to Corfu.

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The wind had picked up and we were watching storms form on the mainland. The others were busy putting up the sails to make the most of wind and we were flying along when I saw something weird happening to the clouds in the storm. It looked like it was forming a tornado or something. I ran to the back of the boats and pointed it out to the others and by that time it had connected with the water and was a full blown water spout. We couldn’t believe our eyes, I think Adam and I would have felt more nervous if Ryan hadn’t started laughing (nervously -he told us later) and if Audrey’s first reaction wasn’t to run and grab the camera. I joined in and we felt like storm chasers.

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We were scared for the boats that were really close to it but after about 15 minutes it disappeared into thin air. Lucky I have the photos to prove it existed. After that, the weather gave us a miraculous break for a couple of hours. So we stopped up at a beautiful anchorage in the middle of the ocean called Ak Levkimmis for a couple of hours and swam and ate fresh salad for lunch before heading on. The photos do not do the water clarity justice.

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We anchored at Petriti that night and a couple of giant storms hit pushing some of the other boats around the bay. None of us got much sleep that night except for Adam who woke up puzzled at the wet deck asking if it had rained – he’d slept through the whole thing.

Our first three days on the boat were magic with virtually no sea-sickness on Adam’s behalf. It was easy to see how this lifestyle could become addictive. It was fascinating to watch Audrey and Ryan sailing the boat, working together like a well-oiled machine.

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We were also struck by how self-sufficient they were. Apart from needing to fuel up and refill water storage they had everything they needed right there on the catamaran. Needless to say, we were about 2 days in when Adam floated the idea that we might one day buy a boat and do the same thing. Tempting, very tempting.

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Albania

One week in Albania

After our whirlwind trip through Italy, we decided that we needed a beach break where we could settle in one place for a little while. We arrived in Tirana, the capital of Albania, and decided to stay a night. We were really surprised at the hospitality of the people and the food was delicious.

Traditional Albanian food:

Meatballs in a light gravy
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Albanian style grilled veg
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Hot feta dip

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Albania gets a bad rap from a lot of the other Balkan countries. A few people we met asked us why we would even bother going there. But we are so glad we did.

One night in the capital was enough and we headed straight to the coast. The town of Saranda was a lovely surprise. A bit touristy but still very pretty, cheap accommodation and lovely seafood.

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We rented beach umbrellas and lazed on the beach for two days before we made the journey to the more secluded, less touristy and highly recommended Himare.

We were not disappointed. The bus ride itself was spectacular. The coastline is pristine all along the coast. The road was a bit hairy at times and the bus took about 5 hours to go 100km but we got there in the end.

Himare is a stretch of two beautiful beaches with the clearest water, tahitian style beach umbrellas and a handful of restaurants and hotels.

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There was virtually no one there. Apparently it was still ‘off season’ but the weather was perfect every day and the sun was ‘Australian summer’ hot at midday.

Each day we would wake up in our gorgeous hotel room and pop down for a cooked brekky knowing that we would have the whole beach to ourselves. Have I mentioned that Albania is inexpensive? Our hotel room was pretty impressive for 25euro a night. And it must be the only place in Europe where the beach umbrellas are free!

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At night we would pick one of the few restaurants to get a cheap bite to eat at. By far our favourite was the Greek restaurant situated between the two beaches. It was painted all white and had a giant deck that was perched over the ocean with beautiful night views of the surrounding bay.

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The owner told us that the menu consists of whatever his mother had prepared that morning.

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We were stuffed to the brim of fresh, delicious greek style food (and a few beers) before we made our way home.

The sunsets were breathtaking, the food was absolutely delicious and we were really sorry we had only three days to enjoy it all.

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But our beach holiday was to continue with our friends in Greece so we had to drag ourselves away and make the trip across the Albanian border.

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