Well our three week trip around the Pelops has sadly nearly come to an end. I had always thought that places like Monemvasia and Vathia were inaccessible to me, not having the courage to drive in Greece, so this trip was partly a personal mission to show that it is possible to visit these amazing places by bus (and occasionally a little bit of taxi).
Our trip has taken us from Athens to Monemvasia where we spent Easter, Kythira, Elafonisos, Sparta/Mystras, Gythio, Areopolis and tomorrow we will fly home from Kalamata. As much as I have the utmost faith and a renewed admiration for the KTEL bus service it is fair to say that the information on their websites is sometimes lacking. For most of the trip we didn’t even know if there was a bus service to get us to our next destination so we have booked our accommodation as we went along.
This type of trip isn’t for the faint hearted – especially if you like everything boxed off before your trip begins. However, this ‘make it up as you go along’ approach did enable us to add Sparta and Mystras into the trip which we hadn’t originally planned.
The final leg of our journey by bus is the crucial one. We need to get to Kalamata tonight for our flight back to the UK the following morning. Eleni at Hotel Mani told us that there is one bus a day to the village of Itilo – the mountain village above Neo Itilo. However, that timetable is there to primarily serve the school children that live up in the mountain villages. Today is a Saturday and she doesn’t think it will run.
Eleni tells us that it would be easier to get a taxi rather than wait one hour in a village that had “Nooooothing!” No shops, no taverna – just nothing. I didn’t want to accept defeat and declared that we would finish our trip as we’d started it – by bus.
We hedge our bets and just turn up at the bus station 30 minutes before the bus is due to depart at 1.45
At 1.45 the bus arrived at Areopolis bus station. People disembarked and we made ready to board. We were told to wait. Everytime we inched forward to indicate that we wanted to board the bus, we were told by the station master to wait. Before we knew it, the bus headed off leaving us standing with our mouths wide open in disbelief. We weren’t sure what was happening but before we knew it we were being bundled into a taxi with our bus tickets in hand.
I guess being a Saturday it just wasn’t worth making the detour to Itilo for just the two of us.
We were unceremoniously turfed out of the taxi in Itilo and told to wait under a sprawling oak tree on the main road above the village. We had one hour to wait. Close by was a broken public telephone, beehives that sounded very active and a view of the remains of a kastro.
One hour came and went. Half an hour later I was already calculating how much it would cost to travel the 90 kilometres to Kalamata by taxi.
Shortly after, the bus appeared in sight and my cheer of joy and relief could be heard bouncing around the mountains of Itilo. I was able to complete my mission!
We really could have done with an extra week on this trip but 4 weeks would just be being greedy! The bus takes us through Stoupa where I would love to have stopped of to say hello to a dear friend that is based as a tour rep there for the season. Shortly after we go through Kardamyli where I would also have loved to have stopped to say hello to some friends. However, not this time. We have to make do with soaking up the beautiful scenery that whistles past us at a rate of knots! (Phone photo’s through window of moving vehicle not the best!)
We arrive in Kalamata and make our way to the Galaxy Hotel where we are staying for the night. We’re in a budget room which is spotlessly clean and we have a little balcony overlooking a side street. The reception area is quite impressive. Very nice place for an overnighter or a short stay!
Kalamata like other ‘ordinary’ towns have their own unique features if you take the time to seek them out. We spend the evening walking around the town. At one point we do try to head up to the Kastro but it is closed. It is Saturday evening and there is a church service is in progress and we stop to listen to the singing. There are door knockers to be found and lots of charming streets to discover.
There are some very nice taverna’s and bars. We choose to eat at Kalamaki Meze where we sit and watch the priest greeting his flock at the church in the square. As a treat we then head to Mama’s Sweet House for some very indulgent loukoumades!
The following day we fly home. From the window seat I get a magnificent view of the snow capped mountain range which for me, is definitely the star of the show!