Wednesday 17 July 2013

My long term memory has always been poor. Dates, names, faces, places all blur a little over time. I wish I had kept diaries - I only have one which is in the attic at home and details our 6 months travelling in Australia and New Zealand in 1990. Funny how things come back to you, a few places we've been in the past week have brought the memories flooding back.

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On the Pelion Peninsula we wild camped outside the pretty village of Chorefto. Watching a family fishing we realised we were parked next to their ancient vehicle which was a 2 seater Toyota Liteace. When they came to leave father and son sat in the front and wife and daughter-in-law piled onto a mattress in the back. We knew the feeling – we bought exactly the same little van in Sydney all those years back to drive around Australia. It was dwarfed by our current luxurious camper.

Ours was white with 'roo bars' on the front
We were slumming it then – we slept on a thin foam mattress in the back and had a 2 burner petrol stove and a cool box, no shower or toilet facilities!  Dave fitted some netting to the sides to hold our 2 rucksacks worth of clothes. Food and cooking utensils were stored in 2 plastic boxes and we had a hessian bag for water that hung off the front of the van working on the ‘evaporation causes cooling’ principle. We had 'roo bars' on the front but the van would probably have come off worse had we hit a big’un. We had a brilliant time and probably clocked up about 7000 miles travelling up the eastern coast from Sydney to Cairns, across to Darwin before following the road train lorries south through the outback to Ayres Rock and onto Adelaide and Melbourne. I clearly remember sitting in the back of the van doing the pregnancy testing kit we bought from a local chemist unable to fathom out why I was being so sick. At the end of the trip we sold the van in Sydney making a bit of a profit on it – result! The other ‘result’ of course is Gareth – the test kit proved positive!

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A couple of weeks ago we drove through Volos, a large town which sits at the top of the Pagasitikos Gulf in an almost completely enclosed bay. To the east lies the Pelion Peninsula and to the north the stunning monasteries of Meteora. I had been to Volos before but can’t remember much of the town itself which is home to a population of almost 150,000. It is an odd mix of busy streets with smart shops and a flashy yacht lined waterfront, but also a massive cement works, large industrial areas, a commercial port and graffiti covered derelict buildings – all laid out in a very geometrical grid pattern. 

Fishing boats with hotels and yachts in the background
It was in the late 1970’s when together with a group of school friends, the very same ones I met up with in Dubrovnik this May, we arrived here on a cruise on the SS Uganda. We had a great time and it felt luxurious at the time but in reality it was like travelling steerage – kept out of sight of the full fare-paying passengers, sleeping in dorms on metal bunks and eating off prison like food trays in a smelly canteen.  The Meteora monasteries stand atop massive rock pinacles and were featured in the closing scenes of the Bond movie ‘For your eyes only’ in 1981. Dave and I decided to bypass them on our current trip - Dave wasn’t too bothered as there would be lots of walking up steps on a painful foot and I had been there before and have the scar to prove it!

Tiny scar now but it hurt like hell at the time!
Going up the many steps to the monasteries I tripped over my clumsy size 7 feet. They still cause me trouble now and I still don't understand how come my twin sister Sue has petite size 4’s? Anyway back at the ships hospital my chin was stitched up with thick black nylon thus ending my hopes of scoring with any of the lads from the other schools.

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Today we drove the camper van over the Corinth Canal – an engineering marvel which was finally competed in 1893 after many years of financial and building difficulties. There are no locks and it cuts a swathe in the rock between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf. At 4 miles long, 300ft high and 80ft wide it saves a round trip of about 430 nautical miles. Most of today's modern ships are too wide to fit through and it is mainly used by yachts and small motor vessels.

I'm scratching my head to remember the year again but I'm guessing it was 1986. Dave and I had been working all year on the yachts in Turkey and Greece and were about to spend a few more months delivering a yacht through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic. In need of a bit of a land break we were 'dropped off' south east of Athens and we made our way by bus to Zante where we were going to rejoin the yacht. We took a few days off and then started on our onward journey. As we were crossing the bridge over the Corinth we looked down below and were staggered to see 'our' yacht beneath us. There were so many variables, weather, waiting for a time slot time to enter the canal, our bus times, but there they were - what a sheer coincidence. Sadly today there were no buses going over the bridge or yachts going through the canal to recreate the scene, but it is still an awe inspiring view. 

Some mad fools bungee jump off this - no thanks!

And now we are parked up in Galatas opposite the beautiful island and town of Poros and I know I have been there before, but I can't for the life of me remember when or who with! 

Looking over to beautiful Poros town


  1. I think we went to Poros together when we were about 17?! My memory's a bit blurred too but that was probably down to the ouzo... Love Sue xxx

    1. I can't use Ouzo as an excuse can I - just old age!! When I get back I think we need to dig out the old photos and try and piece it all together! xx