Greece - Chapter 3, Mud tires not sand tires
They say we learn best from our mistakes. I had learnt that using highways is a pointless thing. Yes, they'll get you there faster, but they're expensive and more importantly you don't get to see any of the landscape. I have therefore solemnly vowed to use them as little as possible.
But let us begin from the beginning. I woke up early, ate my last breakfast in Olympia and decided I was going to take a shower, my first shower in the van. The problem was my water reservoir was empty. A quick look on a map showed me that there was a river nearby, and i set off in the hope of filling up there. Moments later i arrive to the path that leads to the river's edge. I call it a path but really it was a swamp. Me, being inexperienced and knowing i had mud tires and 4-wheel drive, didn't think for long, floored it and got to the edge. Problem was, the water was about as clear and clean as a teenager's search history.
This, however, was no issues since i had spotted a water fountain a not far from where i was. Only then did i realised that i would have to do a U-turn to get out of there. And that there wasn't enough room to do said U-turn. Fortunately, about 5m into the river there was an island with enough room for it, so i waded into the water to test the depth and see if the van could cross. As soon as i stepped into the murky liquid my leg sank down to my knee. Great. Luckily my other foot was still on the river bank and i managed to pull myself out. This however cost me my flip-flops, they never came back up from the depths of the mud.
It was decided then, i would have to get out of there in reverse. After putting some branches on the ground to provide some initial traction, I put it in reverse, floored it and lo and behold, i was out.
This adventure now past, i headed to the fountain, filled up the reservoir and took my first shower. There is something peculiar about washing in nature in the middle of nowhere, especially if the sun is shining. I wasn't used to to it but it was a very pleasant new experience.
I was now heading for Killini, the port from which the ferries left for Zakynthos. I drove through the Greek coastal countryside, witnessing ghosts from the past as abandoned building scattered the side of the road. I now found myself driving along the coast, going through villages and fields covered by white plastic until I saw a path, wide enough for a car, leave the main road and head for the beach. Not having been to the see in well over a year and a half i could not resist.
I drove on the beach until i reached the remains of a house that had burnt down. Around it stood carcasses of boats, doomed to never sail again, and a car engine, burnt so badly the gearbox casing had broken off. I lingered in this somewhat calming place till the urge to go swim hit me. Urge quickly calmed down by the temperature of the water. "So be it" I thought,"might as well push on". I climbed back in and started to turn around.
For your better understanding I need to describe the scene. The car was presently on top of the beach, right up against the dunes. The beach itself was on a slope all the way to the water. As I began to turn around, the two tons of the van slid slowly closer to the edge. Murphy's law states that "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong", and go wrong it did. As I was heading back towards the top of the beach to more compact sand, a wave, bigger than all the others, swept under the rear wheels and buried them in the sand. I was stuck.
I tried everything. Going in 4wd in low range, putting wood under the tires, pulling and pushing, digging and filling. Nothing worked. That's when i realised that the wheels were spinning in nothing, the car was resting on the differentials. In other words, I wasn't getting it out of there on my own.
This harsh reality having sunk in, I was now walking, barefoot (my shoes had gotten wet while i was trying to dig myself out), heading towards the village i had just passed in the hope that there was someone there with a tractor who would be willing to pull me out.
Nikos, was the name of the man who picked me up from the side of the road. Due to him working in a nearby hotel he spoke decent english and i was able to explain my problem to him. Lucky for me, he lived in the village where i was heading and he knew a guy who knew a guy. On our way there he explained to me that under the white plastic on the fields, watermelons were growing. Once we reached the village, we went to the grocer's explained my situation and 10 minutes later we were waiting for him to arrive by the entrance to the path.
Fortunately i had towing straps in my van and so, once they were attached to the back of the tractor, I was towed to safety. Never having been around tractors that much I'd never realised how much grunt they have. He towed me out of there as if i were a mere bale of hay.
To my surprise, he did not wait for me and headed straight back to the village. Thus, after having profusely thanked Nikos, i headed back to the village to thank him. Unfortunately this was not to be since he was nowhere to be found. his wife was there however, and thanks to drawings and many gestures i was able to tell her what had happened and told her that i wanted to thank her husband. She made me understand that she would do it for me.
Albeit having lost a huge amount of time, this was by far one of the most fun days so far. I also learnt an important lesson: they're mud tires, not sand tires.