Tag Archives: Olives

10 Highlights of a Greek Odyssey

Saying hello while you wave goodbye is a natural fact of long-term travel. No sooner have you become attached to one place, one person, than it is time to move on again. This blog is a tribute to moving on: 10 highlights that made our time in Greece rich, memorable, and ‘real’. Time to say ‘hello’ to Turkey and wave ‘goodbye’ to Greece.

1   Aegean Sunrise

There was no one else around when we stepped off the ferry in Igoumenitsa. It took a while to find our way out of the international port to the dock where the Corfu ferries depart. Nothing to do but wait. I felt chipper as I gazed into the fishy waters below, reverberating with the significance of our visit. Glad to be by the sea again. The cold thickened. Richie wrapped his blanket tighter around him. The bakery flung open its doors, and the sun rose. It was splendid! “Hello Greece we are here, please give us the best!”

2   Cold Coffee

Drinking cold coffee is a pass-time at which Greeks excel. Not wanting to be left out of the fun Richie and I adopted the habit promptly. In Greece, cold coffee is as much of a necessity as it is an indulgence: the only sane way to pass the murderously hot long afternoons when your Crocs melt faster than Icarus’s wings. Most cafes provide wifi so rather than spend your precious euros in a smoky internet cafe you may as well buy a cold drink while you check emails and travel forums. Quality and prices vary but what stays the same is the sweet, smug indulgence of being able to sit and wile away a few hours while the rest of the world deludes itself about the necessity of ‘work’.

Cautionary note: unless you want to support Nestle avoid the ‘frappe’ and go for the real arabicca deal, the freddo cappucino. 

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Yurts & Olives

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
– Abert Einstein

Every footfall on the scorched bare earth triggers a volley of locusts and cicadas. From the front door of the yurt to the front stairs of the house I march ten abreast with the beasties. I’m confounded by the number of insects the grass harbours: thin on the ground and brittle as ice cream cones though it is, it manages somehow, to provide a perfect launching pad for long-legged insects that ricochet off my head and shoulders. It’s a small frontier to cross. I hop from the shade of one olive tree to the next. I can’t for the life of me get used to the heat, or the sensation of insects bouncing off my flesh.

In the southern Peloponnese a maximum daily temperature of 40 degrees Celsius is predicted for the next ten days. At 8pm it’s 37 degrees. At 10pm, it’s just as hot. Richie, Terry, Sarah, Mark and I eat horta (wild greens), tomatoey green beans, and roast potatoes with lemon and rosemary on the balcony, wearing nothing but singlets, shorts and a gritty film of sweat: wash it off, and two minutes later it reappears. We wake up early and go to bed late, compensating for the lost hours of work between 11am and 7pm when it’s essential to take rest indoors – outside is no man’s land – only the locusts and cicadas can endure it.

Richie and I arrive at Horo Project off the back of 3 lively Greek urban couch surfing experiences. It’s jarring to be back on the land. We’re here to volunteer. Mark, Terry and Sarah have been on site for ten days, and are expecting another 6 people to arrive in as many days. It’s clear upon arrival that they are anxious and het up; not entirely sure what to do with themselves, or us. Within hours of arriving a meeting is called to decide upon house rules and a schedule for the week. The outcome is as follows: 6am rise; minimum 5 hours of work p/day; a small daily financial contribution for food; help in the daily running of the house and the cooking of meals; assistance with the course… and in return, we receive a place to stay and the opportunity to attend a 9-day Eco-Village Design Course for free.

For the following five days Richie and I are kept busy erecting yurts, making meals, tidying the garden, designing shady outdoor spaces, attending meetings, and negotiating a place for ourselves amid the unpredictable milieu of alter-egos, archetypes, and peacekeepers. Personalities emerge; other personalities emerge to keep them in-check; edges are pushed; fuses blow; common ground is found; and time for relaxation and celebration is agreed upon. This is what community-living is all about. It’s hard work, but I don’t know that we have an alternative – at least, not for the next three weeks.

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Corfu

When Giovanni deposits us at the train station in Campobasso, huge clods of clay are stuck to the underside of my boots. I feel like a bunyip. “Look at the state of you,” Richie laughs, as passersby and early-bird commuters gaze in horror at the state of my boots. No self-respecting Italian would be caught dead looking like this.

“Take a photo of me with the train for Julian,” I demand, posing in my grungy boots. The train is a tiny one-carriage affair. It’s a fun ride. I wish my nephew was with me to enjoy the journey, chugging across the mountains of Molise on our way to the sea.

In Termoli there’s enough time to grab some bread, fruit and cheese before jumping back on the train, bound for Brindisi via Foggia. Richie listens to his new Smokey Tentacles mix as the train trundles through a flat landscape of wheat fields and wind turbines. We spot the first trullis – Puglia.

The man who drives the complimentary shuttle bus from the centre of Brindisi to the port customs office looks unimpressed when I press a postcard into his hands.

“Will you post it for me? I ran out of time,” I say, smiling apologetically. He takes the card begrudgingly from my hands. Before he can say ‘no’ we bolt for the ship. We’re late and we only just make it in time.

The boat sets sail from Brindisi at 7pm. I’m elated. In seven hours we’ll be pulling in to the port at Igoumenitsa – my first taste of Greek life.

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‘La Granja’ Life

On day 58 of our ‘Overland to Oz’ adventure we arrived at our first Wwoof: a finca in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Andalusia (Spain). The bus from Malaga took us along the coast road as far as Orgiva. From there it was a forty five minute hike up a rocky river bed to the steep white village of Bayacas.

Having divested ourselves of 5.79kg of excess belongings we were feeling lighter and more mobile than ever. “All we need now,” we said, as we trooped uphill, “is a 2-person tent and a saucepan for self-reliant off-road living.”

Shortly before nightfall we crested the ridge behind the finca. “Is this La Granja?” we called over a gate painted with images of free-ranging chickens. We were in the right place!

Our host, Kate, was expecting us. She showed us to our cassita: a rustic stone cabin with a timber and bamboo roof, wood burner, double mattress, 2-hob gas cooker, solar lights, table, two chairs and a few shelves of books/objects left behind by previous Wwoofers. It was a joy and a relief to be alone in our little cassita with a plateful of leftovers in front of us, and the night closing in outside. Very peaceful.

In the morning we joined the gang (4 others Wwofers + our host) to commence the day’s work. We cleared brush, stacked firewood and were shown about the finca.

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