Katakolo and Olympia

15 to 18 August 2017

Porto Roma, Zakynthos to Katakolo, Peloponnese, N 37° 38.89′ E 21°19.76′

18nm, 4 hours 30

Something extraordinary happened on the way from our last anchorage on Zakynthos to Katakolo on the Peloponnese peninsula – we sailed all the way! The sails went up as soon as we left Porto Roma and did not furl in until we reached the anchorage outside Katakolo. OK, it was only a crossing of less than 20 miles but given our motoring to sailing ratio to date it felt fantastic! We didn’t care that we were going quite slowly. With such a short distance we could afford to idle across.

As we are becoming accustomed to here in Greece, the wind increased in the afternoon and as we arrived in Katakolo we had about 20 knots of wind so we decided against trying to get on the town quay and spent the night at anchor just outside the harbour with a few yachts and three huge cruise ships for company. It took us three goes at setting the anchor. The weed on the bottom made us drag twice so we moved to another position where we found better holding and, once the wind had died down after sunset, we had a calm night.

Early the next day, in the calm of the morning, we went in and tied up to the town quay. This was to be our first time going stern to with just two of us on board but thankfully another British sailor, Mike, was there on the quay for me to throw the lines to.

Despite existing almost entirely to service the cruise ships coming in to visit nearby Olympia, Katakolo is a bright and breezy place and we liked it very much.

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Whilst there we needed to replace Pintail’s engine water pump which had finally given up. Jim had brought us out the new one way back in Sardinia but Stefan needed a vice to get the job done. We spoke to a local taxi driver, Nico, who confirmed that there was no workshop amongst the tavernas and tourist shops of Katakolo but took us to a nearby village where his friends had a boat repair place.

On the way we chatted to Nico about his taxi business. He is busy from April to November when the cruise ships come in, sometimes working from 6.30am to 6.30pm, but he also has a farm with 1000 olive trees and 150 chickens which brings him an income. He promised to bring us some fresh eggs the following day.

Whilst in Katakolo we thought it was time to start getting to grips with some Greek mythology. At Mythos Park just across from the town quay we found a small museum which had enormous representations of many of Greece’s mythical creatures but which also explained their links to paleontology and archeology. Using the skeletons of prehistoric creatures alongside the mythical ones, their origins started to make sense. The mermaid was actually a sealion, the cyclops a prehistoric elephant and the unicorn a woolly rhinoceros. Centuars are thought to have been derived from finding the skeletons of humans and horses mixed together on an ancient battlefield.

There was then a rather hilarious house of horrors type Labyrinth in which we came up close to other terrible creatures, some moving, including the Minotaur, Medusa, harpies, trolls and ogres.

One thing that struck us about the area around Katakolo was just how green and wooded it was after the parched dry and rocky Ionian islands. We walked up to the lighthouse on the cape through gorgeous smelling pine and olive groves.

Like the cruise ship passengers we had chosen Katakolo because of its proximity to Olympia, site of the original games. Unlike most of them who piled onto the many waiting coaches, we took the train. Through more farm land, fields of olive trees and watermelons, and more woods the train driver was constantly sounding his horn as we crossed tiny road junctions.

To get some context we first visited the archeological museum which housed some of the beautiful sculptures which would have adorned the temples and buildings of Olympia. Exquisite representations of Nike and Hero were housed in a brilliantly presented museum along with other more practical finds from the site.

By now we have been thoroughly spoilt with archeological sites throughout Portugal, Spain and Italy and we have to admit to being just a little disappointed by Olympia. Compared to Ostia Antica and Paestum the ruins here are not as complete and it was hard to visualise what the buildings would have been like. They had been largely razed to the ground first by the killjoy Emperor Theodosius who brought an end to the ancient and pagan Olympic games on his conversion to Christianity in AD 394 and then finished off by earthquake.

What did not disappoint, however, was visiting the original Olympic stadium. After experiencing the London 2012 Olympic Games take place literally in our backyard at home, walking through the tunnel definitely brought a tingle. “Shall we have a little run?” I said. In the heat of midday, Stefan looked at me as if I was crazy. “No, I’m going to sit up there in the shade!” So we sat and instead watched other crazy tourists run in the footsteps of the ancient athletes from the bank where ancient spectators would have sat. Except in ancient times as a woman I would not have been allowed to spectate, less still participate. Women and slaves were banned. Women who snuck in were thrown from a nearby rock!

On arriving home from Olympia, we found that Nico had been good to his word and delivered us a bag of freshly laid eggs from his farm!

From the train Stefan had spotted a lovely looking taverna outside town which we decided to visit for our evening meal. Trouble was, Stefan could only find it by following the railway line. Confident that there were no more trains running we walked up the track and right into the shady courtyard. We walked home along the beach which seemed to be being used by others as a road!

These few days were a great introduction to the Peloponnese and we look forward to what else the area has to offer…

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