27 August to 1 September 2017
Ormos Limeni, N36° 41.69’ E22° 22.84’, 25nm, 5 hours
Diros, N36° 38.42’ E22° 22.84’, 5nm, 1 hour
Nisos Elafonisos, N36° 21.73’ E22° 58.56’, 8 hours 30
Leaving Kalamata behind us we were heading into the Mani region of the Peloponnese, a rugged, wild and remote area whose people until not so long ago had a fearsome reputation for keeping invaders out. The Maniots name derives from the Greek word mania. We hoped however for a friendly welcome.
Our first stop was in the beautiful bay of Limeni. Immediately the architecture was very different from that we have seen in Greece so far. At the entrance to the bay, above the small town of Limeni, was what looked like an ancient village built in the Maniot stone box style. On closer inspection it was in fact a newly built holiday development, wonderfully in keeping with its heritage and surroundings.
Surrounded by high peaks and overlooked by a Turkish castle of Kelefa, we anchored at the head of the bay just off a couple of tavernas.
It is of course in The Rules that we should climb a hill at any opportunity. Stefan, however, had developed a self-diagnosed case of castle-itis so I decided to go it alone. After a suitably carb-loading and very Greek breakfast of fried bread with cheese and honey sprinkled with oregano I set off up the concrete road. Not far up I met this little tortoise walking surprisingly fast across it.
The views down into the bay from the climb were gorgeous. Who needs a drone when you can get aerial shots of Pintail at anchor yourself with a bit of effort on the lungs!
But sometimes it’s good to look inland and with my back to the bay the views into the mountains behind were breathtaking. On my way down I had the company of a group of (what my RSPB bird book later identified as) buzzards circling above my head.
We stayed in the bay for three nights including riding out a thunderstorm on our last day. Happily the lightening was at a safe enough distance not to do us any harm. After so much sunshine every day we actually also enjoyed the rain. The bay became very popular with others seeking shelter from the storm and by the time the clouds started to disappear we had the company of eight others.
Whilst in the area we took Pintail for a day trip round the corner to visit the caves at Diros. We anchored in beautifully clear but very rolly water near the entrance to the caves. The rather steep entrance fee and queue to get in was more than worth the experience of entering the caves’ otherworldliness.
We have been to some pretty impressive caves at Gibraltar and in Ibiza but these were really special. Being punted round the caves’ ice clear waters in near silence was incredibly eerie as stalactites brushed passed our heads. The section of caves that we were able to see stretched for over one and a half kilometres but tunnels disappeared in all directions, some guarded by monstrous looking teeth. The fossilised bones of hyenas, lions and hippopotamus have been found in caves.
From Limeni we followed the Mani coastline further south. Leaving at first light meant great silhouettes of the mountains and our only company lots of little fishing boats.
Our route took us round the aptly named Cape Grosse and huge hulk of a headland peppered with caves and ravines, including the cave rumoured to be the mythical entrance to the underworld.
Nico, our taxi driver from Katakolo, had told us about a tiny island called Elafonisos and urged us to visit it, promising crystal clear water and white sand beaches and we are so pleased that we followed his recommendation.
He was not wrong about the water. It was like being in a swimming pool. There was no need to get the mask and snorkel on check the anchor. We could see it dug into the sand so clearly.
Such a beautiful place required another breakfast picnic. Before the beach was covered in sunbathers we took the tender across to the tiny islet of rock and sand dune and ate our marmite sandwiches looking down to the narrow spit of sand attaching it to the rest of the island.
The dunes supported trees, plants and flowers growing improbably out of the sand.
We finished with a walk around the bay keeping an eye on Pintail all the way round.
On our second night in the anchorage we noticed that one by one the other boats there disappeared. We always wonder whether they know something we don’t and it seemed that in this case they did! Shortly after we were left alone, a big swell started making its way into the bay causing us to rock and roll all over the place. Sunset was fast approaching and if we were going to move somewhere for a better night’s sleep we needed to go. We weren’t going to get far before dark and so we decided to check out the smaller bay just across the sand causeway. Through the binoculars it looked calmer. When we got there it wasn’t really that much calmer but as the night went on the swell reduced and with a bit of wind it wasn’t too bad for sleeping.
We planned to be up early anyway for another dawn departure to tackle Ak Maleas, a cape with a reputation as fierce as the Mani people we had left behind…