Follow The Mani

The internet at Kali Mera Inn on Elafonisos was hardly acceptable, but I stayed two days, anyway. The beach allures me, and I’m at least sorting through the digital photos and videos that have piled up since the wedding.

I also made yet another friend while drifting in the aquamarine waters. From Athens, Makis is a motorcyclist with a passion for old British bikes, like Triumph, BSAs, and Nortons. He can lend me support if I need when I’m back in Athens.

The ride today is longer. I head to the second of the three fingers that make up the Peloponnese peninsula. Known as the Mani peninsula, it will take me some three to four hours to make the journey to the very bottom of the Mani.

With farewells to my friends on Elafonisos, I board the ferry at about 10:30 AM. The main road heads toward Sparta before I peel off and head south toward Areopolis. I ride through olive grove after olive grove, for several miles I am inhaling the unmistakable savory smell of olives. Makes me hungry.

After a couple hours, the olive trees disappear as the terrain turns arid, rocky, and barren. I ride through tiny towns comprising stone buildings, most square, flat-roofed

and with towers resembling small castles. In the distance, I see crumbling stone buildings with tall towers tucked into the hillside.

I learn, this is ‘the Mani.’

The deeper south I travel into the Mani, I get a sense of the Mani (Maniots) people, who for centuries built their own little “fiefdoms” fighting blood feuds against each other and to piracy in the waters of the Mediterranean. Because of the rugged and barren terrain, this part of the Peloponnese was only accessible by boat.

The stone house towers allowed the Maniots to see potential attackers. During Ottoman rule, many Maniots moved further south. When the Turks tried to take over the southern Mani by boat, the Maniots shelled them with cannon balls shot from those fortified towers. If the Turks did make land, the inhospitable terrain was too difficult to cross, so they gave up.

Tiny stone towns with tower houses dot the landscape all over hte Mani.

Today, although narrow and twisting and turning, the road is in good shape. As I make my way through these stone towns, passing through Lakkos, Kitta and I come to a sharp left turn, where to the right I see a massive rock peninsula jutting into the sea, craggy and ominous I am so drawn that I grab a handful of brake and pull over the take a photo.

A small road dives toward a small town sitting at the base of this peninsula, Gerolimenas. With a handful of inns and a small beach of polished white medium-sized stones, the jutting land mass forms a natural bay and harbor.

But this isn’t my destination. I’m heading as far south as the road goes—to the bottom of and the southernmost point of mainland Greece. I’m heading to Porto Kagio (pronounced Cayo). My friends Scott and Laurie explored the Peloponnese by car in May and suggested I make the journey south.

I’m glad I did.

Looking down on the jetty from Gerolimenas

The further south from Gerolimenas, the coastline gets more beautiful and barren, The road twists, turns, switches back, and climbs, and dives. The sheer rock cliffs tumble hundreds of feet into the rocky waters below. There are no guard rails. I’m so mesmerized by the scenery but must stay focused. The road is narrow, and though there’s little traffic, it takes just one car in my lane to send one of us tumbling below.

This is one of the most spectacular rides or drives in the world and gives California Route 1 around Big Sur serious competition.

A warning as I travel into the deep southern Peloponnese of “The Mani”

When I get to the turnoff and dive deep into a secured bay, the road ends on dirt in the tiny settlement of Porto Kagio.

It’s tiny. There are maybe three restaurants, and four inns or hotels. Without a reservation and after the five-hour desolate ride I hope I can find a room.

Eat or swim from your very own palapa in Porto Kagio.

The small but extremely hospitable and with a fantastic restaurant is the Rooms Akrotiri. I’m happy that they’ve got just one room left for tonight!

The friendly family at Rooms Akrotiri have just one room left. On the beach and with a restaurant that offers tables nearly in the water of the idyllic cove, I grab the room. Once again, I set my sights on glorious scenery which will serve as the perfect inspiration for my writing and catching up on this blog.

I climb out of my riding gear, take a quick shower and get into civilian clothes before joining the other guests on the waterfront for a cold beer. The long ride fired up my appetite, so I order an appetizer of Spetsofai, spicy Greek sausage simmered in tomato sauce with sweet peppers and onion. This is my first taste of the hearty and rustic Spetsofai, and here at Akrotiri, it’s mouthwatering tasty. I’ll be looking to top this preparation as I make my way around Greece.

I spot the flags of Germany, France, Greece, and the United States on sailboats moored in the beautiful cove—travelers exploring the world over water, while I continue my exploration overland.

Once again I’m disappointed by the quality of the internet connection, yet what can I expect. I’m in a hostile environment and should have my head anywhere else than my computer. So I am okay.

I retreat to my room to sort things out and join my hosts again waterfront for dinner. Sitting on top of a pile of ice and undercover are about a half dozen fresh fish. One guest hovers over it for a moment, minutes later the waitress carries two fish to the kitchen. Nothing like a true visual menu.

I opt for the calamari stuffed with feta and tomatoes along with a Greek salad and Greek wine.

The next morning the power is out. The owner tells me most of this part of the Mani is also powerless. This probably happens often as soon enough the owner fires up a generator, and all is good again in Porto Kagio.

Before hopping on the bike, I take a hike out to the point to check out the Church Agios Nikolaos, a tiny stone church surrounded by rocks. 

 

I hike out to the small church on the jetty to the left in this picture. Sailors from around the world moor and enjoy the lowest point in mainland Greece.

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