The Mani Road to Kardymili

The southern Mani is rugged, desolate, and harsh. Yet it has a beauty and tons of hidden beaches. Roads hug the cliffs, don’t look down.

I’d like to stay more days at the bottom of Greece here in Porto Kagio, but the road calls me and it’s time to explore the north. I bid the owners farewell, but before I suit up, the owner helps me repair the 7€ hat I bought in Napflio—the glue holding the black hand that circles the hat failed. So my host finds a safety pin and gives new life to my hat.

The ride is as good today as it was yesterday. Winding around this craggy cliffs at dizzying heights, I find myself pulling over more times today trying to capture this landscape through the lens of my camera.

Instead of wandering the caves of Diros, these young kids take turns at cliff jumping!

The caves at Diros are impressive, but I missed the boat.

I’m headed to Kalamata but stop in Pyrgos to explore the Diro caves, however, the boats that take travelers into the caves are fully booked for today. Instead, I purchase a cheaper ticket that allows me to walk through some of the caves. 

Making stops while riding always presents a few considerations and complications. Any time I must leave my bike when it’s fully loaded, I must consider security. Petty theft happens anywhere. The key is to remove the temptation—incentive. If a potential thief does not want what he or she cannot see. In this case, I ask the ticket seller if he would keep an eye on my bike. He agrees, but when people crowd around his window, they block his view. So I pull out my motorcycle cover. 

Roadside photo app with Doc. When I stop, I like to unload the bike and from there go by foot

The other consideration is comfort. A motorcycle riding jacket, pants, and boots are not designed for hiking, especially in this heat. So take off my boots and put on comfier shoes, and stash the boots with my jacket on my seat under the cover. This part of Greece is very remote, not widely touristed and I feel comfortable and not worried. I probably would not do this in a city or larger tourist attraction. That’s why I always prefer to stay near areas I wish to explore and have my things securely in a room so I can explore on foot, or nearby by bike without my full load.

The caves, the part I can see, are spectacular. I miss the subterranean river that stretches for 1.6km, but the roughly 350m walk gives me a taste of what I could have seen. Massive formations of stalagmites and stalactites.

I learn that the small Mani town of Aeropolis is the home of Greek Independence, so I stop to wander the town square and the statue of Petros Mavromichalis who on the 17th of May in 1821 with a ragtag band of rebels marched to Kalamata, defeating the Ottomans and launching the Greek War for Independence.

Aeropolis in the Mani gave birth to the Greek revolution when this guy, Petros Mavromichalis, defied the Turks and took Kalamata from them in 1821

As I travel up the western side of the Mani, the road cuts down to the coast passing several small towns and beaches and then climbs again offering panoramic views of the sea and rugged coastline.

Soon the sky darkens, rain threatens and in a few moments raindrops bead my face shield. I roll through the seaside hamlet of Kardamyli and decide to stay here rather than go onto the bigger city of Kalamata.

Kardamyli is quaint, a small main road is lined with a handful of shops and boutiques, including Psaltiras wine bar and olive oil shop. It’s here I meet the owner Nikos and his wife Katarina and continue my Greek wine education—and a primer on olive oil. Over good wine and cheese, I sit down with Nikos for a quick chat that will be featured in an upcoming WorldRider podcast.

Three bars and restaurants hug the Kardymili cliffs and offer great views with tasty treats and libations. This place is a perfect stop where I think I can finally catch up on some work, and make new friends — of the feline kind, this time.

Chilling at Psaltiras wine bar and olive oil shop

Why can’t I take her with me?

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