Overlanding includes unfamiliar aspects any overland-traveler has to adapt to I suppose. One, and maybe the most important one indeed is "accepting somebody's help "! Due to whatever cause, we are used to help always having to be reciprocal ... And also, when people approach us with a help offer, we expect some negative intention to be behind that. When traveling but also even during the preparation phase one realizes that this can be totally different. In this context, the positive side of Facebook and blogging becomes clear as well: during the last months quite a few overlanders. Land Rover owners and others who were simply interested in us and our planned trip contacted us via the internet providing insider tipps for Transafrica or even invite us to their homes which would lie along the planned route. Several nice people did, for example, work from their homes in Cairo on finding out how we could ship our Land Rover to Africa or what other possibilities do exist reaching Africa overland at the moment. Now in Greece, while traveling, our first travel-"blind date" waited for us. Sometime at the end of June, Konstantinos (also a Land Rover owner planning a long overland trip with his family) had found our blog and - apart from giving interesting tips on where to go in Greece - without heasitation invited us to his home in Athens. After we had discovered strange sounds coming from the engine in Albania (sounding a bit like a tortured chicken) and neither other overlanders nor a proper Albanian bush mechanic could help us, we decided to accept Konstantinos' invitation earlier than we had actually planned and directly go to Athens from southern Albania to have the Land Rover checked at JBK Land Rover Specialists, THE Landrover-smithy in Greece (an absolute workshop recommendation, by the way, for any Land Rover Owner passing Athens ... they are "Land Rover Horsewhisperers"!). We reach Athens in the early afternoon only to realize that everything (and I really mean everything) had been organised in advance: we reach Konstantinos' house, who is just waiting for us to go to the workshop together while Juliane and his wife Errato are taking care of our four children.
In the workshop the "chicken"-problem (not electric, but mechanical by the way!) is quickly identified and solved, so that in the evening we can feast on Greek "Souflaki" getting to know each other while the Land Rover is relaxing outside the house in the shade. During the next few days we chill out together at the beach house of the family enjoying famous Greek hospitality. Apart from the common interest in overland travel, here the international comradeship of Land Rover owners is part of the story! Land Rover owners not only wave at, but also help each other! Do people actually consider this when choosing their overland-vehicle from a different car brand? The Land Rover team spirit is a door opener for other cultures and nearly some kind of "secret insurance"!
But also in other situations the weary traveler is helped fast and unselfish:
... the car mechanic in Albania senses our scouring eyes, approaches, asks ... just to leave his own work for a while to lead us to the bush mechanic recommended by our campsite owner (who actually is a competitor) riding along with us on our side stepps.
... the camp site owners in Peshkopi know that our kids had thrown up on the way due to the road conditions and cook homemade pasta cooked in chicken stock for us ...
... the Greek permanent camper puts an ice-cold beer into the hand of the stressed father while he is setting up the camp ...
... water melons, figs, and other fruits who "by chance" drop out of the sky just to land on our camp table ...
... We could go on telling a bunch of other stories here even though we have only been traveling for four weeks now!
Of course, at home in Germany, there are also warm hearted and helpful people, but this intensive openness and warm-heartedness we experience here we are not accustomed to.
Where are we?
Position: N 38°51.58', E 023°26.29'
Location: Agkali, Euboea, Greece
Weather: 41,1°C (midday), some clouds, light wind
From beautiful, nearly enchanted Valbone in Albania, we go on our way down south planning to find a place to camp between Kukes and Peshkopi. A few kilometres before reaching Kukes both kids throw up just like searching fire and create a big mess on the rear bench seats so that we have to stop to clean up the car (on a hilltop while a thunderstorm is approaching) ... now, even more pressure is on us finding a good campsite. Unexpectedly, this task turns out to be quite a difficult one. Finally, while entering the city of Peshkopi, we discover a handmade sign reading "Camping", scouringly wind ourselves through the chaotic lanes of this rather oriental seeming city, repeatedly think that we have lost our way, but finally reach the small and simple but very neat campsite in the orchard of a detached house which is not in any guidebook, I suppose (for more see our Accommodation Page). As described, the landlady cooks for us and we enjoy the company of friendly and interested people. After the Muezzin calls the believers to prayer, this wonderful evening fades away with the nearly Arabic seeming sounds of a wedding in the near neighborhood. Shortly after having left central Europe, we feel like being inside "The Arabian Nights".
In spite of the great hospitality and of being the only guests on the campsite, we are on the road again the following day. The famous lake "Ohrid", one of the world's oldest lakes, tempts ... especially our beach-hungry kids. Unfortunately, this lake on the Albanian side turns out to be widely and chaotically built up and on the Macedonian side the few beaches are overcrowded with other tourists. What we don't know at that moment is - we are actually traveling without a guidebook here in Macedonia - that during this weekend it is the national holiday where everybody celebrates the "10-Day-Revolution". The result: we stand for one hour (!) in a traffic jam waiting to be able to enter the campsite and "enjoy" millions of drunken youths listening to loudest disco music who are celebrating their revolutionary fathers and mothers. The campsite is so very full that we have to set up our camp on the parking lot - and still pay 15 € for that ... Well, obviously, we don't want to stay here another day!
Our family pow-wow which we summon decides that we are all ready for a proper beach and the children accept that this means driving for the complete day. This is also good, as we do really want to have the strange sounds coming from the engine checked so that no further damage is caused. From Macedonia, we drive to south-eastern Albania and then on to Greece. On our way, Albanian and Macedonian soldiers frantically wave at us from their Land Rovers ... "Landymania" seems to be including people who have to drive a Land Rover jobwise. I am sure other car manufacturers would give a lot for this identification with the brand and this loyalty.
We finally land at a very clean and relaxed campsite directly at the sea in Varikou south of Thessaloniki. This campsite is to a large extent populated by many permanent campers but they are extremely warm-hearted and our family soon is included into the community here by big Greek hearts. Even though the engine still sounds weird, we stay a bit longer. We do have time!
But sometime we do have to go on traveling because our Land Rover friend Konstantinos has arranged a date for us at Greece's best and most famous Land Rover workshop, JBK.
After the day at the workshop, we have to decide to either visit Athens and the Akropolis or spend some days at the beach house of the family. This is no easy decision, but actually, we are not really ready to share a big city with innumerable tourists in the summer heat and thus, we decide to go for the beach house. Athens, in addition to Dubrovnik, is put down on our imaginary list of cities we plan to visit on shorter "city trips" later on.
At the moment we are really enjoying the life between beach and beach house which is peppered by adventurous offroad trips into the mountain range right behind this village and culinary-trips to small beach-retaurants and local shops. Apart from that, we sit over out map of Greece and jot down all the customized tips we get from our hosts.
The further plan:
Tomorrow, we plan to be on the road again, heading for central Greece with the overall idea to go back to central South-Albania and Macedonia. After that we might go to the Albanian south coast and then down the west coast of Greece as far down as the Peloponnes. Slow Travel definitively is exactly what we need at the moment. Both us and the kids relax, the kids play more together and seem to be enjoying the time spent together as a family but also the encounters with other people. The kids seem to realise that this is not a holiday anymore where you have to take in attention from the parents like a sponge, but that we will enjoy many months of traveling together as a family. Anouk is improving her sign language skills to be able to communicate with other children without having a common language.
Again and again people as us why we don't ship the Land Rover to Egypt right now, but stay in "boring" Greece. Apart from the fact that Greece has many more sides which have not been destryoed by mass tourism, we also do not want to go to northern Africa right now because fellow travelers who are there right now inform us that the temperatures in Sudan are somewhere around 50°C ... in the shade ... without shade! Also, we plan to team up with a British family (who also have two young kids) here in Greece at the end of September to ship our cars to Egypt together. At the moment it seems that we will be shipping from Pireus to Alexandria, but this would mean that we would have to fly because we can't be passengers on the same ship the cars will be on. There might be another possibility shipping the vehicles from Salerno in Italy where we could go along with the cars as passengers enjoying a three-day cruise through the Mediterranean.
One question is troubling us a bit right now: shall we go to Turkey or do the current political circumstances and our desire to "slow travel" indicate that we have to put Turkey on the long list of countries to be visited at a later point in time.