Breakfast was served down on the porch at cute little tables looking out over the sea. A trellis roof blocked the sunlight and as we ate Dani got some work emails written while utilizing the free WiFi. We were packed and on the road by 09h45, a little later than we had hoped but not too bad in the grand scheme of things. Our first stop for the day was a sight-seeing adventure just ten minutes down the road at the famous Caves of Diros. We paid $26 for our tickets at a small booth just a few hundred feet from the beach, and after being fitted with fluorescent orange life jackets, headed down a long staircase into the dark entryway to the cave system. Long blue flat bottom boats were lined up ahead of us floating in the immaculately clear water, while stalagmites and jagged rock became visible everywhere around us as the ceiling of the cave opened up expansively. We floated through the half-mile cave system tour route (to date there are nearly 15 miles of caves explored down here) with four other people and our guide, soaking in the beauty of this underground world. The water depth was shallow and the only noise perceivable was the quiet drip of droplets from the ceiling to the water below. At the end of the half hour paddle ride we were dropped off and told to follow a 300m walking path through a different section of caves back to the main entrance. All in all the Diros caves were impressive, but the lack of history or details from the “guide” left us a bit disappointed. By the time we were back at the car the temperature was already in the mid 80s, perfect for windows-down driving as we made our way an hour east to the little town where we’d spend the next night.
The drive was beautiful, back up through some of the same mountains as the day before, then splitting onto a different road closer back to Sparti and heading off towards a different more western coastline. The little Suzuki engine tries its hardest in the hills, and I pretend to be Mario Andretti whenever possible, downshifting through the gearbox on curvy descents and letting our tiny blue roller-skate car “lean” into the turns as best it can.
Half an hour out from our destination we came up over a hill on the edge of the Aegean Sea that provided us with a clear view of the bay. I saw something I instantly recognized in the water, a wrecked shipping/cargo vessel rusting away on the shoreline. It’s a ship I’ve seen photos of for years on the internet, and one I had hoped to see during our trip. We pulled off the paved road and followed a dirt path to a small restaurant at the waters edge, each getting a cold drink before walking down the beach to see the wreck. The Dimitrios is/was a 220’ cargo vessel said to have been smuggling cigarettes from Turkey to Italy in the early 80s. They began having troubles both with the ship and its crew, causing them to dock locally, but the Greek government demanded the boat be anchored offshore. During a storm the anchorage let go, and the large ship floated free, pushed inland by the current until it was run aground on this very beach outside the town of Githio. The wreck went completely ignored, and almost 35 years later it’s now just the rusted out carcass of a ship with nothing but intrigued travelers visiting, and the ocean’s waves continually crashing against it.
We arrived in Monemvasia shortly after 15h00, a massively protruding rock island with a centuries old village built into the steep hillside. We drove over the small the bridge dividing Monemvasia from the mainland, at which point we found a little restaurant with a deck overlooking the bay and a menu that looked incredibly appealing. After a relaxed lunch (the pace of life here is refreshingly slow, and I’m doing my best to adjust to it) we walked out to the end of the road on Monemvasia and entered into the old village through a thirty foot stone gateway, the only access point at the end of a tall boundary wall that ran up the side of the islands steep and rocky hillside. Exploring the cobblestone streets reminded me of my time in Venice last year, and after a few hours exploring we headed back to the car to find our Airbnb.
A late afternoon nap refreshed us plenty, and we returned to the small island across the bridge to watch the sunset over a hazy mountain skyline, ultimately finding drinks at a rooftop bar overlooking the sea. Eventually ending up at another rooftop restaurant, The Cannon, we were served a completely customized dinner designed for us by the manager. After a while we became the only patrons left, and dined quietly by faint light while the music changed to a live Pink Floyd album, the sounds of the sea adding to the soundtrack of our evening.
On the way back to the Airbnb we stopped to photograph the Milky Way lingering due south over the ocean, the darkness of the surrounding region allowing the sprawling and colorful comprising stars to shine brightly overhead. It’s always a special moment to see the Milky Way with the naked eye, moments that are only possible in the summer when living in or visiting the northern hemisphere. Dani saw two shooting stars while I was focused on making photographs, and before we knew it it was after 02h00 and we returned to the apartment to call it a night.
Tomorrow we head back to Athens for two days, then turn our sights towards the southern islands Greece is so famous for.