The weather looked great this morning as I uncovered the bike and started packing for our trip from Igoumenitsa to Paxos.
Last night the hotel owner said that breakfast would be at 9 which would give us enough time to ride the 1 km to the wharf to buy tickets for the Igoumenitsa to Paxos ferry. The owner arrived with breakfast at 830 so Michele was a little less worried. It was an interesting local breakfast of coffee, kalamata olives on toast, homemade cakes, cheese, fruit, bread, jams and honey.
After breakfast we met the owner who telephoned the port to check the ferry was running and we then followed him down to the port, where he showed us where to purchase the tickets. As a parting gift he gave us a jar of olives from his farm. He really was a lovely man and we realised that the reason that he seemed so relaxed about the Igoumenitsa to Paxos ferry was that it is weather dependent.
Watching the ferry being packed was quite amazing. The long line of trucks with trailers were reversed onto the ferry, followed by vans, and cars. Every time it seemed like the ferry couldn’t take another vehicle another one reversed over the ramp. Surprisingly loading was quite fast and the ferry left on time. The ferry from Igoumenitsa to Paxos takes two hours and costs €11 for passengers and €12.40 for the motorcycle, which is quite reasonable. We were quite amazed at how well stocked the cafeteria on the ferry was. For such a short journey there was a great array of snack foods and drinks. Most of the journey from Igoumenitsa to Paxos is in the lee of the island of Corfu so the weather wasn’t too bad. However, the last 20 minutes was in the open water crossing to Paxos and the weather picked up a bit which Michele wasn’t keen on.
Just as we arrived at Paxos the skies opened up with an almighty deluge and although we had coats on the rain just got in underneath everything. Our couch surfing host Antigoni was waiting and we followed her home. Riding along the narrow roads of the island was quite magical as the whole island is covered in olive trees with lots of stone retaining walls in various states of repair. At this time of year all the wildflowers are in bloom so the roadsides, between the olive trees, along the stone walls were carpeted in purples, yellows, whites of camomile, native iris, broom and daisy’s.
After arriving at Antigonis we changed and hung our wet gear to dry. Over a coffee we chatted, learning a little about Paxos, and how Antigoni came to live here. Paxos has a resident population of roughly 3,000 people consisting of locals, Greeks who’ve come for work and have been hooked, and surprisingly a British expat community. The ferry from Igoumenitsa to Paxos runs everyday in summer but only 4 days a week in winter depending on the weather. In summer there’s also ferries from Igoumenitsa to Paxos which stop at Corfu. There’s also local taxi boats from Paxos to Corfu. Many locals use the airport at Corfu but can sometimes get stranded due to weather. Being a local on Paxos means they take into consideration the weather whenever planning journeys.
As the rain wasn’t going to let up Antigoni suggested we grab some lunch at a local cafe. Well what an awesome spot Café Neio turned out to be. It was like a step back in time as the walls of the small cafe were filled with all sorts of memorabilia and the glass cabinets on top of the counter were filled with all sorts of goodies. Antigoni explained that the cafe was midway between the ends of the island so that people would stop to buy cigarettes or something simple and stop for a coffee or Raki. It explained why every table was filled with people chatting and drinking. The wizened old owner really set the place off with a cigarette hanging from his lip, milky eyes peering through wire rimmed glasses, a stubbly grey beard and his grey long hair pulled back in a pony tail.
It was to be an experience that really touched our soul. As we chatted plates of olives, pickled vegetables, bread and marinated anchovies were washed down with mythos and raki. In the background local Greeks competed in conversation with varying levels of volume.
Outside cafe Nero the local church bell is attached to a tree just a few feet above the ground. Supposedly every now and then a liquored up local gives it a ring on the way home. After lunch the rain eased off so Antigoni suggested we do a bit of a tour around the island.
Our first stop was along the coast where after parking the car we took a walk through some beautiful old olive groves before following a track through stunted pines and broom bushes ablaze with golden flowers. The track emerged at a tiny clearing which overlooked a small bay surrounded by sheer cliffs.
After a walk in the forest we returned to the car to check out one of the nearby beaches before heading down to Lakka.
Set around a protected harbour Lakka is a picturesque little town which was really nice exploring with Antigoni.
As the sun was setting we headed home for tea. After a meal of chicken pasta and homemade red wine we chatted late into the night. Tomorrow weather permitting we’ll do some more exploring of this beautiful little island.