Oct.20.2010, Peloponnese

Road to monastery

0830  mixed blue sky and clouds, 18 C.  Up and at ’em, downstairs to TV room for the news, protests continue in France, protests have commenced or perhaps are just now being reported in England.  0900 Richard made breakfast – soft boiled eggs, toast, cereal, salami, cheese – it sure tastes good.  1030 Left Irae Mare for the monastery recommended by Mary at the front desk.  Richard is driving.

We mistakenly went past the turn for Karnezeika and up the shortcut road at Kantia, then turned right.  Got to Lygourion and realized we were on the wrong road entirely, the road to Askliipio – Epidaurus.  Went past Askliipio and took the right turn to Irae.  Guess what – it’s a road not marked on our map (again).  It rejoined the shortcut road and we elected to turn right thinking we were east of Karnezeika.  Saw a road heading to a church and checked to see if it might be the monastery, but it wasn’t.  As it turned out, we were more than 16 km. away as the crow flies – talk about being entirely turned around and lost!  To be fair, Kathy thought she recognized a plastic bag lodged on a fence or a tree and thought we were on the Kantia shortcut road but we didn’t believe her (until much later…).  Sorry Kathy!

Sunny with clouds, 23 C.  Back down the road and arrived at Kantia which we recognized .  Left out of town, went past Irae, found Karnezeika.  Now, Mary’s guide book suggested that the turn off for the monastery would be 10 km. east of Karnezeika, but we found a road sign for the monastery only 2 km east of Karnezeika and only 1 km east of Karnazaiika (now you know why we are easily confused) so we turned off.  We took the paved piece of road but were stopped by a chain across the entrance into a marble and slate quarry industrial site.  So we backtracked and turned down the other gravel / rock road, 1 lane with lots of signs of the recent torrential rain including cross road run off channels, bank and drop off edge erosion and large rock tumbled onto the road.  We carried on.  We may have turned off the main road too early even though it clearly had a sign for the monastery, so we ended up with 11 km of gravel road to get to the monastery – about 7 km. down a valley then 4 km up a very steep side hill.

Highway to hell.  A fascinating road trip.  Something that makes memories.  The picture on this page shows the road in pink located on a Google Earth map.  Notice that in the last section climbing up the mountain side to the plateau, that parts of the road are not marked.  They couldn’t be seen on the Google Earth images, and looking at the steepness of that hill side you might not think there is a road at all unless you have driven it.

Kathy started crying and I stopped talking as navigation was no longer necessary with only one way to go and no places wide enough to turn around after we left the valley bottom.  We finally made it to the plateau of the monastery, with windmill power generators not far away.  We found a cliffside house, knocked first, then opened the door.   We saw signs that it was inhabited although no one was there at the time, so I took a picture but did not enter.  The actual monastery was a short ways away along the cliff, built on the cliff side.  I am still not sure what was holding it up.  It is uninhabited now.

There were holes in the floor in one end of the hallway on the 2nd floor.  I walked up to the 3rd floor and found an interior chapel full of icons, byzantine like pictures and 2 chandeliers.  Debbie stayed at ground level while I went up to the roof.  Although I was at least 2 m away from any edge at any time, I still felt vertigo all the time I was on the roof.  It encouraged me to get back down and out.

Back to the car, a few more pics and then we started the descent/ascent.  At one point the road was so steep upwards that we were concerned that if we had to stop as we might not be able to resume going forward and would have to back downwards until we could get to a place for another try.  We passed a VW bus on the way out, fortunately at one of the few wide points on the road.  We also hit a rock in the middle of the road with the right rear whell but no obvious harm done.

Sunny, white clouds, 23 C.  We stopped at the taverna in Irae town – we were all still pretty shaken by the drive in and out.  2 beer and 2 Baileys.  Checked the restaurant for possible dinner later.  The market is closed.  Back to the hotel.

I took the car and went solo to the market in Kandia beach to get a bottle of red wine.  When I returned, I met Richard and Kathy at the beach.  Too windy, too many waves to go swimming there.  Picked up Debbie in the hotel room and we all went to the pool.  Red wine poolside and a refreshing dip.  Back to the room for a shower and journalling.  1830

1900 Into Irae to the restaurant in the town square.  This was a true family restaurant.  Order taken by the daughter, food cooked by uncle and momma, served by another brother.  I had xorta pronounced horta which was identified on the menu as roadside weed salad!  At least this salad was green (see fish roe salad, Olympia).  Stayed and talked until 2100 including Tim and MaryLou from New York who are also staying at our resort.  Back by 2130 and finished journal at 2210.  Good night!

Tues.Oct.26.  I have found the monastery on Google Earth, at an elevation of 300 m., at 37°30.178′ N, 23°7.133’E.  It is 160 m above the valley bottom.  It appears that there is no better way into it from the valley, but perhaps a much better road from Pelei via the windmill farm but that was not referred to in the travel guide we had consulted.

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