The Rock – Monemvasia (Part 1) – 20th to 24th August 2016

The Rock – Monemvasia (Part 1) – 20th to 24th August 2016

Monemvasia is our final stop in the Peloponnes before we make the overnight sail to Crete, as you approach the bay, the headland is unmistakable all you see is the monolithic rock rising sheer out of the sea, it is known locally as the “Gibraltar of the East”. 1A bit of history on the Rock – The name Monemvasia means “single entrance”, the rock can only be reached by a narrow causeway. In the 6th century the Byzantines built a town on the summit of the rock and fortified it with thick high walls. Then about 400 years later the lower town was added and it became an important trading point. Over the years the rock was fought over and changed hands many time (although they did seem to surrender without a fight on most occasions) as from here you control the gateway to the Aegean around Cape Malea.2A modern town called Yefira has grown up on the mainland side of the rock. It’s harbour is divided into two area’s, a small one near the main settlement, full of small local fishing boats and visiting ribs, however the main harbour area is a little further out of town (a 10 minute walk), which also has an inner section for the colourful little Greek fishing boats and then the outer quays are filled by visiting yachts and motor boats.3We initially dropped our anchor and moored stern to the inner northern quay, but within the hour with the winds blowing on our beam, we realised our anchor was not holding and we were starting to move sideways at an uncomfortable rate. We later discovered that the sand on the seabed was a very thin layer covering rock, so there really was no chance for our anchor to dig in. We made the decision to move and found a space side on, against the outer mole. A much better location when the winds blow, as it is more protected and you don’t rely on your anchor; we still have access to the water supply and now we can, to our delight, jump off the back of the boat and swim with the many visiting turtles, which really are quite large and impressive.4Saturday afternoon (arrival day) we ventured into Yefira to check out where we could provision the boat, and you will be shocked to hear, we discovered a bar on the water front that does great Mojito’s, so a couple of those later and a Gyros (pronounced yiros) we headed back to the boat.

Sunday was very productive, starting with an early morning run through Yefira up to the gates of the old town on the rock and back, then Hapatoni got a good clean and polish inside and out … both of these activities were quite tough in this heat. In the evening following dinner on board, we joined the hustle and bustle as the locals walked up to the old town on the rock. It is surrounded by fortified walls and has ancient cobbled streets, much too narrow and uneven for any car to pass through. We were slightly amused to see that they had added concrete slopes to the steps to allow wheelchair access, but the chance of any wheelchair negotiating those uneven streets to get to the steps was close to zero. The town is thriving, full of little shops, tiny boutique hotels, bars and restaurants, all looking out over the bay. It is extremely well maintained, all repairs/restorations are done using the original building techniques and materials, so it really feels authentic and charming.5We woke early on the Monday as we wanted to explore further and go up to the upper town/ruins on the rock before the sun got too hot. We caught the 8am bus that takes you across the causeway to the lower town gates, our timing was excellent, we had beaten the flood of tourists and the town was virtually empty and very peaceful.6We took the path up to the ruins of the upper town, following the very rustic pebble path zig zagging up the rock, at the top it is mainly ruins, but they have restored a few areas to give you a feel of the layout of the old town and of course, the church is fully restored and beautiful (no surprise there). The views are stunning out to the bay and the sheer drops very scary, I don’t think this would be an easy place to invade and capture. We finished our sightseeing trip walking through the lower town and back to the boat. With no wind, we spent the afternoon swimming trying to keep cool and Mark continued work on his list of tasks.7Tuesday 23rd brought the arrival of Tina and Tim on Shiraz and their guest, 21 year old Charlotte who is onboard till Thursday 25th. With the possibility of stronger winds later this week, we secured a space for Shiraz moored side to on the same quay a couple of boats down. It is great to see the guys again and catch up on all our adventures since we last saw them in Sivota back in early July. Supper was aboard Hapatoni and I cooked “Tacita’s” for all. A mixture of dishes based on the ingredients available, Taco mince with Fajita vegetables, tortillas and the standard Mexican dips of homemade salsa and guacamole.  It turned out a great evening, my dish was a success, all plates wiped clean and absolutely none was left.

It seems the strong winds will be with us for four days, possibly till Saturday, so our stay here has been extended. With this in mind we are settling into a routine and Mark is doing any boat tasks he can ahead of Crete.8Every day we see turtles swimming and playing, they seem to have a circuit, towards the fishing boats for food then around the harbour passing next to or under our boat on the way out.  They are both large and very graceful, it is wonderful to finally see some sea life, the turtles have made up for the lack of Dolphins, Mark has taken some great photos and he has captured them on video flirting with each other.

On Wednesday 24th we were up running again, we need to get back into the habit of running every other day, not easy or desirable in this heat, but essential. This was followed by some pampering, I found a great salon and had a shellac pedicure (the ladies will know what that is) for the amazing price of 15 euros, I was shocked as she did a good job and it was just too cheap.

Tina, Tim and Charlotte went site seeing to the rock, missing the activities in the harbour. We had a strong north easterly blowing and some swell coming in, a number of boats left, with one boat getting his anchor tangled with two others, and a couple others hurriedly leaving as their anchors dragged on the rocky seabed. The main event however, was for Mark to see the shocked look on the face of the man in a small dinghy, as his extremely heavy 30 hp outboard engine flew into the air off the back of his boat, and still running, disappear into 5 metres of water. He had obviously not secured it properly, and when he hit a wave, he and his engine parted company. As I joined the show, the guy was rowing against the waves trying to get back to the spot it had disappeared below the waves, he then secured his dingy and jumped into the water trying to dive down and find his engine. We watched on, then Mark being the nice guy leant him a snorkel, fins and some rope. After about 20 minutes he found his engine and tried to pull it back on board his dinghy, but being so heavy he had no chance, so Mark being the savour jumped in the water, swam over and help him pull it back on board. Engine returned, he rowed himself back to his yacht, which we were shocked to find was 20 metres away …. but none of his fellow crew had bothered to help him. He owes Mark a large drink for that, but some people are just ungrateful, not even a thank you wave as they left the bay.

Tonight as its Charlottes last night we are meeting for a few drinks and supper on the sea front.

Part 2 on Monemvasia 25th until we set sail probably on Monday 29th to follow.

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