Arriving back in Athens from Santorini, we faced a short drive to the ferry at Patras port on the western coast. Drawing ever closer to our next country, Italy, we thought that we had seen the last of our surprises – we were wrong!
Having arrived late at Athens airport, we caught the Megaparking shuttle from the airport to MegaParking about 10 minutes drive away. A real bargain at 25 Euro for 10 days including free airport drop off / pick up with bookings completed online. We drove the 20 minutes from there to our regular quiet and free parking spot near Chamolia, overlooking the sea, (coordinates N 37.921876 E24.021913) to get a good nights sleep.
We spread the five-hour drive from Athens to Patras over an easy two days. Our ferry to Bari on the eastern Italian coast was already booked and we had time to spare. Hugging the northern coast of the Peloponnese, driving west from Athens, we were on the lookout for an overnight stop.
We definitely like a bit of space around us when we park up and had to drive for a good half hour before we found ‘the spot’! A secluded car park right at the water’s edge in Derveni, Korinthia (coordinates N38.136227, E22.427733) with fantastic views.
By now it was a windy, partly cloudy, cold late afternoon and the mountains tops on the opposite coastline were crested with snow. We thought it was a good time to close up the campervan. Within the space of what seemed but a few minutes, the sky transformed. Over the next thirty minutes the drab greys manifested into beautiful hues of pinks and oranges with the setting of the sun.
The softer light of the setting sun enhanced the colours all around us and sent us into a photo snapping frenzy.
What a send off for our last night in the Hellenic Republic!
Arriving early at Patras, we decided to park at the outer port car park and use the spare time to update our travel blog. There were many trucks parked around us, some with drivers present and others not.
After an hour, we saw about five men, who we thought were inspecting a trailer, but this number soon swelled to about thirty. No, something seemed out-of-place. They then proceeded to try to open and then climb onto many other trailers and containers nearby. Although they weren’t inflicting any damage, their intention was suspect. Our gut feeling told us things weren’t safe anymore so we started the engine and headed for an early check-in to the ferry.
By this stage we had guessed what was going on. Immigrants and refugees were looking to hide themselves away, sneak past customs and hitch a free ride to another country.
Passing the customs check, we parked in the secure dock area about 100m from the water and the security fence, to await the call for the ferry boarding. Parked close by were a couple of other campervans and a few trucks.
Sometime later, hearing police sirens, we looked out of the campervan window to see a couple of security cars with flashing lights driving on each side of the fence perimeter.
Taking a closer look, we saw why! Around thirty men were attempting to scale the security fence, at different locations and at the same time. All with the same goal in mind – to breach the dock area and board the departing ferry. It was an all out en-masse assault. Now we were really on our guard!
Some did breach the razor wire, sprint across the tarmac and around our campervan in a desperate attempt to find refuge. Each time they were shepherded back over the fence by port security. We were quite surprised at this ‘cat n mouse’ type play but were relieved to observe that there was no outward violence displayed from either party and all without physical contact or injury.
We found out later that these desperate men are refugees and migrants from war-torn countries. They camp in makeshift tents in an abandoned factory directly opposite the port. Each day, a few hours prior to ferry departure, they scale the port security fences in an attempt to board the ferry. If captured by the port police they are dealt some form of punishment. The article, ‘A Dangerous Game’ by Fahrinisa Oswald details an interview with these desperate people.
Soon after, we received the all ok to board. We left the port and the plight of the refugees behind us and set sail towards the western horizon and the promise of new adventures in Italy.
Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.