Sunsets and Smugglers: Greece Road Trip ends at Patras

Patras was our last port of call on our road trip through Greece. Drawing ever closer to our next country, Italy, we thought that we had seen the last of our surprises – we were wrong!

Arriving back in Athens from Santorini, we drove to our favourite little stop near Chamolia to sleep before heading towards Patras Port to catch the ferry to Bari, Italy.

White campervan parked close by the sea
Parking close by Athens airport at Chamolia – quiet and free!

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.

Derveni – the ‘Spot’

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. The view from here was stunning.

Campervan parked in a carpark by the sea with an orange sunset highlighting the distant mountains
We found ‘The Spot’

By now it was a windy, partly cloudy, cold early evening. As we were looking out across the snow-crested mountains on the opposite coastline the sky began transforming in front of our eyes. Over the next thirty minutes, with the setting of the sun, the drab greys manifested into beautiful hues of pink, purple and orange.

Rising moon seen over the distant mountains with the green sea and in the foreground brown trunked tress
Magical moment

The softer light of the setting sun enhanced the colours all around us and sent us into a photo-snapping frenzy.

Rectangular pier with rocks underneath projecting into a green sea with the snowy mountains in the horizon
The backdrop of snow-crested mountains with a small pier in the car park close by our campervan

What a send off for our last night in the Hellenic Republic.

Orange yellow sunset over the green sea looking from the seaside over a nearby jetty with the white waves crashing closeby
Sunset light show

Patras Port and the Men in Black

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. However, this number soon swelled from five to about thirty. Something now seemed odd and out-of-place.

The mob of men, mainly dressed in black, then proceeded to try to open and 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 camper vans and a few trucks.

Police, Sirens, Action Stations!

Some did breach the razor wire, sprint across the tarmac and around our campervan  in a desperate attempt to find refuge.

We thought that we would be away from the smuggling attempts once inside the secure dock area. However, this wasn’t the case.  Many more men were just on the other side of the fence and were constantly trying to climb over. Even the police sirens and security cars with flashing lights didn’t seem to deter the men in black.

2 security cars with flashing lights driving near men illegally climbing a security fence
Security cars acting as deterrents to thwart the illegal entry of the transients into the Patras port area

Although the security vehicles were driving on each side of the fence perimeter, the men were unperturbed. Around thirty of them were attempting to scale the security fence, all at different locations and at the same time. They all had 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!

Security wire being crossed over the top by many persons
Mass attempt at scaling the port perimeter security fence

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 force or injury.

A Dangerous Game

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 Patras ferry port. Each day, a few hours before the ferry departure, they scale the port security fences in an attempt to board the ferry. If captured by the port police they are given some form of punishment.

The article, ‘A Dangerous Game‘ by Fahrinisa Oswald highlights the plight of these refugees and their desperate grasp of ‘hope’ to get to a better life.

Campervan facing the quayside with 2 car ferries tied up
Ready to board the ferry to Italy

Time to say Goodbye to Greece

Greece had given us so many marvellous experiences over the winter, but it was now time to move on. We had hiked her incredible Lousios Gorge, been mesmerised by the magical town of Monemvasia, visited her ancient ruins in Athens and Corinth, and cruised her Arkadian Coast. And who could help but fall in love with one of her most visited islands, Santorini.

We could just keep ambling along this captivating coastline for eternity, but there are other adventures to be had and other sights to see.

So we left Patras, the port and the terrible plight of the refugees behind us, and set sail towards the western horizon. The promise of new adventures awaited us as we continued our road trip onwards through Europe. Next stop Italy… again.

Good to Know

The Parking at Athens airport cost a total of €25  for 10 days including free airport drop off / pick up with bookings completed online.

The free parking spot we found near Chamolia, Greece overlooking the sea, coordinates N 37.921876 E24.021913)

Derveni, Korinthia, Greece coordinates N38.136227, E22.427733

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Author: Lars

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.

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