1467: In Search of Oil!
Monday 9th March 2020
The engine oil light had come on on 28th February … just as we were leaving Crete and all our contacts who could have helped us to find a suitable garage. We’d had our eyes open whilst at Itea etc, but not seen suitable garages and google was not helping. J had not managed to find anywhere that could do an oil change in Porto Rafti whilst I was away … not commercial enough, So we decided to move to another spot we’d used 2 years ago, Varkiza, Ag. Marina, nearer Athens and more built up … we really wanted to find somewhere before arriving in Turkey. On the way, we did a Lidl shop, which included a little pork! Just before our destination, I spotted a Castrol sign, but it was now closed for the evening … we’d head back early next morning.
1468: Oil and a Ferry
Tuesday 10th March
The Castrol chap spoke good English … couldn’t do a van our size, but up the road, was a lorry garage, opposite the toy store, try there. Google translate was our friend here … no, he made lorries, could not do an oil change and sent us back down the street to opposite Eko Petrol station. Feeling slightly despondent, I ran across the dual carriageway … the young lad spoke good school English … yes they had the right oil and could do a change. J was beckoned, drove and did a U turn …
As well as the oil change, the mechanic checked the oil filters, topped up the coolant and changed the remaining old windscreen wiper, which the young lad had to run down the road to buy. He also jet washed the engine. And where our bumper is hanging off slightly, courtesy of the recovery / tow in Corsica, he drilled 2 holes and neatly cable tied it together. The bill was £163, and bear in mind the oil was EUR65 for each of 2 5 ltr containers and we’ve brough about 2 litres away with us. So pretty good for a mini service, I think.
A coffee and pastry to celebrate for lunch. Our ferry to Chios was not until 8.00 p.m., and en route, another quick shop for wine, as Lidl had only bottles … I cleared out the shelf of bag in box, only 5 x 5 ltr of white. Will we cope? That’s only 45 litres on board, as we’ve read that Turkish wine is not up to much. Interestingly, all the wine we have is from Crete, although some was bought on the mainland.
Ferry was typical Greek … it seems like chaos boarding, but they know exactly how to organise it. We and one car were the ONLY non commercial vehicles, in fact there were hardly any vehicles, just container trailers expertly reversed on. We were shown to our cabin by staff and Result! It was a 4 berth with bunks. I was able to sleep in a top bunk without CO2 joining me! They had their own bunk underneath … J, who was on the other low bunk, did say that they tried to join him during the night … but I didn’t know anything about it … zzzz’s. Supper was chicken I’d previously cooked with salad … must prepare more salad meals now the weather is improving.
CO2 waiting for the oil change to be finished.
The overnight ferry route from Pireaus to Chios
1469: The Resin Island – Chios (Hios)
Wednesday 11th March
We were woken not by a discrete tap on our cabin door, but by someone actually opening it an poking his head in. We later spotted him doing the rounds again … a thankless task of checking all the cabins had been vacated.
We had to wait for all the trailers in front of Jez to be hauled off before we could get to Jez. Then we were told to hurry up and get off … foot passengers for the return leg were already on board!
Arrival in Chios was at 0500 hours and it was still dark. We drove though the super quiet and narrow streets out of Chios, grateful not to meet any other traffic. We parked up at the Mastic Museum …
A huge car park that was out of sight and we had it all to ourselves.
From the parking, CO2 and I climbed up to the viewing platform; CO2 were tied to the base of the rickety and rusty spiral stair case.
View from the top.
After a solid sleep for a couple of hours we went into the Museum. One of the first places for a while where J was given a 50% discount. Good value at EUR6 total. My guide book (eBay, of course) was published 2006, and hadn’t mentioned this museum, as it was opened in 2016. It was a gem and we thank David and Karen, thegreygappers.co.uk, for telling us about it. When petroleum products replaced a lot of the uses for mastic, the locals organised a cooperative and started manufacturing chewing gum. We’d come across mastic as a flavouring on Crete, when there was a limited ice cream flavour choice … I’ll stick with vanilla.
As well as the usual static exhibits, there were short films about the mastic trees, growing, and harvesting, the production processes and the arichecture of the mastic villages.
Chios is the only place in the world where mastic is grown, due to its climatic conditions.
The resin is the product of the tree sterilising the wound cut into it’s bark. It is harvested during night time as the sun turns it to a useless honey.
Even in the modern chewing gum factory, one process is still the hand cleaning of the resin. Growers are paid according to weight and a laser examination as to the cleanliness of the mastic.
The brand Elma stand for Greek (Elinka) and Mastic. The museum stated that it the only gum made with natural products.
From the museum we drove to Pyrgi, one of the mastic villages. Knowing that villages have notoriously narrow Jez-unfriendly streets, I’d identified a car park next to the village stadium … my assumption that coaches can drive there is usually correct … It was a little tight, but the car park had a big closed gate across its entrance, next to a house. On the balcony of this house were some very friendly ladies with no English. They indicated we could park across the entrance, applauded J’s reversing and laughed at Oscar’s over excited barking. More lovely Greek people …
Geometric patterns are cut into white washed walls to reveal a layer of black volcanic sand underneath. Even on the underside of balconies.
Wise decision to park Jez outside … this was relatively wide!
The central square and coffee stop.
Corrie trying to blend in with the houses.
We attempted to go to a beach car park for our overnight, but it was seriously sloping and there were no restaurants open there. We about turned and stopped roadside at a restaurant we’d passed. Then back to the Museum carpark over night … moonlight and stars … no orange light pollution.
True to form, we ordered too much food … baked aubergine with feta, baked local cheese and a hock of slow cooked pork. Then the excellent salesmanship of the owner / cook persuaded us to have her slow cooked beans … all really delicious. Only beans made it home to form the basis of the next night’s dinner.
1470: Mesta and Chaos Ferry
Thursday 12th March
We read that Mesta is considered one of the finest examples of mastic village architecture. A central tower, single storey houses, later built upward, then a protecting village wall. Really narrow alleyways and passages, often with arches, where houses extended sideways. Indifferent coffee in the square, quickly joined by a vocal tour group. We later realised they were Turkish as they were on the ferry that evening with us.
We drove the non direct route back to Chios town, filling our tanks at a water station on the outskirts of town. Loads of locals were using it, some with bringing a pickup flat bed full of containers. Why, I have no idea.
Very barren landscape, the mastic trees are low growing. Other trees were destroyed in fires or used for boat building.
Onto a disused harbour, 1.5km out of town, but quiet for J to nap. I walked into town to collect our boarding passes. A slight moment of concern as the lady declared she had just printed the passes, but none with our name. After about 5 mins, she realised that all the agency tickets were in a drawer …. duh! Oh and by the way, the ferry leaves half and hour earlier than advertised! J received a phone call from me to make Jez ready and picked me up roadside. At the dock, it was all minor chaos. A few trucks with police (riot gear inside the busses) as there were about 150 immigrants on the dock. Only about a third were families; most being young men. I don’t know how long they had been there, but they’d set up a washing line. Chios and Lesbos have both been in the news as they are so close to Turkey and have had more than their share of migrants and locals have just about had enough.
On the walk into Chios town.
At the harbour it was really unclear how to proceed and where to go. We headed through Passport control, down a tiny gap in fencing, then onto the vehicle control. We reversed ourselves back out, whilst foot passengers went forward. The vehicle registration lady would open the gate so we could load Jez … but a truck and police car had to be moved first!
Jez on the ferry to Turkey.
On arrival in Cesme, Turkey, a friendly dog handler spoke excellent English and he told us to park up, and go though passport and vehicle control … the latter took a while as the lady ended up needing help working out what to enter from the V5 and insurance. Then it was 300m back into the port and up onto a ramp for Jez to be X-ray’d. He only just fit and it was a bit of a clonk as he descended.
At the final gate, all the documentation was checked again and I was asked if we had anything to declare. Magically our bag in box wine shrunk to about 15 litres. And whilst waiting I learned how to say Thank you.
We pulled over in Cesme town, almost immediately to identify a cash point. I tried to withdraw 2500 Turkish Lira and was told I’d exceeded my car limit. A slight concern s it had not been used. I then tried with 2000 TL … and it worked. I received a huge wad of TL50 notes. The exchange rate is just under TL8 to £1.
About 8km further south in the now dark and down a dirt track to a lovely wild spot, tarmac but right on the beach.