Home before Christmas
Epidavros (Greece) to Bangkok (Thailand), Nov 2011 - Jan 2012

The southern part of Greece’s mainland, also called Peloponnese, is tremendous. Especially by private car, it is great to cruise through this picturesque area. Small roads took us through deserted landscapes, fertile areas where olives and citrus fruits are grown and small mountain villages where larger vehicles aren’t welcome, simply because they are too big for the small and winding roads. Peloponnese is also the part of Greece where we enjoyed comfortable weather for the first time in this country of the Sertaki. The northern part of the country brought us mainly cloudy skies and rain, while Peloponnese treated us often on blue skies and sunny days.

After a couple of stops, we eventually arrived in the small town called Gythio, where we found a camping site a couple of kilometres outside the town. There weren’t a lot of other guests and the guests that were there, were people spending the winter time in this warmer part of Europe. We met a German guy named Axel, an interesting French couple (see also the column: Fountain of the body) and a German couple with a huge camper-truck. We stayed two weeks on the camping site and did some day trips to the Mani Peninsular and the famous town of Monemvasia, which is build on a huge rock just off the coast from the mainland. We also enjoyed the great weather in Gythio. Most of the days were sunny, which made camping a pleasure. However, the sun disappeared around four in the afternoon and took also the comfortable temperature with him. During the day it was around 17 degrees Celsius, but as soon as the sun disappeared, the temperature dropped till far below 10 degrees Celsius.

Great landscapes on Greece's Mani Peninsula
In Gythio we started thinking seriously about the way we want to travel in the future. A couple of months ago we decided to go by private car, but we weren’t so sure anymore about the superiority of travelling by car. Of course, travelling by car is great and comfortable, but we also experienced some negative side-effects. The most important side-effect is probably the fact that we often have to stay outside the city or in the city suburbs. Camping sites are not located in the city centre and also hotels with a parking spot are rare in the heart of the city. Of course they are there but the price of these hotels is most of the time not the price we want to pay for a hotel room. And by staying outside the city, we have the feeling that we miss the action. We were used to spending the night in the heart of the city where all the action and atmosphere is, and not in a grey and boring city suburb. Besides that, travelling by private car means that you miss a lot of contact with the local people. We spent most of the time during travelling days in the car, which is a huge difference from travelling by bus or train. Another issue is the vulnerability. If you travel by car you have a lot to lose. The car is valuable and it is not easy to find a safe spot to park it. Besides that, a car makes you also more vulnerable when you cross a border. Border officials try to earn something from you, often in the form of ‘necessary’ insurances or not existing taxes. Also the idea that the car can break down at the most unwanted places gives us a constant worry. We started realizing that it is a great feeling when you only have a backpack to lose.

The weeks after, we often thought about the way we want to travel in the future. Of course, we still had a great time in Greece and we visited beautiful areas and cities, but the main subject of our discussions was if would continue by car or not. Especially when we travelled further north and the weather became colder, we realised that travelling by car had another negative side-effect. You can’t take a car on a plane, which means that you have to drive to your next destination. And that means that it is almost impossible to cross a continent in the short term in search of better weather. We drove further north and visited places like the spectacular Gialova Lagoon (see also the article: Spectacle at the Gialova Lagoon), the beautiful archaeological site of Olympia and the chaotic city Patra, where we bought our ferry tickets for the boat to Italy. We used our last week in Greece for the ride from Patra to Igoumenitsa, where we took the ferry to Brindisi in Italy. The weather was cold and wet. The ferry ride wasn’t that long (8 hours), but the night was. The expected time of departure was 23.59 hours, but we eventually left at 02.30 in the night. It became a sleepless night.

A nice cappuccino in chilly Lecce

After arrival in Italy, it took us almost an hour to drive to Lecce. We found a deserted camper place five kilometres outside the city centre, which we used as our base for our visits to the city. During the day we took the city bus to the heart of town, where we spent most of the time looking around and sipping great Italian Espressos. During one of our Espresso-stops, we decided that we hankered more for our backpacks than for continuing by car. Travelling with the backpack is the way we want to travel for the time being. We read on the internet that the weather predictions for the coming weeks were not so good for Italy, so the decision was made easily. We decided to go back to The Netherlands. And this was prefect timing, because it was a week before Christmas. It would be our first Christmas in The Netherlands since five years. The next day we drove north and spent the night in freezing Bologna. The day after we started early in the morning, crossed the snowy Alps and arrived in The Netherlands just before midnight.

The first question that most people asked us is what our plans were regarding the car. Some people hoped that we would sell it. But we didn’t. We like the car too much and it has a lot of opportunities. We did some maintenance on the car and decided to stall it for future use. There is no doubt that it will give us a lot of pleasure in the future. The Christmas Days were great. We had a lot of fun; the atmosphere was great and the food delicious. We also thought a lot about our next travel destination. After discussing the possibilities, we decided to go back to Asia. We have seen a huge part of it, but for our feeling it is too soon to say goodbye to this great continent. Our destination is Southern India, but not before we brought short visits to both Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. See it as a comfortable preparation for the things to come: chaotic, but colourful India.

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