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4.6 Island Paradise Chios

The return journey by ferry from Northern Cyprus to Turkey is much easier than the outward journey. Only a short delay when the same ferry departs, all in daylight, without any complications or surprises, neither at the border nor in the lift in the hold of the ferry. By the time we finally disembark and clear immigration, however, it is already dark and we get to rest on a fishing jetty just outside the harbour area. Ferry travel may be a well-deserved break for FRAME, but for us it's just as exhausting as being behind the wheel. In any case, we are dead tired after a day like today.

Waiting is not our strength, but beautiful beaches are ;-)

We imagined the journey along the coast of southern Turkey to be very cosy and romantic. We already have our sights set on several beautiful bays and beaches so that we can take a proper rest after a long and winding journey. Unfortunately, this doesn't work out, as we lose oil on the left front wheel again. At first we even suspect it could be brake fluid running down the brake discs. Although we always carry both brake fluid and gear oil in reserve, a permanent loss is alarming and cannot simply be remedied by topping up. Our "taste analysis" results in the finding: It is gear oil. The sealing ring, which we had replaced in Northern Cyprus, doesn't seem to be really tight. Whether this is due to the fact that it is not an original part or that it is only a single-lip ring instead of a double-lip ring remains to be seen. With a queasy feeling, we drive west along the coast and search the internet for a garage. However, we don't want to get an improper part a second time, so on the recommendation of a lorry garage we go to one of the very sparse Mercedes truck garages in Antalya to finally get the right spare part. And then the shock news: we are told it will take ten to fourteen days to get the part. Well, there are worse things than being stuck in southern Turkey in spring. We quickly get used to the idea of being stranded here. We take advantage of the forced break and look for a nice pitch by the sea. But after a week, even that somehow gets boring. So we add another week in the mountains by the turquoise-green waters with the canyon enthusiasts. Finally, on day 15, we receive the news that the good part has arrived after all. Off to the workshop and out with the leaking part from Northern Cyprus.

above: First week on the wild beach of Mavikent

below: Second week in the forests of Körülü Canyon

This intervention meant that we missed a good three weeks. Three weeks during which we actually wanted to finally get to know at least part of Turkey. During our involuntary wait, however, we heard from a new Swiss acquaintance (thank you, Markus!) that there are ferries between Turkey and Greece in winter after all. A mini-ferry runs once a day from Cesme to Chios, one of the many Greek islands that lie barely ten kilometres off the Turkish coast. From there, you can ship to Piraeus in one night. Sounds like a great shortcut to make up some time and we've heard nothing but good things about Chios from our Moroccan travelling companions Turtle Groove.

After a brief meeting with our new Turkish friend and Unimog owner Kerem on the beach near Göcek, we go to collect our new vehicle licence plate, as we lost the old one during the swamp odyssey in Northern Cyprus. The new licence plate made it from Zurich to Dalaman with DHL Express in a whopping 25(!) days. Just think about it: in today's Amazon age, a reputable logistics company manages to move an A4-sized envelope weighing just a few hundred grams in 25 days using the "Express" method - and the corresponding costs. That's not even 100 kilometres per day. The military cyclists were more efficient 40 years ago. Thank you DHL, but you won't be seeing us as customers any time soon...

The following two days to the coastal town of Cesme are very attractive both in terms of the route and the places to stay overnight and elicit a promise from us that we want to travel Turkey extensively on our own. Istanbul also falls victim to the new routing for the second time. But after this schedule chaos now comes Chios!

above: The castle of the harbour town of Cesme with a view (top right) of the Greek island of Chios

below: Small but beautiful, the mini ferry for the 10 kilometres to Greece

There is just enough room for one more vehicle on the ferry in addition to our FRAME. Admittedly, another three were stowed in the body of the ferry, but it's still the smallest and, in terms of kilometres, by far the most expensive ferry we've ever experienced. But ferries are like aeroplanes: if you arrive safely at your destination, they are actually worth their weight in gold. We arrive in the island capital of Chios just after sunset and barely make it up the mountain before dark. In principle, we are the perfect planners who like to prepare every detail in advance. But when we arrive on Chios, we've really got our plans wrong. It's Saturday evening and neither the telecoms shops for a new SIM card nor the shops for groceries are open this evening or even tomorrow Sunday. Nevertheless, we decide to drive a mountainous off-road route because our supplies are still in the green zone.

The roads on Chios are narrow, steep and winding. We suspect this will be the case throughout Greece. A stark contrast to the motorways that the Turks themselves carve through the mountains. The biggest danger for us here is therefore not so much getting stuck or sinking into the mud, but perhaps not being able to turn round or not being able to get past the cars parked at the side of the road. In fact, it is noticeable on Chios that the trees at the side of the road grow unhindered into the road, which means that we can hardly keep exclusively in the right-hand lane, but drive where there is enough space. As a result, we not only pay more attention to oncoming traffic, but also look in the rear-view mirror every few seconds.

Nea Moni Monastery, Chios, Greek Island
Monastery Nea Moni

And so we get caught out when we visit the first mountain monastery, Moni Agiou Markou. Once again we've forgotten what day of the week it is. It is now Sunday and the monastery is full for mass and, of course, the whole turning area is parked up, making it impossible to park our vehicle in an orderly fashion. We put ourselves in the second row of the car park so that it is just possible to pass. Once again, our patience is required. At some point, the service will be over and the churchgoers will move their vehicles back down into the valley. In the meantime, we enjoy the fantastic view and even benefit from mobile phone reception with our old SIM from the Turkish mainland ten kilometres away.

Totally lonely "on top of Chios"

As the road finally clears, we start the engine again. The peak we want to climb is actually right in front of us, just a few kilometres south of this monastery. For today, however, we choose the long route around the mountain to fill our tank at a water point. Once on the ascent, it gets really narrow. There are hardly any turning options here either. We literally tack from one to the next, always ready to reverse should there suddenly be no turning point left. There are just under two kilometres to go, which sounds like child's play. Anyone sitting on the valley side will probably disagree. After all, Brigitte never gets off today! It may be too hot or too windy for her, or she may be slowly gaining confidence in my driving skills. Judging by the topography on the map, we should be able to find a rather flat platform on the pass, sheltered from the strong north wind. And indeed, a fantastic spot awaits us at a solid 600 metres above sea level. After a two-minute walk to the summit, we can still receive a Turkish internet signal. We have found our spot, we stay here until the wind dies down again and in the meantime we enjoy hiking with fantastic panoramic views in all directions.

The drive back to Chios Town teaches us once again how to handle our two metres thirty in width and three metres forty-five in height. Prudent road users fold down the rear-view mirrors of the vehicles parked in front of us in rows. Oranges roll over our solar panels onto the ground and the branches of numerous trees tickle our matt paintwork. We only manage to keep a respectful distance from the corners of houses and balconies. And this is supposed to be the main road through Chios? This is going to be fun.

We do our shopping in the little town, book the ferry to Athens and are soon on the road again, now heading south-west to the island's most beautiful beaches.

The south is somewhat flatter and therefore more populated and built-up than the wilder north. And yet here, too, we always find ourselves all alone. Karinta Beach is located on one of these numerous turquoise-blue bays, where you can usually get there comfortably without a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Karinta Beach is followed by what is probably the most photogenic little town, known as Pyrgi, in which we sneak through the narrow alleyways as if we were in Venice, always on the lookout for a special photographic highlight. The journey continues clockwise around the island. The roads are well developed and we have got used to the "tree traps" in the meantime. Our gaze wanders again and again to these unspeakably paradisiacal bays with their crystal-clear turquoise waters. My God, this earth is beautiful!

Impressions Pyrgi Village

Siderounta Beach, Chios, Greek Island
Paradise pitch at Siderounta Beach

Having reached the far west, we spot an overlander on the beach at Siderounta from far above. Right next to it is the somewhat smaller Tigani Bay. We drive down and hope to find a spot of our own. There is actually a white van on Tigani Beach, all lonely and deserted in the woods next to the pebble beach. A Bernese named Reiner. But there was no one there except Reiner ;-). He offers to share his beach paradise with us, which of course makes us very happy. Nevertheless, we take a short drive to the next bay in the direction of the fellow Overlander to make sure we don't miss anything. We actually find our own Garden of Eden here in the neighbourhood of, two nice young people, Marie and Bobby, on their way to Australia, where else?

We enjoy our little paradise and chill out in the hammock or in the crystal-clear water. There are not even any jellyfish here, as we have seen in southern Turkey or even in Cyprus. The days until the booked ferry pass in a flash, as always when it's at its best.

Impressions of Siderounta Beach

Unfortunately, we will no longer be reporting on Greece either. Greece will also have to wait to be travelled and discovered by us. Duty calls at home, we're going back for a break!



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