Getting to Lefkada
Jeff met Henk and I in the Netherlands, and spent a day in Rotterdam before the three of us flew to Athens. Sara and Scott had a longer trip (3 flights?) from Richmond, Virginia. After a smooth trip, and a flawless meeting in the baggage claim (seriously, we arrived within 5 mins of each other), we squeezed into a compact rental car and headed towards the coast. It was a 5 hour drive to Vasiliki, along many new stretches of highway, and the drive was easy (other than the cramped quarters - quite a few tall folks in our group). It used to be the most deadly stretch of highway in Europe, but fortunately something has been done about that...
Finding an overnight kayak rental in Greece...
It was quite a challenge to find kayak outfitters who would allow sea kayak rentals for self-guided overnight trips in Greece. In my extended search I only found two: Ionian Explorers in Vasiliki on Lefkada Island, and Enjoy Crete on Crete. Thanks to this blog post for pointing us in the right direction. Since a few members of the group had less experience on open sea (Crete), and since Lefkada was more accessible, we rented kayaks from George at Ionian Explorers.
George was helpful from the start. We communicated by email and I made a reservation a few months ahead of time (typical me, it was totally unnecessary in May). A 3-day kayak rental, including all paddling equipment and camping gear (excluding sleeping bags), was 135 euros/person, but he gave us the group rate of 120 euros/person. An excellent price! We paid a deposit ahead of time and he provided a useful document with what to expect, as well as a recommended packing list.
When we arrived in Vasiliki, George invited us to stop by the evening before for the safety and navigation briefing. He allowed us to leave some gear overnight to make the morning walk easier (we left the car at the Airbnb). During the briefing he suggested a route, pointed to an unofficial backcountry campsite, and gave some local tips about where to picnic and sights to see.
Day 1: Vasiliki to Meganisi via Sivota Bay
At some point in the morning we realized the kayak paddles were not very high quality - there were foam hand grips which were not well attached to the paddle shaft, resulting in a bit of annoying sliding/rotating. Holding the main shaft left black residue on our palms. Otherwise, we were satisfied with the paddling equipment - nothing fancy, but did the job for a good price!
We explored a bit and picked a restaurant for dinner (there were a few options), settling on Taverna Lakis. The waiter was quite a character, suggesting that we would be gassy when we ordered the "Plakas Gigantes" (giant beans), and making plenty of other somewhat inappropriate comments. He quickly bonded with Jeff and introduced Jeff to another Greek man who lived in the same city in Colorado (but was back in Greece for the summer). Apparently he runs a Greek restaurant close to Jeff's office! Scott also bonded with the waitstaff, as was generally the case :)
After another tasty (albeit a little greasy) dinner, all 5 of us crammed in the taxi (a Passat) and got a bumpy ride back to the olive grove. The driver was quite confused when we told him to let us out at George's Taverna, but then commenced walking down the dirt road (we didn't want him to know we were stealth camping).
Distance: ~25 km (15.5 miles)
Duration: 8 hours (including various stops)
Weather: Sunny and warm
Day 2: Exploring Meganisi (Spartochori and Vathy)
Rather than make our own breakfast, we decided to paddle to a nearby town for brunch (! how luxurious!).
Distance: ~19 km (12 miles)
Duration: all day (including various stops)
Weather: Sunny and warm
Day 3: Meganisi to Poros Beach and Sivota Bay
Back at the rental shop, we relayed a few messages to George - that we were not able to contact him (he said he had called but that it immediately went to voicemail, which is possible since I had my phone on battery saver mode), that we had trouble finding the campsite (we looked at Google maps together and realized there was a misunderstanding about the location, and that the coordinates provided were not very accurate), that George's Tavern actually had another name (Il Paradiso) and was not yet open for the season, and that some of the camping gear was damaged (it was quite low quality). He welcomed our feedback and soon we were walking back to our Airbnb for a relaxing afternoon of hanging out.
Distance: ~14 km (8.7 miles)
Duration: 4 hours (including breakfast stop)
Weather: Occasional showers + thunderstorms
Roadtrip, Vasiliki, and Athens
Below are some of my favorite pictures from the non-kayaking part of our trip. We ate tons of delicious food and wandered all over Athens for a day.