I have been taken by aliens. They came in the middle of the afternoon, when I thought they most likely would. They took me to a place that was a lot like a lunar landscape. You could smell it before you got there. Rotten eggs? Yep. Then they encourage you to get into a pool of hot, slimy, sulphuric mud. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Luckily I was prepared with my 2 euro knickers and the oldest bra I could find, both trashed immediately afterwards. (Do not wear your new swimsuit!) The island of Vulcano is best known for its therapeutic mud pools. After a 20 min soak you then repair to nature’s ultimate jacuzzi. Walk 10 metres to the beach and choose which bit of bubbles you’d like to wash the mud off with. The beach near the mud pool is the best natural spa you’ll find anywhere in the world. Warm water just bubbles up underneath you. Perfecto!
When we first arrived in the Aeolians we were greeted by the impressive sight of Strombolicchio, a steep islet with interesting rock formations about 1 mile NNE of where we anchored off Isola Stromboli. Stromboli may well be the world’s oldest lighthouse, mentioned by Homer as guiding Odysseus towards the perils of Scylla and Charybdis (the northern entrance of the Straits of Messina). Apart from the plumes of smoke and ash billowing forth you are constantly reminded of the volcanic nature of these islands by the tsunami warning signs. The beaches are black sand, but the stark white cubed houses make for a pretty sight against the azure blue sea with splashes of bougainvillea for colour.
We also visited Panarea (famous for its night life), Salina (famous for its Malvasi wine), Liapri (famous for its capers) and Vulcano (famous for its smelly mud pools). Before saying goodbye to Italy we headed down to the Straits of Messina to Reggio di Calabria to pick up water and fuel. Unfortunately the water wasn’t potable and the marina fuel station was “broken”. Time to get the water-maker fired up. We managed to get fuel from the local “fixer” character, Saverio. We were greatly amused by the sword-fishing boats in the Strait. The migrating swordfish apparently “sleep” on the surface during the day and the fishermen sneak up on them in their boats with enormous masts and bowsprits, the captain being perched at the top of the mast.
The next day we set sail across the Ionian headed for Greece. After a couple of days and 250nm we arrived at Cephalonia where we had arranged to meet up with all my siblings, their partners and three of my nephews, the first time all six of us have been together in 9 years. They had booked a couple of houses nestled on a hill with a little bay of sparklingly clear water below. From there we were able to explore Fiskardo, Assos, Sami, Argostoli, nearby pristine beaches, assorted restaurants and even take the crew for a sail or three. A fabulous time was had by all.
After a couple of weeks chilling out it was time to leave the Ionian and head for the Aegean. We had arranged to pick up Bondy at Corinth at the western end of the Corinth Canal, but when we got there a rather boisterous nor’ easterly was blowing, the harbour looked decidedly uninviting, so we collected Bondy and decided we may as well go through the Canal without delay. The Canal is 3.2 miles long, 25m wide and the limestone sides soar to 79m at their highest point. Our timing was perfect. We noticed a ship and a couple of yachts milling about near the entrance and radioed Canal Control to request permission to transit the canal. They responded: “follow that passenger ship”, which was great because the traffic is only one-way and we’d heard you can wait around for up to 3 hours at times. We will now island-hop east across the Aegean and continue to take in the delights of the Greek Islands.
Thinking of you all and hoping everything is good with you. We hear it has been cold in Melbourne. We’d love you to drop us an email if you have time.