Saturday brought another early morning to this holiday, the Wild West coach excursion around North West Lesvos, pickup at 8:15am. For €33 each we were to explore the area of Limonos, the village Vatoussa, the Petrified Forest and Skala Eressos. Another young couple from our hotel were on the tour with us, they flew in on Thursday and we shared with them our tips. The large air conditioned coach and charismatic guide Ismini greeted us and we were off, through Petra and Anaxos for more pickups, speedily along the tight mountain roads, winding around, horns blown at corners, rip-roaring around the hair pins with the spoken histories of Petra and Anaxos being explained to us, down towards Skala Kallonis where we were yesterday, for the last pickup. Then back up to Limonos Monastery, largest of the island, with a father superior and two monks.
The area is surrounded with small church like monuments, paid for by families as dedications to lost loved ones. The monastery is in a yard with with walled protection in the form of Monk’s cells and a small family of Peacocks. We opted out of the little Byzantine museum, instead wandering the court-yards. An old ruling prevents women from entering the monastery itself (“to stop temptation”). so I went in alone - the walls, ceilings and coves were all elaborately decorated, one depiction of a shark teethed individual being jested by an angel sticks in my mind. No pictures allowed.
Leaving here, sticking to our rigid time constraints, we travelled to Vatoussa which exists within the crater of a dormant volcano, via Filia and Anemotia, stopping for some local Baclava then whisked away again, before we could catch our breath, to the petrified forest. This lies past the high up, mountain perched Ipsilou monastery, overlooking the island - you can see Molyvos in the distance from here. The roads became more perilous, steep, unprotected drops as the coach roars onwards as fast as possible. The petrified forest, a collection of fossilized trees, is amongst the most barren of landscapes, almost moon like - the hottest part of the tour at the hottest time of the day. The largest trees have been uncovered, sparsely populating the park, protected with frail wooden fences, tourists are urged not to touch, but do so anyway. Smaller “tree-rocks” remain unearthed, fragments scattered about the place, some even jutting out of dirt paths. Some shade, a coke and it’s back on the bus and down to Skala Eressos, birthplace of Sappho. On our travels here we were lucky enough to see a Black Stork.
A 2 hour stop brought us some Mezes at the Aegean in the square; fried zucchini, aubergine dip, fries and some feta - just right. By the time we were done, 4:30 had come and the coach was leaving once more, giving us no time to explore the church or the beach. Although a tourist resort it has more character and flavour than Petra offers. Time to head home on a 2 hour round trip, expertly through Messotopos, Agra, passed the entrance to the bay and Parakila, then up through the hills and Kalloni once more. Although interesting, the weariness, driving, constant turning, up and down and heat were incredibly nauseating. Whilst we did a lot, saw a lot and learned a lot, it was not the most enjoyable of days given the sickness and time constraints. If you are a confident driver its probably better to buy a guide and drive yourself.
Home by 6:30pm and despite exhaustion, we went for the evening to a small taverna, triangular shaped at the cross roads between Molyvos and Eftalou, for their “Greek Night” with live music accompaniment. The loud music played and the menu appeared promising - we made our choices; stuffed peppers and lamb kleftiko. They had neither, five iterations later (no potato salad, meatballs or stews) it appeared they had none of the food on their menu. In the meantime the music became piercingly loud, headache inducing with constant feedback from the singer, and those next to us lit up their cigs, smoke blowing in our faces. We should have left, but they had my last choice, a burger, and we decided to judge them on their food - a mistake. After taking what felt like an eternity our food was cold, partly cooked and disgusting; a congealed lamb sauce with no flavour, hard rice, soggy chips and all at an expensive price. Going against my principles we fed the waiting cats, they didn’t like it much either. As we were served our complimentary desserts/drink we paid and left. DO NOT GO HERE. To recover our evening we had ice creams in the harbour (mocha/chocolate! mmm), meeting an equally unhappy couple in the process, with whom we proceeded to bitch. On the bus home we overheard others praising the place; I cannot think how or why.