Travels in Greece

Diving in Pelion

Anna heads out for a quick dive in the Pelion region of central Greece in November. Sounds chilly, but off season travel is when the real Greece shines!

The warm winter sun on a November weekend makes it feel like early spring. I have finally decided to go for my “dry suit” scuba certification and here I am on the way down to Larissa, where our dive centre is located. The ride from Thessaloniki is the old boring one on the national road and a coffee at the dive centre feels great.

Meanwhile our trailer is getting filled up with dive equipment; plastic cases of all sorts and of course all required barbeque paraphernalia. Late afternoon finds us in and out of Volos town and half way down to the tiny fish village of Agia Kiriaki, our final destination.

Pilio is one of Greece’s most attractive areas combining gorgeous mountain countryside with the blue Mediterranean sea. The main road out of Volos and until Lefokastro village (about 34km) is right next to the sea providing a very beautiful ride in November, although the traffic can be too much in the summer time when these seaside villages get flooded with domestic vacationers. The folllowing 50km is a combination of tight twisty roads, many crossroads, rough land, rich woods, tiny villages and great views. You will want to be on this road in daylight, it is quite long, tiring and very easy to get lost. We almost did since it was late winter afternoon by the time we turned left to follow the secondary road around Trikeri and into the back side of Agia Kiriaki. This is an easy to miss turn with a very tight entry to the village but it saves you 10km of more twisty roads and is the local taxi shortcut.

Agia Kiriaki and Kotes are Trikeris’ two ports that date back to the 18th century. The area has a rich history; commerce, shipping, sponge collecting and agriculture are trades that have made Trikeri very rich and famous in the past. Nowadays it is the victim of the internal move of young people to industrial centres. Trikeri is a beautiful village up on the hill with superb views and a bunch of interesting spots lost in its cobbled tiny streets. Below stands the port of Agia Kiriaki, an honest fish village with nets resting all over the jetty, small wooden fish boats roaming the port; its old food store serving as a tavern; the proper, more expensive tavern, the old coffee shop and an amazing full functioning careenage.

That is where our instructors’ family will be sleeping tonight. They have been using a traditional kaiki ( wooden fish boat) as their dive boat in the summers, while in the winter they park it here for safety and maintenance. After our simple but delicious dinner at the local food store-taverna, we go looking for our accommodation located at a nearby bay. We meet your usual affair of standard local “rooms to rent”, clean with AC, TV and hot water and half price from the local traditional hotel. We are happy and very soon into bed.

The most surprising view welcomes us in the morning. A rocky green bay surrounds us, olive trees underneath us, the dark blue waters are calm, and the sun is again up in the sky… what more can you wish for? Diving on a day like that, that is what I had wished for!

Breakfast is served at the keeper’s yard…one chair here, one chair there and all eight of us are fighting over chocolate spread, cereals, bread, cheeses, ham… we are the kings of the day. Dry suit lesson one and briefing comes next, while the instructor’s girls play with the dogs and local fishermen start their daily chores.

It is well into midday when we look like “Pirelli men” into our dry suits. We are wearing thermals, shocks, inner layer, boots, the dry suit, the BCD with tank, hoods, masks and weight belts with too much weight in them… I feel uncomfortably snug and heavy so I walk slowly into the water. The water is quite cold but I need to feel it on my face after all that preparation under the warm sun. Soon all four of us are underwater testing our buoyancy.

First dive is nearby the west side of our small bay. Clean, quite green waters and a basin full of shipyard treasures. The dive was quite tiring in trying to sync the inflation/deflation of both my suit and BCD. The Greek coffee at the local kafenio (old style coffee house) was a god-send present. The day was delightfully warm, fishermen mending their nests, white houses were wearing blue shutters and all of us felt like Greek island vacationers.

Afternoon dive found me in bed with a huge headache. I met with the rest of the group straight for dinner at our favorite spot. We were decided to support that local establishment we had dinner the night before. Small fish, salads, bread, feta cheese, sausage and cold retsina, happy faces and loud laughs… what more do you need?

Sunday coffee and breakfast is served on the boat and we all are happy that the sun is out again. Second dive for me today and I am more familiar with all that endless dressing and gearing up. Kostas, our instructor takes us today on the other side of the shipyard to dive at a ship wreck. One of the boys returns back so I pair with Dimitri and Kostas shows the way holding his big underwater video camera.

The wreck is small but quite interesting and easy to navigate around. Perfect for a novice dry suit diver like me. Thankfully my buddy had more experience so we got some good underwater shoots. By the time we return the rest of the guys have start loosely preparing for the barbeque. Thodoros is our psitas (the person barbequing), Kostas is hanging around for ad hoc assistance and all three girls we traditionally prepare salads, drinks etch. I think I had one of the best dinners ever down there at the shipyard of Agia Kiriaki!

With sunset we leave, and I am happy that I do not have to drive all the way back to Thessaloniki. I am happier though that I had such an amazing weekend in this small secret port, diving in clear blue waters under the glorious November sun and having such good time with all the rest of the guys. Agia Kiriaki is the tinniest of villages that enters your heart fast and stays there forever!