Saturday - Ann and Andy treated us to a delicious breakfast of fried egg, English bacon, tomatoes and fresh bread. We sat at their dining table and felt like spoilt guests - it was wonderful (thank you)! We spent the best part of the morning talking to everyone and it was great to see people from home. We took some photos and then they all left for Greece, while Michael and I wandered up town to try out some of the local wine.
We bought eight bottles. While the wine is certainly not fantastic, it is very drinkable. We drove the 15km to the border. There were some particularly grumpy and rude officials, but one or two were OK. It left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth on our last day in Bulgaria. On the Greek side they were much friendlier, of course spoke more English, but were delighted that we had learnt some Greek and helped us with pronounciation. We are relieved to be in an EU country as any shipping of parts will now be quicker and cheaper.
We drove to just north of Thessaloniki, where we stopped and asked a Bridgestone dealer directions to the address of Konstantinos Karetsos' dealership. He told us to go just 200m further back to another tyre dealer. It happened to be one of Mr Karetsos' other dealerships and they phoned the main dealer for us. John Karetsos (the son) spoke to Michael and knew about our tyres (which was good to hear). We drove down to meet him. We stopped off in the city to try and pick up a good internet signal, but had no success.
John was very welcoming and friendly. He told us the tyres have not yet cleared customs and that the local distributor (Elastrak) is trying to sort it out. He's going to call first thing on Monday to see what is happening. We sat and chatted to him for a while and his crew all came to give Nyathi the once-over. Then we drove in search of a wireless internet signal with which we had no success, but we found a good internet cafe where we got emails and did some research on local campsites of which there were only two. Then the heavens opened and it poured for quite a while. The roads became rivers and Nyathi got a good under-body wash. We did manage to find a large, very much deserted camp ground about 10km away and we drove in to have a look around. In its heyday, it was obviously a great place, but the grass is well over a metre tall and the ablution blocks look very unappealing. Still, we don't mind, it would provide a good place to sleep and to work on Nyathi tomorrow.
We went back along the coast road and had dinner at a lovely little restaurant where we met Walter and Phil from the UK who joined us at our table to chat. The dinner was very tasty, but at €25 expensive compared to Bulgaria. I had grilled squid stuffed with feta cheese and hot peppers and Michael had a delicious hamburger with cheese, which we washed down with Mythos beer - also very good! Afterwards we went back to the campsite, the gate was still open so we drove in and found a quiet spot for the night.
Sunday - We had a lovely quiet night and today we both had a busy day doing "chores". I made a big potato salad and caught up on journal writing and put in lots of photos, while Michael took the #2 diff out. It was hard work and it really needed both of us to manhandle it out from under the vehicle. He discovered the crown wheel and pinion both have damaged teeth. He took out the rear prop shafts so we can be mobile over the next few days while we get Foley to send out some spares and we wait for the new tyres.
We were lucky with the weather, in fact it got too hot in the afternoon reaching 35°C. We both had hot baths in the sun which was very pleasant. Then we took Nyathi for a little test drive and to find a supermarket. Michael had fashioned a cover for the open diff using black plastic bags and rope. On our journey we pulled into a clearing to turn around and Michael looked out the window and saw a tiny kitten looking up at him. There were three of them and they were so friendly. They started meaowing the moment we approached and were clambering up our jeans. We cut open a box of milk for them, but they hadn't quite mastered the art of lapping. So we took straws and got them to suckle on those which worked very well. They were very hungry and were even keen on the cat kibbles we moistened in milk (although we didn't think they would manage solids). We didn't want to leave them and as we walked away they followed us. We quickly put them back at the kibbles and milk and ran back to the vehicle while they weren't looking. I think we might come back and check on them in a day or two if we are still in the area.
In the early evening we saw people wandering around the campsite picking mulberries, but people just waved and said hello and walked by. We found a tap that worked, though we had to run the pipes for a good ten minutes before the rusty, muddy brown water ran clear. We met Rudi from Holland, who pitched his tent and then joined us for the evening. It was raining, so the three of us sat in the cab and chatted. He is well travelled and an enthusiastic historian so it was very interesting to talk to him.
Monday - We remembered that today is a bank holiday in the UK, so we couldn't get hold of Foley for the spare parts. There was nothing we could do about it and when we phone John Karetsos he told us the tyres would be arriving tomorrow afternoon , so we decided to relax for the day. I cooked fried eggs, ham, tomato and toast for brunch. Michael spent over an hour on the phone to Lex. He was walking around the campsite where there were no trees with the antenna balanced on his head!
I went for a really nice run down to the neighbouring village and along the sea front. I had a great hot shower in the sunshine, which was so indulgent. It was a good thing I had it then, because a short while later some guys in a big digger drove up the camping lane next to us. In fact we saw a lot more vehicles and people today, but again, everyone just waved hello to us and carried on.
We both spent the majority of the day reading books and speaking to our family for ages on the phone. I did a bit of girly pampering and in the evening we walked into the village together to buy some beers and a few fresh food supplies. It was an incredibly hot day with no clouds and a maximum of 35°C
Later on Rudi came around and he and Michael sat and drank Glenlivet and chatted while I wrote the journal and listened to music.
Tuesday - I went for a run along the coast. I felt the water and it was warm and quite inviting. I could see lots of schools of fish swimming right next to the concrete breaker. Michael phoned Foley's and asked them to courier over a crown wheel and pinion for us. We both had wonderful hot showers and a delicious breakfast (same as yesterday). We spent ages chatting on the phone to Ivor. The temperature reached 36°C by early afternoon.
We drove into Thermi to see John and find out what was happening with the tryes and to get the address in English for the parts to be delivered. Elastrak needed some additional paperwork in the form of our vehicle papers and a copy of Michael's passport. John kindly had them copied and faxed across. Apparently the tyres will be released tomorrow. We spent a while with them chatting and Michael was watching the guys using all the tyre changing and repair machinery - it makes the jobs look so easy! I was talking to one of the ladies ("Shotariya") about the Former Republic of Macedonia which they resolutely refer to as Skopja. Tempers still run high here about Greece's northern province being named Macedonia and that they believe FYROM, should be theirs!
We spent a pleasant part of the afternoon wandering around a large Carrefour and buying some treats - sweet meats, and even ice cream and large bars of chocolate (only €0.30) to melt for the sauce. We put the chocolate bars on the manifold and they were melted in no time! Unsurprisingly I felt a bit ill after the indulgence.
We also bought some tinned kitten food which we took to the three strays we found. It is a wonder they are still all alive as they were right next to the main road when we arrived. They wolfed half a tin in no time and we kept the rest to feed them tomorrow. We are sure there is no mother cat, as some of the kibbles we left yesterday were still there. Also the kittens coats are in such terrible condition too.
The only laundry anywhere near us charges €7 for 5kg of washing. We estimate we have at least 20kg, so we have decided that as we have time on our hands, tomorrow will be washing day. In the evening we sat out in the fading sun and read.
Wednesday - I went for a run earlier this morning and benefited from the cooler air, although my body felt a bit like a tractor had driven over me. Then we spent practically the entire day washing bedding and clothing and discovered it was at least five wash loads. Still, it was a hot day and we got the bikes down off the roof and used them to ferry jerry cans of water back from the tap to Nyathi, where we heated up the water (we had to wear gloves we made the water so hot) and then we took the clothing in buckets down to the very fast flowing tap and rinsed them there. Then we hung them out and started with the next load. We actually enjoying ourselves and both good a good bit of sun! We also caused the skin under our nails to peel and as a result every time we put our hands in hot water (including in the the next day or two) our fingertips stung.
In the early evening we rode 2km to see how the kittens were doing. We took a big bucket up with us to bring them back to the campsite as we were convinced their mother was gone and we thought their best chance of survival was if we fed them regularly and got them away from the traffic! We discovered they weren't there. Since yesterday, the council had put down a concrete base for a bus stop since right near the kitten's home, so we thought perhaps the workers had taken them? Then, as we rode to the next door workshop to ask the owner if he knew what had happened to them , we saw them walking around. The workshop owner said he did not know where the mother was and he did not feed the kittens (as he has a dog). We asked if we could take them and he said we could, so we put them in the bucket and sped back to the campsite. We fed them and they were absolutely ravenous. We set up a nice little home for them in some old galvanised ducting and we heated up two bottle of water for them to snuggle up to under the old sweatshirt. They seemed very content and slept the whole night.
Thursday - The kittens woke as soon as they heard us in the morning. They follow us as we walk around the campsite and we have to take care not to trod on them. Michael rode up to the nearby pet shop to buy some kitten food and got de-worming tablets and anti tick and flea ointment. I watched the kittens playing while I was typing the diary in the cab. It is unbelievable the difference in their stamina after some regular feeding. Each kitten has their own personality and we have named them Big'un, Blotch and Runty (in size order).
We washed them all and gave them each a tenth of the de-worming tablet which made Big'un salivate furiously and not want to eat. Each time we fed them they ate with enthusiasm and even crawled into the food dish! We did the remainder of the washing today, including our greasy overalls which had been soaking since yesterday. We had potato salad and ham for lunch.
We rode to the shops in the afternoon and spent the afternoon soaking up the sun and reading our books. I went for a run at about 19h00. It was wonderfully cool with a fair sea breeze and I had my best run in ages. Runty decided my boot was the enemy and would not leave it alone...
Friday - No exercise for me today - although I've no idea why not - I had the time! In the morning we fed the kittens, settled them down and drove Nyathi to Karetsos tyres to have our new Firestone Destination M/T tyres fitted! That took an hour or two and then we went to Carrefour to buy fresh supplies and some more kitten food.
When we got back the German couple we had met who ere camping in their caravan in a site near the entrance told us the campsite manager had told them they must leave. It is apparently fine to camp just outside the gate and walk through the campsite to the beach, or even sit inside the campsite to have a picnic, but not to park and camp. he said he was going to lock the gate. We told the German couple not mention us to the manager, as we don't really care if he locks the gate. We will definitely be here until at least Tuesday and would prefer to remain inside and hope not to be detected. We spent the afternoon in the sun playing with the kittens and reading.
In the evening we relocated the kittens to a new home where there are more likely to be humans walking by (who may feed them when we're gone) and where they are slightly better protected against the elements. We are still very much hoping the pet shop will take them, but just in case... We fed them and they quite happily walked into their ducting home, which Michael had put inside an old discarded heating trolley. Michael had put two hot water bottles in for them and they settled down for the night.
Saturday - We fed the kittens at regular intervals throughout the day and then pretty much left them to their own devices. We don't want them to become to used to us and for us to become too attached to them. Michael worked on the computer and I rode down to the internet cafe to check if Foley had sent us a courier tracking number. We also got an email update about our tenant. Still no payment (no surprise there and we got details on how to go ahead with eviction). Six months and no rent paid - this is the kind of hassle we can do without!
I met a very interesting English couple on the beach (who have a Land Rover 90). I spent ages chatting to them and after Michael and I had a delicious lunch of smoked salmon and avocado on fresh bread we both rode back to chat to them again. There were quite a few people down on the beach and lots of guys were playing games and splashing about in the sea. Apparently not many Greeks swim until at least July time, as the water's too cold.
Sunday - Today was an awful day. We got up first thing and fed our greedy little kittens then I made a big potato salad and then a fry-up for brunch. Then we took some heated water over to the kittens to give them all a wash. They didn't come running out from their home like they usually do and then I spotted Big'un lying dead on his back with his intestines protruding and his beautiful little blue eyes staring up at me. He was still warm and he had dog slobber all over him. We were devastated and we know who the culprit was too! Just a short while earlier we saw a couple walking their big Rotweiler and he was off the leash and they whistled to it to come.
Blotch and Runty were nowhere to be found and then I heard some rustling under a nearby bush and there was Blotch - terrified, he didn't want to come out. We searched and searched for Runty, but there was no sign of her. We fed Blotch and then a while later Runty came out of the bushes from the other side of the road. We were so upset and I couldn't stop crying. Big'un was the best looking of the bunch and he was going to be our "sales pitch" to the pet shop. We both feel awful and guilty, but there was nothing we could do.
We fed Blotch and Runty, gave them both a wash, sat in the sun with them for a while and then went back to the campsite. We both read our books and I went for a run in the evening.
Monday - The kittens were fine this morning, but Michael saw a dog running away from their area and sure enough all their food was gone, so we moved them back to our campsite. Michael spent most of the morning uploading the website at X-Site internet cafe and I did things at Nyathi and kept the kittens company. They clearly love being around people and play freely when we are about. I went to fetch some water at one stage and when I came back they had retreated into their "house'. The great news is that I rode up to the pet shop and the owner, Matina is going to take the kittens!
In the late afternoon we drove to Karetsos Tyres and fetched the spare parts which had arrived from Foley in the UK. We chatted to John for a while and he wrote a message in Greek in our "guest book" and tasked us with finding someone along our journey to translate it. We went to Carrefour and got some more kitten food and fresh food for us and drove back to the campsite.
Michael spent the rest of the evening uploading the website (luckily he was able to safely leave he laptop there doing its thing while we had gone out this afternoon) and I got to relax at camp and read!
Tuesday - We were up early and Michael spent (in total) 11 hours working, without a break for anything to eat. First the new crown wheel had to bolted onto the carrier and checked for run-out and end-float (I think!) Then pinion height, pinion bearing pre-load, crown wheel bearing pre-load, crown wheel backlash all needed to be carefully set. The diff had to be stripped down, re-shimmed and reassembled several times to get it just right. Again I was spoilt in the morning and got to sit in the sun and read, but in the afternoon and evening I too became a grease monkey! It really is heavy to manoeuvre the diff with the six wheel drive unit attached and we both got a bit irritated. I tightened all the bolts and then put the half shafts back in, while Michael put back the prop shafts and reconnected the pneumatics. It took us longer than we would have liked, but we knew it wasn't going to be a quick job.
It also didn't help that Blotch and Runty thought it was great fun that we were lying on the ground under the vehicle and kept coming over to say hello or use our overalls as scratch pads. Every now and again we would get some peace when they passed out for a while.
We took Nyathi for a test drive around the campground and she sounded good. We discovered that they have locked all the gates to the campground, but we have decided that's tomorrow's problem and besides, someone may come in to do work in the morning and open the gates. We put both the bikes on top of the roof and tied everything down. Once we had, at last, finished all the dirty work we both had a good wash and scrub and it started to rain, so it was a bit cold! We were both ravenous and pigged out on potato salad and ham for dinner and had a few welcome drinks.