Aegean Crossing sea kayak expedition:
Piraeus to Kos

31October -13 November, 2003

Expedition Members: Peter Avery (Aus), Justin Gallager (Aus), Jon Hunter (UK), Nick Cuncliffe (UK) Peter Roscoe (UK), Rod Feldtmann (Aus). 

Click on Expedition area to enlarge map

The Rainbow Warriors, by Peter Rosccoe.

Itís amazing how much gear can be crammed into the smallest of  vehicles and the Peugeot driven by Rod Feldtmann, carrying Peter A, Julian and Pete.R with its roof-rack loaded down with six Rainbow Lazer kayaks proved that some kayakers must undertake training at a sardine canning factory. Camping at a small beach near Athen's port of Piraeus we waited  for Nick and Jon (on the overnight flight from England) to complete the group.

On the following morning and with the group at its full strength of six we set about the task of loading mountains of gear into the Rainbow sea-kayaks. Over the following two weeks we planned to make the crossing of the Aegean by paddling from Piraeus to the island of Kos, via the mainland of Turkey.   Loaded up, we launched and commenced our journey. Starting off with simple navigation we kept land to our left and headed southerly towards our first campsite, a quiet beach at Saronis.

As we followed the coast towards point Cape Sounio we looked up to a headland topped by ancient ruins, the Temple of Poseidon, God of the Sea commands a spectacular viewpoint out over the islands of the Cyclades . Leaving the mainland behind us we started the first of our inter-island crossings to Makronisi and on arrival walked around its abandoned mining site. Back into the kayaks and on to Kea and the small village of Koundhouras where we camped on the lawns of a hotel complex. The summer tourist season  is quite short in this region, the houses and beaches  having a ghost - town look about them

In cooler conditions we continued to the south of Kea and crossed to Kithnos where after a visit to the local store for supplies we enjoyed lunch at the Austria taverna.  Replete, the pace eased off as we pottered along the coast to a tiny beach at the southern tip of Kithnos and set up tents in overcast skies. During the night we were 'treated' to a thunderstorm with torrential rain and spectacular lightening, the resultant stream almost washing through Rod's tent.

Winds to F5, occasional showers and choppy water made the three hour crossing to Serifos a somewhat chilly paddle and Justin, relaxing for a moment in the clapotis, mistimed a wave and proceeded to show us what a fine swimmer he is. With Justin quickly re-installed, we made our way to a nearby  beach for drinks and a welcome snack. On arrival at the quiet but sheltered campsite at Serifos the Trangia was put to good use producing a plentiful supply of bacon butties. Nick, Rod and myself wandered off to visit the nearby Kastro, a small village perched on a hilltop with steep steps, narrow lanes and a superb panorama looking out over the next days crossing with its white flecked waves.

The sunrise and fresh winds greeted us as we commenced the stretch to Sifnos where we sought shelter at the tiny fishing village of Yeoryiou, Unusually there seemed to be a sheep resting on the quayside, closer inspection  showed it to be a freshly butchered animal and within a short time two of the islanders skinned and chopped the carcass into manageable pieces which were carted off in a wheelbarrow. As we left the beach the bright hue of a Kingfisher sparkled in the watery sun.  Heading to the east of Sifnos we bounced our way through clapotis as it reflected off the soaring cliffs, a two hour roller coaster ride ending at a handkerchief sized beach with just enough room to squeeze the tents in. Supplies were needed and as darkness enveloped us we walked to the nearby town of Kastro, stocked up and managed to find an open taverna for a welcome meal.

Strong winds greeted us as we headed easterly and across to the small island of  Stronglio, a short stretch and then a welcome break in the shelter of Despotiko. Rounding the cliffs of Andiparos we looked out and onwards to the low lying collection of islands which make Pandrosini such a inviting place and as evening approached a landing on Paros. Our campsite on the municipal car park at Aliki was a little austere but with four crossings and five islands visited this had been a busy day.

Taking advantage of all available shelter we hugged the coast of Paros and headed towards the port of Livadhi where 'National Paints Day' appeared to have been declared. Most of the property was surrounded by scaffolding   or ladders and people busy with paint brushes smartening up the buildings in the National colors of white or blue.

Fortified by bacon butties we made our way to the headland of Kratzi, sheltered and commenced the 7km crossing to Naxos. Strong winds, guesstimated at F 7 slowed progress to a crawl and blew us downwind by some 3 km. Close to shore conditions improved and with a following sea we were soon at 'Hotel Naxos' . This was my forth visit to the unfinished hotel at  Kouroupas, its beginning to feel like home ground.

Slightly better conditions greeted us and we made our way to the south of Naxos for a short break before heading across to the harbour on Skhinousa. The wind, funneling between the islands increased and a steady slog ensued until welcome relief in the shelter of Karos.  A quick snack, and on to Andi-Karos, which, in over-cast skies was not as spectacular as on previous occasions. With strong winds and limited camping available we decided to push on to Amorgos. With darkness approaching our minds focused on the need for a suitable landing site. Fortune favoured us, rounding a headland we arrived at a small beach complete with a deserted beach bar . The bar closed for the winter, provided shelter from the wind and shortly after eating the evening meal only snores ( from all the others ) disturbed the peace and quiet.

Leaving our bay we traveled north-east to Katapola where on arrival we were greeted by an entrepreneurial Texan lady. Owner of a nearby cafe and eager to relieve us of our Euros she offered to supply us with sandwiches. More substantial fare was required and we were soon installed at a taverna piling in the calories. Across the bay another beach bar beckoned and with tents and equipment sorted we walked back into town in order to obtain a weather forecast for the next few days. The George Hotel had internet access which indicated that winds would be decreasing to F2 for the remainder of the trip. This good  news sharpened up the appetites of my colleagues who promptly suggested a visit to a highly recommended Pizza Place. I've not seen pizzas the size of tyre covers before and was overwhelmed within minutes of starting. A St Bernard sized doggie bag was needed to carry out the uneaten food.

The wind, unaware of the internets predictions, stayed strong as we passed  the island of Nikouria which rises like a pyramid to a height of 365 metres. A short visit to Ligadhia and on to a storm beach at the north of Amorgos. En-route magnificent cliffs reflected the wind driven waves, the resultant chaos giving us a ride to remember. Before seeking the calm of the bay we peered out from a headland to look out at the hazy outline of  tomorrows island. Ashore and with driftwood in abundance, a fine blaze was soon sorted with sparks rising to join the clear nights stars.

Up at five, (what a painful experience) and heading out shortly after six on bouncy seas the rising sun  warmed us as we paddled out to Kinaros, some 26 km in the distance. Here cliffs soared neck creakingly from the black water and the skipper of a passing fishing boat shouted that respite lay around the next corner. In a quiet and secluded bay was a small cottage,the occupants surrounded by their herd of goats in a remote existence. Feeling like intruders we lunched quickly and waved our farewells and continued island hopping to Levitha. Here a large multi-pronged bay, ideal anchorage for yachts suggested shelter but unfortunately limited beaches.           Diligent searching revealed a small garden patch protected by walls and thorns, nicknamed the 'kraal' it provided us with excellent accommodation and a good nights sleep.

Away in time to watch the sun tear itself away from the horizons grip the winds to F4 kept us occupied on this the longest crossing to Kalimnos of 34 km. In lumpy water we encountered two large freighters who may not have been aware of our existence and a trawler whose skipper gave us a cheery wave.                              

Maintaining a compass bearing in the hazy conditions we were surprised when a check on the GPS showed a noticeable drift. As features on the island became more recognizable we adjusted course to a welcome landing at Panoros after over seven hours of paddling, the final kilometres being hard work. Somewhat weary we wandered into a nearby taverna for a leisurely lunch and to recuperate. Leaving our landing spot we headed for another beach bar, the local water babies wishing us 'bon voyage' a remarkable comment from a quiet Greek island. As evening descended Rod and I walked back into town to sample waffles smothered in ice cream and honey. Superb! Kalimnos has a vast area of inland crags popular with climbers eager to sample steep rock and sunshine, we met up with a couple of Americans who had spent an enjoyable holiday exploring the region.

The island of Kalimnos has magnificent cliffs with red roofed monasteries perched in seemingly inaccessible places, the red roofs an indication that we moved from the Cyclades into the Dodecanese region. Entering the sea port of Kalimnos was an extreme contrast  to our previous stops. This bustling town seemed a madhouse after the peace and quiet of the other places visited en-route. Great choice for supplies though. From Kalimnos to Plati and to camp on a rocky beach on Pserimos. In the evening haze we could see Turkey to the north and the island of Kos to our south.

Approaching the headland of Roussa we could see someone dashing towards what looked like a military establishment. Within minutes the roar of a high powered engine signaled the arrival of the Coast Guard who were most interested in our destination. Ambitions of a detour to Turkey were modified as we altered course to the port at Kos.

Peter and Justin, keen to complete the full crossing dashed to the offices of the Port authorities and obtained the paperwork needed to leave Greek waters. Rod and Nick followed in hot pursuit and waving release forms the quartet wasted no time in offloading gear and heading north.  Jon and I stayed to look after the gear and to wander round the Castle and port of Kos. After little more than an hours paddling the kayakers were sitting on a Turkish beach raising a glass to their undoubted success. On their return we made our way to the port in readiness for the overnight ferry to Athens.  Before boarding the ferry with the six kayaks we said our good-byes to Peter and Justin who were staying in Kos prior to a further weeks sight-seeing in Turkey.

Arriving at Piraeus, the Peugeot was again loaded with the kayaks as Rod and I said farewell to Nick and Jon.

On the return ferry to Milos, Rod, keen to develop kayaking in the area, produced charts of the region and the possibility of future excursions, Kos to Rhodes via the volcanic islands of Nisyros and Tilos?, another along the indented coast of Turkey and the Greek island of Symi?, a circumnavigation of Crete?, and so it goes on. Lots to do. It all looks so good.

My thanks to the 'Rainbow Warriors'  Peter, Justin, Nick, Jon and Rod, excellent companions during fourteen days of paddling, an Aegean crossing of almost 500 km's, some twenty islands and a host of memories. A special thanks to Rods wife Petrinela who kept us updated with weather forecasts.

Peter H Roscoe.
November 2005