Somewhere between Ancient Olympia and Kalamata is a river, and this river has made several pools ideal for swimming assuming you have no nerve endings, and there are little waterfalls, and also a big waterfall, and maybe more shit but that would have involved a level of scrambling that someone with the balance of a badger on ketamine has no right attempting. It’s honestly an absolute fucking gem of a place.
Polilimnio Waterfalls are a proper tourist attraction, I guess they get pretty busy in the summer. We rocked up in the morning and we still didn’t manage to beat a whole class of high school kids. You walk down to the river and try not to think about the fact you’re going to have to climb back up that bastard of a hill, then you can go left or right. There’s not a huge amount to the left, but if you follow the river to the right you’ll embark on an emotional rollercoaster comprised of lots of clinging onto rocks whilst informing each other, “Careful here, it’s slippy.”
It’s so fucking rocky they’ve seen fit to add metal bars for your feet, or hands in my case as I sort of chimp-walked along the slightly more precarious bits, refusing to stand upright. In some parts you’re not sure where to go, you just have to pick your way over the rocks and hope you don’t end up face down in a puddle. But honestly, the eyehole fodder is astounding. How is the water even that colour?
We shuffled past pools and small cascades until we got to a big pool with a gorgeous waterfall. I believe it’s called Lake Kadoula. It was pretty fucking busy to be fair, we stood and watched as people went swimming. You can go higher up, until this point any inclines had been gentle, but this next part was a proper scramble. We weren’t going to bother, I’m as sure-footed as a giraffe on rollerskates and I’m really not very good with heights. Yes, I just did a bungy jump but that’s so very different and there’s pretty much no chance of my mrs having to scrape my brains off various boulders around Greek beauty spots.
But I got FOMO. Loads of humans were heading up there. Some were doing it in fucking flip-flops, others were older people. There were loads of metal rings and rods driven into the rocks for hand and foot holds, there was even a rope. Fuck it, let’s have a bash then. We got maybe two metres up when I had to sit down on a flat bit and cling onto the side. We chilled, I tried to stop being such a fucking pussy, we made it to the next scrambly bit and I started pulling myself up.
You know when you’re so focused on something you’re not really thinking about what you’re doing? I think that must have been a thing, because suddenly I had a moment of absolute clarity and holy shitting fuck, you mad lesbian, you’re not capable of this! I’m clinging to a rope on the side of a cliff. Even if I got up I sincerely doubt I’d be able to get down again. In fact I’d already started panicking and freezing up.
We turned the fuck around. Tarrant managed to guide me to a certain point where every single one of my muscles decided they weren’t cooperating any more and I couldn’t move. Tried going down on my arse. Nope. Tried going down backwards on all fours. Not happening. Tried standing up, facing the cliff and shuffling sideways. Absolutely not. I actually can’t even remember how I got back down to the lake but obviously I did because I’m not there any more and strangers don’t have to bring tea offerings to the Legendary Stuck Woman.
The horde of school kids had buggered off and just left a few people sat around. There were four people from Essex that had taken the plunge into the water and peppered the air with various expletives in unnaturally high pitched voices. They did insist it was worth it though and I’m not going to pass up the chance to swim in a waterfall given that waterfalls are my most favourite thing in the world.
We stripped down to our swimwear and I made my way to the water. You can’t just ease yourself into water this cold. You just have to sort of go for it and hope your organs don’t, y’know, shut down or something. I jumped in and oh my shitting fucking gosh, this was turning out to be quite a traumatic morning! I don’t think I’ve ever experienced water this cold. It was so cold my skin couldn’t work out what was going on and it sent messages to my brain insisting I was on fire. It was so cold it burned. It was incredible!
Obviously Tarrant couldn’t not jump in now, she’d never live it down, but it took her breath away and she struggled to breathe for a few seconds. She was fine though, she swam over to me and we spent a few minutes messing around. It’s fine once you’re in. I mean, I say it’s fine, it’s bastard freezing, but I didn’t feel cold. Tarrant reckons that was our bodies going into hypothermic shock but she does tend to sway towards the dramatic.
It was amazing and I’m glad I did it but I didn’t feel the need to go in again. We had a picnic, got dressed then headed back out the way we came to the café at the car park. We still had plenty of time so we decided to head to a campsite a bit further away than we’d initially intended to, get a head start on tomorrow’s drive around the Mani Peninsula.
This is one of the best things about having the car and our tent; the complete freedom to go where we want to, and change our minds because we’re not beholden to bus timetables and we’ve not booked accommodation anywhere. We ended up at a campsite near Stoupa. Within minutes of us pitching our tent a kitten took up residence in the vestibule and we didn’t have the heart to move it. Obviously things will rapidly change if the little fucker and his identical twin decide to use the tent as a cat tree but until then, he can stay.
We took a wander down to a local beach which has managed to cram a million (give or take) parasols and sunbeds onto one of the smallest beaches we’ve seen. There are a few restaurants, they all have their own beds, and they range in price from €10 for nice, simple beds at the back owned by the cheaper places right up to forty fucking Euros for a fancy bed on the shoreline with towels and a lock box owned by a restaurant staffed by people in nice polo shirts.
We shuffled to the back and positioned ourselves on a cheap, plastic bed and had people bring us beer. Not a bad way to finish the day. Better than being stuck on a cliff face questioning all of your life choices anyway.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Polilimnio Waterfalls, Peloponnese, Greece / Καταρράκτες Πολυλίμνιο, Πελοπόννησος, Ελλάδα
Stayed at: Camping Kalogria, Stoupa
Useful shit to know…
- There is parking near the village of Kharavgi. Set Google Maps to 36.988394, 21.855378 and it’ll take you there.
- There’s a café here too, with toilets.
- At first you’re walking downhill down a relatively well paved path, then it gets rocky. It’s scrambly and slippy in parts. I’m not sure on my feet so I found it hard but then we saw a very elderly woman just getting on with it, and other people doing it barefooted. I would not recommend the latter.
- We got as far as Lake Kadoula with a stunning waterfall. You can go higher but it’s steep and scrambly. I bottled it but a lot of people did it with no issues.
- Kalogria Beach is packed full of sunbeds belonging to the restaurants. They vary hugely in price. The fancy restaurant has very nice loungers with lock boxes from €20 for the back row to €40 for the front row. That’s for two beds and a parasol. Others charge €10 to €12 for two basic beds and a parasol.