Deserted Katakolo

Written by Pieter Jan on Oct 4, 2019 — 5 min read

At: Katakolo, Western Peloponnesos, Greece

This morning, around 6AM, we woke up with a bang. “Not again”, I groaned, thinking we had hit the quay, like in Hydra two weeks ago. Since yesterday evening the wind had been increasing steadily. When I came outside, it was absolute mayhem. Wind gusting to 45 knots, waves crashing and sending spray flying, boats dragging anchor left and right, all hands on deck everywhere.

I checked the sterns. We were close to the quay but not against it. Barbara winched up the anchor a little bit but it was holding strong. I moved the boat forward half a meter. To my left, people were holding their boat off the quay with fenders. To my right, people were setting a second anchor. I closed my eyes.

BANG!

What the?? As it turns out, big waves slapping the hull make the same sound as your boat hitting the quay. You learn something new every day.

Our anchor was holding. Our boat was safe. The sun was coming up and the wind was slowly decreasing to the low 30’s. There was nothing else to do than watch some harbor tv. The harbormaster passed by, gave me a thumbs up. I felt pretty smug after that, sitting there in my pajamas. I considered having tea and biscuits. I should have brought my dressing gown and pipe.

An hour later, the gale had passed. The wind shrunk to a gentle zephir, the sun was out. The contrast with a few hours before was striking. A beautiful morning to hoist up a motorboat that had sunk during the gale.

Get up, it's a beautiful morning
Get up, it's a beautiful morning

The waves were huge and breaking outside the harbor. We decided to stay another day and go grocery shopping. Some Poles went out in their Bavaria 37. They were back after two hours. When I asked the captain how it was outside, he just shook his head and said, “Not good”, which is Polish for “Oh my god we literally almost died”.

Katakolo is a weird town. It has a fairly large harbor with a wide promenade but the town is only a couple of streets big. It was also completely deserted. All shops were closed. All restaurants except one were closed. It has no supermarket to speak of, unless you count a liquor/diaper store run by two octogenarians as a supermarket. They’re probably catering to their own needs. It feels like it’s a bustling tourist trap during two months of the year, then abandoned for the rest of the time. Where do the people go then? It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

A guy named Yannis was biking around the harbor and told us he had vegetables. Naturally, we followed him up a long winding path of crooked stairs into the hills. Gotta have veggies, right?

On top of the hill he has a house surrounded by an idyllic garden where he lives with his parents. A bit hesitant, we told him what we wanted. He got the vegetables straight from his garden. It started raining. He invited us into his parent’s room. These people live in a room of about 4 by 4 meters. The room contained a kitchen, a table with 6 chairs, a fridge, a fireplace, a wardrobe, a double bed and 2 very old, smiling people.

The five of us occupied the half square meter that was left in the room while we waited for Yannis to return with the vegetables. As his parents spoke only two words of English and our Greek isn’t much better, there was a lot of awkward smiling. Fortunately, awkward smiling is a hobby of mine.

Yannis returned with a huge bag of the most healthy-looking, shiny, homegrown vegetables. He drew us a bottle of self-made wine as well. And he told us he rents out rooms for €10 per person, breakfast included. So if you’re ever end up in Katakolo, you know where to stay.

We still needed bread, fruit and some more stuff we couldn’t find in a liquor store. I decided to walk to the nearest supermarket, 1 km away. Google maps insists that the below beach is a walkable street.

'Walk here, you'll get to your destination faster' - Google Maps
'Walk here, you'll get to your destination faster' - Google Maps

I passed dozens of empty houses and two beachfront restaurants that were fully lit with no one inside, not ever waiters. Lightning was flashing in the distance. The sun was under now. The only living souls I saw were stray dogs and a few children that kept their distance. It was downright eery. This place was like a mix between the Walking Dead and Children Of The Corn.

These sunbrellas count on the clouds to provide shade
These sunbrellas count on the clouds to provide shade

I finally found the supermarket, got most of Barbara’s grocery list and made it back home double time. It was now dark, lightning was flashing every few minutes and I encountered more stray dogs, probably attracted by my heavy shopping bags. A few swings with my polka-dotted umbrella kept them at bay.

I found the boat surrounded by 6 or 7 camper vans. They were parked randomly on the docks like sleeping cows. Why? I will never now. It only added to the atmosphere.

Very strange town, Katakolo.