There’s something about driving abroad that’s more enjoyable than driving at home. I’ve now driven in America, Australia and Greece (although driving across Scotland’s north coast and wild west was pretty exotic and un-UK-like, too).
From Kos Town we hired a left-hand drive green Kia Picanto (€30 for the day) that An and Kiki helped us sort out. I drove us along the main road, which is evocatively titled ‘main road’ and stretches the length of Kos, forming a sort of backbone of the island. It didn’t take long to get from one end of the island to the other – only 30 minutes including a stop for a €10 splash of unleaded 95 petrol (in Greece someone at the pump fills your car for you).
The view from above Kefalos was pretty awesome and we stopped at a couple of points to get some decent photos and videos. Our next stops on the way back were Camel Beach and Lagada Beach, the latter being pretty enough but involving a sketchy drive down. It was not to be the dodgiest road of the day, though…
When we got back to Antimachia, I navigated another right-hand roundabout and drove to Kardamena, where we parked up and strolled around the pretty seaside town after I grabbed €10 more of petrol, which turned out to be more than enough for the rest of the day. Glancing up I spotted a sign that read ‘Kool Pool’, which made me chuckle as I remembered a work colleague telling me to look out for it as it was where he frequented as a 17 year old on his first holidays with his mates. In the height of summer Kardamena is a party resort mainly hosting Brits, but when we visited during the first week of the season at the start of April it was sleepy and cute, framed by stunning mediterranean mountains. The harbour looked like a poor man’s Monte Carlo (which is a good thing, by the way). We had lunch at Teo’s on the seafront – calimari and shrimp as it was one of those places where it would be rude not to have seafood.
Jodes took over the driving at this point and we climbed up the mountainside out of Kardamena, which provided the most stunning views of the day so far. The road got even windier as we reached Pyli and thanks to some roadworks we had to take a bit of a detour to get to Zia. By now we were parallel with Mamari and Tigaki where we had cycled a couple of days earlier, but on the other side of the main road. As we climbed Mt. Dikeos towards Zia the road went from pretty interesting to bloody mental, but the view to the left across the sea was mindblowing. At Zia we stopped and walked up to the Kefalovrisi viewpoint. We couldn’t find it but found another breathtaking vista to drink in anyway. On we ploughed, now on a narrower, twister road across Mt. Dikeos before dropping down to Asklipieion and Platani.
Further round, whilst heading for Cape Psalidi we got lost and ended up winding our way round hairpin after hairpin ascending another side of Mt. Dikeos with scary gradients and nowhere to turn around. To add to this, there were at least 50 goats to navigate, all of whom seemed reluctant to get out the way and also wore comical bells, so as the herd scattered it sounded like Christmas round Billy Goat Gruff’s house. Jodes, who was struggling enough with the roads and us being lost, nearly lost her sh*t when dogs, goats and various other animals repeatedly ran out in front of the Picanto. ‘Where did that f*cking chicken go?’ was a moment I’ll never forget trying really hard not to laugh. The view was the best of the day, though – truly sensational and, terrifying as it was, I’d put the Mt. Dikeos road up there with the Great Ocean Road, the Pacific Coast Highway in California, the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the Road to Nha Trang in Vietnam and the Pass of the Cattle in Scotland as one of the most spectacular and rewarding drives in the world.
When we finally got down the mountain we drove round Cape Psalidi all the way round the back of the island to Empros Thermes and the hot water beach. Much like Hot Water Beach in New Zealand’s North Island, hot underground springs heat the water so you can dig holes in the sand to form warm baths to lie in. Empros Thermes smelt of sulphur (think rotten eggs), like Rotorua in New Zealand.
Back in Kos Town we dropped the car off and walked to Kazouli Square, our favourite place in Kos Town. We had Mythos beers and ice cream (y’know, just Kos…) and then walked the 30 minutes or so back to Platani, via the supermarket for breakfast bits, to Serif, our favourite restaurant on Kos. We had a predictably brilliant sharing kebab platter and more Mythos beer as the sun set before walking back up the hill to An’s, admiring the magical view across the bay to Bodrum, Turkey just 4km away. What a place Kos is, we thought. What a place…