HOMER’S ITHACA

THE PASSAGE HOME

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Intro

HOMER’S ITHACA: THE PASSAGE HOME

…Have Ithaca always in your mind. Your arrival there is what you are destined for. But don't in the least hurry the journey… This is every swimmers dream, swimming in the peaceful waters of the mythical island of Ithaca. Hear the whispering call to dive into the emerald sea of Odysseus homeland, surrounded by rugged mountains, ancient ruins and unexplored coves. Time passes slowly in the laidback harbours and tiny villages of the island; a quiet and undiscovered jewel. Ithaca offers swimmers something special. You will long to return!

Trip Dates

  • Ithaca : Mon 20 - Mon 27 July 2020
  • Ithaca : Mon 27 July - Mon 3 August 2020
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Ithaca Routes

Ithaca Map

ITHACA - TRIP INTRODUCTION

The legendary island of Ithaca is situated in the centre of the Greek Ionian islands and, not surprisingly, has been a source of fascination since the 8th century BC. It was at this time that Homer wrote the poem The Odyssey, a tale recounting the epic journey that King Odysseus made after the Trojan War to return to his homeland and beloved wife Penelope in Ithaca. This heroic 10-year journey was a homecoming that has inspired the imagination of many scholars and modern-day visitors alike.

The Big Blue is proud to add this island as a swim destination. It is unique in that it is a location with legendary status but remains largely untouched by the modern-day pace of life and tourism.

Ithaca is situated in the clear, warm and calm waters of the Ionian Sea to the West of mainland Greece and its intricate coves, beaches, caves and coastline have rarely been experienced by swimmers. This 7-day (approximately 5K swimming in total per day) programme starts on Monday and finishes the following Monday morning. We will greet you on your arrival on Monday evening with a welcome drink followed by an introduction to the location and a safety briefing from our Ithaca based team. During the week there will be an optional opportunity for a filmed swimming analysis and open water swimming coaching from our qualified guides. Each morning we will board our spacious, traditional 15m wooden sailing boat Mowgli and ‘cruise’ in comfort to the start of the swim, along Ithaca’s largely unexplored coastline. We will visit coves, caves and many locations inaccessible from the road that few people have visited before. At lunchtime we visit a different harbour every day to sample the mouth watering Greek cuisine of the Ionian’s traditional tavernas.

We have extensive local knowledge of the area and this 7-day programme of varied swims ensures you experience a variety of stunning swimming locations in a safe and fully supported environment.

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE HOLIDAY

The trip starts on your arrival at the Mentor Hotel, in Vathi. On your arrival day you will be welcomed and in the evening have a chance to meet your fellow swimmers and be briefed on the week’s itinerary and safety issues over relaxing complimentary drinks. On the first day of the trip our guides/coaches will video your swimming technique for an analysis session. We then view this with you and offer advice on achieving a more efficient, injury-free stroke. Individual advice can also be given during the swims. A buffet style breakfast is offered every morning at the hotel and we will then travel in our traditional wooden boat Mowgli to the swimming location (which is different every day). We will escort each of the swimming groups with motorised support boats and drinks will be offered at regular intervals during the swim. Our support boats are manned by fully qualified first aid experienced swimmers who will keep a close watch over you. So you don’t forget your amazing Greek experience you will be given an Ithaca-themed Big Blue T-shirt, sports drinks bottle and a swimming hat to use and keep.

SUMMARY

• On Arrival: Complimentary drink, bespoke location Big Blue T-shirt, Sports bottle

• 1st Day: Individual underwater video, Individual stroke analysis, Swimming hat

• Hotel accommodation

• Breakfast

• 3 motorised boats (One main and 2 auxiliary)

• 3 qualified swim guides

• Local Greek boat captain

• Cold drinks along the swims

• Variety of snacks at the end of each swim

• Coffee, tea & hot chocolate at the end of swims

DAY 1

The start of an exciting and legendary swim holiday in the sublime island of Ithaca. Swimmers arrive at Mentor Hotel in Vathi. You have the option of a relaxing afternoon strolling around the old harbour, visiting the nearby Archaeological Museum or going for a dip in the surrounding beaches (at your own ‘risk’).

In the evening we all meet at the hotel’s conference room and formally welcome you to the island. Complimentary welcome drinks give you a chance to get to know your fellow swimmers and this is followed by an introductory briefing to the trip by our Ithaca-based team.

DAY 2

Today starts with an initial open water acclimatisation swim and your chance to meet the rich blue hues of Ithaca’s Ionian waters. Our qualified coaches and guides will divide the week’s swimmers into 3 speed groups after this initial acclimatisation. During this session swimmers also have the option of being filmed with feedback on technique provided later from our qualified coach. We will then board the lovely Mowgli and head for lunch at a seaside taverna/beach hut further down the coast.
The afternoon involves a very short boat ride to Gidaki beach where we start our 2.4k swim following a southerly direction along the scenic winding coastline, ending on one of many Ithaca’s sandy beaches.

Daily swim total: 3K approximately (swim route and acclimatisation swim).

Type of swim: Technique & coastal.

Location: Gidaki Beach

DAY 3

Today we will travel north and during this sailing swimmers have the chance to experience Ithaca’s coastline from the comfort of Mowgli’s ample deck. The 3K swim will start from Ithaca’s Three Old Windmills, swimming south and landing on a small secluded sandy beach. Once on the beach, this is an ideal opportunity for swimmers to relax and soak up that feeling of experiencing the calm location.

The small harbour of Kioni just north of the swim route will provide the welcome lunch stop and a chance to rest, replenish and taste some local Greek specialities.

A short boat ride north will take us to the 2K afternoon swim, which is around the Cape of Akrotiri; a chance to experience some tranquil and largely untouched seascape and landscape.

DAY 4

Today we sail south and have another chance to enjoy the serenity of Ithaca’s green coastline, framed by mainland Greece towards the east. We start today’s 3K swim from Cape Mouda swimming towards the north and landing on a small beach, just south of Ligia Island. Lunch is only a short boat ride away in one of the seaside huts where swimmers experience the laid back slow pace of some of the distant parts of the Island.

The 2K afternoon swim is around the lovely Ligia island, circumnavigating it and finishing on a yet another beautiful sandy beach. Here the colour of the water is truly breath-taking.

DAY 5

We take a short boat journey south to start the morning’s 3K swim. We start from the small moon-shaped sandy beach of Filiatro, heading south and going around the cape of Skotargia. This coastal swim is along the azure shallow waters of this fascinating stretch of Ithaca’s coastline and finishes on one of its dozens of sandy small beaches.

Lunch will be in a seaside hut very close, where swimmers can relax and replenish body and spirit alike.

The 2k afternoon swim will start from Peristergia headland, going north and finishing in Sarakiniko bay, close to where this morning’s swim was. Sarakiniko Bay is an amazing lush green natural setting, off the beaten track, surrounded by clusters of Cypress and Olive trees.

DAY 6

Today we are travelling North East to the uninhabited and unexplored island of Atokos. It will be a 50 min sail and time to relax and take in the early morning sun and sea breeze. This is a chance to see Ithaca from afar alongside Lefkada and mainland Greece in the distance. We will start this 5K heroic swim from the west side of this beautiful little island and swimming anti-clockwise we will finish on a deserted beach where swimmers can relax and feeling accomplished can take in the natural wonders of the isolated spot. Swimmers will be encouraged to explore the Atokos’ many magnificent caves, coves and stunning rock formations along the way during this swim.

Lunch will be back on Ithaca and the late afternoon will be ‘free’ for swimmers to do as they like, shopping, visiting museums or strolling along the harbour.

DAY 7

Today we head north at the very northern tip of Ithaca, The Cape of Ai Yianni (Saint John). From here we can almost see Kefalonia and Lefkada with all its islets is in the far distance. We swim south along the fascinating coastline towards the lighthouse of Saint Nicholas. After the usual snacks and hot drinks onboard Mowgli we will visit Frikes for lunch, a small authentic unspoilt harbour with its little white houses overlooking the port, above them a number of traditional windmills.

The 2K afternoon swim will start at the beautiful white pebbled beach of Marmakas Bay and continues around the tiny picturesque island of Saint Nikolas, following a coastal route south and finishing on a sandy beach.

DAY 8

The week has gone too fast and it is our final goodbye, “sto epanithin” (until we meet again). This is the last morning in the accommodation and swimmers are asked to vacate rooms at Mentor Hotel by 11am. If you need to stay for a little longer please ask Mihali the hotel’s owner or let Michael, Lisa or any of the guides know.

If guests are staying longer in Ithaca we can suggest accommodation options and places to visit in and around the area.

FLIGHTS

Flights that feed Ithaca island come to the adjacent island of Kefalonia’s airport (E.F.L.). International charter flights from most well-known flight operators run daily from Spring to Autumn and connect Kefalonia with most major European cities and capitals. The flight connections from the U.K. are frequent and from a number of different airports. PLEASE NOTE. The welcome briefing takes place on the first Monday at 7.30 pm at Mentor Hotel in Vathi, so please book your flights accordingly so that you can attend.

GETTING TO US FROM THE AIRPORT

Once in Kefalonia airport near Argostoli we recommend that you catch a taxi to the port of Sami, east of the island. Travel time is 45-50 minutes with a fixed rate of 50 euros. The taxi firm we liaise with is called Avgerinos Travel and you can email Vaggeli at this email address: info@avgerinos-travelexperience.com or mobile number: 0030 6973 209467 to pre-book and please make sure your booking is acknowledged. They have comfortable, new taxis that can take up to 4 passengers. Avgerinos Travel also have mini buses that can carry 4 passengers in great comfort at 70 euros and up to 8 passengers at 90 euros. Alternatively you can get any taxi from the airport to Sami (It is best to agree the cost with the driver first).

From the port of Sami you then catch a ferry to Piso Aetos on Ithaca; this is a 30 minute journey and only costs 3 euros. The two companies that serve this route are https://www.levanteferries.com/en/ and http://www.ionionpelagos.com/en so please check these 2 websites for the timetable. There is also a sea-taxi that does this route just in case you ‘miss the boat’ but this will cost about 100 euros for up to 7 passengers. Once in Piso Aetos take a (any) taxi to our hotel Mentor Hotel in the main town of Vathi, our base. Travel time is about 15-20 minutes and the fixed price is 20 euros.

If you are already on Greek soil and are looking to combine your Ithaca trip with visits to other islands, there are local flights from skyexpress. They fly between Corfu, Kefalonia and Lefkada (Preveza Airport) and connect all Ionian islands, Crete further south and many other Greek destinations. Skyexpress flight timetable is released in May of each year. For information on more ways of getting to Ithaca from mainland Greece please email us and we are happy to advise; a good website full of information on Ithaca is: https://www.ithacagreece.com/

ACCOMMODATION

Swimmers will be staying at the 3-star Mentor Hotel in Vathi, the main town of Ithaca. The hotel is situated in a prime setting in front of the small harbour offering easy access to a number of restaurants, traditional Greek tavernas and coffee bars and the Ithaca archaeological museum is a short walk away. There is friendly and helpful hotel staff on hand to help out and oversee your stay.

The hotel has a conference room where the welcoming briefing takes place, a bar area for drinks and the rooms offer air-conditioning, safe box, TV, mini-bar, ironing facilities, hair-drier (on request) and wi-fi.

Continental buffet-style breakfast is on offer as well as a 24-hour restaurant.

Please refer to the site for more information http://hotelmentor.gr/?locale=en_GB

Big Blue Swim Accommodation

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Mowgli

Mowgli, The Big Blue’s main boat, has been purchased recently and has undergone considerable restoration at the local boatyard in Lefkada by a master craftsman. She is a beautiful 15 metre long motorsailer, constructed in mahogany throughout with a teak deck, by the famous Picchioti shipyards who are in operation still today constructing wonderful boats. Originally commissioned in La Spezia, in Italy in1963 she has in the past sailed the world over and has even reached as far afield as Hong Kong! She was designed by the Italian boat designer F.A. Boretti who must have been in love with unusual traditional shapes as there are only 2 boats of this unique design worldwide; one of the deciding factors in her purchase!

Although there is still quite a bit of cosmetic work to be done, everything on her works well, complying with all the latest and stringent maritime safety laws and offering speeds up to 13 Knots with her brand new 320HP diesel engine, ideal for cruising around the Greek seas. From the comfort of her ample teak deck and the huge bean bags especially purchased for lounging on, swimmers indulge under the welcoming Greek sun and peruse the diverse coastline of the Ionian Sea, in the gentle and unassuming luxury of Mowgli.

Apart from the ample sunbathing space at the front of the boat there is also ample shaded area at the rear of Mowgli where swimmers can have a break from the sun.

The pilothouse in the middle section is big enough for people not only to escape from the sun but also have an indoors rest with plenty of comfortable seating. We normally use this area as the ‘dry room’ where swimmers deposit their bags and change into dry clothes ready for the lunch stops; towards the back of the boat and down a few steps there are 2 comfortable beds for people to have a proper rest and this is where the toilet is located with a shower facility.

There is also sunbathing space at the top but only for a small number of people offering 360o panoramic views of the islands and interesting landmarks we cruise by; a small luxurious experience not to be missed by anyone!

The Boat - Mowgli

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