Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Gettinig Lost Is Part of The Adventure

My Journey from Athens to Patras

Getting Lost

When I first started the journey I knew at some point I would get loss eventually. It does not matter how good you are at reading maps or having a good sense of direction.

Face it …. If you are going to be traveling the world you are bound to get lost. Fact is people get lost all the time back in their own city but somehow its different. Or is it?

I love getting lost just wandering about. Its like a mini adventure back at home, treasure hunting I would call it sometime trying to find the right path back or a new shortcut route.

Getting lost in another country alone with a language barrier however ……. 

Of Train Tickets and Language Barrier

I started my journey early in the morning and made my way to the train station in Athens. I had research a number of options on how to get to Patras the day before and had checked the train timetable online. It had said it was a nice long 5+ hours to Patras by train.

Head up the ticket counter and the man couldn’t speak a damn word of English. Took out my trusty Lonely Planet Western Europe Guide Book ... flipped the map of Greece pointed to Patras and drew a line from Athens and viola he understood. After getting the ticket and a brief instruction to the platform by international hand signals and baby talk I was at the platform waiting for the train. Just to be sure I asked a random stranger, showed him the same map and the train ticket and asked with the ‘ok’ and ‘thumbs up’ hand sign again. I got back the ‘nod+thumbs up’ sign. The train came and I boarded and en route I could see the stops and signs which was consistent with the direction I was headed.

I felt awesome at that point …

Changing Trains – HUH?? Wait What?

Suddenly the train speaker started announcing something in Greek and after a long while in English. “LAST TRAIN STOP ALL DOWN”

Where the f*ck am I. I was at a train station which did not have a ticket counter, no gates, no train personnel, in the middle of nowhere, and everything was in Greek. Not a single alphabet.

I tried asking a few people and they shy away; maybe they didn’t speak English or just never seen a Malaysian idiot going into rural area of Greece. 1 hour passed …. I had to be more aggressive can’t be too timid anymore plus I’ll never see them again anyway. I disturb a few more people until one nice man who still couldn’t speak English tried to help me. I showed him my ticket (which was all in Greek) and he just walked over to see a piece of paper sticking to a board written totally in Greek and pointed to his watch. Hand sign for 2 hours, train come, hop on. I thanked him and cursed for I had to wait for two hours while I see the man and the rest of the people hop onto a train that came minutes later. I was all alone on that platform. I looked at the paper again, totally in Greek; I would have never guessed it to be a timetable for it looked like an advertisement for room to rent to me. Two hours with the company of cold winds. 

END OF THE LINE - HUH?? Wait What? Again??

Back on the train I guess small hiccups are normal along the way but an hour later I hear another announcement on the train speakers. No English translation this time. The train stopped and train personnel’s came and kick me off the train. Last Stop !! OK so maybe I need to transfer again. It was of course in the middle of nowhere again but this time there was a ticket counter and a small cafĂ©. Ticket officer could speak little English ….

“No Train. No Train, Patras No Train”

I tried to explain to her that I bought a ticket to Patras from the train station. Showed her the train ticket and her reply were even more puzzling.

“No Train, Take BUS, Points to Bus out Front, BUS FULL, You No GO!!”

…… speechless ….. Walked around seeing what I have gotten myself into, took a smoke and saw that I was in the middle of nowhere again. No buildings only roads as far as the eye could see.

In The Middle of Nowhere - Kaito Greece (That's The bus and my bagpack on the chair)
I went back to the lady determined to do something, anything to avoid sleeping on the floor of a train station. I had flashback of friends back home jokingly saying I will end up sleeping at the bus station or train station like a homeless person the way I travel without a plan. “ I buy ticket to Patras, This is ticket to Patras” I explained to her not letting her away and just stood there till she finally gave up and took a closer look at the ticket.

“Bla Bla Bla (She was basically speaking in Greek to another guy while holding my ticket)…. OK” She fumbles some books and wrote some stuff and gave me a totally different ticket.

“BUS. Patras. 1 o’clock”, she said

HUH ?? I guess I was taking a bus from this point to Patras then, I hope. Two hours of waiting …. Great!! Good thing I had all the time in the world!! 

Into the bus and a never ending journey begin. I had no idea how long or how far it will take to reach Patras. The bus ride was beautiful. Something I did not expected to experience as it drove along the countryside zig-zagging everywhere and had multiple stops at train station dropping off and picking up new passenger. I finally understood what happen when I saw the train tracks which were discontinued. Apparently it had been under reconstruction for a long time now and no trains had used the tracks for a while henceforth the BUS. Bloody train ticket was now a bus ticket.


I reach Patras close to 6 pm in the evening and the sky was turning dark. I had a few choices which were

  1. Find the one and only hostel in Patras
  2. Bunk a Hotel if I cant find the Hostel
  3. Jump onto a Boat to Corfu ( my actual target destination )

I decided to jump onto the boat eventually once I found out it was an overnight trip plus I wouldn’t have to pay for loggings while I sleep on the boat.

“What class ?? Deck, Cabin, Business ??”, the ticket counter lady asked.
“Cheapest”, I said
“Deck”, she answered

I had till midnight to board the boat and I was starving from the unexpected journey which left me with no food for 12 hours. Grocery store was nearby so I stocked up my bag with bread, ham, cheese and some chocolate bar. I was not about to take any risk with public transportation when I could see the boat. Five kilometers walk with backpack. Yep it’s doable, the boats right there. One advice … pack light … which I had and it was a blessing.

Onto the boat … CORFU HERE I COME !!

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