My name is Manuel Alba. I was born in Ceuta (Spain), a city of great maritime tradition, and my passion for the sea is reflected in the work I do (shipping agent) and my great passion, the sea kayak.
I belong to "Kayak Adventure Club" of Ceuta. We are a group of kayakers with a passion for this discipline that we practice regularly in the waters of our city.
Ceuta, having a privileged position in the Strait of Gibraltar, enjoys the influence of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. This makes it an ideal place to practice this sport. Our two bays, north and south of the city, provide radically different environments, a calmer and a more aggressive (depending on wind direction), for navigation. That´s why Ceuta is a good school for training in sea kayaking.
I have participated in several cruises and travel with my teammates before deciding to undertake my first solo adventure, the circumvention of Lesvos island.
- First crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar in a sea kayak (September 2006). A group of about 15 paddlers, from Ceuta and Seville crossed the Strait leaving from Playa Chica in Tarifa. We had two support vessels and, with the permission of Tarifa Traffic (Control of maritime traffic in the Strait of Gibraltar), we conducted this trip in about 4 hours, covering about 22 km offshore. (Http://www.diariosur.es/prensa/20060917/ceuta/deporte-estrecho-golpe-remo_20060917.html).
- Second crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar in a sea kayak (September 2007). This time there were ten kayakers, all of Ceuta. It took an hour more due to strong winds blowing. (Http://www.elpueblodeceuta.es/200709/20070925/200709257103.html)
- Circumvention of Formentera island in the Balearics islands (September 2007). Two companions and I, we made this trip, bringing our own kayaks in a van to the port of Denia, in Alicante. We embarked on ferry to the island, starting the round in the port of Formentera. The journey took us about four days of sailing.
- Circumvention of Lago Di Garda in Italy (September 2008). A group of four kayakers went through the bank of this lake about 35 km in diameter for a week.
- From Sancti Petri toTarifa (Cadiz) (May 2009). 74 km of spanish coastline covered in 3 days, sometimes through open sea. Two friends and navigating the rough waters of the Atlantic.
With an experience of thirteen years in the sport and acquired on these trips, I decided to face my first solo adventure.
I needed an island about 200 km of coastal perimeter, cause I had 15 days off and that was the estimated time needed, preventing days without navigation due to bad weather, injuries and, of course, to relax and explore the island and meet its people.
I wanted to go abroad and the first country in which I thought was Greece. A maritime country with many islands in its territory. My first choice was Rhodes, but had to reject it because I could not find where to rent a sea kayak suitable for a voyage of this magnitude.
Then I noticed Lesbos. It is about 260 km of coastal perimeter, with two large gulfs that make entering the Aegean Sea to the interior of the island. Researching via the Internet, I discovered a company "Lesvos Adventure" (http://www.lesvosadventure.com) that had proper sea kayaks. I contacted the owner, Nektarios Paraskevaidis, and told me that normally did not rent kayaks in solitary but, after seeing my Facebook profile and photo albums of my travels, he realized that I had the experience needed to achieve my aim. This made me immediately decide, it's not that easy to find sea kayaks for rent when you decide to make a trip of this kind.
I started preparing for the trip. I had three months to do it and spent most of my time off the job to this purpose with intensity. Using the Internet to find out about the island, its climate, its coastline, knowing the winds, tourism services, etc ... Also to request information directly from the people, telling them intentions, using social network Facebook. This proved a success, as did contacts that would help me in my journey, like Mr. Achilles Malamelis, passionate about spanish culture that even contacted a local newspaper to make me an interview (http://www.emprosnet.gr/Current/?EntityID=1c13d60c-329b-4fe4-9f7d-dbedf172c4ee).
Using the Google Earth (irreplaceable to prepare a trip of this type) introduced the coordinates of different points that form the route to follow in my GPS. Waypoints such as beaches suitable for disembarking, towns and places to eat and to stay overnight with my tent. But I needed more visual aid for exploring the coast, so I started looking for a aeroguía of the coast of Lesbos. In our previous travels we had used them and were very helpful.
I could not find any online, so I decided to produce it myself. Using images of the coast of Lesbos copied from Google Earth with a length about 10 km each, with photographs from the coast to provide guidance obtained in Panoramio, the website where people upload the photos that appear on Google program . These edited with Photoshop and, using a program from a company dedicated to edit photo albums designed by their customers, I created a guide to the coast of the island. I sent the file to this company, they published the book and sent it back to me. Here's the cover and some pages from it.
This was also included in the guide, a map of Lesbos divided into coordinates, sending mobile message to an automated service of the Greek navy, you get a message back with a weather report on wind speeds and blowing direction in 6, 12 and 18 hours. A very useful tool, even with the cooperation and continous communication with my friend Nektarios, keeping me informed of forecasts.
This guide proved very useful and was a sensation among the people of the island. Its long period of preparation also helped me to get to complete knowledge of the coast. I sent a copy to Nektarios to thank all their cooperation in preparing the trip.
I must say that all such communications with Nektarios from Spain and my relationships with the people of Greece once there, were made all in English, a language that dominated most of the people I met. This greatly facilitated the travel and organization of course, because I got a little knowledge of Greek.
I bought the flight tickets. I had to travel to Malaga and spend the night there to catch a flight at 09:30 am to Madrid. From there to Athens and then to Mytilini, the capital of Lesbos. I arrived at 19:30 the same day.
Baggage I should carry for a trip of this kind I knew enough from previous times. The plan was to sleep on the beaches where I would arrive before nightfall. On this trip I carried in the kayak a camping tent, sleeping bag, a sleeping mat, clothes in dry bags, toiletry kit, first aid kit, flashlight, camera, gps, a waterproof mp3 for listening to the music as while I paddled, mooring and tow rope, a water bailer, a solar charger for mobile, mp3 and camera batteries, diving goggles, fins and snorkel, life jacket and spray skirt ..
All this was kept in the kayak on its bow and stern compartments, which is accessed through a deck hatches. These compartments, make the kayak virtually unsinkable in the event of flooding in the cockpit.
This is the baggage that I carried in the kayak, with the exception of the life jacket and spray skirt, which was provided by Nektarios.
On this map, you can see the path I made. Each color represents a day of paddling. The longer distances are about 35 km, covered in about 5 hours of paddling per day, at an average speed of 8 km/h moreless.
This image with the route was made transfering the GPS data recorded during the trip to Google Earth.
The pace of navigation I was doing allowed me to stop and rest for a few days in different places of interest on the island, making friends there and even make a stop for three days by bad weather, when I only had 62 km to complete. I felt it could do in two days and waited for the last two days of my vacation there to finish the round, suffering a heavy rain the last day. I spent 13 unforgettable days in Lesbos, of which 7 and a half were kayaking.
First day the route was from Mytilini to Tarti beach (36,7 km). Nektarios picked me up at the Blue Sea Hotel in Mytilini on Sunday 30th of August at 9:00. He took me on his van, with the kayak on top of it, to a beach near the airport to start. I stopped for a while in Agios Hermogenis beach and the went into Gulf of Perama to explore it. I had lunch in Perama and continue until Tarti.
Second day from Tarti to Paralia Drotas (21,3 km). I stopped for lunch in Plomari, where I had an interview for the “Empros” newspaper (http://www.emprosnet.gr/Current/?EntityID=1c13d60c-329b-4fe4-9f7d-dbedf172c4ee ). I stopped in Panagia Krifty on my way to Paralia Drotas, a place worth to visit.
Third day from Paralia Drotas to Tavari (33 km). I stopped for lunch in Vatera, the longest beach in the island. After that, I suffered the strongest winds of the trip, blowing against me. This happened from Aghios Fokas until I passed by the entrance of Gulf of Kaloni, where I did not get into cause it was getting late and I wanted to stop to spend the night in a place close to Skala Eresos. This place was the beautiful village of Tavari.
Fourth day from Tavari to Skala Eresos (8,30 km). I heard a lot about Eresos, so I planned to stay there for some time, as my kayaking pace was good and I realize I had enough time to do it. I arrived there at 13:00. I had lunch there and stay the rest of the day and the next one in this wonderful place. Met some nice people there, greek, german, spanish and english. I had a great time.
On friday I kept going for my fith day of paddling, from Skala Eresos to Gavvathas (32,8 km). I was expecting strong winds in this part of the trip, but it was not so bad. I stopped for a little while in Tsihliodas beach and then I kept going until Sigri, where I had lunch. Then I left to Gavvathas, to spend the night there.
On saturday, on my sixth day, I went from Gavvathas to Molyvos (23 km). I stopped in Petra for lunch, where I met the Malamellis family. I made contact with Achilles, the father, in Facebook, using it to give some publicity to the trip and get some advices from the people of Lesvos for my trip. They showed me the village and I enjoyed very much there. After that, I left to Molyvos. I spent the night there. As I liked Molyvos very much, I decided to stay there some more time. I enjoyed the place during sunday and monday.
On tuesday, the weather got bad. I went back to Eresos, and stayed there until thursday morning waiting for the weather to improve.
On thursday morning, I went back to Molyvos driving from Eresos. I started there my seventh day of navigation, from Molyvos to Aspropotamos (36,15 km), where Nektarios picked my up to spend the night in his house in Mandamados. I visited Tokmakia islands on my way to Aspropotamos.
Friday was my last day, from Aspropotamos to Mytilini (25,5 km), finish of my trip. Nektarios was there waiting for me. This was the only part of the trip where I had the wind by my side, and I enjoyed it very much. Arrived there at 15:00 moreless and spent the rest of the day visiting this beautiful city that is Mytilini. Next day I had to take my flight back to Spain.
Lesvos is a real paradise, for sea kayaking and in general. I spent the time of my live during this wonderful trip and Lesvos Adventure (Nektarios), helped a lot in the achievement of this endeavour. I honestly recommend the services of his company to any tourist wanting to enjoy Lesvos from the point of view of a sea kayaker.
Last thing I just wanted to say is thank you to the people of Lesvos, so wonderful persons. They were the best supporters ever.