Jam packed in the valley from Delphi to Itea and the sea was olive trees, groves, patches - no fences just verges, ditches and beaten paths occasionally littered with plastic bins or milk crates, dogs, tree trimmers and people lighting fires driving the fragrantly acrid blue smoke of burning olive branches. Occasional wild hedges of lavender rosemary flowers and the deep dark green of their stiff leaves holding station along the roadway.
Driving the main road which took us through a small town – the roads were diminishing into patchwork potholes, gradually consuming the thoroughfare. A dead end with a large ‘coca-cola’ double sided drink truck blocking the way... no trouble – he gets back in and reverses in a natural 4 point manoeuvre giving me enough room to squeeze under a concrete balcony overhang and wait for him to move forward again. After this vehicular dance, we moved further along the narrowing roads where another deliver van was parked across ¾ of the roadway with the young delivery driver with his head inside the side sliding door. Looked out and saw us but obviously deemed me with higher talent. As I was rimming the pavement on my side – a few gentlemen came from all over to help guide us through with much vocal encouragement in Greek and much hand gestures and head nods and waved us on our way.
We crossed onto the Peloponnese using the Rio-Antirrio bridge which is 2,880 m long and 28m wide, prior to the bridge being built the Peloponnese could only be reached by ferry or via the isthmus of Corinth in the east. Its five-span four-pylon cable-stayed portion of length 2,252 m is the world's second longest cable-stayed deck; only the deck of theMillau Viaduct in southern France is longer at 2,460 m (8,071 ft). However, as the latter is also supported by bearings at the pylons apart from cable stays, the Rio–Antirrio bridge deck might be considered the longest cable-stayed "suspended" deck. Due to the peculiar conditions of the straits, several unique engineering problems needed to be considered. The water depth reaches 65 m, the seabed is mostly of loose sediment, the seismic activity and possibility of tectonic movement is significant, and the Gulf of Corinth is expanding at a rate of about 30 mm a year. For these reasons, special construction techniques were applied. The piers are not buried into the seabed, but rather rest on a bed of gravel which was meticulously leveled to an even surface (a difficult endeavor at this depth). During an earthquake, the piers should be allowed to move laterally on the seabed with the gravel bed absorbing the energy. The bridge parts are connected to the pylons using jacks and dampers to absorb movement; too rigid a connection would cause the bridge structure to fail in the event of an earthquake. It was also important that the bridge not have too much lateral leeway so as not to damage the piers. There is provision for the gradual expansion of the strait over the bridge's lifetime.
Into the town of Olympia in time for happy hour and finally a Greek beer! On our way to the beer we were waylaid, as you are, by the jovial call from along the street from the friendly natives. Come to my shop, all local products, all good quality, ahhhh you are from Australia? I have very good friends in Australia, you know Sally Anne, from Brisbane? And ... (boy this guy can talk underwater). It appears that he was a runner for Greece with the flame for the Olympics – he gave us his Jewellery store card and yep there he was on the back running with a torch...he only let us out of his grip by making sure we gave him a non-committal answer to his invitation for some Greek dancing after he closed his shop. He would be there until 730 or 8...