Visits to Caves and Underground Lakes
We had heard a lot of stories about the caves and the underground lakes on Kefalonia so today we decided to head out towards Sami which is a coastal town located around 25km east of Argostoli (the Kefalonian Capital), and after Argostoli, it is the second largest port on the Island with ferry trips to Patra, Ithaca and Italy leaving from there daily.
The plan was that on the way to Sami we would stop off en route to check out the caves. Our first stop was Drogarati’s Cave, which was discovered 300 years ago. Part of it collapsed in an earthquake and the entrance was created. It has been open to the public since 1963. It has many stalactites and stalagmites but many have broken, some by earthquakes and others by human beings being idiots. The big hall of the cave is often used for concerts and other shows because of the great acoustics. You have to walk down a fairly steep and winding set of steps to the cave below but it really is worth it. The view as you enter the cave is breathtaking. There are the usual coffee shops and gift shops at the surface too if you want a coffee or a bite to eat.
After our visit here we drove onwards to the Melissani cave. This was first explored in 1951 and opened to the public in 1963 after a cave entrance was built. The roof of the cave collapsed several thousands of years ago revealing an underground lake. The cave is often called Cave of the Nymphs because during excavations in 1962 a number of artefacts showing the god Pan and several nymphs were unearthed. The lake itself is named after one of the nymphs: Melissanthi.
The sun was high in the sky when we visited so the light was striking the clear blue water of the lake. The entire cave is reflected in an aquamarine glow. The water itself is brackish, a mixture of sea water and spring water. The whole thing was explained in great detail, however, the best I can do is to say that water from the sea mixes with spring water within a series of caves and ends up in the Melissani Lake.
You can tour the lake by boat, which is free but a tip is de rigueur. There is an island visible on your right as you enter the cave and the boat will take you down a small channel at the side of this into the second cave at the back. There is a rope along the wall to assist the boatman on the way back but on the way in you just allow the current to take you through. The Island was also formed by a collapse but the second hall is a huge cavern with an arched roof, which was also formed by a collapse of part of the roof. However, the roof there was a lot thicker than that of the main cave and remains intact. It is checked for structural safety annually to ensure the safety of those enjoying the boat tours.
There are fish, eels, birds and bats all living in the cave and the walls are inhabited by tiny spiders who feed off the mosquitoes.
We actually never made it all the way to Sami and decided to head home via the ancient Acropolis where we could only spend a short time due to the lateness of the hour.
We decided to head home but unfortunately, at this stage, we got completely lost and ended up heading down a very rough mountain track. We stuck the jeep into 4 wheel drive and managed to negotiate our way past the ubiquitous herd of mountain goats back down onto what we thought was the road to Lourdata.
This turned out to be the road to Argostoli where we had encountered the only roundabouts and the only dual carriageway on the Island. Greek drivers operate differently on roundabouts (there’s another blog on this later) but after all the steep, winding mountain roads and the goats, the dual carriageway was a welcome sight.