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zakynthos island

We arrived by ferry at the port of Zante very late in the evening, not knowing where in the world we were or where we were going to stay the night. We'd been assured that at every ferry arrival on any Greek island, locals swarm about to invite tourists to stay in their homes; so, we assumed that we wouldn't have a problem finding a place to stay for cheap. Upon arrival (at around 23:00), however, we found that the dock was completely deserted.
 
 A little stirred, we walked over to the town of Zante where, upon asking around, the cheapest place to stay appeared to be at a cost of 40 euros per person a night. We were appalled. We couldn't afford to spend 40 euros in a day, let alone just for a place to sleep! We kept wandering the dark streets, half-hoping to find a big sign advertising cheap rooms, tired and exasperated. Thankfully, we ran into a pair of Greek men who offered to help us out. One of them got the keys to his girlfriend's boutique, where we went in to search the internet for rooms for rent in the area. They called a bunch of places for us, and the only one that answered (as it was well past midnight by this point) was a woman who wouldn't settle for anything less than 30 euros for the both of us for a night. Although this was still well above our daily budget, we had no choice, and told her we'd be on our way. The guys told us it was 500m away, so my friend kindly declined their offer to give us a ride, as they'd done so much for us already, and we started our walk. As it turns out, in Greece, always add another 0 to figures. When Greeks say 500m, they mean 5km, and when they say something is 5min away, it's probably closer to an hour. And so we trekked 5km on the curved shoreside road, past the town of Zante and into what seemed like the middle of nowhere. When we finally arrived at the homestay, we swore to each other that we'd be out of there first thing in the morning: the place was more than mildly creepy, to say the least, not to mention highly overpriced.
On our way there, we'd passed a number of internet cafes that were still open. Determined to figure out an escape plan for the next day, and despite the fact that it was nearing 2am, we backtracked to it once we'd set down our things in our room. At the cafe, we were greeted by a group of Greek men sitting around outside, laughing and drinking. We ordered some beers at the bar, but once the bartender heard what we'd gone through that night, she immediately told us not to worry about paying, made us some sandwiches, and set us some drinks for free. Her and her male friends eagerly helped us find cheap places to stay online for the following nights, and we spent the rest of the night sitting around with them, until the oldest (a grocery store owner of about 60 years), started making passes at us and dozing off, simultaneously. 
The next day we bussed to a town called Laganas, where we were to find one of the only 2 campsites on the island. When we asked around for it, people either didn't know that a campsite even existed, or pointed in some random direction looking confused. A little let down, we decided to ask how much the rooms for rent were. 25 euro a night? No way. We weighed out the number of times people pointed in which direction, and headed towards the most popular one. Along the way, the woman at the post office assured us that we were, indeed, heading in the direction of the campsite. "Five minutes," she said, waving us off. Yeah, right. After at least an hour hiking in 42 degree heat with our packs, we arrived. There was nobody there except for the owners, a very very very old couple that didn't even speak Greek. They offered us a deal of 7.50 euros per person and told us we could pitch our tent anywhere we liked. We didn't have a tent. They laughed hysterically for a while, before cutting us up some watermelon, attempting to discuss our lives with us (and failing miserably, with the whole language barrier and all-- we never really understood where they were from anyway, in the first place), and finally lending us a stinky old tent that barely stood. Thankful, we set down our things and headed back downhill to the tourist-ridden beaches of Laganas for a soak in the sea. 
That evening, a group of 6 Greek boys of about our age arrived. We shared beers by the campsite's empty pool, conversed in a mixture of broken English and Greek, and parted ways when it was time to check out the club scene back down in the town. Here, I snort. What a joke. The "club scene" was a couple of streets filled with tacky bars and obnoxiously British club promoters outside. In fact, the streets were absolutely littered with British folks, particularly youth. The only music that could be heard blaring from the venues was from the UK (to the extent of ruining the Rolling Stones for me), and there wasn't a corner you'd pass without almost stepping on some passed out and/or puking Brit on the curb, deserted by his friends. Quite frankly, it was disgusting. I'd never seen skirts so short, or girls acting so outrageously sleazy. I was more than a little perturbed. (Where were these kids' parents?!) We found the nearest taverna, sat down, haggled the prices of their spanakopitas, and ended up spending the night drinking free wine with old Greek men, making fun of the drunken tourists passing by. 
We spent the next few days exploring the island's treasures with our campsite companions (the group of boys, not the frail owners) on their mopeds, running over the occasional offensive tourist here and there. On the last day, we ended up renting a little boat fit for two, splitting the cost and piling the whole 8 of us in it to explore Turtle Island and the caves around us. After a few hiccups, involving one of the mopeds frying out in the sun and another's keys dropping into the sea, we made it back to the ferry and hitched a long night's ride with the boys back to Athens, where we slept on one of their floors and got dropped off the next day at the Piraeus dock to catch our ferry to magnificent Crete.
Resources:
Camping near Laganas (click here for their contact info) - Completely deserted when we were there. Pool drained, bar and restaurant closed. Clean male and female separate bathrooms with hot water- toilet paper not included, but could be purchased at the "Supermarket" from the owners. A few outlets around the campsite to charge electronics. Fair prices, peace and quiet. The trek down to Laganas is downhill, approx. 20 minutes (coming back up to the campsite in the scorching heat is a different story, however).

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