Cyprus, 2004 - Thursday


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Despite last night’s ouzo, music blasting from the entertainments room and children screaming by the pool kept me awake till midnight, so I didn’t get moving till 7:30 Thursday morning. I stopped by the reception, and requested a room change, away from the pool and entertainments room. They asked me to call back at 9, so I decided to play around on the Akamas peninsula for an hour or so. I left the top on, and took to the highway. Ten minutes later, I was back at the base of the Avgas Gorge, which I drove straight past this time. The road was another fast, fairly flat dirt road, with the usual washboard corrugations and potholes. Suddenly, as the speedo slowly crept over 100kph, I spotted a large rainwater ditch across the whole road. I locked up, and slid into it, probably going around 30 to 40 kph. It reminded me again. Don’t get cocky! The road has lots of turnings off, both to the left (down to the beach) and to the right (up to the hills). A lot of these I found were worth investigating. They didn’t really go anywhere, but rewarded you with such things as some mud plugging (which I enjoyed, coating the Vitara) or beach driving on most of the left hand tracks, or more technical, slower off road driving on the right hand side. One of the turnings on the right petered out at someone’s farmhouse, but getting there was great fun. I passed an old sheep fold, and parked the Vitara outside for a picture opportunity. I made it back to the hotel for 9:30, only to find the hotel still hadn’t made a decision on rooms. I had a shower, and started taking the soft top off the Vitara. As I was doing so, the Avis rep came past, and saw the state of my car. He walked over, said hello, and then made the comment ‘I see you have been using it’. I am still not sure what to make of this cryptic remark.

It was 11am by the time I set off again, pulling out of the car park in front of everyone lined up at the bus stop. The mud covered Vitara certainly got a lot of stares. I headed back up to the Akamas peninsula, planning to find out if I could make it round the coast of the peninsula to Polis, without having to cut over the hills. As I headed off on the dirt road I had started that morning I came across a white Land Rover 110, turning off the road onto a dirt track to the left. I followed it for a while, only to find it was a safari tour for holidaymakers. Needless to say it wasn’t doing anything serious, or indeed quick. I got bored, passed it, and continued on my own. I had filled up first thing, so had a full tank, a whole day of daylight ahead, and lots of exploring to do. The road slowly deteriorated, until I passed a silver saloon car gently picking its way through rocks and potholes. It had red number plates, giving it away as a hire car. I wondered what on earth it was doing that far out, and passed it, looking down to see a very annoyed looking man at the wheel. About 10 kilometres on I saw a woman walking on her own, so slowed down and asked her if she was okay. She replied she was fine, and her husband was coming to meet her in their hire car. I smiled at the thought of what would occur at that reunion, if the man in the silver car was her husband.

The road ended near a sign warning me not to pick up any army equipment in case it killed me. A signpost pointed right to Fontana Amoroza, which I did want to get to, but just not directly. I had no choice but to take it, but then took the first hunters track off to the left as soon as I could. Pretty soon I was doing proper 4x4 driving, often in low 4, crossing dry riverbeds, clawing up long rocky sections, or burning through mud. A couple times the tracks I was following disappeared onto the beach, and I had to follow, clawing my way through the sand with my road tyres. I was busy playing ‘spot the route’, and missed it a couple of times in the rocky sections. After a few minutes back tracking I was on it again, though. This continued until I was a few hundred metres above the sea, but still following the shoreline, and on the last headland. Above me, on the top of the headland, stood an army fort, and the land dropped away from it steeply, all cliffs and screes till it hit the sea. The track ended abruptly, and I was left with no option except to back track to the last turning off up the hill and over the back of the mountain. This track was even worse (or better, depending on your viewpoint) and was all low 4 work, clawing my way from rock to rock, following the path of squashed plants and sump-scraped rocks. As I passed a large herd of goats (50 or 60, at a guess), I suddenly realised I had seen lots of goats, but no sheep. It made me wonder if the lamb they serve in the tavernas is really lamb. Still, goat is nice, so instead I concentrated on getting up the mountain.

Suddenly I came out on a track that led all the way to Fontana Amoroza. It was still a 4x4 only track, but was mostly passable in high 4, at least in the dry. What the steep, rutted clay would be like in the wet would be another matter. I kept descending the north side of the hills, until I reached Fontana Amoroza. What with it being marked on the maps, and signposted even on the dirt roads, I presumed there would be something interesting at the end of this road. There was a couple buildings that seemed to be part of a goat farm, a few mud tracks, and that was about it. No, that was it. However, there were signposts for Neo Chorio (isn’t that ‘new sausage’ when translated?), which looked on the map like somewhere that would have a taverna or two, so I went up the coast towards Neo Chorio and Polis. This was the road I had been aiming to meet up with, so I was quite pleased. The road was tricky in places, but was all high 4 work. The area has several signposted walks, including one to the ‘Baths of Aphrodites’, so I had to keep avoiding all the tourist hikers, all of who stared in disbelief as I drove down the path. The road did get tricky in places, and would have been much worse in the wet, but I didn’t think the sign that said ‘Dangerous Road, Do Not Enter’ was a little excessive. It was also a little late to tell me that, as I passed it on the way out. There was also a lockable gate beside the sign, which, fortunately was open. It would have been dangerous to try and turn around there. It shows how much luck I had. The road was dry, the gate open. It could have been much worse. Also at the sign sat an old Cypriot priest with a Chevrolet pick up stuffed full of oranges. He offered me one free, and got me to sit with him while I ate it. It may have been that it was the first food I had had that day and it was nearly two, but it was delicious. He sold me a carrier bag full for £1. He claimed it was two kilograms, but after I explained the road I had taken to get there he was overcome, and stuffed several more oranges in the already bursting bag, while waving an arm up and down (indicating, I think, the roughness of the road), and rattling off paragraphs of Greek. He was doing a roaring trade, though, and sold several bags while I sat and communicated with him. I say communicated as his English was limited to saying ‘£1, 2 kilograms’. If you find yourself in the vicinity however, stop in and try his oranges. It is a worthwhile experience. The road was tarmac after that, so I unlocked the front hubs (another plus for the Vitara over the Niva), and headed up to Neo Chorio in search of more substantial food. I found an open taverna, called ‘the Stone Taverna’. It was a fair enough name, as it was a taverna, and was made of stone. Several local men were sat round chatting and drinking beer as I entered. One got up to shout the women in to serve me. I had chicken kebab (about two chickens on spits it seemed) chips and salad (with a lemon on the side), which was very nice. The chips deserve a special mention. I’m usually not a great fan, but these were lovely. Great chunks of some vast mother of all potatoes, cooked to perfection, and no grease in sight. If certain American fast food chains made their fries like this I would eat there every day. More men kept turning up, and the women had to keep braking from cooking my meal to serve them drinks, so the meal took a while but I was in no hurry. I would love to know what was being discussed, however. In the corner sat an old woman, grating lemon peel. Occasionally she would settle whatever argument was in progress with a few words of wisdom (or at least, so it seemed to me), and peace would descend for a few moments till the next discussion would take place.

That meal came to about £5 with a can of Sprite, which I would have paid for the entertainment alone. I got out the map, and looked for where to go next. I had ¾ of a tank of petrol, but it was getting close to 3pm, so I decided to head back to the hotel by way of the road over the top of the mountain that I had seen signposted from the other side. This was directly accessible from Neo Chorio, so seemed ideal. I headed out of the village, straight onto the dirt road. It is important to remember that these are roads to the locals, complete with signposts (in places) and road rules (obeyed in places), so many of these can be attempted with little worry. I started by taking signs for Fontana Amoroza (from the other side of the village to the one I entered) which took me past the ‘Akamas Peninsula’ fire observation post. If the gate is open you can drive up and have a look at the views. They are incredible in all directions, and well worth the 5 minute detour. At the bottom of the turn off to the fire lookout point is a sign telling you when the British Army are using the peninsula for live firing manoeuvres. By this time it was a little late as I had been driving in their practice area for 4 hours, but is worth checking out anyway. Shortly after I passed signs for ‘Pyrgos Tis Regaenas’. According to the ‘Rough Guide’ this is the remains of a Byzantine monastery or a Lusignan fort. I thought I ought to stop and have a look as I had missed the ‘Baths of Aphrodite’, and hadn’t stopped at any other sites of archaeological interest. I stopped, took pictures, and then headed off for more fun. I followed the road to Fontana Amoroza until the turn off labelled Peyia. I wasn’t going there, but it was the right road. This road isn’t on any map I have seen apart from the one on the board near Neo Chorio (unless someone has shot out that board by now; all the others seem to have died in the line of duty), but exists, and was comparatively easy compared to the hunter’s track I had come up the hill on. Near the bottom I met another couple tourists in a hired Daihatsu Terios bravely attacking the hill. It looked amazingly clean, but top marks to them for actually getting out there and visiting the peninsula. The rest of the drive home was uneventful. On the road back down the coast I did a few detours along the beach, and stopped to play in a river (which was bridged, but where is the fun in that?) and look at a ‘turtle-nesting site’ (read ‘load of uninspiring sand dunes’).

I got back to the hotel, put up the roof, changed rooms (from 02E to 20E, is somebody playing a joke on me?), and headed off to try to read my emails at ‘Coral Bay’s only internet café’. None of the computers could handle any page that used frames, for some reason, so all I got to find out was I had sixty odd new emails and enough money in the bank to keep me eating and putting petrol in. I crossed the road to the ‘Coral King’ for dinner. It is in a tourist area, so I didn’t expect it to be too genuine, but was pleased to find local meals at good prices. With the bill they gave me a ‘complementary glass of brandy’, so if you go, make sure someone else drives. I had to turn it down, which really jars with my nature. It was the least awful looking place in Coral Bay, as it had no flashing neon signs advertising how English it was, and had a good range of local foods. I only did 180 kilometres today, but most of that was off tarmac work, some in serious low 4 mode, so I am quite pleased with the day. Tomorrow I think I’ll head into Pafos and do some shopping, and see if I can find internet access that works. Maybe a little more exploring in the afternoon, or maybe I’ll stop in Pafos and see some archaeological things. Who knows?

I think I have got enough ‘extras’ together for couple brief asides here. The Cypriot outlook is very different to ours. At road works, for instance, instead of traffic lights controlling the flow of traffic they have a man with a white and a red flag. The theory seems to be he holds the red flag at one lane of traffic, stopping it, while waving the white flag at the other laning, allowing it to go. It gets a bit more difficult when he gets bored of giving clear directions, and gives a perfunctory wave of the flag, so you have to be alert. However, should you approach the road works when he is eating or smoking (which is constantly, it seems), he holds both flags in one hand, which makes his minute gestures even harder to comprehend. This is presuming he notices your arrival at the road works, and isn’t chatting to his friends.

Another comment is about hotels in general. Every night so far I have spread the spare blanket over the bed. I don’t feel it is cold enough to put the heating on, yet one blanket isn’t enough. Every morning I go out, leaving the blanket spread neatly over my made bed. Every evening I come in to find the blanket folded up in the cupboard and the bed remade. Why is the blanket in the cupboard? The hotel tells the maids, I presume, to fold the blanket and put it in the cupboard, so they do it without thinking how irritating it is to the poor guest who has to get it out again. Do they not realise I put it on the bed because that is where I want it? Then I moved rooms. I told the desk clerk that there was only a hand towel and no bath towel in the room. When I got back after dinner I found 2 more hand towels, a bath towel, and 2 pillows on my coffee table. With the 2 pillows on the bed, and the 2 in the cupboard, that makes 6 pillows, 3 hand towels, and a bath towel I now have. And my blanket folded neatly in the cupboard. In the new room I can’t get the TV to work. I couldn’t in the last room, either, and my first night here reported it to the reception. About ten at night a bloke arrived, who ‘fixed’ my TV. His solution was to add a few more layers of gaffer tape to the battery compartment of the remote control, and show me how five minutes of pressing a button and waving it wildly in the direction of the TV could change the channel to another channel with sound but no picture (or visa versa). He then went away proud of himself and his talents. I decided that the TV in this room can stay broke. I am of the opinion that a good, cheap hotel room could be got at this time of the year wherever you need one, in any village or town. It would probably save a whole lot of money, and they can be found just by asking at the taverna. In fact, people are trying to persuade you to take a room without you even asking. If I come again, this is the route I’ll take.

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