Cyprus, 2004 - Monday

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Monday morning I headed out in the Pinin, filled it with petrol (£10) and decided to try the Avakas (Avgas) Gorge again. It had been raining all night, and the roads were wet, but the fords weren’t up at all. I turned right at the signs for the gorge, crossed the first ford, passed the path up the gorge, and then turned left through a second ford that took me up a steep rutted road up the side of the valley below the gorge. The road was easily passable in the Vitara, although to be fair, it was dry then. In the wet the Pinin just slid anyway it wanted. I was trying to avoid dropping a wheel in a deep rut, or going off the edge, but in the end was pleased just to make it to the top. The road after the farm is a fast gravel road (where I got a little rear sliding happy in the Vitara), so I decided to head back down the road, and walk up the gorge. Fortunately, as I was turning around, I worked out the transfer lever. It has 4 positions, 2 wheel drive, high 4, high 4 lock, and low 4 lock. So far I hadn’t been using low 4, just high four lock. To get low 4 you have to be in neutral (not park, for some reason), and push the selector lever down and forwards. If I hadn’t worked that out, I doubt I would have made it. As it was, gravity combined with wet clay, poor tyres and super soft suspension slid me into every rut there was. I would slide into the rut at the top of the slope, where it was just a small rut, not capable of harm to anyone, but just deep enough to mean that I couldn’t get out, no matter what I did. The rut would then get gradually deeper and deeper, till I was scraping on the underneath of the car. A couple of the ruts headed off the side of the road into the gorge. When I was stuck in these I pilled rocks in front of the front wheel until The Pinin found it easier to get out of the rut than stay in. The ones that ran into the ditch at the other side of the road were generally easier to get out of as there were plenty of rocks already in the ruts from small rock slides. I finally made it to the bottom, crossed the ford, and parked up beside three Land Rovers at the start of the footpath. Most Cypriots I met were very friendly, but these Land Rover tour guides all seemed surly and rude; not interested in talking to you or even smiling or saying hello unless you had paid them.

I hiked up the gorge, very glad of my gore-tex boots. The path to the gorge is fine, but the gorge itself is very narrow, and most of the time you are walking in the stream. It is worth the walk though, as the gorge is deep and narrow, and closes over you like a cave. A sign as you go in warns you about rock falls and flash floods, and having walked up it, it isn’t exaggerating. I got stuck behind the tour group from the Land Rovers, a bunch of very friendly and pleasant seeming Germans, but it was a good trip, and one I would recommend. Especially as it is free.

I then headed off down the Akamas Peninsula to play around, but found the Pinin was hideous on the wet dirt roads. It went anyway it wanted to, ignoring any input I gave it. On some roads it went in a straight line as I turned for the corner, and kept going in the straight line until I was off the road and bouncing through rocks. These seemed to give it the traction it needed to turn. Then I would be back on the road, with the Pinin in the deepest ruts (its choice, not mine) until the next corner. It was okay when it could get traction, but their was no excuse for its complete inability to find any on flat, gravely roads. I decided I was flogging a dead horse, so did a run to the airport to make sure I could find the way, and to see how long it should take. On the tarmac as the heat rose, the Pinin showed what it was built for. I turned the aircon on, and buried the accelerator in the muddy foot well. When the pedal is completely to the floor, it holds the gear until the redline (6,500 rpm) before changing up. I would never dare to rev it that high in general use, but it is quite effective, and soon the speedo showed 160 kph as the box kicked into fourth. I decided that was fast enough, especially as the speed limit was 100 kph. I might get away with 120 kph, but I doubt even the Cypriot police would turn a blind eye to 160 kph. The airport came, and went, and I headed back into Paphos, then back up to the slope where I broke the Vitara. (Sorry, I should say ‘the road where the Vitara broke’ in case anyone from Avis is reading this. It wasn’t my fault, honest!) The Pinin slid down the road to the slope (which didn’t give me much confidence), and dropped itself deeply into the mud flats at the bottom of the slope. Whereas with the Vitara I had gone tearing around the rutted field, bouncing everywhere, I kept the Pinin to the edge, on the driest ground I could find, before dropping it into the ruts and heading for the slope at the last minute. It started spinning its wheels (in low 4 lock, whatever the lock means) half way up the slope, and was sliding backwards in first gear, low 4 before I even got to the rough bits. It made it half way up, but just behaved so badly I didn’t even dare risking going back to the bottom of the slope in case it got stuck in the ruts. I headed off sideways (the way I escaped with the poorly Vitara), got back on the road, and haven’t taken it off the road since.

It is my last couple days of holiday (I fly at 5 pm tomorrow), and yet I find I just don’t want to even try it anywhere else. In the dry it coped well up to a point, if you took it slow. In the wet it handles like a lovesick sea slug. I think I’ll spend the rest of this afternoon in the pool, then head out for a final meal at the best restaurant I found, the fish place, to try the local delicacy – grilled octopus. Tomorrow I’ll probably head into town. The Pinin is that bad.

I went to the fish restaurant, and had calamari. Three complete octopi chopped up and fried with all the accompaniments of last time, but with a bottle of beer to wash it down to celebrate my last night here. The beer was called Leon, and came in a 63cl bottle, of which I managed three quarters. It was only 4.5%, but tasted really good. The ingredients were water, malt and hops. No extras, no additives, and all the better for it. The cost of the meal was £5, cheap at twice the price. What surprised me most about the evening was pulling out of the hotel car park and seeing the Vitara still there, waiting to be collected. As I saw it I felt sad. It had done so well and was being neglected. Did I like it that much, that I have personified it, and have emotions for it? Maybe that is why I hate the Mitsubishi so much. Anyway, only tomorrow to go now.



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