Cyprus, 2004 - Tuesday

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Cyprus, 2004
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Tomorrow, Tuesday, my last day, started fine and sunny. I packed my stuff, gladly gave in my key (I doubt I will return to that hotel again), loaded the Pinin, and set off for Paphos. This is where I was glad to have the Pinin, if only because it was a hard top. It meant I could leave all my luggage (okay, both my small rucksacks) in the back and leave the car. I had a last look round the town, checked I had money in my bank account for when I hit England, ate some food, then headed out for my last off road jaunt. The map showed a road that led from Paphos harbour south east along the coast. After turning into a track, it was shown as terminating in the Ezousa River. The interesting thing about this, is the airport is just the other side of the river, so I wondered whether I could take a shortcut to the airport by fording the river. The river, when I got to it, looked to be slightly in flood, and was to muddy to see the bottom, but the path in and out looked rocky enough to provide the Pinin with enough grip, if only the bottom was the same surface, and it wasn’t too deep. Now someone will tell me that trying a ford away from any help, on your own, just a couple of hours before you have to be at an airport in a vehicle that isn’t very good off road, isn’t a great idea. I know. But it was a worse idea than even I could have imagined. I took the ford slow, ready to reverse out at the first sign of trouble. The water got deep, up to the top of the wheels, but not deep enough to worry about. Three quarters of the way across I came across a little gravel bank, so hopped out and took a couple pictures. The Pinin made it all the way across no problem, and that is when I realised my error. Coming from that side of the airport meant if I went any further I would be driving onto the airstrip itself, and that was probably not the best idea in the world. Add this to the army helicopter I’d just seen land a few hundred yards away in the direction I was heading, and I decided it would be prudent to turn around. As I entered the ford again, the army helicopter took off, and flew low towards me. By the time I was half way across the ford the helicopter was overhead. It followed me till I made it back to the tarmac, and then disappeared. I decided to test the speed abilities of the Pinin at that point, and get somewhere else, fast.

As it was such a nice day, I headed up into the foothills above the airport. I turned left off the A6 to Limassol, and headed up the tarmac for a few miles before turning right onto a dirt track. I was tired, the day was sunny, and I didn’t want to get stuck anywhere, so I stopped the car off the road after having a play in a gravel quarry. I looked over the landscape. And figured if, when the time came to head to the airport, I cut across the field in front of me, and down a few banks, I could probably get to the road I could see in the distance. Checking with my map, the only tarmac road I should be able to see from that point would be the one that headed down, across the A6, and to the airport. Perfect, I thought. Again, somebody needs to pop up at these points in my life, and warn me off these great ideas. I read for an hour, laying on the grass, with no noise at all except the whistle of the breeze, and the occasional faint noise of some construction going on in a valley between me and the road I planned to head towards. Again, where is somebody to warn me at these points? My alarm went off, so I climbed back in the car, and headed across the fields for the road. The construction noise grew louder, and soon I hit a track, leading in the direction I needed to go, and directly towards the noise of construction. The track rounded a corner, and directly in front of me was a large gate, with a large fence, about twenty foot high and topped with barbed wire stretching in either direction. The gate was open, no one was around, and the road headed the way I needed to go. Please, nobody ever let me go anywhere on my own again. I figured I might be on the wrong side of the fence already, and perhaps should go through the gate. Okay, it was a feeble attempt to persuade myself, but it worked. I drove through. The road was now tarmac, and lots of building work was going on, so I stopped and asked a guy digging a ditch which way Paphos was. He pointed the way I was going, so I took that as permission to carry on, and did so. What was being built looked an awful lot like army barracks, and there were a suspicious amount of soldiers stood around, directing the work. As I passed, they all stopped, and watched me go, as if they couldn’t work out whether I should be there, or they should be challenging me. Soon I came to the gate at the other side of the compound (yes, I had been on the right side of the fence originally, and now was on the wrong side). This gate was manned by a soldier with a semi automatic weapon slung over his shoulder, and he raised it and stepped across the gate as I approached. He wasn’t pointing the gun at me, just holding it up as if to order me to stop, so I did. He walked around the Pinin, and to my window. I put on my friendliest smile (I probably was grinning like the village idiot) and said ‘Paphos?’ pointing the way I was going. With a puzzled look he nodded, so I drove off rapidly, but not fast, while he stood back into the middle of the gate, watching me go, with the gun still raised. Never underestimate the stupidity of your actions.

I headed down to the airport FAST, ditched the car there, posted the keys through the Avis letterbox, and got in the check-in line quick, hoping that if anyone did come looking for the Pinin, I would have nothing on me to associate myself with it. I’m now sat in the airport departure lounge, looking out over the car park. In the corner is the Pinin, still on its own, with no soldiers in site. I think I got away with it. I feel I also should put in a disclaimer here in case any Cypriot officials read this to say all I was doing was driving. Both episodes were accidents; I took no photos of anything sensitive, and am sorry for my stupidity. There remains nothing for me to say now, except thanks again, Avis, for being so understanding about the Vitara. It wasn’t my fault, it must be bad maintenance or something, and sorry Mitsubishi, the Suzuki beat your effort hands down. Would I come back? Not on my own, that is for sure. I think I exhausted the possibilities for off roading on your own. I’d want a couple mates also with vehicles, a little better prepared for off roading. But you can’t hire those anywhere I saw, so maybe Spain or France next. Anybody want to lend me a 4 wheel drive to test anywhere like that?



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