Mediterranean Jaunt – Part I: Cyprus

Sunday 19 May – Monday 20 May: Roger

It was just 1300 when we pushed back from the gate at Auckland International Airport on Qatar Airlines for the 17-hour flight to Doha. Heading west across the Tasman, then across Australia, out over the Indian Ocean, then across the Arabian Sea, over Oman and Saudi Arabia before the touch down in Qatar.

The Airbus A350 parked up well away from the terminal with a bus taking us the last 25 minutes of the journey. There are aircraft parked up all over this huge airport. Nowadays they all seem to be operating, unlike during the pandemic times. The big airlines are back to making huge profits. Having flown quite a lot over the past years I am still intrigued by a couple of things. Firstly it is a real credit to mankind that one of these huge planes with two engines can make these long flights over and over without coming to grief. Secondly how does anyone know where all these planes are parked and who is supposed to get on each one.

Sylvia, now being a platinum member with Qatar, we were able to head to their huge first class lounge for the 10-hour layover.  With A La Carte dining, snack bars, quiet rooms, family rooms and its own duty free area it is impressive. Lots of SAMS and SAWS (stand around men-women) are available to give a helping hand or directions.

Just after 0700 we headed to our gate and back on a bus for another long bus ride to an A320 parked up on the other side of the airport. Once airborne we headed southwest across Saudi Arabia then down near the border of Jordan, crossing the Golf of Aqaba, then across the Sinai, heading out over the Mediterranean about 89km south west of Rafah in Gaza. This must have added nearly 50 % distance to what would have once been a journey across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Heading north we were soon on the ground at Lanarca. The whole island of Cyprus is enveloped in a haze of dust at the moment, and has been since 26 April, caused by a low pressure system in North Africa causing the dust to make it up here.

Soon we were in our rental car and on the road for the 150km motorway drive to Paphos.  Cyprus, with history going back over 5000 years, was ruled by the British from 1878 to 1960 so they drive on the left.

The country is very scrubby, a bit like Croatia. Where the topsoil has been removed the land is an almost pure white underneath; it looks like limestone. Arriving at the Elysium Hotel we checked in and took a wander around the large grounds, where hundreds of people lounge on chairs beside the pools enjoying the sunshine.


Tuesday 21 May: Sylvia

I woke this morning after a remarkably good sleep. I had not slept much on the flights here so must have needed it. We wandered over and enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast – including one of the best omelettes I have ever eaten.

It was time to start our exploration of this interesting country. First stop, just next door to the hotel was the Tombs of the Kings. This huge ‘cemetery’ dates back to the 4th Century BC and was in use until the 3rd Century AD for the burials of aristocrats. No Kings are actually buried here. It is a significant archeological site and has been a UNESCO World Heritage area since the 1980s.

The site covers a large area and there are eight major tombs, each containing nooks for several bodies. We wandered around and explored. Even relatively early in the morning it was extremely hot and there is limited shelter. I was really surprised at the open access. We could walk all around the area, down into the tombs. At one point Roger even climbed into one tomb and eventually popped out in another one.

We decided to head up into the mountains where it might be cooler. Our next stop was the picturesque town of Omodos, in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains. It is clearly a village that attracts a lot of tourists with its many little stores selling hand made lace and other Cypriot specialties. I enjoyed some delicious pita bread and halloumi cheese in a small square while we indulged in a spot of people watching. There is also a large monastery in the town. This area is also famous for its many wineries. Interestingly the grapes we saw were not splayed out on vines like in NZ or France but seemed to be grown on small bushes.

Next we drove up into the Troodos Mountains to see the southernmost ski fields in Europe. Clearly no snow around at this time of the year, but the ski trails were obvious. There is a lot of black pine around and I was fascinated by how the tree tops are quite rounded with many of the branches pointing down. We wondered if it is the weight of the snow in the winter that creates this effect? There is a large military area at the top of the mountain that cannot be explored.

Heading back to the coast we stopped at Aphrodites Rock (Petra Tou Romiou). Legend has it that Aphrodite was born here after Uranus’ testicles were cut off and thrown into the sea. (Longer story but you will need to explore Greek mythology yourself for all the details). There are a number of rocky formations and there were several people there, swimming and/or tanning on the beach.

We then headed back to the hotel to enjoy another quiet evening.


Wednesday 22 May: Roger

After a visit to the ‘not well-equipped’ gym and another great breakfast, we set off on the A3 motorway heading east to visit the sea caves at Cape Greco, which is the most eastern point in the EU.  After two-hours of driving through, what can be best described as uninspiring countryside, we arrived at the wind-swept beach, the North African dust still thick in the air. A small inlet with clear blue water housed a number of small caves at the bottom of a 10m cliff. A few brave and many not-so-brave people stood around the top contemplating whether to take the 10m plunge into the clear water. We stood on the other side photographing the game and not so game. A tourist boat with submarine painted on the side cruised past as we headed back to the car.

After a drive through a couple of beach-side villages, we headed to Ayia Napa so Sylvia could walk out on a rock bridge for a picture.

Avra Restaurant provided us with a very tasty Meze, making for a rather large lunch. The owner treated us both with a hand shake when we arrived and insisted on calling Sylvia ’Lady’. When the first course of the meal arrived he went on to explain that the traditional Cyprus Meze means coming together where we “eat, talk and drink” then “drink, eat and talk” then “talk, drink and eat” and so on.  As we sat and enjoyed our food many people passed by, some in the many stretched Merc taxies, lots on or in ATV’s such as side by sides, 4×4 quad bikes or dune buggies, all common on the streets here.

Lunch over, we headed west then up into the hills to the medieval town of Pano Lefkara. The navigation system guided us right into town where the streets were so narrow that Sylvia wanted to turn in the mirrors “they’re like cat’s whiskers” I explained ! We did make it through without a scratch but only just, hitting one of the mirrors very gently at one point. We parked up and Sylvia then found a sign saying no cars allowed in the town. A lady sitting outside a craft shop pounced, insisting we have a look inside. “The woman here do the embroidery and the men make the silverware”, she explained. We now own a set of hand embroidered placemats. A stroll through the streets revealed a very picturesque old town with a church on the hill dating back to the 14th century. It claimed to have the piece of the cross Jesus had his feet nailed to inside!

Heading back to Paphos, we stopped in to check out one of the many large dairy sheds we had seen from the motorway. Huge sheds not only housed cows but goats and sheep too. Complete with large grain silos and sheds of hay they are big operations.


Thursday 23 May: Sylvia

We started a bit earlier today, heading over to the restaurant for our usual, huge and tasty breakfast. It is lovely to sit in the terrace and watch the many people coming and going while we enjoy our food.

Our first stop today was the Archaeological Park of Nea Paphos. I was not overly impressed when I walked in to buy two tickets and was told that over 65’s were free… especially since Roger was behind me and not yet in sight. In hindsight I should have just accepted the free pass but I was too proud to do that.  I am certainly glad we started earlier as even at 9am it was extremely hot walking around the massive ruins. At one point I started to say “I am sweating like a ….” Roger chimed in quickly with “65 year old” just to make my day!

The park, a UNESCO World Heritage site is on what was once the main city of Paphos. It was founded in the 4th century BC and includes the remains of several Roman villas with elaborate mosaic floors. A more modern lighthouse stands at the far end of the park and just down from that are remains from about 2,000 years ago of a small Odéon and a large agora area.

We next headed to the port area to the Paros castle, dating back to the 14th century AD. It is a fairly small castle and formed part of the coastal defensive system of Cyprus. I was more entranced by the port itself, which housed a wide variety of craft from some new and impressive launches, to old-style fishing boats.

We then drove north towards the Akamas Peninsular, eventually hitting a very rough patch of road leading to the Avakas Gorge Canyon. Looking around the barren, dusty area I was bemused to read the description of the entire peninsular as having exquisite beauty. To be fair, as we meandered our way up the gorge, criss-crossing from one side of the stream to the other, sometimes clambering over the rocks and boulders, I definitely started to see the beauty of the place. Bushes with pink flowers provided bright pops of colour. As we made our way further upstream the gorge narrowed and at one point a large boulder was stuck high above us between the two sides of the gorge. We saw several wild goats, including a couple that came to drink from the stream. Lizards scurried about. Every now and then we heard a loud raucous sound and eventually identified it was coming from frogs – we saw a couple of them croaking at each other.

Back in the car again we headed further north, over the hills to the northern side of the island. We stopped at the lovely little sea-side port of Latchi, where we enjoyed a delicious steak lunch while enjoying the views and watching the various activities in the port.

Heading back towards Paphos we stopped to look at the Edro III shipwreck. This ship ran aground in September 2011 in stormy seas. It was deemed too difficult to move so after being made secure and ensuring all dangerous pollutants were removed it now adds a touch of interest to the photographs of visitors to Cyprus. It sits alongside an area of sea caves.

We headed back to the hotel – the last few days we have walked straight past the tearoom area with it’s tempting array of cakes and the like, but this being our last afternoon in Cyprus we gave in today and enjoyed an English high tea with sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and an array of cakes. Very decadent!

Tomorrow we head to Crete.

One thought on “Mediterranean Jaunt – Part I: Cyprus

  1. Rosie says:

    Another fabulous account and great photos. Thank you you two. You have expanded our knowledge and taken us to places we never heard of. Lucky you didn’t get arrested for taking a car into a no-car town!
    Keep the blogs coming. We are fascinated. Safe onward travels and enjoy Crete. You both look very fit, and it’s great to see Roger so mobile in rough terrain. Xxx

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