Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200202 Cyprus

Friday 1 February 2002  Having parked in a sheltered spot it is really warm when we wake up and we are soon in our usual repose on the beach.  We have the place to ourselves until we leave at 3.00pm. Take the valley road back to Pafos detouring to visit the ghost town of Theletra which you can see from the main road.  You can get to it by 2km dirt track or a circuitous route on good road which is the option we take – wrong decision.  In 1969 an earthquake wiped out the town and the inhabitants rebuilt the town higher up the hill.  We end up gong from the valley to the top of the hill, down through the new town then down very steep roads to the ghost town.  Pass a 4WD jeep tour en route and he assures us we can get down to the village but not through it.  Meet the tour in the village and pick up some interesting information including a tip to help ourselves to lemons and oranges from the abandoned orchards.  Return to the beach at Pafos.
Saturday 2 February  Make a determined effort to do some serious cleaning in the van but by 10.00am I give into the temptation of sunbathing.  After lunch we park in the main Tomb of the Kings road where I deal with laundry and Internet and Steve watches football.  Between matches we set out to find a new ten pin bowling lane someone has told us about.  A stretch of the main road to Pafos is closed with roadwork’s but we see a lady tanking down the road showing no sign of stopping at the barrier ahead.  As she passes us we turn to see if she is going to crash into it.  Hear a thud but it’s Steve’s head cracking on the road as he misses the high kerb and falls off the pavement into the road.  We are holding hands and although I try to hold him back I end up following him and fall on top making matters worse.  I’m OK but Steve sits up a bit dazed.  He’s cut his lip, chin, knees and some toes but it’s not as bad as he thought having felt me knock his head onto the road.  Return to the van for a clean up job after which he is fit enough to return to the pub for a second pint – wonder what he will fall off after that.  Collect Sandra from the airport around 10.00pm and return to Koutas Beach.  Sandra is raring to go so we walk Tomb of the Kings Road.  At Sids Bar Sandra is spoilt for choice with the cocktail list. 
Sunday 3 February  Thank goodness the weather is holding and we have a hot sunny day.  Martin & Chris call down to surprise Sandra and I end up serving an impromptu lunch for us all.  We are also visited by another motorhome couple and we recognise her distinctive voice.  They were parked behind us at the Peterborough show last April – small world or what?  When Steve returns from watching football we walk through the mosaic area to the harbour.  After watching a lovely sunset we pause for a drink then head to the Aussie Bar "Aces".  Martin & Chris join us there then together we go to Giorgos’s Meze House for a good meal. 
Monday 4 February  Very hot again which gives Sandra chance to work on her tan.  Late afternoon shopping then out along the coast via Coral Bay and on to Toxeftra Beach.
Tuesday 5 February  Pass a very pleasant day sunbathing on the beach with Steve and Sandra braving the cool water for a swim.  Late afternoon Steve BBQ’s some fish for tea.
Wednesday 6 February  Drive a little further up the coast towards Cape Lara but soon have to give up as the road deteriorates.  Continue on foot right up to the Cape where the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in season.  Afternoon on the beach then up into the hills to Kathikas village where the Araouzos Restaurant has been recommended. At 7.00pm they start serving the meat Meze meal CY £5.50 (£6) including village wine. It’s a rustic setting but the food is very interesting and includes a delicious rabbit stew.  Not sure if it is the potent village wine or over indulgence in food which causes Sandra to flake out on the bed the minute we get home at 9.15pm!
Thursday 7 February  A friend of Sandra’s has just bought a villa in Tala so we call round to have a look.  Above the village is the Ayios Neofytos monastery which although in a nice location is pretty average.  The interesting part is the cave church and other rooms on the hillside painted with frescoes along the same lines as the ones in Cappadocia, Turkey.  It’s hot when we get back down to the beach even if it does cloud over late afternoon.  Find the brand new ten pin bowling lanes in the converted carob house on the main street to old Pafos.  CY £2.50 (£2.75) per game including shoe hire with excellent lanes.  Sandra bowls a commendable 93 & 137 whilst I amaze myself with 187 & 155 games and Steve puts in at 172 & 152. Surveying the choice of eateries on Tomb of the Kings road we notice Pizza Hut is packed out.  On Tuesday and Thursday evening they offer all you can eat salad and Pizza for CY £1.95 (£2.15).  Stroll a bit further then return when there is a table free.  Between us we make numerous visits to the salad bar and make short work of 1 whole mega pizza and 1 small pizza but grind to a halt before finishing the next mega pizza.  At Thomas’s Jungle bar they have a quiz night on Thursday.  There are 4 rounds of 15 questions.  We are consistent in getting 12 in each of the first 3 but make a grand finale and get all 15 right to win the 4th round and a set of 6 water glasses.  Our total was only 3 points off winning the CY £23 (£25) prize.
Friday 8 February  Make an early start to walk to the World Heritage site of the "Tomb of the Kings" 75c (85p).  We’re all pleasantly surprised at just how good it is.  The best ones have steps leading down to an open roof courtyard with pillars supporting the sides.  This is surrounded by caves with niches and tunnels down to the tombs. Detour on the way back to Thomas’s for the cooked breakfast which sets us up for the rest of the day on the beach.  7.30pm we have a reservation at Kings Aphrodite’s Tavern where they put on a Greek show, BBQ and all you can drink village wine at CY £6.95 (£7.70).  The room soon fills with tour groups and the food and wine appear in abundance.  The Greek dancers pause whilst an acrobat performs balancing tricks then the dancers return to drag people up onto the dance floor.  Steve remains firmly in his seat whilst Sandra and I get pulled onto the dance floor but I quickly make an escape whilst Sandra revels in it – so much so that a chap on the table behind us asks her up to dance again later on.
Saturday 9 February  Another early start to return to the mosaics to view the main attraction the House of Dionysos which was closed last time.  After that it’s the usual sunbathing session before it’s time for Steve to go to watch football at the "Pit Stop" where Sandra and I join him later for our "Last Supper".  Drop Sandra at the airport then park at the nearby Timi Picnic Area which is by the sea.  The last flight goes out just after 10.30pm and from then on it’s quiet.
Sunday 10 February  Wake to clouds and not a sign of sun – come back Sandra all is forgiven!  Head up to the Troodos mountains making a mistake by taking the direct route which turns out to be a single track road with roadwork’s in many places.  At Platres we park by the trout farm for the 1km uphill stream hopping walk to the Kaledonia Falls, the highest waterfall on Cyprus.  A bit of a non event but a pleasant walk.  Troodos Resort is amazing as we are now in the snow and the place is heaving.  Street stalls abound and kids are everywhere playing in the snow.  Continue around Mount Olympus which is covered with snow then for a further winding 20km to get to Kykko Monastery.  Fortunately it is very impressive with an abundance of very good (although often fairly recent) frescoes.  The church itself is dripping in gold with gold alters, enormous candlesticks and chandeliers.  Stop on the way back at the bottom of one of the ski lifts on Mount Olympus.  Watch a few snowboarders and skiers before retreating back into the warm van.  Having learnt our lesson we take the main highway back to Limassol and find a nice spot to park well east of the town on the sea shore near a small marina.  Steve soon works out which pub is showing the football and disappears for the evening.
Monday 11 February  Thunderstorms through the night and still heavy rain when we wake up.  Drive back to Limassol to visit the Salamis Shipping company offices.  We complained about the ferry when we arrived on 6th December and despite following this up many times we have got nowhere.  Ask to see the top man who is excellent at lying through his teeth and passing the buck.  Little does he know who he is up against and he eventually capitulates.  We leave 1 hour later with CY £75 (£82) refund – so much for it being out of his hands!   Back to Larnaca where we want to change Daniel’s football kit for a larger one. No joy as the whole market is closed down until March.  Complete other bits of business then visit the cinema CY £4 (£4.40) to watch "Lord of the Rings".  It’s an excellent film and we recognise much of the New Zealand scenery.  We saw some of the set just outside Wellington and reckon it could all be a good boost for tourism there.  Call at the launderette to catch up and witness a car crash whilst waiting for the dryer.  Fortunately no one is hurt.  Return to "our" spot by the Salt Lake and note that some of the migratory birds have returned in particular the pink flamingos.
Tuesday 12 February  Still poor weather.  Fill up with diesel as it has now dropped to 16c (17.5p) litre but the pump attendant then tells us it is due to go down again next week.  Unbelievable when you think that in England it is still around 75p litre.  Spot another car crash which is not surprising as they seem to drive at the same high speed here even in the rain. Head up to Nicosia the only divided capital in the world.   The Green Line runs through the centre separating Turkish occupied northern Cyprus from the Greek Cypriot south.  The united nations patrol the border and their headquarters come barracks are in the Ledra Palace Hotel straddling the buffer zone.  Park near to the Hotel to check out the crossing system for tomorrow.  Walk into Greek/South Nicosia and immediately notice blocks at the end of roads and houses backing the buffer zone with doors and windows piled up with sand bags.  One church has the front in Greek Cyprus and the back in the occupied zone. Now that the rear entrance has been blocked off the church is open again. Above Woolworth’s on the 9th floor is an observatory CY £1 (£1.10) with superb views over the whole of Nicosia.  Discover that the Thursday morning tourist board walk takes in all the rest of the sites we had planned to see so we return to the van.  Early evening we are serenaded with calls to prayer from different mosques in the area.
Wednesday 13 February  The car park attendant is waiting when we get up and asks for CY £1.80 but settles for the CY £1.20 (£1.30) as indicated on the sign – they never give up.  8.15am walk down to the Greek border where a tree full off yellow ribbons relates to the vast number of Greeks Cypriots trapped in the north and unheard of since 1974.  Often elderly ladies stand here with plaques showing their missing family, they try to persuade you not to go over.  Today no one is around and there is no queue.  Our passport numbers are recorded and we are instructed to be back by 5.00pm.  Walk through the buffer zone alongside the Ledra Palace A.K.A. Wolseley Barracks.  In typical Turkish style we have to wait for the Turkish policeman to finish tatting around before looking up to acknowledge us.  He records our passports on a computer then sends us up to the visa office where will fill in forms then return them to the first policeman.  Amazingly no charge is made for any of this which is definitely not typical Turkish border style as we remember it!  Emerging into the Turkish side it fells foreign unlike southern Cyprus.  It’s obviously the poorer half of the country and looks, feels and sounds just like Turkey, we love it.  Check out the nice Girene Gate in the Venetian Walls then head down the main street.  Men seem to be hanging round aimlessly everywhere and there are massive queues for the bank machines.  Exchange a small amount of money and find 1,935,000 Turkish Lire = £1.  Don’t think the programme "Who wants to be a millionaire?" would go down well here – well who wants to win 50p?   Turkey still has an annual 80% inflation rate.  It soon gets hot and we discard our coats and comment on how much better the weather is in Turkish Cyprus!    Enjoy strolling round main tourist highlights and particularly like the Buyuk Han where a square building surrounds a courtyard with a chapel built over a fountain.   An inn for travelling merchants in 1572 the British next turned it into a prison.  Later it reverted to a hostel for destitute families and now it is being restored for use by numerous small traders.  Steve calls into the barbers for a haircut 4,000,000 TL (£2) and shave 2,000,000 TL (£1).  The haircut takes almost an hour and includes a coffee and smoking break plus pauses for the barber to smoke during the cut.  The 20 minute shave is very thorough with the whole job being done twice (in different directions) using a cut throat razor.  Steves’ neck is shaved, nasal hair plucked and ear hairs burnt off with a naked flame.  All this is topped off with a head massage then cologne splashed over the face.  Smooth as a babies bottom springs to mind as there can’t be a stray hair left anywhere.  Stroll the western area of the city where lots of the old Ottoman houses have been restored but often by the side of completely derelict ones.  Return to the main square for a doner kebab 2,500,000 TL (£1.25) lunch.  Feel we have seen and done all we want in north Nicosia despite the book saying a day would be barely enough.  Wish we had taken a taxi up to Kyrenia on the coast but it would be pushing time to do it now.  No problems returning over the border arriving back at 1.15pm.  Visit the Cyprus Museum CY £1.50 (£1.65) as I have read that some big finds from the Salamis site (which we are going to visit on Saturday) are here.  No doubt an excellent museum but having visited so many in Greece we are a bit blasי and even the Salamis throne, bed and huge brass cauldron fail to impress us.  Guess we are all museumed out. 
Thursday 14 February  Join the 10.00am walking tour from the Tourist Office.  Visit a few interesting churches and buildings but enjoy it most when the guide takes us beyond one of the manned green line barricades and down scruffy backstreets.  A few buildings are still being used but most of them are derelict.  The Archbishops Palace and the enormous statue of Makarios are impressive.  We deviate from the tour to see the 1973 Liberty Monument which is now an embarrassing obstacle in the reconciliation programme.  I think it is brilliant as it shows 14 bronze figures being released from a white marble jail by 2 soldiers and is topped with a statue of Liberty.  Last on "our" tour list is the Famagusta Gate which is a tunnel through the walls and now used as an auditorium.  Through with Nicosia we return to Larnaca to park just beyond the Frixos Apartments right on the beach.  Had hoped that some of the nearby hotels would be doing Valentines meals but we are out of luck and have to settle for our own scenic restaurant – or we could go to Agia Napa where a night-club is open from midnight until 4.00am playing garage, house and hip hop.
Friday 15 February  The day starts bright and sunny and we sit out.  A number of athletes turn up to train on the beach and we learn that they are the Romanian football squad.  Cyprus has realised it’s potential as a winter training resort for football teams and top class pitches are springing up everywhere which means hotel occupancy rates also go up.  Ipswich are staying at the nearby Palm Beach Hotel.  Clouds stop play (for us) around lunchtime.
Saturday 16 February  Up to the Famagusta base for our 9.30am rendezvous with Lenny & Maureen.  Maureen has sinus problems and Aaron (6) is at home so the best plan is for just Lenny to take us up to the North.  It doesn’t take long to cross the border and we are soon at the old fortified town of Famagusta.  Churches abound in various states of repair or disrepair.  Call into the spice shop and immediately get the Turkish welcome of apple tea.  Just North is the ancient Roman town of Salamis 3,000,000 TL (£1.50).  It’s a huge site by the sea and you are allowed to take your car around.  In typical Turkish style it seems they have got this site but don’t know what to do with it.  Floor mosaics have gaps filled in with assorted unmatching oddments and everything is overgrown and neglected although essentially impressive.  Next stop Palm Beach which adjoins the "dead zone" where the Benidorm style strip of hotels is occupied by the Turks and not in use.  The luxury Palm Beach Hotel on the beach stands next to two abandoned hotels which where bombed in 1974.  It’s a beautiful bay and in season turtles swim in the water and right around you which unfortunately is not now.  Lunch in the old town at a tiny cafe where the pitta bread is freshly made for our doner kebabs.  Back mid afternoon.  Maureen has to go to Dekelia Base to pick up their daughter Zoe (13) who has been visiting her boyfriend.  His name is Aaron Beach (16) and has just been signed for West Ham and starts with them later this year.  5.30pm meet up with Johnny, Tania and their children Chelsea  and Aiden at George’s 2nd Restaurant.  Another excellent CY £5 (£5.50) Meze meal follows and we leave well full.
Sunday 17 February  Maureen picks us up and we join them for a cooked breakfast.  Early afternoon they are meeting a man in Paralimni to view his 2 bedroom apartment for sale at CY £24,000 (£26,500) and they invite us along.  None of us are impressed as although the price includes the furniture it is not a great place and very dark inside.  Return through a very heavy rain storm to be surprised to find it has not rained at all back at home.  6pm  Steve goes to the pub for the 2nd of the 3 matches showing today.  He is unexpectedly back before 8.00pm and even more surprisingly has left half his beer.  He is feeling rather sick and has stomach ache.  Throughout the night he is not well at all but I’m fine.
Monday 18 February   Steve is still not well so we head to the nearest beach at Agia Thekla.  Cut across country past ploughed fields of red soil where the potatoes are grown.  Windmills draw the water up for irrigation but they have been overused and now the salty sea water is entering the under water table.   Settle onto our normal beach spot for the day.  Receive a text from Maureen to say Lenny is also sick like Steve and off work.  Although we have stayed here before I have not explored far and this time find that under the church on the hill there are steps towards the beach and a very old chapel hacked into the rocks and still in use today.  Slight improvement in Steve by evening.
Tuesday 19 February  Steve’s a lot better but not 100%.  After a cold start the clouds soon clear and it becomes hot and sunny with Steve sat out before 8.00am.  Wade across to a small island opposite with a sandy beach.  There’s lots of shellfish on the rocks but Steve’s not keen to try them out just now – can’t think why. 
Wednesday 20 February  Another lovely day on the beach.  Late afternoon move to Agia Napa for Steve to watch the football tonight.  Notice a hive of activity with lots of work going on renovating the bars etc. and much more open than when we were here in December.  Return to our scenic spot at Sandy Bay.  Steve is a bit upset to find the bar charging tourist season prices – CY £1.20 (£1.30) for a small beer when he is used to paying CY £1 (£1.10) a pint.   
Thursday 21 February  Back to Thekla beach which we think in another year or two will be overtaken with development.  Apartments are creeping nearer from the west and even the beach bar is upgrading to a concrete structure.  Put off by the prices at the bar last night we return to Larnaca Bay where Steve is delighted to find the Queens Head shows football and still serves beer at CY £1 (£1.10) pint including snacks.  Text from Sandra to say it is snowing in England, that’s tough when we have had almost a month of continuous sun.
Friday 22 February  Woken early by a bulldozer working on a nearby site.  Watch a Greek football team train on the beach whilst we eat our breakfast.  After getting our gas tank filled for the last time in Cyprus we return to our preferred beach.  Having watched the Romanian footballers training here last Friday we were are sad to read in The Cyprus Weekly reports that their keeper has died.  The 21 year old Universitatae Craiova player Christian Neamtu suffered a head injury during a training match last Saturday and died on Wednesday. Apparently he is the 8th Romanian player to die prematurely in the last 4 years. 
Saturday 23 February  Spend the morning sunbathing before setting out for our rendezvous with Maureen & Lenny.  Ipswich are playing a Russian team on the Dhekelia Base and they are going to get us in to watch.  It’s a sunny afternoon and the pitch is surrounded by stalls with drinks, snacks and ice creams.  Johnny and Tania meet up with us and all the children have a great time collecting players autographs.  Ipswich win 2-1.  All return to the Queens Head pub to watch the Liverpool game and get a meal.  Towards the end the Ipswich team roll in to catch the final scores. 
Sunday 24 February  Whilst in Pafos local Jeffrey told us about a weather system using a Coptic chart.  It has accurately predicted within 1 week all the storms over Cyprus in the last few years.  He printed us a copy showing the next gale due on 18th February  "El Shams El Saggira" from the NW lasting for 5 days.  As we sail on 26th February we have been anxiously waiting to see if it would prove accurate again.  Well during the night gusty winds built up and first thing in the morning we get a burst of heavy rain, things are note boding well for our sea journey.  Last visit to the launderette behind the Hotel Eleanora on Hermes Street.  Rain stops whilst we are driving to Limassol but when we park by the beach the van is blasted by the wind.  Move into a sheltered area and face directly into the wind.  Think the area has been created for use by a mobile canteen in season, maybe I can attract a few customers from the walkers passing by!  Alternating wind, rain and sun for the rest of the day but now enough to stop Steve venturing out for his last fix of football.
Monday 25th February  Different football teams jog past but we don’t recognise any.  Begin to appreciate just how big a business football training is in Cyprus.  In need of an Internet Cafe we pull up by the Tourist Office on the strip and not only find out about the Internet but that there is also a good parking area behind the Office right by the beach.  Walk to the "Croissanterie" to use the computer then return along the beach.  As the wind gets up and rain starts we veer inland and tucked away up a side street come across Elaine & Ray in their motorhome "Drifter".  Having not seen them since December we had given up all hope of meeting up again so are delighted that destiny has once again stepped in.  After a long chat they offer to meet up with us later at Lady Mile Beach where we can go out for a meal together at the beach restaurant.  Lady Mile Beach was named after a horse that was trained there but is in fact over 4 miles of hard packed dark sand covered in pebbles.  As we are at a sea front restaurant we choose and enjoy sea bass CY £7 (£7.70) each.
Tuesday 26 February  The wind and rain batter us through the night but we wake up to find that although it is still windy we have a clear blue sky.  Down to the port where we learn our ship the "Marino"  is due to sail at 3.00pm but hasn’t arrived as yet so we must wait until 12.00 to check in.  With a tank full of diesel and a purse empty of  Cyprus money we are ready for the off.  The ship arrives later than expected and looks even worse that the "Ion". Whilst waiting to board a couple come off the ship and straight over to us.  Rita & Dave are on the ship with their motorhome on the way from Haifa (Israel) to Athens.  They recognised our motorhome having seen it when they were also in Morocco last year.  By 5.00pm we are on board, settled into our very acceptable en-suite cabin with bunk beds and eating our communal meal.  The ship is a great improvement all round on the "Ion", much cleaner, more comfortable and travels faster.  There are only 8 passengers on board and 4 are British motorhomers!  2 are together, the man is Austrian and his girlfriend Polish.  They have been out in Cyprus where they have a 15m boat in Larnaca marina.  Next year they plan to sail across to South America so have being preparing the boat.  Costas is a Greek who has lived in America and has a Cypriot wife.   David is Hungarian but as a Jew his family were forced back to Israel during the war and he has homes in both countries. Rita & Dave were on the way to India with a group of other people but because of the war in Pakistan they were forced to turn back. The convoy disbanded and they ended up travelling through Syria & Jordan before catching the ferry from Israel, a trip we would very much like to do in the future.   I play cards with Rita and Dave before retiring whilst the seas are still calm having heard what a rough night they had last night.
Wednesday 27 February  Following a calm night the only person missing from the 7.15am breakfast is the Polish girl.  We are passing the Turkish coast and there is still snow on the mountains.  Soon after breakfast it is hot enough to sit out and for Rita and I to take the opportunity of washing a few things and hanging them out to dry! 
Thursday 28 February  Make good time and dock in Piraeus GREECE at around 3.00am.  Fortunately they don’t start unloading until after breakfast.  8.00am and we are off the ship but it takes us until 10.00am to deal with paperwork and to obtain Euro’s for an extra port charge. Aapprox 1.65 Euros = £1 and 100 cents in a Euro.  We heard from the Austrian man that 1c and 2c coins were issued but have already been withdrawn in Germany and Austria as not worth having!  For a change no problems leaving Piraeus and the motorway to Corinth is free because there are road works.  Following the coast we settle onto Kokoni Beach and make the long walk west along it and around the next 2 bays.  By the time we get back Rita & Dave are just arriving but take us to a bay a little further East where we can park right on the pebbly beach.
[Leaving Piraeus follow harbour anti-clockwise to roundabout.  Turn right and stay with this road.  At the top of the hill turn left at the main road signposted Patras.  This road then leads straight onto the motorway]

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