To be honest, our expectations for Cyprus were not that high. We were expecting to find a similar touristic island as Mallorca is. So no wild nature, no peace and people everywhere. Friday the 13th was our date to fly. The curse of the date seemed to be true this time.
The winter had arrived to Belgium once again, and snowy roads were waiting for us as we headed to Zaventem to take our early morning plane to Larnaka. Against all the odds, there were no accidents on our route and even the flight got up and going in time. Fabulous things!
The whole of Europe seemed to be under a duvet of snow, as we flew over, the winter had really set in. On the southern coast of Cyprus snow was only a distant glimmer on the mountain top in the horizon. Gentle sea breeze and pleasant temperatures welcomed us as we walked out of the plane.
We faced the first surprise as we went to find the car. The steering wheel was not where we were expecting to find it. Cyprus is indeed a right-hand driving country. Waffle was understandably delighted to find this out right on the spot when he needed to get on and drive.
It was early afternoon as we left the airport behind us. We stopped by a small hypermarket to buy unnecessary supplies, like food and drinks and Cava. The supermarket seemed to be something in between French Carrefour and British Tesco, selling Finnish cheese, believe it or not.
There is a reason for all this Britishness on Cyprus. This piece of history came as all new information for me. Cyprus used to be part of the British Empire, getting its independence in 1960. In the 1940’s Turkey has invaded the northern parts of the island and there is now a disputed border. Some British bases still remain on the island, thanks to the strategic importance. (Wikipedia helps tremendously in finding these facts.)
We still seemed to have time for a hike before the sundown. Our destination was Pissouri beach. Our book (Rother walking guide, Cyprus) hinted us to that direction. There are some spectacular cliffs to explore.
The walk was a good 2 hour trail, perfect for the occasion. There had been a lot of rainfalls and the brittle ground of silt hadn’t been able to hold the trail still. Small canyons were everywhere. There it seemed that the Mediterranean and rain would be able to eat the whole island away with not too much effort.
The sun set as we returned to the car, painting the coast in orange. It was time to search for a camping spot. Google said that around the Limassol Salt Lake there were some shrubs, perfect for camping. Plus we were hoping to catch a glimpse of the massive flamingo flock supposedly living in the salt lake.
That idea was not so welcomed by the British forces at the nearby military airfield. We were kindly asked to leave. So we headed back to the cliffs of Pissouri. There we got our car stuck into the slippery mud left behind by the rain. Some pushing, revving and swearing later our camp was set and the calm waves hitting the crumbling cliffs brought helped us to sleep.
We survived Friday the 13th with only small hiccups, on Saturday we pointed our mud-coated car towards the western end of the island and drove to Lara beach, which during summer is famous for the sea turtles that come to shore to lay their eggs.
In the winter months the island is beautifully green, thanks to the rains. Also the orchards are everywhere, the ripening citruses were calling us to come and collect them. What came to us as a surprise, was that they also farm banana trees in Cyprus!
The last kilometers of the road to the walk of the day (Rother, walk 6) were fabulously bumpy. We were very much afraid that our small rental Peugeot would not survive the trip. But as we took it calmly and drove around the worst of the pot holes, we got to the restaurant, that over looks the Lara beach, that was the starting point for the hike.
The trail looked like it would be flocked by tourists during summer. it was a wide muddy and dusty path, following the coastal line. We were again happy to be there in the off-season. It was beautiful out there. White stones under our feet, the blue sea next to us and clear sky above us. The wide path was partially full of puddles and we had to jump over shrubs and rocks, but before long we reached the nesting area of turtles.
The return route went via the hiking trail E4, which goes also through Greece. The same trail we took up Mount Olympos a year back. We had a quick lunch, nibbling on the locally grown pistachios before heading on to the northern side of the peninsula, with a famous walk, called the Aphrodite trail. There is a small pool, where according to legends the goddess herself had been bathing. It is a beautiful region, but unfortunately we did not have time to head for the trail, since the sun was setting and we still had a campsite to be found.
On the way there we had passed a large picnic area in a pine forest, that should do as a camp. The forest smelled strongly of pines and cypresses, and the picnic area supported some homeless cats, who kept us company while we cooked dinner.
The night had been chill, but we slept good. The morning brought a bright day of sunshine. It was our last full day on the island, so we decided to go and explore the mountains, hoping to find the roads still open with the snow.
Waffles driving on the right had improved, and I was not nearly as scared as I was in the beginning as we cruised through the mountain serpentine. The starting point for our hike was around 1300 meters of altitude, with nicely fresh temperatures. The walk chosen (Walk 17 / 19) took us first to the Kaledonian falls and up to a peak of some 1600 meters. The ending part of the trail was barely walked and the snow was deep, we had to wade our way through, luckily the underlying trail was wide and still visible through the snow.
After the walk we drove our car a bit higher, to Troodos, close to the peak of Cyprian Mt. Olympos. Apparently the occasion of having snow gets even the locals rather excited and they were building snowmen. On top of cars. And just about everywhere possible. It was difficult to pass the touristic attraction without driving over someones toes.
Needles to say, we got ourselves out of there quickly. For the last night we had booked an apartment. We ended up into a small village of Pentakomo. There is an apartment hotel called The Stone House, where we got a very nice small apartment for a bargain of 29 euros, a place I warmly recommend.
We got going efficiently early in the morning. Ryanair would be taking us back to Belgium a bit after noon, so we had the whole morning to spend exploring the Larnaca salt lake, and the flamingos.
At first we only found a picturesque mosque at the shore of the lake and cats, no flamingos in sight. We headed for a muddy stampede at the lake shore, and noticed that all the birds were on the other side. Finally we got rather close to those pink birds, who were focusing on eating. It is a funny sight, dozens of flamingos, without heads, moving across the calm water.
That was our last experience in Cyprus. We left happy, the trip had been a success and we had had many positive surprises, starting from extreme friendliness of the people and ending to beautiful bits of nature! It is not a bad idea at all, to visit this island during the calm winter months.