21 September 2009
Holidays...you gota have a good storm!
Having returned safely from distant climes, herewith report from the last couple of weeks. After hanging around Gatwick for what seemed like an age, and an even longer flight, we finally made it to the accomodation in our little hired car at around 1.30 am, not being helped in the least by appaling directions on the instuctions from the rep which sent us off into the countryside past midnight on a wild goose chase.
About half the time was spent loafing around on beaches and coves, just swimming and snorkeling, in water that was as pleasant as stepping into a warm bath. Normally, I'm a little bit sensitive about these things, but I didn't have to worry at all in Cyprus. One of the highlights was a trip up the Akamas peninsula coast in a charter boat to go swimming in the Blue Lagoon where the water was a stunning, vivid turquoise...and there's no photomagic enhancement in the pic, that's how it is! My back paid the price though, so at all other times I wore a T shirt in the water. Offering bread to the fishes as well was a guaranteed way to get a huge shoal of them swimming around you...a few crumbs in the water and they were almost taking it out of my hand.
Another day was spent hiking into the Akamas (which is a national park) to find a secluded 'double horseshoe' bay for a bit of very quiet, relaxed snorkeling. The pic shows the bay but what it fails to show is the hugely depressing amount of rubbish that littered the undergrowth, including squashed water bottles, empty beer cans, remains of BBQ's, toilet paper strewn all around the bushes, used tampons and piles of what I assume was human excrement...not pleasant. In fact this is one of the things that we both found very disappointing about Cyprus (and Malta as well) namely that the locals (and possibly tourists) seem to have little regard for their environment and seem happy to pollute it at the drop of a hat. The other pic from the day shows possibly an extreme example...a beautiful cove with the remains of a beach umbrella that had just been tossed off the road onto the cliff face with no attempt made to recover it. At least they have proper transportation though in the Akamas...
One day was spent looking at the area on the west coast and one of the pics shows the regimented lines of beach umbrellas at Coral Bay, mostly filled with Brits (so it seemed) intent on massively duplicating their chances of skin cancer later on. I have no idea why people cook in the burning sun for hours as there's so much evidence now that it's one of the worst things that you can voluntarily inflict on yourself and besides, to me, that sort of beach is complete anathema. It's equally possible though to drive up to the northern coast through the lower slopes of the Troodos, around the Turkish enclave to Kato Pyrgos to find a totally deserted expanse of pristine beach, inhabited only by some Bloke in a blue T shirt waving his arms about!
We had a couple of days out in the mountains which made for a refreshing change from the heat (about 31degC) of the coast. We went initially to see some of the so called 'timeless mountain villages ' and I quote from the Olympic brochure, the writer of which ought to be nominated for a Booker prize for imaginative writing. Quite honestly, the villages were a shambolic mess of unfinished, drab concrete structures perched on the hillside, in many cases roofed in rusty tin. When there's so much good local stone to hand in the mountains, I found it incredible that they would instead choose to send a concrete lorry from the coast, up the tortuous mountain roads to build these sorts of houses.
In one of the villages though we came across the Kykkos monastery, which has to be the gem of the Toodos mountains. Each of us had to be decked out in purple robes as we had shorts on, but not withstanding that, the quality of exhibits in the church and museum were astounding.
We spent some time at the end of the holiday looking at the Tomb of the Kings, a huge necropolis north of Paphos dating from early Roman period. Vast burial chambers had been carved out of the soft sandstone and at some time in the past must have contained thousands of corpses. Alyson is shown standing by one of the underground columns and there's a shot of me sat in one of the chambers... this one though, above ground.
Some time was spent near Paphos looking at the Roman mosaics which I found remarkable. Even after 2,000 years the vibrancy of the floors was staggering and it's beyond me how the craftsmen in ancient times could have laid such intricate patterns. Many of the floors were not flat but had been deformed by earthquakes but even so, they were amazing to look at.
We also spent a disappointing day in Nicosia, where again, the Cypriots haven't made the most of the historical past...very ho-hum and touristy, something of a turn off. The thing that's always uppermost though is the separation of city into two sectors, the 'Green Buffer Zone' being now a magnet for tourists. It's very evident that there's still a lot of animosity and ill feeling...the Greek Cyriots call their bit the 'free zone' and refer to the Turkish sector as 'under military occupation since 1974' which to me seems futile as they're all Cypriots and have to live on the same island. Perhaps the most exciting bit of that day was a short lived but very nasty little storm with torrential rain and hailstones as big as my finger nail. In fact the wind was so violent that bins were blown over and many trees snapped in half...we saw one new BMW with a tree across the roof!
The last evening before retuning to Paphos airport we spent at Aphrodite's Rock, where the Goddess of Love was supposed to have risen from the waves fully formed and who was then towed to the beach in a giant seashell pulled by dolphins. All complete and utter tosh of course, but it's surprising how many folk come down to the rock and leave paper ribbons festooned on tree branches, supposedly to seek Aphrodite's help in affairs of the heart.
All told, a very good trip but there were things about Cyprus (and the Med environment in general) that we found slightly upsetting, so it was refreshing to get back to England where it's always green and slightly cooler...and somewhat cleaner!