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Chambers at Large: Exploring Cyprus by Jeep


Sunshine and warmth were very much needed after Ireland’s damp, dishwater skies during February and March, thus I set off to Paphos in Cyprus with Jet 2, an upmarket budget airline.  I make no apology for the oxymoron.  It’s a company I’d not used before, but will certainly be using again.  Kudos to this value for money tour operator.

Whilst on this beautiful Mediterranean island I stayed at the first class Athena Royal Beach Hotel in Paphos, but now I’m retired I’m not one to laze around the pool anymore.  I can laze around at home anytime I wish, therefore I decided to spend my time exploring.

I set off one morning with seven others in a jeep driven by Pavlos, who navigated roads even the most easy going of donkeys would not use.  To say the drive up into the mountains was bumpy is an understatement and I take back what I said about the road crossing the Andes in a previous blog.  That road was an autobahn in comparison to the dusty trails we travelled, the jeep ducking and diving into trench sized potholes, then straining up winding tracks, the occupants being thrown out of their seats despite being strapped in.  Screams and laughter filled the jeep as we drove to Avakas Gorge, where we stopped to take a hike.

Thanks to my fellow travellers for sharing their photographs of this beautiful limestone canyon, and much thanks to them too for assisting me in climbing over boulders and crossing the clearwater streams, the home of many small reptiles, including frogs, a small animal that can make an extremely loud noise!

The gorge is also home to a number of trees and shrubs including juniper, pines and olive trees and we spent a pleasant hour walking the trail admiring the rock formations above our heads. 

Cyprus does not have much rain, but thanks to springs, desalination plants and over one hundred reservoirs scattered about the island, the fields are watered and an abundance of crops are grown including avocados, mangoes, wheat and bananas.  We passed fields of olive trees and grape vines on our way to the resort of Latchi where we stopped for lunch.

Sheep and goats were the only animals I saw whilst passing through villages, and these provide the feta and halloumi cheese I enjoyed whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  (The lamb was really tasty too.)

The views of the coast are stunning from high up in the mountains, and the sea is crystal clear, perfect for swimming.  We stopped at Lara Beach to take a dip, but this is a conservation site and I learned about the project to conserve Loggerhead and Green turtles who lay their eggs during the months of June and July.   

Once a female lays her eggs in a conical hole she digs in the sand, she goes back into the sea leaving her young to fend for themselves.  Whether a turtle is male or female depends on where the egg sits in the nest.  The eggs at the bottom of the cone become males, the nearer the top, females, but both have to make their way out of the egg and find their way into the sea.  It is essential the females find their own way as they will later return to the same place to lay their own eggs.

There are many rules in place to prevent the nests from being damaged including a ban on sun umbrellas which entices sun worshippers to visit beaches elsewhere during the egg laying season of June and July.  The conservation project in Lara Beach is proving to be very successful, preventing predators from scavenging the nests or swooping down to whip up the young as they make their perilous journey into the waves. 

And whilst on the subject of perilous journeys, a shipwreck lies at a 12 degree angle on the rocks at Peyia, not far from the resort of Coral Bay.  Fifteen years ago the ship, Edro III, under the flag of Sierra Leone, ran aground due to a storm.  Thankfully the crew were saved by the British military based nearby and the captain remained with his ship for two years during which time all contaminants were safely removed.  It seems it is too costly at present to remove what is left, but it’s a reminder that the sea is to be respected at all times.

Our final stop was the Baths of Aphrodite, a small pool in a grotto where the Greek goddess of Love and Beauty, was said to have bathed.  Legend has it that washing in the waters will make a person twenty years younger!  (I quipped that we should have come here first, or at least before our hike through Avakas Gorge!)

Some knelt down to wash their faces in the non-potable water, but I’m often told I don’t look my age so I didn’t!  (The real reason being because my knees screech in defiant objection whenever I kneel on hard ground!)  The walk through the trees was cooling as the sun was beating down and I could appreciate why women once bathed here in the silence and sereneness, sheltered from the sun and prying eyes.

We took the main coast road back to Paphos and I have to say the day out with Stevie’s Jeeps was terrific fun.  Thank you to Rhodos for explaining about the turtles, Pavlos for being an excellent driver and once again to my fellow travellers, some who shared their photographs.  I hope they enjoyed the rest of their holiday.  I certainly did.

 

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I mention the road crossing the Andes in this blog.  Read more about that journey here:

 



Animal conservation is worldwide and I’ve visited many sites whose focus is on the protection of many species, including turtles.  Click on the links to learn more:

 

 



 

 



 

 

 

 

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I always enjoy reading about your travels / adventures and this was not a disappointment. At 83, I find I now prefer to do my adventure travel vicariously. 😁

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