Holiday in Cyprus! (Larnaca, Cyprus – KM 9,930)

Do you know about the history of Cyprus?”

I had just detailed our route from Norway to Nicosia—including our arrival on Cyprus via ferry from Turkey to North Cyprus—to the welcoming owner of the café we had spent the day writing at, and I could sense the air slowly getting sucked out of the room. “Most of it”, I answered. “Cyprus has such a long and complicated history, it’s a challenge to grasp it all for us Canadians”, I offered with a nervous smile. I finally threw in the towel. “You mean what happened in 1974?”

Being under 40 years old she had been born and raised in the south, near Paphos, but both her parents were Northerners who had to flee as young adults when the Turks invaded. She was calm but she spoke fast. “From 2003, when we were “allowed” to cross the border back into the occupied area, my father went to see his old house every month until he died.” Without any anger in her voice she continued. “Many people never want to go to the north, they say why should they show their passports to travel within their own country. People from North Cyprus can come freely and use our hospitals and services, we welcome them, but they are very hard with us.” She finished with, “I don’t blame the Turkish Cypriots though, I blame…” She pointed to the sky, and we both understood that she meant Turkey.

Not taking sides with the Turks—who will tell you the military operation was for the defense and preservation of the Turkish Cypriot minority—or the rest of the world—who considers the 1974 events an illegal invasion and manu militari land grab—the conversation gave me a contrite heart. We had come to Cyprus through what is, after all, an illegal entry point. Our coming to the Mediterranean island had been a plan B, the result of us not being able to secure an invitation letter to Iran. The visit was not well planned or researched and we had decided on the ferry from Turkey after enquiring about ferries from Greece and learning there were none.

You might be in trouble”, had been uttered at the Green Line by the first Greek Cypriot police officer to touch our passports. His boss, Mr Papadopoulous, had delivered a friendly lecture on the political situation and our trespassing, but had ended the discourse with “As by previous agreement, you will be allowed to continue your travels and fly out of Larnaca, even without an entry stamp. Have you had coffee today? Would you like one?” Seeing our bewildered faces (Pierre and I had locked eyes for a second, sharing our confusion, relief and surprise through telepathic channels) he had added, “C’mon! Cypriot coffee is just like Turkish coffee!”

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Nicosia’s Ledra Street in the old walled city. Republic of Cyprus.

Climbing from the capital into the Troodos Mountains was a slow slug under a warm spring sun. Fruit trees blossoming, geckos scrambling nervously, caterpillars crossing the pavement with aplomb, clear creeks rushing down in rocky canyons. In Agros and Kyperounta we dismounted at tavernas to enjoy frappe coffee and Cypriot beer. The red-tiled roofs, mountain hugging streets and old churches set among terraced vineyards were postcard perfect.

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Camouflage garage in the foothills. Republic of Cyprus.

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Tenting in the peaceful Troodos. People have started to work with the vines on the hillsides and nobody cares about our trespassing. Kyperounta, Republic of Cyprus.

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Almond, plum, cherry, olive trees and vines are welcoming spring. Kyperounta, Republic of Cyprus.

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At 1,500 metres of altitude Road B9 is a delight! Troodos, Republic of Cyprus.

The availability of wi-fi connections has changed many things for the traveller and one difference is that we are aware of the weather forecast most of the time. When we arrived at Troodos Square, just a few curves below 1,952-metre high Mt.Olympus—Cyprus highest point—we knew hard rain was coming to the island and were looking for a place to hunker down. We were in heaven when the Troodos Hotel invited to settle in a cushy 4th-floor suite with a sweeping view on the mountains, for two nights!

Upon check-out, rain had switched to hail and the T-bar was running at Mt.Olympus ski station. Some courageous snowboarders were getting turns in. I put my shoe-covers and cycling mittens on to stay warm, while Pierre stuck to his favourite footwear: his Shimano sandals!

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Close to Mt.Olympus (1,951m) spring is dragging behind. Troodos, Republic of Cyprus.

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Entrance of the village church in Pedoulas. Republic of Cyprus.

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Once we are up in the Troodos the road stays high for many kilometres, a bridge in the sky. Republic of Cyprus.

After the 1,100-metre high Kykkos Monastery, a dark cloud rolled over the high peaks of the green hinterland and burst open. I took refuge under a tree to wait for the storm to blow over. A dark shadow appeared at the corner of my eye. It took me a second to comprehend what I am looking at. It was a travelling cyclist! He was walking by his loaded bicycle, we were heading in opposite directions. He came closer, we were still silent, just smiling under our hoods. He rested his bike on the guardrail on my side of the road, we were looking into each other eyes as I was thinking that I knew the guy. Làszlò! We had met him while waiting for the ferry to Cyprus three weeks ago. We were standing in slushy snow then and, with Pierre now having caught up to us, the three of us were getting cold and wet together again!

How are you?”, I finally blurted out.

I’ve had better times in my life. I had to sleep by the road, it rained hard all night and this morning a man reprimanded me for camping there. Even my passport is wet, my camera is drowning”, he lamented. The young Hungarian geographer had been on a solo ride for almost a year and was at the tail-end of his journey. After our meteorological interlude, sharing snippets about the north, museums, archaeological sites, roads, wine and the Cyprus cedar, we went our separate ways.

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Greek flag flies on the tower of Kykkos Monastery. Republic of Cyprus.

As I followed Pierre under a light drizzle, giggling at his familiar humour, I had an attack of gratitude.

First for the gear. We live outside comfortably and can quarry everything needed because we have smart, compact, sturdy, efficient equipment.

Second for experience. Years on the road have turned me into a tough cookie, seeing the glass half-full even in uncomfortable situations. Nothing is forever, everything passes. Nine months into this trip, we are both still waiting for it to get difficult.

Third for my partner. For twenty years Pierre has been a comforting presence in my life, helping, encouraging, teaching. Sharing our meanderings has made them colourful, vibrant, filled-in.

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We did not recognize the Cyprus cedar! We learned later that what we call “cedar” in Canada is in fact a thuja, of the cypress family. Cyprus has real cedrus. BTW Cyprus is NOT named after the cypress. Confused yet? Cedar Valley, Republic of Cyprus.

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It’s a rainy sunny day or a sunny rainy day! Kannaviou, Republic of Cyprus.

Upon reaching the south coast in Paphos we entered the land of Aphrodite, seafront real estate and foreign expatriates. The smooth pavement continued to be quiet, the sun shined, most nights were spent by the turquoise sea or under olive trees and we ate like kings. This unhurried ride had turned into a flat-out holiday!

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“Here we have Paphos Castle. It was probably built on a Byzantine site, used by the Lusignan, Venician, Ottoman…” Janick needs a rest from UNESCO World Heritage Sites! Paphos, Republic of Cyprus.

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Should we sleep here? Let me think about it…Kouklia, Republic of Cyprus.

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Aphrodite’s Rock. The Greek Goddess of love, beauty and fertility was born here. Petra tou Romiou, Republic of Cyprus.

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A Cyprus endemic animal we haven’t heard of? No, just the worn off stencil of a goat! Kouklia, Republic of Cyprus.

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Leaving the coast on the very quiet B6. Look at that smile! Republic of Cyprus.

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Can’t tell you there is no wind on the coast. Republic of Cyprus.

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This is the German-tourists caterpillar. It moves quickly on the coastal road between Limassol and Larnaca and is harmless. Republic of Cyprus.

“Dear Janick and Pierre, we are delighted to see all these beautiful photos of the Occupied Northern Part of Cyprus on your website. We would like to accommodate you at Opera Hotel upon your travels through Free Cyprus”, the email read. The dry wit might have underlined Britain’s influence on the island but the invite was Cypriot leniency and kindheartedness.

The spotless boutique hotel has become our home in Larnaca while we organize our departure from Europe and our coming to the Middle East. We are polishing off plates of pork souvlakis, Greek salads and kilos of Greek yogourt as we write, enjoy the sunny city and pack the bikes. Flying with Mt.Equipment (100kg) is logistic-heavy but we’ve been here before. See you on the other side…

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Riding on Cyprus rocks! Larnaca, Republic of Cyprus.

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Church of Saint Lazarus in front of Hotel Opera. Apparently JC’s buddy was buried here after spending 30 years in Larnaca and dying a second and last time. Larnaca, Republic of Cyprus.


Sans titre-3



A most glowing Arab spring! (Dead Sea, Jordan - KM 10,395)
Cyprus: left and north sides of things! (Nicosia, Cyprus - KM 9,575)

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