(34) Celebrating in Cyprus
Wednesday 21st November
Our first view of Cyprus
We woke on our make shift bed on the floor of the ferry and could see Cyprus on the horizon – country number 11 ; ) and reflected back on our time in Turkey. We had enjoyed it but found the many hills hard work when coupled with the cold in the mountains and the heat of the south. We felt that there was a lot we missed out on but there was also a lot we did see – people who didn’t know us taking us in and treating us like their family was the thing we will remember the most and the many times we have sat down for chi (tea) and chatted to the locals. We will miss Turkey but it was time we moved on.
The hills of Cyprus were rising up from the coast in a rainy mist like we were arriving in a land that time forgot. Our first comments were that we thought Cyprus was flat (apart from a mountain in the middle) but we were going to be proved wrong. We packed our things and made our way down to the car deck to enjoy the carbon monoxide the lorries were churning out and waited for the doors to open. After half an hour of the boat moving a few inches, the doors finally opened to the smell of fresh air and a nice day with all the mist evaporated. We went through the usual passport checks and had them checked on the gate by a guard who was excited to tell us about his son who was a keen cyclist. We left the port and before we climbed out of the town we stopped on a small grassy area to have breakfast. It was now 11.30am, we were due to arrive at 7am, and we felt frustrated that the ferry had been delayed – the temperature was also around 28 degrees which didn’t help. We started the climb on the highway, cycling now on the left (fortunately our bikes are ambidextrous) and noticed how much closer the drivers were to us and how impatient they were.
We climbed to 350 metres and had a great descent to Nicosia. We arrived in the town and being on the Turkish side we still had to pass through another border control. We would have loved to look around but we needed to get going and see how far we could get towards Paphos where Mum and Fred were arriving late afternoon. It took about an hour to find and get through the two checkpoints and get back to the highway. We rode along enjoying the hard shoulder when it suddenly turned into 3 lanes and we spotted a motorway sign. We were enjoying the good road and a great wide hard shoulder where we felt perfectly safe so thought we’d keep going for as long as we could. We rode for about an hour before being stopped by the police who advised us to use a different road.
Happy we made good progress but also pleased to be on a quieter road we picked up some lunch and continued. The km signs seemed to go down really quickly which gave us hope only to find they would then spread out, making the 30 miles to Limassol take forever. The road would rise and drop steeply, slowing our progress. We would look over at the parallel motorway which undulated gently.
The road was up and down all the way to Limassol
We finally arrived in the busy town and with it being another 50 miles until Paphos we decided to find a place to camp, gutted that we would miss an evening with Mum and Fred. We called them and explained the ferry had been late and that we would be at the hotel by lunchtime the following day. We spotted a large carpark and asked the security guard if we could camp for a night. He said it was fine so we found a good spot, cooked an easy tea and fell asleep shattered.
Thursday 22nd November
Feeling shattered we had both slept well and woke excited that we would see Mum and Fred soon. It was 6.30 am and Tim stuck his head out the door to find that the carpark we were in was already half full. Tim started laughing and told Sharon who looked shocked. We got up and packed our stuff away and had breakfast. As we sat with our cups of tea more cars arrived looking at us strangely but as they walked past no-one said anything. It wasn’t until we had finished and started loading the last of our things that a man from management asked what we were doing. We explained we had asked permission and he looked relieved when we said we were leaving soon!
Our carpark camp spot
The road continued towards Paphos – it was tough going with continuous climbs and it wasn’t long before the heavens opened and we got completely soaked. We didn’t mind as it was warm and it felt like a pre-wash before we met Mum and Fred. The thunder cleaned our ears out and the lightning was trying to even out Tim’s tan lines. After 2 hours of torrential rain it finally cleared and dried us out. We did smell slightly better.
Drying out after having a pre wash…
The ride was tough although the coastline was beautiful with turquoise water against beige coloured rocks. We stopped for a break at a bakery and picked up some shortbread to keep us going. We rode on but we were both exhausted, we had put so much into the day before that it felt like we had nothing left. The last 15 miles felt like the hardest miles we had done on the whole trip. We finally arrived in Paphos and descended down to the sea front and found a sign for the hotels. It wasn’t long before we were outside the hotel where we were met by Mum and Fred. It was so great to see them and felt like we hadn’t been away. We went in to the hotel to be greeted by the staff who had been informed of what we were doing. They were all so lovely and said if there is anything they could do to help just ask.
Thrilled to have finally arrived
We all sat down for a drink and were told that Mum and Fred would treat us to a few nights in the 4 star hotel. We felt like we had won the lottery. It was exactly what we needed and the thought of staying there was like having a huge weight taken off our shoulders and it meant we could spend quality time with them both. We went to the room to dump our bags. We were in heaven and enjoyed a hot shower which gave us a good pressure wash – we were clean and very happy. We made our way downstairs and were shown around the hotel. It was amazing with saunas, steam rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, bars and restaurants everywhere – we couldn’t believe it. We kept looking around to see if someone was going to tell to get out but no one came – we were guests !!!!
We walked down the road to a cafe to grab a snack and enjoyed catching up on all the news. We made our way back to the hotel and had a short break in our room before making our way to the restaurant for dinner. We had never seen so much delicious food and not a camping stove in sight! It wasn’t long before we had doubled in size and needing both the double doors to open we made our way upstairs for a drink, before heading to bed for a well needed sleep.
Friday 23rd November – Wednesday 28th November
The next few days were spent relaxing, chatting and laughing – and enjoying the odd glass of beer with a game of cards ; ) We played bingo and didn’t come last in the hotel quiz. We swam, got hot in the sauna and steam room and managed to shift 6 months worth of dirt. We had to pinch ourselves daily to ensure we weren’t dreaming as we drank champagne for breakfast every morning and had clean towels delivered to our room daily.
The view at breakfast every morning
We didn’t miss packing up the tent every day or cooking on a stove for a second and living the life of luxury came easy to us!
Tim thought that being carried around the world on a sunbed would be much more enjoyable….
It was Tim’s birthday while we were there – he enjoyed opening his stack of cards and presents – mainly chocolate ; )
Enjoying a birthday drink and a cocktail on the house in a cafe in Paphos
Tim’s amazingly delicious birthday cake made especially by the hotel chef
While we were there we also set about the task of finding a way to get to Egypt. We had done research on ferries and it was confirmed by the travel agent that they no longer ran and hadn’t been running for a long time due to political unrest in the area. The girls on reception were incredibly helpful – Alexandra, Irina and Joanna were amazing and made countless phonecalls for us searching for any type of boat to get us across.
Us with Irina and Alexandra – they are truly wonderful ladies
The cruise boats had also ceased for the summer so we travelled back to Limassol to speak to a shipping company hoping we might travel by freight. They told us they could get us to Greece but we were likely to be in the same situation there – it seems no one wants to travel to Egypt by boat. We even asked about fishermen but were told they are heading this way at this time of year. We had no choice but to fly. We visited the travel agent down the road from the hotel and hit a brick wall. Yes there were flights but not all of their planes took bicycles. We were told we would have to pay £333 to send the bikes plus the cost of our tickets. Also we would have to wait for a plane that was large enough to carry our bikes which could take 2 weeks. We couldn’t believe it and sat there stunned not knowing what to do next. We couldn’t afford nearly £600 to get ourselves and our bikes across the water – it was just 45 mintues by air to Alexandria.
We took some time out then approached another travel agent. We thought we could travel to Isreal then cross into Egypt that way. The travel agent told us to contact our Embassy first due to the unrest there and we told her we were actually trying to get to Egypt. She looked shocked when we told her about the cost to take the bikes and immediately got on the phone to Egypt Air. It seems there was some miscommunication between the other agent and them as they thought we wanted to transport the bikes without packing them. There was a glimmer of hope as Tim spoke to the cargo department and they agreed to let us on as long as the bikes were packed in boxes. We were allowed up to 40 kilos each and 8 kilos hand luggage. We couldn’t believe it – we excitedly went outside to tell Mum and Fred. We had spotted some suitable cardboard boxes outside a shop earlier so things were starting to click into place.
Tim, Fred and Sharon pleased with our find!
We booked our tickets and were due to fly to Alexandria on the north coast of Egypt via Cairo on the 29th November from the other end of the island. The next challenge would be getting us and all our stuff there but for now we could relax.
The day before we flew we said a tearful goodbye to Mum and Fred. It had been so amazing to see them and we felt refreshed after all that pampering. A few hours later we also left, getting a taxi to the bus station in Paphos to catch the bus for Larnaka – thanks to Alexandra who arranged it all for us. We would need to change buses at Limassol but it was a pain-free journey – perhaps less so for Tim who had to carry the boxes around – and we arrived in Larnaka that evening and booked into a hotel just a few miles from the airport.
Thursday 29th November
The day had come for us to fly to Egypt for the start of our African adventure. Tim carried the boxes to the bus stop and as the bus for the airport pulled up they told us that they couldn’t take our luggage as it wouldn’t fit. Fortunately a taxi driver came along and was determined to fit everything in his boot and on the back seat.
Tim looking on nervously as the taxi driver strapped our boxes in
We arrived at the airport intact and waited nervously for check in to open. We were both concerned they wouldn’t agree to take the boxes on board or that they were going to charge us heaps of excess baggage as we were slightly overweight. We approached the desk, the check-in assistant immediately called the supervisor over after weighing two of the boxes. He told us they were too large – we had no way of making them any smaller. We explained that Tim had spoken to the cargo department who told him as long as they were within weight there would be no problem. Tim also quickly added in what we were doing – he nodded and said ‘I understand’ and walked off. We asked the check-in assistant if he’d agreed and she said yes. We tried to hide our relief as she told us to take them to the oversize luggage section and said she didn’t need to weigh the rest of the boxes. 30 minutes later we were through security and could relax. We watched the new Pirates of the Caribeean film on our laptop to celebrate!
The plane to take us to Egypt!
We boarded the plane that didn’t look much bigger than the model in the travel agents. We had a meal on board the flight to Cairo and had a wait of 3 hours before heading to Alexandria. The time soon past and we found ourselves in Alexandria by midnight. We took a taxi into the town and the driver was the most incredibly helpful bloke. When we told him what we were doing he asked ‘do you have a gun?’ He then proceeded to tell us how wonderful the Egyptian people were. He helped us find a cheap hotel – just £7 a night and we booked for 2 nights to give us chance to rebuild the bikes and pack our kit. The start of our African adventure had begun.
Stats for Cyprus:
Total distance cycled: 118 miles / 190 km
Total altitude gain: 1,658 metres
Total so far: 6,697 miles /10,775 km
Total altitude so far: 80,933 metres
Thanks for reading. Next instalment coming soon…..