Think about the island of cyprus...
...and all kind of associations well up. In addition to sun, sea, sand and surf, Cyprus has been the vortex of west-meets-east for centuries. Where every culture leaving it's trace for us to be explored anew.
Greek mythology, has it that Cytherea, or Aphrodite, was born out of the sea here. Though dominated by the Hellionistic (Greek) culture, Egyptian Pharaos, Assyrian Kings, Persian rulers, Alexander the Great, Roman Emperors, Phoenicians, Venetian Merchants, the Knights Templar and Richard the Lionheart, Ottoman Emperors, Turks and the Great Empire in the Victorian era also have imposed their rule at one time or the other.
Add to this that the island is one of the few places, in Europe, where the temperature still invites to bicycling around Christmas and the choice of Cyprus was easy to make.
Airlifted by Cyprus Airways, we unpack our bikes at the Airport of Paphos on the South-West coast of Cyprus. Here, at sea level, the temperature is a welcoming 20 degree Celsius, and the 25km to the centre of Paphos is a welcome change from the crisp weather in Amsterdam.
The choice of not bringing a tent, calls for some serious planning as it is off-season here and a lot of the hostels and small hotels on the island are closed. Not only in the Trodos massive is it a must to phone ahead, in order to secure a bed - but on the whole island. During this time of the year a lot of the accomodation outside the tourist-infested holliday villages are closed for the winter.
Paphos to Trodos (I)
The next day we set out direction Pano. After the first few level kilometers, the climb into the Trodos massive starts. As we leave the coastal road behind us, the traffic also eases. Sharp ridges and green valley floors. Here and there the bedrock surface, and typical turqoise-green copper mineral bands are in sharp contrast with the weathered schist.
Up, up always up, and towards the evening my cycle lamp can be followed criss-crossing one half of the road - at an awfully slow pace. With far to few kilometers trained before vacation, the first three days ask a lot of will power to keep up with Renate.
Some snow have fallen at the highest peaks, but nothing that hinders us. At sea level it is a pleasant 25 degree Celsius over day. In the mountains the overday temperature stays around 14 to 16 degrees, and night time it goes down to some 5 degrees above zero.
Kelokedhara - Pissouri - Limassol, our chosen route takes us down to the foothills and sea at Pissouri, and further to Limassol. The old fortress guarding the entrance to the port stand outlined against the red sunset, as we spread out the maps to check where to plan our next day.
Limassol to Trodos (II)
Again we climb into the mountains, direction Kalokhoria. Via dirt roads we traverse before decending down to Amathus. With the hills glowing in the sunset, we still have an hour to go. Finally there, we wait at the wrong square, with the wrong church for the right key - but after that is corrected, our gite d'etappe is welcoming us with it's rustic and traditional setting.
Amathus - coastline - Lefkara, here, at sea level, the sun is burning as we continue eastward. Salt, seaweed and an agricultural landscape with vacation homes progressively sprouting up dominates. Unexpectedly, in a steep sided valley, the road winds through a citrus fruit plantation - the perfect time for a break, and a chance to check on them oranges.
Lefkara to Nicosia
Lefkara, with its medieval character and a renown of handicraft, is a landlocked village situated in dramatic mountains. The 110km goes through rugged terrain, crossing the eastern parts of the Trodos massive, and on-wards to Nicosia. As the road bears down onto the rich agricultural plains surrounding Nicosia, the only rain that we get in three weeks comes down.
Three hours later, and soaked to the bone, we are confronted with the Berlin-wall of Cyprus. Not reaching the headlines anymore, the Greek-Turkish conflict on Cyprus is still unsolved but no less very real.
Nicosia to Trodos (III)
The route goes parallell with the airport area of Nicosia, now a (de)militairised zone, with sentinels on guard and disused runways. Until the industrial revolution, and later followed by the touristic trade of present day, the source of Cyprus wealth spreads out in front of us. The dream of every farmer. Complete with very black and scary barking dogs, that like to chase down bicyclists...
Via the backroads we enter the forested part of the Trodos mountains, again. Spilia, our end destination fo this year proves to be a worthy challange.
Spilia to Stavros, New Years Eve is celebrated in best greek-cypriotic way, complete with grand tables of local delicious dishes, singing and dancing. In addition, the local wine can also be enjoyed. Hopefully the later is not exported.
Early on New Years day, and very alone on the roads, the route is going to one of the most magnificent monasteries on Cyprus. The Kykkou Monastery, founded in the year 1100 by the byzantine Emperor, is home to one of three surviving icons painted by the apostle Luke. The Monastery is worth every climbing meter.
From here the road winds down towards the North, North-West, dircetion Stavros - a forest ranger centre where we will spend the night. As we decend, a heavy mist suddenly engulfs everything! With rock outcrops, glimpses of deep gorges and solemn trees darting in and out of the mist, it is an eerie and spooky stretch to cycle.
Stavros to Polis, the next day the mist is gone, and via a quite dirt road we leave the Trodos range behind us. This northern side of the island is quiter, and everywhere land is sold off for vacation homes. The spring of Aphrodite is located further out on the north-west horn close to Polis, which in a truly buss-touristic way we visit as well...
Polis to Paphos, f the spring of Aphrodite is too much of mass tourism, the scenery from the western cape all the way down to Paphos is beautiful cycling. Along the coastline, the secondary roads gets you through goat invaded housing, forgotten bays and small villages.