Originally I’d planned to head into the Troodos Mountains from Limassol, but due to the pandemic affecting tourism, it meant my best option was to take a tour there from Paphos today. This did mean that the sights I’d see along the way would differ, so I would potentially get to see more of the country this way.
The tour company had sent me a message via WhatsApp during the previous evening, so I knew as long as I was at the meeting point by 07:55, I’d have time for a run before breakfast if I started early. With sunrise at around 06:30 I decided I could get up fifteen minutes earlier, get ready, and by the time I started it would be light enough. I’d woken up so many times during the night though, and even at 05:00 I saw flashes of thunder and I wondered if I should delay my run until the evening so I wouldn’t have clothes that’d need drying.
I started my breakfast at 06:10, and I thought the rain didn’t seem too bad so I decided I should risk going out for a couple of miles. By the time I got outside, the rain had stopped, and the air had already warmed up a bit. The skies looked dark, and I thought it might not be that long until the rain started once more.
I ran in the direction of the centre of Chlorakas, passing a small Greek orthodox church dedicated to Saint Ephraim the martyr, and behind this stone structure was a large drop down into a sports stadium with a view of the sea. Farther down this road I found a large square with two churches. One of them was very old, and the pavement here was polished. In some ways this reminded me of places I’ve been in South America, and maybe Mexico. Eventually I headed back towards the apartment, but with a short diversion to see how feasible running to the Monastery of Neofytos might be.
Once back in my room, the thunderstorm returned with a vengeance. Explosive bolts of lightning struck one after another, lighting up the sky as a torrential downpour began. I had breakfast and a shower, hoping it’d pass, but by the time I needed to walk to the meeting point for my tour - the rain was heavier than ever. Whilst the floors of the hotel were dry, water poured down the stairwell through small vents in the walls. It was like watching the Titanic movie, but without being on a boat that’s sinking.
I was no further than the front of the hotel, and already my shorts were drenched. The sky lit up once more, and I considered making a run for it. The Rose Cafe where I needed to join the tour was only a few hundred metres away, but the road in front of me has been turned into a river with water torrenting close to the top of these very high curbstones. I avoided crossing the road for as long as I could, but eventually had to risk getting my feet wet as well. With one leap I made it past the worst of the flooding, and was then careful crossing until I needed to leap past the gutter on the other side. Fortunately the Rose Cafe’s exterior seating would offer shelter whilst I waited.
From 07:50 to 08:05 I waited. I’d been five minutes early, and there was still no sign of the bus ten minutes after the stated time. In their message they’d told me to call if there had been no sign of them, but I decided patience was needed - this weather was likely causing problems. Sure enough, a few minutes later a minibus turned up, and papped the horn a couple of times. I dashed over, confirmed it was for me, and sat where I could finally start to dry off.
Over the next hour, the bus picked up the tour guide and more passengers until the bus was full. In the lower parts of Paphos, the flooding was even worse than I’d seen up on the cliffs. Down here the water in a number of places was higher than the pavement, flooding businesses such as restaurants. Places that had already lost money due to the pandemic would likely now have flood damage to fix as well. Fortunately the minibus was high enough to not cause us any serious problems, it created waves as it sailed through them - the lack of a splash showing just how high it was.
When we left the modern Paphos behind we went through areas that were more archaeologically important, such as Palaepaphos which is the oldest part of the city, and further into Kouklia. This whole area is rich with Byzantine history, and is the source of one of the names given to the rock we were about to see: Petra tou Romiou, or ‘Rock of the Roman’ in English. According to myth, this name comes from their belief that a roman threw these rocks into the sea from the Troodos mountains, and nothing at all to do with the island being volcanic. The other name this rock formation is known by is ‘Aphrodite’s Rock’ which is said to be where Aphrodite burst out from the sea.
At the rock, the rain had eased somewhat, but it was still raining, and making it hard to take photographs. The group fortunately made this a quick stop, and we got back on the bus and headed for the motorway which leads into Limassol. Even here there was so much water that we saw a speeding Audi begin to aquaplane, and they then lost control as they spun out into the side of the road. Fortunately no damage was done, and everyone began moving again shortly after.
This was only a short stint on the motorway, and the road we joined led up into the Troodos mountains. It was around an hour until our next stop, and this had given the rain time to ease. When we stopped outside the old primary school building in Lofou, it wasn’t that bad at all.
Lofou is one of the many small villages in the mountains, which are now popular destinations for agritourism. In this village they have acres of vineyards, which is part of one of the oldest professions in Cyprus. This was also one of the places that held out against the Turkish invasion in 1974, and as such there is a memorial to one of the soldiers that fought there.
From the primary school we wandered downwards into the lower parts of the town. We got to see how the building style here is consistent, and how new buildings and renovations must preserve this style. Some houses have their own vines, and many will have outdoor ovens known as fournos. Every now and then we’d also pass an outside faucet with the inscription ‘ER 1953’, a reference to the British Armed Forces having installed these during their time there. It also shows that at this time these houses didn’t have running water in their homes, just as many I’d seen in the Himalayan mountains outside of Kathmandu hadn’t.
When we reached an area of cafes and shops, we then had some free time to do as we wished. Many stopped for a warm drink, but I didn’t want to miss anything so I looked for things to photograph. It was here when the rain finally stopped, and in places blue sky started to appear. Perhaps the day was not going to be the washout that had been forecast!
One of the first things I noticed in this area was the abundance of cats, just as there had been in Paphos, and here they’d also started putting up Christmas decorations as well. Directly in front was a large traditional Christmas tree, and a little farther ahead was a smaller one made from upturned industrial-sized Nutella tubs. Down an alleyway alongside the bakery there was also a life-sized figure of Santa Claus holding presents.
I wandered around the streets for a while, photographing the Panagia Chrysolofitissa church. It was locked up, so I couldn’t see what it was like inside, but I found across the road from it was the first tarmac I’d seen in a while, and from which I could see across to the mountains beyond, and Mount Olympus.
Once the group had gathered once more, we were shown around an olive press museum that was owned by the church. Prior to the modern convenience of factories, the church used to let the villagers use this in exchange for a small amount of what they produced. I suppose if this was the middle ages, we’d be referring to this as a tithe.
After we’d spent an hour in that village, we moved on to the Millomeris waterfall which is around thirty minutes down the road into the shadow of the ‘Guru’ resort that was under construction. The views from this height were incredible, seeing as far out as Limassol. Usually the views are restricted either from the haze produced by the heat, or from the clouds in winter. Now having a clear sky following a severe thunderstorm meant that neither of these were a problem for us.
Once parked up, it was then a short hike down to the bottom of the waterfall. It was probably a little more powerful than normal due to the amount of rain we’d had, but even with that I think it was fairly average when compared to others I’ve seen around the world.
For our lunch stop we were at a small place in Plano Platres called Psilo Dendro. It’s towards the northern part of the village, and not far from the start of the Kaledonia Falls trail. With a name like that you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Scotland! This trail is around 6K as a roundtrip, and we were told someone had run there and back on Monday in around an hour. We’d got about the same amount of time for this stop, and I knew I could do that easily, but I also wanted some lunch.
Whilst in the restaurant we got to try some of the local halloumi, both raw and grilled. I decided that if I ate a cooked meal now it’d give me more options later, so I decided to stay and eat, even though it meant missing out on seeing another waterfall. The sandwiches I’d prepared could be eaten some other time, and having left my tripod in the apartment I couldn’t be sure what sort of photograph I would have gotten anyway. For dinner I had chicken and chips, and sat listening to the group talk. One of them had been stationed here with the British Armed Forces, so knew what the area was like already.
Fifteen minutes down the road, the next stop was the Lambouri Winery. Here the rest of the group sampled a number of different wines, and one which was around 40% proof. I used this stop to zip the legs back onto my shorts ready for our next stop, as for that we needed knees and shoulders covered for entering the monastery. There wasn’t much for me to photograph here, but it was a chance to just stand out in the sun for a while.
The final stop of the day was 45 minutes in Omodos starting at George’s Bakery where they’d got freshly baked coconut macaroons, and other pastries to tempt people inside. My main interest was getting to the Monastery of the Holy Cross. I went inside first and then photographed the exterior. I then realised that you can go in a lot of the rooms outside of the church as they contain a number of exhibitions such as the treasury of the monastery, and another dedicated to lace. It’s a really picturesque monastery, and it left me wondering how it compares to the other I’d thought about seeing. I was having my doubts about going as I knew the other didn’t allow photography, and hadn’t yet decided how to get there.
The name of this monastery comes from the story that the cross they have contains parts of rope that had bound Jesus Christ to the cross. I didn’t really understand that bit as the story says this person was crucified, which meant he was fixed to the lower-case ‘t’-shaped construction using wooden stakes. What is common though is that churches with holy relics would attract more visitors, especially people making pilgrimages, and that meant more funds for that church. So it also wouldn’t be that difficult to believe that they thought this would attract more visitors, and even today at certain times of the year it does.
I left the monastery out of the side exit and followed the road down to a medieval wine press. It’s amazing that a place like this exists where you can go anywhere you want inside the room. If for some bizarre reason you wanted to, you could even climb onto the wine press. Not that I’d recommend it. What I mean is that it’s just open, there’s no admission charge, and no barriers or anything like that. For the large part, the same was true of the monastery as well, and it wasn’t something I was used to seeing.
There was nothing I knew of to photograph after that, so headed back to Omodos Square where I found a Christmas tree and a nativity scene to photograph. I was starting to see more and more decorations around. It’d only been this morning that I’d noticed a Christmas tree in one of the rooms at Adamou Gardens - my guess is that there’s also some permanent residents there as well.
The journey back to Paphos took around an hour, and being the first on the bus did of course mean I’d be the last off. I was back in the apartment by 17:00, and had the rest of the evening to relax, and check over my photographs from the day. Tomorrow will be a busy day, but not from doing what I’d originally planned to be doing.