THE idea was to escape the madding crowds and get out and about in some of the more remote places in Cyprus, writes FRANK CORLESS.
But, as we all know, best laid plans can go awry.
In fact, things started to fall apart as we walked into a ‘furnace’ at Paphos airport and soon learned that a heat wave already lasting for months was set to continue.
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And, what a scorcher! Every daylight hour felt like high noon. Even the appearance of a snowball-sized cloud merited a cheer.
Pulling on my hiking boots was already a distant dream. So it seemed silly not to embrace the daily dash to bag the best-placed umbrellas and sunbeds scattered around the extensive, seafront grounds at the newly renovated Cyprotel Laura Beach hotel, near to Paphos.
Eventually, when we started to get mobile, we quickly learned that there was an abundant amount of amenities and recreational facilities.
They ranged from indoor and outdoor swimming pools to bars, restaurants, a cinema, a fully equipped gymnasium, entertainment rooms, and a shop open until midnight.
Energetic guests could enjoy everything from archery to volleyball, quoits and boules.
Children’s activities were second to none. And the friendly, efficient members of staff kept things ticking over nicely.
Yet, despite all of this four-star pampering, I couldn’t stop thinking about the great outdoors.
Was there still a chance of a Plan B? That’s when an inspired call to George’s Jeep Safari Tours afforded a solution.
It offered an opportunity to see some of the island’s best kept secrets from the safety of a jeep, and without being totally exposed to the sun. Bingo!
Two days later, the mini adventure got under way. With Manchester-born Paul Smith at the wheel, and a couple of French passengers, we headed for the Akamas peninsula, the last and least developed frontier in southern Cyprus, truly a jewel in the island’s crown.
In total, the peninsular covers 230 square kilometres. Among its many delights, it boasts spectacular, rugged scenery, sandy coves, sea caves, gorges, seemingly deserted villages, pine and juniper forests, and hundreds of plant species, many of which are endemic to the island.
Last but not least, it is home to 168 different species of birds, reptiles, and butterflies, and provides a safe haven for turtles in the soft, golden sands of beautiful Lara Bay.
Paul, 55, a former security advisor, has worked for the tour company for 10 years, and knows the peninsula like the back of his hand. At times during the drive, we lurched, bumped, and crunched along particularly awesome and difficult terrain Yet he didn’t turn a hair. Not like me.
“Don’t worry, I’ve never lost anyone,” he laughed, as he spotted me shrinking back from my front passenger side window as we traversed the edge of a scary drop.
Apart from his driving skills, Paul has taken the time to educate himself on the finer points of flora and fauna, and other aspects of the peninsula.
His knowledge is so good that he makes regular stops along his route to provide the lowdown on everything from walnuts and carobs, to pistachio and peppercorn.
You name it, he knew all there was to know about it.
It was hardly a surprise to learn that previous jeep travellers asked for him to be their driver when they made return journeys to the island.
One customer has made 10 trips with him.
“I enjoy the job, and it’s great to know that people like what I do,” said Paul.
Picking out my most favourite moment from the tour, which comes to with an excellent lunch at a seafront restaurant, is difficult.
In the end, the truly breathtaking view of Chrysohou Bay gets my vote.
According to legend, it was here that Aphrodite, the mythological goddess of love and beauty, took a dip in the bay’s crystal clear waters before liaising with her lover, Adonis. No wonder I was smitten
By then, my tail was up. The tour had wetted my appetite for a second ‘quieter side’ trip. And, once again, I struck lucky.
Thanks to a local contact, I was able to get in touch with John Blanchard, a retired RAF electrician, who also lives on the island.
Rotherham-born John, an angler and keen wildlife photographer, was happy to be of assistance.
He was so accommodating that he drove my wife and I to the Troodos mountains, where temperatures are usually lower than on the coast.
After parking in the picturesque village of Platres, my wife opted to sit in the shade and read her book, while John joined me on a relatively challenging hike to the Kaledonia Waterfall, in the shadow of 6,404ft high Mount Olympus.
Our steep, two hour long expedition took us onwards and upwards through a pine forest, We needed to make several pebblestone crossings of a stream before finally reaching the falls.
I can’t begin to tell you how cool and lovely it was to feel the spray from the cascading water.
Talking of water, I had previously learned that – before the heat wave started - Cyprus had endured the wettest winter on record.
The monsoon-like downpours filled the island’s dams and erased worries of summertime water shortages.
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There you have it. First comes a soaking, and then you get baked. Isn’t life wonderful!
Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates flights to Paphos from Manchester, Birmingham and London Gatwick.
Fares, including taxes, start from £38.99 one-way.
Seats can be pre-booked on scheduled flights for £5.99 per flight. Extra legroom seats are available from £24.99.
For further information or to book flights or holidays at the Cyprotel Laura Beach Hotel contact www.monarch.co.uk.
Contact the hotel direct on Tel: +35726944900 Fax: +35726 9449911