Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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At long last I worked up the nerve to actually rent a car and head out to see the island for real. Now, my initial investigations into prices determined that the cheapest, smallest car (an insanely small vehicle that I think I could outrun on foot, or at least with a golf cart) rents for twelve pounds a day, minimum three days. Seeing as how the Cyprus pound is almost twice the US dollar, that's most of my daily budget right off the top. Determined to give driving on the left a shot, I decide to fork out the thirty-six pounds and have a good time. There's no way I could sleep in the back seat, as I'm adept at doing, but perhaps I could buy an inflatable mattress and do some camping.

On the day of my rental I'm comparing prices and stumble across one agent that has a car for fifteen pounds a day, discounted from twenty, that's actually a real car. Tempted, but skeptical, I do a bit more investigating but eventually decide to take it. Fifteen pounds, three days, that's forty-five pounds right? I start reaching for the cash, when I learn "Oh, that doesn't include the 13% VAT. Or the tank of gas [22 pounds]." Ok... so that ends up closer to eighty pounds, with all the little fees. Exasperated, but with the hook fully swallowed, I pay anyway. Thankfully, the car turned out to be fantastic, infinitely better than the shopping-carts I saw for rent elsewhere.

I hop into the car and hope to take some serious time getting to know it before heading out onto the road, only to find a hurried Cypriot in my rear-view mirror instants after me sitting in the drivers seat (on the right). Conjuring up memories of past manual transmissions, I put it into what I think is first gear, jimmy with the clutch a bit, and I'm off without a hitch. Indeed, my friendly car was so forgiving that the only problem I really had was with the turn-signal being on the right.

Zipping off with newfound freedom, I head up the coast to where my map informs me is Point Lara along a nest of roads marked as "Secondary" on the map. Now Primary, to me, would be like the US Interstates. Secondary, then, would be the smaller highways and so on, with maybe fourth or fifth place actually being dirt roads. It appears the road-ranking system here is a bit different, as secondary means "You'd better have four wheel drive." For fifteen pounds a day, I didn't get four wheel drive. However, thanks only to the fact that rain hasn't graced the island for a long while before my wheeled adventure, I managed to make it to the point and back to reality with time and jostling, but nothing more.

Next the roads led me through village after village of, basically, people minding their own business. Hoping to get a good view of villagers in action I stop at a pub in the town center, only to be gruffly informed it was closed (which may have actually been true). So much for that plan. Next stop Polis for dinner and a cup of tea, and then up the coast and behind a construction sight for a dark corner of the world with an incredible starscape above.

In the morning I head back into town for the ubiquitous English Breakfast (seeing as how the English owned Cyprus for eighty-odd years, their presence is still strong), and then to the famous Baths of Aphrodite, where the ancient goddess of beauty (and subject of countless crumbling temples and vanished cults on the island) is reputed to have once bathed. Thus refreshed, I head along the coast the opposite direction to the militarized border between the Free Country and the Occupied Zone. Turning inland I loop and twirl up the mountain roads to an active monastery and then to Troodos, supposedly an alpine paradise but actually a deserted square. Unable to find a nice place to curl up and sleep, I head back to the southern coast (crossing the entire country, I might add) and skirt along the bottom all the way to the furthest corner of the island from where I started in the morning. Eventually I find a small harbor with a dark horizon and lapping waves, and spend the second night.

In the morning I discover that despite the dark horizon, there's actually the huge abandoned city of Famagusta directly to the north. When the Turks invaded twenty years past they took control of the islands largest port town, only to leave it an eerie ghost-town completely devoid of activity ever since. Breakfast in Agria Napa, a town nurturing a hangover from last night's parties with its world-renown club scene, and then lunch and dinner in Larnaka, perhaps my favorite city on the island despite my being recommended by everyone to avoid it as there's "nothing to do" there. Pshaw: with tea, paper and a pen, there's something to do everywhere. Another midnight run cross the southern coast to a beach outside of Pafos, and then back to the rental agency right on time and "running on vapors".

All in all, 650 kilometers. Seeing as how the island is perhaps 200 kilometers from tip to tip, that ain't bad.

The Mediterranean water, reputed for its incredible clarity, creates magnificent scenes along the coast. Combined with the alternating smooth and jagged rocks, steep cliffs, and a dearth of human activity, Cyprus offers pretty views in all directions.
A short hike into the hills northwest of Polis are the Baths of Aphrodite, a small grotto enveloped in leafy trees growing directly out of its rocky walls. A shin-deep pool of cool water covers the flat, silty floor of the open cave and trickles, like the trees, out of the sheer face of the rock above. Despite the signs pleading with me to not, I decide to join the spirit of Aphrodite and wash away the sweaty glaze that the Cypriot heat surely forced upon both of us.
Though outfitted with good maps of literally every city in the country, my country-wide map couldn't list every town and village I encountered. This picture, taken of a pretty church on the northern coast of Cyprus, was in a town whose name I could not determine.
Set far back in the remote mountain highlands of Cyprus is a large and aged monastery, just one of dozens spread throughout this small island country. For some strange reason, this and most all other monasteries on the island are open for tourist visits all year long. As such, visiting one sets up a very strange zoo-like vibe where people who are explicitly attempting to avoid the world actually welcome it into their most sacred spaces. It's hard to describe, but very odd.
After driving the long and twisting roads through the Cyprus mountains from the north coast, I arrive at the monastery in the late afternoon. The monastery, actually a complex of modern buildings, dormitories, cafeterias, and souvenir stands set around the antique stone structure, is filled with an impressive collection of large leafy trees that seem somewhat out of place on the austere scrub-brush slopes. I approach the mosaic-adorned entrance (passing the rent-a-skirt stand for those who didn't bring appropriately-conserva... [more]

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