CYPRUS June 2008
Hello again from the long lost travellers! When we wrote last we were in Jordan heading off towards the Oasis town of Azraq in the desert to check out the "Desert Castles" built between 2~7th Century AD. Amazing!
We then crossed back into Syria and then into Lebanon. We were a bit nervous about Lebanon as the Aust Gov website rated it the second highest grade in no go zones, only go there if you have to, so we went!
It was amazing and we highly reccommend it especially if they are not fighting anyone at the time! The UNESCO sites of Aanjar and Baalbek were fantastic, but too close to the Syrian border and full of day trippers. Baalbek is the most impressive Roman site in the Middle East and Lebanons no1 tourist attraction. We were not impressed with the Lebanese that we met up to this point, all they wanted was our money!
We then crossed the Mt Lebanon Range to Bcharre. The road was marked on our map, but as we got higher it was blocked by snow! A local lad on his 250 Enduro bike knew of a clear track and offered to show us the way!! It was the steepest, roughest track full of large stones that we have ever ridden on and we were fully loaded! We fell backwards a few times and broke the stand, no other damage to bike or people. By the time we fought this road for 2 hours we were over the pass and back on the road and all 3 of us were exhausted.
We stayed in Bcharre for a week! It was so charming and the locals were so friendly. Lots of people have relations in Australia and when the word got out that there were some Australlians on a motorbike, they all wanted to talk with us and have a beer with us. We felt really special there! The local welder fixed our stand, wouldnt take any payment and invited us to meet his family and have lunch with them all, amazing hospitality. From then on we loved the Lebanese! We drove all around the lovely valleys, checked out some amazing monasteries built into rock faces and watched how the Lebanese interact with their families.
Next we drove down to the coast around Beirut and onto UNESCO site of Tyre. The Army stopped us and said we could not go by motorbike as Tyre is very close to the Israel border! We could go, but not with the bike! If she cant go, we wont go, so we turned around and went to UNESCO site of beautiful Byblos. Byblos is an ancient port, Roman site, Crusader Castle and restored souq, we loved it here too and the locals were amazing. One couple we met in a restaurant offered to pick us up the next day and show us around the Chouf Mountains. It was an amazing day and we learnt so much about Lebanon and Edward basically said we should move on as Lebanon was on the brink of Civil War! So we did and they started fighting only days after we left! Lebanon is an amazing place with a dangerous undercurrent. The young people live life on the edge as they dont know what their future holds. Many times we saw motorcyclists with no helmet, just shorts and a tshirt doing wheelies along the highway at 100km/hr. There is no speed limit, lots of fancy sportscars, no fear and no rules. We were scared stiff on the freeways! We didnt realize how tense we were in Lebanon til we left, but I would still reccommend it to those who are game!
Back to Syria, then Turkey to catch a ferry to Cyrpus from Tasucu. We caught up with our Romanian friends Szabi and Krisztina, Cosmin and Elvira in Kyrenia/Girne.
Cyprus is a divided Island since 1974 when the Turkish Army invaded and they drew up the Green Line. Turkish people in the North, Greek people in the South with everything separate. It is ideally located in the Mediterranean Sea and has an amazing history of many invaders, conquerors, settlers and immigrants. We love Cyprus and spent 5 long, lazy weeks circumnavigating the island.
We had a great time with the Romanians and Horizons members Momir, Antonis and Zoe. They all exhausted us, riding in the Troddos Mountains all day and partying all night! After 3 days of this we left Limassol and said goodbye to the Romanians and slept for a week! We must be getting old.
We loved Pafos with its ancient archealogical sites everywhere scattered amongst the great beaches, resorts, shopping...it had a real energy we loved and we stayed for a week.
We then headed north along the coast til we hit the most western end of the Green Line. To cross over we had to go to Nicosia, which is the worlds last divided city, then over to the west coast again to continue our circumnavigation.
Girne was the next place to steal our hearts. Its a visual gem backed by tall Gothic Mountains with amazing castles on the top and overlooking the sea with a pretty horseshoe shaped harbour with restaurants, hotels and an amazing Byzantine castle near the harbour. We stayed there a week! We have never done this before, normally a few days and we are off! The best ride of the island was a road along this mountain ridge overlooking the coast. In 1974 an Army tank fell over the edge of this narrow road and is still hanging there to this day.
Continuing East to the Karpas Peninsula where we stayed in little basic bungalows on the beach and ate seafood till we dropped!
Famagusta, what an amazing story. It was Cyprus no 1 tourist destination til 1974 when the Turks invaded it and it has been left to rott for 35 years, this is a whole town where nature has taken over! The whole situation is very frustrating and both sides cannot come to an agreement to solve the problem, amazing.
We then crossed the Green Line again, like crossing a border, back to the Greek side. We fell in love with Pernera, many gorgeous fishing harbours, quaint beaches and hotels right on the beachfront. We stayed in one place and it was like being on a cruise ship with exercises every monring at 10am, volleyball 11am....all the way up to drinking games at 10pm! We loved it and joined in it all!
Finishing our circumnavigation, we spent a couple of nights in a gorgeous village called Kakopetria in the Troddos Mountains and are now back in Girne waiting for our ferry to go back to Turkey. Through all our travels we have never travelled so slowly and methodically and been so relaxed.
Posted by Patrick Peck at June 05, 2008 03:40 PM GMT
Next step Cappadocia, East coast of Turkey, Amenia and Georgia, so its goodbye to our beloved Cyprus and the Med!