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North East Cyprus


After skirting the edge of the city I turned north towards the nearby mountains through tiny villages such as Gungoy, where instead of the road to Buffavento Castle I only found yet another army camp and the rough dusty track leading to a quarry. I was out of daylight anyhow and so headed back down and made for Girne. I saw the Buffavento turn-off right at the head of the mountain ridge but it was now too late, certainly on the poor standard of track evident, and so I went back via the stunning alternative pass surrounded by jaggy peaks. The stress of driving abroad combined with clambering about in the heat had made for a full-on day and it was all I could do to take a shower and sleep like the dead after a well earned beer.

Friday 6th October

Next morning it was back up the hill to Buffavento on the craziest road I have ever driven, 5Ks of loose surface on a track only just wide enough to take a car, hairpin after hairpin and a sheer drop on one side. Despite that it was still a heck of a long trek up endless steep steps in the midday sun from the car park to the summit, where I found a memorial bearing the names of 7 dead Russians. Aviation disaster was all the sense I could make of the inscription, they must have flown into the ridge. There were absolutely cracking views of Girne to the north and Lefkosa to the south, you could see half the island from here and the ruins of the castle werent bad either. On the way back down a snake slithered across the path just in front of me, only about a foot long and thin as a pencil but I felt privileged all the same. I had spent a year in Australia and only saw one snake the whole time. I shared my sentiments about the road with a Feb couple also at the castle, the only company, who informed me that it used to be a lot worse than that. I still had to concentrate like mad though on the way back along it, and headed down towards Lefkosa again, then turned east for Gecitkale. Once back down on the plain the Ks ticked by with hardly another car on the road, with little to distract me from the Kyrenia range apart from an intriguingly named lone roadside shop named the Kunt Market. I was too late on the brakes though so it would have to wait for next time. In such an isolated spot you really did have to wonder just exactly what it was that they were selling. The road bypassed the town which had little of obvious note besides the somewhat symbollically juxtaposed church and mosque. I turned south here and passed by a military airfield which I had wanted to check out along the way, but there was singularly nothing apparent across the flat plain and I pressed on to Gazimaguza, formerly Famagusta, the north's 2nd city. I parked within the old city walls where I immediately stumbled upon one ruined church after another. I was really pushed for time by this point and out of money too, and with all 4 ATMs out of order in the pleasant city centre I was feeling a little snookered. Almost by accident though I headed towards Othello's Tower, the castle upon which Shakespeare allegedly set the play (nice one, tourist authority) and just followed an Italian tour group inside, saving myself 6 Lira I didnt have into the bargain. I climbed the city walls for great views of the very busy adjacent port, historically Cyprus' largest, lined with ships unloading opposite old carob warehouses. From here you could also see right round the bay to the north and the Karpasia peninsula, or the panhandle as it is also known. Back in the car I immediately came across another ATM in the middle of nowhere and drove to the Maras, Cyprus' former Miami Beach, a long bay running to the south lined with deserted hotels and cranes in attendance of half built but never completed projects. Tragically it now lay in no mans land and was a ghost town, it looked a bit like Benidorm would do after being nuked, not such a bad idea after all. A classy whitewashed hotel fronted by sunworshippers on a perfect sandy beach ran right up to the barbed wire and neighbouring dereliction, surreal. Salamis was just a short hop up the coast road north, renowned as one of the Meds major sites and indeed pretty impressive Roman ruins. There was a perfectly preserved theatre and the temple and bath complex was massive, with many of the columns still standing erect around what had been coined the Temple of 40 Columns. There were many more remains beyond the initial site but I was really out of time now and had to continue up the coast before heading inland for Kantara Castle. I was beckoned by the panhandle of Cyprus, the Karpasia peninsula as had been my original intention, but the distances were too great and the roads I also now presumed would be too rudimentary, so I headed north on roads that were already bad enough. Villages were interspersed between long chicanes of blind corners and random stretches devoid of Tarmac for no apparent reason. It was so late in the day there was not a soul about at the castle so it was another entry fee dodge and a clamber up steep rough steps to the fortress, a compact complex on a sheer summit with still readily identifiable crenellations and church architecture. Kantara was the lowest of the islands northern chain of castles but still afforded great views down the panhandle and back to Gazimaguza, both disappearing into the haze. Halfway back down the mountain took me to the forested Kantara village where I took the other fork to descend the north face of the range, another crazy snaketrail with large intermittent sections of corrugated dirt and evidence of recent landslides present. I expected the road to improve once I hit the north coast but instead of a junction and good surface it continued poor and very narrow with more bad sections to catch me out in the bad light. There was not another car on the road. I eventually hit good asphalt and motored back to Girne, trying to strike the balance between fatigue inspired urgency and the prudence demanded by pitch darkness and barely reflective white lines. The concentration required was intense. Absolutely shattered and supremely sticky, I had to have 2 cold beers before I could do anything else. The stress must have told because later I decided to treat myself to a half bottle of Vat 69, a most pleasant touch of home, but the leechers at the pension finished it off in no time for me. Considering the price I didnt really mind that much, I guessed booze was normally totally outwith their means. Having set the scene, Mustafa came out with the raki and so I went out and bought another half bottle in turn. He had really made the effort for me and it was the least I could do to repay his kindness. He had been around often enough for me to realise that he was actually out of work and so after a firewater soiree out on the balcony, sharing unusual tangy pears and taking the piss out of passing tourists, I spent my last night comatosed in Girne.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Cyprus

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