We’re up and in the trusty Toyota bright and early after the obligatory fortifying full English by the pool. We’ve got ground to cover today, destination, the Troodos Mountains. The Blonde is on the maps, she’s an ace navigator (if I can’t plug my destination into the GPS I’m doomed). We feel our way out of the suburbs onto open roads heading east before spearing off north at The Blonde’s command, heading inland.
The feisty Aygo points its nose uphill and we begin our assault on the foothills, dirt edged tarmac road snaking through brown farmlands and past the occasional vineyard. Traffic is virtually non existent, the occasional on-comer dealt with via a mutual dip of nearside wheels onto the hard packed earth that borders the narrow road in order to create room to pass, dusty plumes thrown up in our wake. At one point we find our path blocked by a sea of goats swarming across the road observed by a lone shepherd parked way back in a short wheelbase Shogun.
Gradually the road starts to become steeper and we snake ever upwards past lonely homesteads and through small villages that look untouched for centuries, vistas opening out across the valley the higher we go. Eventually the topography and villages become positively Swiss Alpine-esque, high narrow pointed pine trees and chalets marking our promotion from hill to mountain. Onward and upward we climb, zig zagging through sunshine and shade.
After a couple of hours we’re in clear mountain air and spot a heritage museum based in a large mountain lodge so we stop and disembark, paying less than a couple of euros each for an interesting short film show that explains the life and times of the beautiful quiet wilderness we find ourselves in and a tour of the museum. Then, leaving the car where we’d parked it, we walk up the paved trail through the pine forest to Troodos Square, an area originally created to house the British Ambassador and his staff in cool mountain air when they first arrived and found the coast too hot to bear in summer. Now it’s just a few shops and cafes and we choose the one with the best views (and a toilet!) and enjoy lunch with a spectacular view across the next valley to the mountain range in the distance.
Lunch over we meander back through the quiet forest to the car and point the nose skyward once more to try and find the summit of the highest peak, the 6,400ft high Mount Olympos.
Cutting up through the forest we break out at the summit where a huge British radar installation sits like a massive golf ball. Security signs ban us from driving further so we abandon the car and continue on foot up to the bizarre building and follow around its perimeter on a rough narrow dirt track. For the first time since touching down on arrival I feel slightly chilled as a cool wind hisses through the security fencing and regret leaving my jacket in the car. We press on to the far side and are greeted by the unexpected sight of a closed ski lift. Turns out that in winter this is a full on ski resort, a point hammered home just over the next ridge where we find the ski run, a river of brown dirt slicing through the trees into the far distance, silently waiting for winter snow to bring it to life. In the far distance another radar installation squats on another mountain like a giant’s golf ball on a tee. Shivering slightly now, we complete our circuit of the massive white dome and head back to the car, clambering aboard and swinging the nose back down the mountain, following the tarmac slalom back down through the pines.
Back at Troodos Square we cut off onto the old road, an empty single carriageway of full lock hairpin after full lock hairpin carved into the side of the mountain. Eventually it spits us back out onto the new road built recently with EU funding, “money well spent” The Blonde dryly observes.
We run the rest of the way down the new road, re-tracing our route in until we near the coast where we bear left and head for the Rock of Aphrodite. Parking the car we walk down the beach to this stunning rock formation as the sun begins to settle over the horizon turning both sea and sky a vivid bronze.