‘Katie! Katie! Have you turned my alarm off?’ Naomi grumbled agitatedly as I rolled over to find her phone which we’d put next the bed. I had done nothing of the sort, and it was 0320. We still had nearly an hour of valuable sleeping time left! My paranoia was obviously catching – I couldn’t believe it had taken the whole trip. Neither of us slept after this, but when the alarm finally did go off, we were ready to launch before the sun had risen – Naomi’s efficiency had also finally rubbed off on me.
Our final day was to be the calmest day we’d seen in ages. All that was left between us and a full circle around Cyprus was a crossing of Episkopi bay to a large white disused hospital, and then a further 7 NM of paddling around the headland of the Akrotiri Peninsula. There was still not a breath of wind, and because of this I not
iced the first evidence of a tiny bit of tidal flow around the headland. Phew, the rules of the sea haven’t been totally rewritten by Cyprus!
We now set about hugging the coast and I began to realise there were some lovely caves around here. Naomi had explored this area before the trip and so I set about hunting out cool shaded caves which were a welcome relief from the bright sun. There were also some great natural arches, and as we weren’t pushed for time at all, it was nice to spend a while looking at the coastline.
A brief final loo stop on the shore was only a few short miles from our finish point and we landed trying to avoid a small army of men clearing seaweed off the shoreline. It was lovely to find Alison, Joe and Daniel in the beach cafe as we treated ourselves to an ice cream. Before long, the lovely Kayleigh who had kindly driven to pick us up came to congratulate us, as did Bob, who had been an amazing help before the trip .
It was a lovely end to our adventure and we set about unloading boats into cars. Joe and Daniel had a quick paddle in our now empty kayaks before we returned to Naomi’s house to unload properly.
After an efficient start this morning that even the most seasoned squaddie would be proud of, the sun rose from behind the land as we paddled towards the bright lights of Paphos. We could hear revellers shouting from the shore, obviously still partying from the night before as we enjoyed our first 2 hours of paddling. We paddled through some areas of sea marked out with buoys, trying to figure out what on earth they were. Naomi’s suggestion of ‘No Turtle Zones’ was turned on its head as a immediately a friendly turtle bobbed around on the surface bathing in the morning rays.
The next obvious landmarks were two huge military jets and some helicopters parked in a field just before Paphos airport, denoting a Cypriot military base, which Naomi had noted a couple of weeks ago. We saw a few commercial flights leaving the airport as we paddled along the coast towards Pissouri on sea was so beautifully like a mirror that Naomi made me pose for multiple photos as my Rockpool kayak starfish emblem was mirrored on the glassy the sea.
Naomi had promised some ‘real’ chalky white cliffs today, and they were soon towering above us. Before long we arrived at Petra Romiou or Aphrodite’s Rock, a collection of rocks close to the shore. During the morning’s paddle, Naomi explained that there was a local legend surrounding these rocks. Apparently, swimming around Aphrodite’s Rock three times anticlockwise granted you eternal love, or fertility, or a variety of other beneficial qualities that no-one could quite decide on! We set about landing and completing our three laps which was a fantastic way to cool off!
We got a bit confused about exactly how many times we’d been around, but after conceding that Naomi was probably correct that we had already completed the three, we continued paddling underneath the imposing chalky cliffs in a lovely tailwind past Pissouri and to Avdimou Bay. The Kyrenia restaurant was here and this is where Naomi had organised some friends to come for a meal for our last night on the trip. We were here by 1330 though and so Alison, Ross and their two boys Daniel and Joe came to join us for a drink on their way back from Latsi. Next, they kindly helped us launch to complete the Famagusta Five (The 5NM we missed by being driven across the border at Famagusta). Backtracking along the coast to Pissouri this time into a F4 headwind wasn’t ideal but it was a nice way to see the coast we’d missed by cutting across the bay, and we flew back to the restaurant once we turned around! We then enjoyed a lovely evening meal with lots of lovely people who had come down to see us.
The restaurant staff were very kind to us, and after explaining what we were up to, they offered us a room underneath the restaurant that had a bed and space for a sun lounger in it. Once Naomi had peeled herself off the floor after a slight folding sun bed mishap, we settled down for the night. Our last night was rather noisy as the hum drum of a restaurant in the evening continued around us, but another tent free night was a welcome luxury.
Once on the water this morning, there was a beautiful view of the rocky coastline leading to the tip of the Akamas Peninsula. The weather had calmed today and being inside Chrysochous bay we were sheltered from the westerly wind for the first 8NM. Fishing boats were bobbing around as we approached the tip of the land where small shrines perched on the rocks. As we turned back on ourselves to track down the west side of the peninsula, we dodged the many rocks scattered among the coastline and creating some impressive breaking waves. I enjoyed this section, it felt a bit more like sea kayaking back home, albeit with warm sea, unending blue skies and sparkly water.
Alison’s husband Ross had recommended some beaches on the approach to Paphos. Lara bay appeared rather quickly as we paddled down the coast and so we stopped to investigate. We were greeted by more than hundred small cairns that had been carefully constructed on the beach.
A little cafe was perched above the beach, and we thought it would be rude not to pop in and grab a drink. The people here were very friendly and there were even outdoor showers and places to hang kit! We chatted awhile with some British tourists and watched the local stray cats and dogs weaving in and out of the tables. Once we had de-salted ourselves and our kit had dried, we continued down the coast towards Paphos.
On this section we saw the most sea traffic we’d seen so far. A few motor boats, sailing dinghies and jet skis zipped up and down the coast as we tried to keep clear. We saw a giant shipwreck that appeared to have reversed onto the coast and there were a fair few rocky islands to our right. Before long, the familiar sun bed lined coast reappeared as the many hotels around Coral bay became visible. We struck lucky this afternoon and found the uniquely named ‘Sandy beach’ to land on.
There was a beach bar here, and I ran off in search of ice creams that I assumed they would sell. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a British assumption, but the bar did have lemon Ice Tea and crisps. Again, it had fresh water showers which was such a treat. We got chatting to Nico, a lovely SUP instructor who ran his business at the beach and he was asking us about where we’d seen surf in the North. Being on the West coast again, we watched the sun disappear into the sea amazingly quickly. Nico kindly showed us the best place to camp before we headed for our now traditional early night.
There was still a fair amount of surf close to the beach once we’d packed up in the dark. After yesterday’s landing, I was pleased to see that our first potential stop once we’d done a 17NM sea crossing back into the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) was Pomos harbour. Still, nothing said don’t capsize like paddling with two passports and various other difficult-to-replace items. Putting this to the back of my mind and deciding that with the sunrise it would look calmer, we launched and once through the surf, began paddling on our bearing across a reasonably flat Morfou Bay.
Our routine of two hourly breaks continued, happily munching on snacks and applying more suncream as quickly as possible before continuing to paddle. Naomi committed foot in mouth again by commenting on the flatness of the sea, whereupon the sea promptly responded by whipping up a blustery F3 headwind. Suitably chastised about her lack of tact, I also explained to Naomi about fetch and the reason for the encountered meaty swell. As is usual in Cyprus, the closer towards lunchtime we got, the stronger the wind got. As we began to pick out features on the coast, Naomi was keen to stay a distance offshore to minimise crossing complications. To my quite disbelief, a quick check of Navionics (GPS chart app) revealed that we were 4NM from the nearest land and I secretly avowed not to let her be in charge of the compass again, which would have been a diff
icult task with her Alpha Femaleness.
As I began to pick out greeny brown patches on the mountains that were getting closer, I noticed a conspicuous red and white rectangle etched into the side of one of the mountains. I attempted repeatedly to describe its location to Naomi whose usually good eyesight was not picking up what I was (mis)directing her towards. There was a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus exclave on the coast here, and we had remarked on the two large flags painted onto the hillside whilst researching on Google maps. Ideally we didn’t want to stop at the exclave due to sensitivities, and Naomi was her usual vocal self about this. We paddled until we were parallel with a barbed wire fence and a military lookout tower and I began thinking about the Twix that Naomi’s friend James had given me on launch day. Naomi’s had been wolfed down on ‘Shoe City’ night but I had saved mine to eat once we were back in the RoC. I had decided we were in the RoC, but Naomi was having none of it. The Twix was in her day hatch and she was not keen to hang around by the exclave. ‘Just keep paddling’ she bellowed, so loudly they could probably hear her on the Karpaz Peninsula. I was quite happily th
inking we were in the RoC if we were adjacent to the UN Buffer Zone, but Naomi was in her own little no-stopping zone until we were at Pomos Marina. However, I could see her point that it could be provocative to hang around near the UN buffer zone eating a Twix bar (I don’t think they are so lucky to have such luxuries in their ration packs), so I paddled on, my sole luxury salivating at the thought of the Twix.
We arrived into the beautiful Pomos harbour which had many small fishing boats bobbing around and an unbelievably slippy slipway! Luckily Twix was waiting for me once we landed and I devoured it quickly before it melted. We wandered up to a restaurant which overlooked Morfou bay and enjoyed some fresh orange juice and a delicious lunch in celebration. Kayaking around Cyprus RoCs!
Naomi contacted her amazing friend Alison, whose family were staying in Latsi for the weekend and had kindly brought us a restock box. We decided that while the going was good and we were in high spirits, we’d get back on and paddle down to Latsi at the bottom of the next bay. I got in a massive grump after realising we still had a few miles left, but a turtle waving his flipper at the sunset cheered me up no end. Paddling past a campsite (the only one in Cyprus) near to where Alison’s family were staying, we landed and their youngest son came down to greet us. Their two boys were a great help, putting up our tent, eating spare biscuit browns and thankfully not choking on boiled sweets while Alison fetched us a restock of water, bringing gifts of bananas and Dairy Milk too! It was moments like this when we were really grateful for the support of Naomi’s friends out here, it was a lovely morale boost to chat to people as we landed. Carrying 2 weeks’ worth of food would have been possible, but having half of it delivered to us made the whole trip a lot easier. Once we’d made camp and the sun had well and truly set, we slept surprisingly well next to a lifeguard hut on stilts.
Waking up from our luxurious hotel bed, we wandered down to the night porter at reception who had arranged our packed breakfast and kindly filled our flasks with tea and coffee (Naomi wasn’t impressed by the nescafe!).
Our goal today was to get around Akrotiri Kormakitis, the last and most deserted headland in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This would set us up nicely for getting back into the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) tomorrow. As was now expected, the wind was not a hindrance to our progress for the first few hours, but as the morning wore on, a stronger-than-forecast Northerly wind was pushing us onshore as we paddled, and was accompanied by fairly meaty swell.
Once we had rounded the headland and spotted the lighthouse which was strangely (but not by Cypriot standards), far inland, we began heading South and looking for suitable landings to our left. The majority of the shore was low and rocky, and we paddled past the first sandy looking beach hoping to maximise our progress today. After an hour, the sky turned an ominous grey colour further inland towards the mountains and the wind got up further. Thunder rumbled in the distance. We’d paddled past one more potential landing site as the surf looked quite impressive, but I turned us both around as this now seemed the safest option. The unfortunate issue was that where the surf was smallest, I could see occasional boulders on the beach. Giving Naomi clear instructions to wait out the back until I had landed, I paddled in feeling a tad nervous about getting us both in safely. I caught the first bit of swell and pulled off the back of it, but the next wave broke on me and a momentary lapse in concentration resulted in a quick roll. Naomi was probably for the first time on the trip worried as she ‘saw my little paddle go up in the air’, and ‘breathed a sigh of relief’ when she saw me spring onto the beach after I dragged myself upright from the soup so I could dodge boulders. The sea was surprisingly deep (waist height).
Naomi followed my beckoning her to the shore and I decided the safest way to protect the boat she was using was to walk in to where she was impressively surfing towards the beach. She slowed down enough for me to hold on to her boat, but the noise of it bashing a shallow rock near the shore gave me the shivers. Apparently, I didn’t let my worry about the boat show, but Naomi (who militantly makes it one of her rules not to swear) let out a few expletives. As we dragged th
e kayaks up the sandy shore, albeit there being no habitation around for miles, an English girl from Exeter university (based in Falmouth) ran past commenting on our wet landing! Small world eh?
It turns out there were two girls working on a Turtle Conservation Project based out here, protecting and tagging turtle nests. Luckily we had landed on a patch of beach where a female turtle had recently laid her eggs and so they explained their work to us and uncovered the nest to reveal the eggs before covering it back up and marking it out with sticks. Having seen turtles on our travels, we were both fascinated to see this nest and the girls were really knowledgeable. It was a great chance encounter!
After our slightly dodgy landing, I was relieved to be able to patch the damaged boat with a bit of epoxy putty (sorry Lee). We chatted about plans for the crossing and calculated a bearing ready for the morning. We must have been exhausted because I’m pretty sure we were asleep by 1900.
Naomi’s alarm wasn’t really waking me up this morning, despite following pretty much the same sleeping/waking routine since day 1; prising myself out of the sleeping bag liner was a struggle. Still, I ate a breakfast of honey pitta (Cypriot speciality) and fruit purée before washing and packing up. Naomi was super efficient and after a few not-so-gentle reminders about minimising faff, we were paddling at 0536. (Just 6 minutes! Arghhh)
The sun rising behind us again was a blessed relief and before our 2nd breakfast stop, we could see the city of Kyrenia stretched out along the coast. This is one of the largest cities in Northern Cyprus and also has a port. As with Famagusta, I left the VHF on and we were vigilant when crossing the two shipping lanes Naomi had marked. However, we saw no ships, only evidence of large mooring buoys.
Naomi pointed out what she thought was Kyrenia Castle in the distance; a sandy coloured building close to the shore. I had no idea but as we got close it became obvious it was a giant hotel right next to a power station – not her finest powers of observation, and not the most apt places to place a hotel! The other highlight was a sailing partyboat leaving the harbour – sailing boats being a paradoxically odd occurrence in Cypriot waters.
Shortly after the hotel, there was a fairly sheltered bay with little habitation aside from a few sunbeds and occasional red roofed properties set back from the coast. As we were a fair way off shore I decided a ‘danger wee’ was needed. Naomi kindly obliged by holding the boats and before long I safely had my deck back on. Food came next and I rifled around in her day hatch for nuts and cereal bars which we quickly munched on. Suddenly, two tanned and tattooed men sporting red shorts zipped out of the bay in a small inflatable motorboat. One was shouting at us in Turkish and making gestures out to sea. We apologised profusely for our lack of command of Turkish, completely baffled until one of them piped up with ‘soldiers!’ and made more shooing gestures at us. We’d got the message by now: this was military land/sea and as I hastily packed away the food we’d tried to eat, I couldn’t help but wonder how my spotty bottie had looked hanging over the side of my kayak during the ‘danger wee’. Thank god their boat wasn’t any faster, I’m not sure I could have coped with the conversation whilst
perched on a paddle.
We continued our paddling in the midday sun, dipping our hands in the water occasionally to cool us. Lines of empty sunbeds stretched along the shores and Naomi stated how ironic it would be if we landed and a hotel said they were full. She had carefully researched hotels along the coast east of Kyrenia and we found an opulent one with a breakwater creating a lovely private swimming beach. It was rather presumptuous, but we landed and after finding the outdoor loos, headed for reception in half-presentable dry clothes. Whether the receptionist took one look at us and decided we weren’t the clientele he was hoping for, or whether he was telling the truth, his reply of ‘we’re full’ wasn’t what we expected. Naomi had flipping jinxed it and we were back on the water within minutes.
Second time lucky we thought, pulling into a bay where a guy offered to rent us some sit-on kayaks. On closer inspection, the only buildings here were all nightclubs. Banging tunes ’til the early hours wasn’t what we wanted either.
Come on, we thought as we paddled into the bay of the Hotel Denizkizi (recommended by the first hotel we tried), it’s got to be third time lucky. We were told by the lifeguard man on a pontoon to kindly remove ourselves from the buoyed area marked for motor boats. As we positioned ourselves in the swimming area instead, he explained his boss was shouting at him so we needed to go away. When we explained we would appreciate somewhere to land so we could stay at the hotel; he was more obliging. Looking mightily confused, he directed us to the reception.
Hotel Denizkizi was another world. Exquisite gardens lined the path winding up to reception with brightly coloured flowers, in contrast to the barren rocky landscape outside the hotel. The gateman revealed he’d worked at a burger bar in Herne Bay, where I had landed during the around Britain trip, and he let us use his hosepipe to rinse kit. Once the receptionist was in possession of enough information to create a bank account in my name, we found our way to an opulent twin room with a balcony. I tried not to contaminate the shiny whiteness and we set about getting clean before enjoying the all-inclusive buffet meal which included tasty baklava for pudding.
Firstly I’m very sorry if anyone is reading this and has been expecting blog updates. We are on day 8, but due to mostly camping on beaches, sporadic and very slow wifi when we are in towns as well as super good weather for long days on the water, I am writing my blog with a pencil and notebook before I go to sleep each night. I’ve taken as many photos as I can and will put them with the blog as soon as we’re both back.
Very briefly, the highlights so far have been…
*Turtles! I’ve seen turtles in the sea for 4 days on the trot. Incredible. I’ve never seen them before and I don’t think they’ll ever stop being exciting. The one that came to the surface infront of my boat and looked at the sun this morning was such a treat to see.
* Flying fish. Yes, I know, the clue is in the name, but these things actually fly for ages above the water. Not like the fish that do a funny sort of belly flop in the UK. They are a metallic silvery blue, fairly big and too quick for a camera.
*Honey and cinnamon pitta. Not like pitta bread in the UK, more like very thin tortilla with loads of layers. These make a great breakfast.
*The sea is 27 degrees celcius. Enough said.
The only minor issues have been coping with the heat (I shouldn’t jinx it) and blisters which are to be expected anyway.
Ok. I promise to finish this blog ASAP and to upload photos. Here’s hoping the next turtles aren’t as camera shy🙂