Life back in Cyprus - August 2001

August 14th:

After July in the UK, we drove all the way back to Cyprus at the start of August, beginning with a ferry from Norwich to Holland. We had a good journey back, with the car behaving itself beautifully despite having over 200kg of luggage (we weighed it all when we finally got back) and going up fairly steep hills in Austria. Still, we did ensure that, where possible, we used tunnels and avoided anything marked 'steep climb' on the map.

We spent a few hours in Innsbruck but as it was cloudy the views weren't all that stunning. It was hard to reconcile with the Chalet School series of books! We were rather dogged with thunderstorms and rain once we'd left England - sometimes it felt as if grey clouds were following along behind us wherever we went.

boats on the canals in VeniceVenice was very interesting, though I'm not sure we'd go there again. I suppose in one sense it was a typical tourist town; somehow it seemed more like a town with lots of rivers rather than every street being flooded. As there are so many bridges, and gondalas are so extortionately expensive, nearly everyone walks everywhere nowadays and apparently there are very few gondalas remaining. 

St Mark' s Square in VeniceWe spent some time in the famous St Mark's square, but having been previously warned we didn't try to buy anything there, not even coffee! We had heard that the charges are astronomical. In other parts of Venice, however, they weren't unreasonable at all.

The worst place we stayed on our entire journey was probably Athens. Not that the place itself was a problem, but it must have been about 40C when we arrived at 11pm Wednesday night, and more humid than Larnaka at its worst. We were booked into quite a nice youth hostel that had a family 'suite' rather than typical family room, but unfortunately it was on the 6th (top) storey, and there was no air conditioning; not even any ceiling fans, so we were sweltering all night.

It was slightly cooler the following morning and we were able to leave our luggage at the youth hostel while we took a taxi to the Acropolis and did the standard tour - well worth seeing, but it was swarming with tourists of every nation and we all got rather too hot.

Finally we got on our last ferry from Piraeus to Limassol. Here we experienced what Douglas Adams called, 'the greatest, some would say the only, work of true creative imgination produced this century...' ** - the Greek ferry timetables! The ferry had apparently changed its route entirely from that expected. It was supposed to have stopped briefly at several small Greek islands, including Patmos, for about an hour and a half, and then to have arrived at Limassol at 6.30am Saturday August 11th. In the event, it didn't stop at many places at all, but did stop at Rhodes for four hours on the Friday evening! We disembarked, and it was very pleasant, but then realised we'd be much later back in Cyprus than expected.

It was 4.00 pm on Saturday by the time the ferry docked in Limassol, and then took us three hours to get out of the port. The first two hours were waiting for our car, because there was some freight wedged in the ferry so tightly that at first it couldn't be removed. Then Richard had to deal with all the car documentation. That was no problem, except that they insisted he pay 25, despite our tickets supposedly paying for everything. They would not accept credit cards, debit cards, or even a Cyprus cheque, so he had to take money out at the bank (which, thankfully, was open) to pay this in Cyprus cash. We had no Cyprus cash with us because we had had to exchange it for Greek drachmas on the first boat on the way out, nearly two months previously!

Having sorted this out, Richard then tried to 'declare' the equipment he'd brought in from the UK, for his ministry. The customs officer obviously wasn't used to people trying to declare things when they weren't going to sell them, or didn't have a huge amount, so he said he'd just count it all as being used, and let us in without paying anything. I suppose it balanced having to pay for the car, which we didn't expect!

We finally got back to our house at 8.00 pm. Richard insisted we unpack everything before collapsing - which I'm sure was sensible, because otherwise we would have had suitcases and bags lying around for days, most likely. Before unpacking we weighed everything, out of interest: we had brought back nearly 220kg of luggage in our car. About 35kg of this was books, and about 30kg equipment bought in the UK. Had we flown, our allowance would have been - at most - 120kg, plus perhaps 25kg in all as hand luggage.

The cats all look fit and healthy, and were extremely pleased to see us. It was about 28C outside; the following day it was up to 34C in the middle of the day. This was nothing like as bad as it was three years previously, when the boys and I came back to Cyprus from the UK about the same time of year. When we got back then, we flew in at 10.30pm and it was 35C at that time of night! It was pretty humid however, so we were thankful for the air conditioned room, where at least we can escape for a while. Also as it gets dark by 8.00 pm in August in Cyprus, it does cool down a little then, so the nights aren't too bad at all.

When we arrived back, we found there was some problem with our phone: apparently a wire in the receiver was faulty. We kept hearing the phone ringing, but when we answered we couldn't hear anything. The rest of the time there was no dialtone. However the modem was working without any problem, so it took us a while to discover the phone problem! Replacing the receiver with another one seemed to solve the problem, which had apparently been ongoing while we had been away: all the people staying in our house had had similar difficulties.

August 22nd:

We just had quite a surprise with the first rain of the season! This was not just the usual five minutes of spitting, that does little but distribute dust from the rooftops, but half an hour of heavy rain that left great puddles, and washed all the dirt from the roof. We could tell this because at first the drainpipes were spewing out sandy, dusty water from the gutters; then gradually the water became cleaner. By the time the rain ended, it looked totally clear. 

The cats sat and watched at the windows, and we went around opening up windows to let fresh air in. The temperature dropped from 33C to 23C during the rain, but then rose back up to about 28 once the sun came out again. For an hour or so it was almost unbearably humid, presumably due to rapid evaporation. However it was very good news to have rain so early: usually we expect the first rain mid-September or even early October, rather than August. Everything in the garden looked fresh and healthy the day afterwards - including, of course, the weeds, which grew to about 15cm while we were away despite no rain at all!

August 30th:

Despite the downpour and resulting lowered temperature, we had another heatwave within a few days. It was probably silly to hope that Summer might have been ending. By August 25th, it was again 35C in the shade outside in the early afternoons. Thank goodness again for air conditioning, even though we only have it in one room. We hoped this would be the last heatwave before Autumn - such as it is! At least the humidity seemed to be less; this is always a relief towards the end of August and early September.

** from the book Dirk Gently's holistic detective agency by Douglas Adams

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