Posted by: digibirder | July 19, 2012

A chance to get away!

After five weeks, we finally managed to sell the folding camper. We got a good price for it, although not as much as we would have liked, but it was OK. The couple came and looked it over, handed over the cash, and towed it away. It was sad to see it go, but the money was needed for more important things.

The first thing being another trip to Cyprus! As I’ve mentioned before, we are in the process of looking to move to Cyprus permanently at some point, so this was a combined holiday and research trip. We studied the accommodation details given to us by the travel agent, then decided to book it all independently. This was more due to the fact that the last time we went through an agent back in January, the accommodation was horrendous. So we booked the flight, then found a lovely privately-owned apartment, then booked the car hire, all for less than the package of just flight and apartment from the agents. We also managed to get flights at better times than we did in January, which were horrible night flights, and although we had to get up very early to get to Manchester for a 6am check-in, at least we arrived at our destination at a reasonable hour, and all in daylight.

The apartment owner had organised the rental very well, and we even had someone meet us to show us the apartment and explain how things worked. It was a lovely apartment, with everything we could possibly need, including a dishwasher. There were a few issues that might put me off renting that apartment again. The first was that it was next to a road, which wasn’t very busy, but because it was on a hill the cars had to accelerate when going uphill, and this made it a little noisy when sitting on the balcony. And the hill was the other downside. To walk down into the town was OK, but coming back up was very hard-going. And there was no wi-fi, so we had to go into one of the bars in town to check online. After a couple of times walking down, and back, we decided to use the car on subsequent occasions! Having said that, we didn’t do it that often over the two weeks, and so we managed.

We had blue skies all the time, and it was extremely hot – around the 30° mark most days. It was quite difficult to keep going at times, it was so draining. But we managed to look at a few villages, check out some craft fairs, check prices of some goods, and speak to a few people about various aspects of living there.

I will keep this to one post, rather than a day-by-day account, so there are quite a few images here. I only took one lens, the Canon 24-105mm zoom, which was fine for the hand-baggage weight and for day-to-day convenience. I could have done with a wider angle lens for some shots, but I don’t have one so there was no choice in the matter.

Can of beer the first thing from the welcome pack

And enjoying the sea view from one of the two balconies

View from the bedroom balcony to the lounge balcony

Looking out from the bedroom

Our first trip was to look at some of the more remote areas, but some of the villages did prove to be a little too far out of the way. We stopped on the way to take in the views, and take on some water, but staying out of the car for any length of time, and away from the air-con, was not to be recommended.

Thistles

Stopped off at the X-treme View taverna, and this chap came and waited for some crumbs

Looking towards Paphos over neighbour’s balcony

The view up the hill

And above us more apartments

Paphos Harbour – it was very hot here and not nice for walking about

After a couple of days, we decided that it might be fun to go off-road and do a bit of birdwatching. The trouble was we had a normal hatchback car (and that had seen better days), so we rang the car hire place and made arrangements to upgrade to a 4×4, which we picked up a couple of days later. We had a nice new Suzuki Jimny automatic, and it was very nice to drive. After picking it up we set off for Polis on the north coast. We wandered round and had some lunch, then headed to Latchi, a very busy touristy place, then on towards the Akamas. We stopped in a picnic spot in the forest, which was cool and shaded, and listened to a cacophony of insect noises, before continuing on the dirt track where only 4x4s are recommended. We kept stopping to look at things flitting among the shrubs, and spotted several birds we could not identify, but we did manage to get good views of a Cretzschmar’s Bunting.

View over Polis bay

Came across these ladies sheltering from the heat

180° turn looking back where we’d come from

I had wanted to get some sunset images, and prior to the holiday I had purchased a light-weight tripod for that purpose, to avoid the weight and bulk of my Manfrotto. One night we drove down to Coral Bay to find a suitable spot, but was disappointed in both the location and the lack of cloud, making the sunsets totally uninspiring.

Taken at about 8pm – still hot enough to swim (not us, I hasten to add)

The following day we headed into the mountains for some relief from the heat. At this altitude there was actually some cloud in the sky, and later in the day we had some spots of rain, although only for a few minutes, and not enough to make you dash for cover!

Backstreets of Pano Platres

Seen better days!

The other side of the derelict Splendid Hotel – what a view from those balconies!

We then drove on further into the mountains to Troodos. This isn’t really a town or a village, just a collection of restaurants and tourist kiosks. It’s improved quite a bit since we were last there (in about 1992) in that the kiosks are now solid buildings rather than shacks. There are more restaurants too, and a very nice walkway through a woodland area. Most of all, it was lovely and cool!

Waiting patiently at the horse and donkey trekking centre

One of many Cyprus cats

Along the walkway, we spotted this Masked Shrike

We then started to come back down to sea level, but on our last visit we had been told about some nice villages in the foothills of the Troodos, so we stopped off at Lania, a pleasant and peaceful little village in the wine making area north of Limassol. We drove round the narrow one-way system at first, then decided to park and walk round, as it looked very interesting. Seems it has had some real love and care with the restoration of some of the old village houses.

I like old doorways

Mama cat

And nervous kitten

Some of the walls had these giant banners depicting a bygone era

More doors!

And some walls had what appeared to be previous residents

Lovely colourful bougainvillea shrubs everywhere

A museum depicting olive oil production

Then back to the heat! A couple of days later we were in Kathikas, just a little way from where we were staying in Peyia. We went to have a look round, and also to sample a taverna that we’d seen on a previous drive through the village. The lunch was delicious, both of us having a very large moussaka with salad. The village was typical Cypriot, but we were told that it gets quite cold in winter at that altitude, so it’s a question of do we want to be comfortable in the summer heat and freezing in winter, or live near the coast and be baking in the summer and comfortable in winter. Decisions, decisions.

In need of some TLC

Chased this around for some time before it settled

Local resident

We spent some time pricing up certain household items, one being furniture. With that purpose in mind, we discovered there was an Ikea in the capital, Nicosia, so off we went! It was a long, hot journey, which didn’t do my headache a lot of good. After visiting said store, we were intending to go round the town, but I really didn’t feel in the mood, so we simply headed back. After stopping in a shady spot to eat our sandwiches, we decided to call in at Kensington Cliffs near Limassol, as recommended in Dave Gosney’s guide to birding in Cyprus. We missed the turning at first, as it is not well signed, but we finally bounced down the track and found some shade in which to park the car. As soon as we climbed out of the car, we spotted a buzzard-type bird, probably Long-legged, and a little while later saw our target bird, an Eleanora’s Falcon. There were a few about as they nest on the cliffs. It was far too hot to walk along the cliff path, so we didn’t stay too long. A few days later, we saw an Eleanora’s Falcon fly over our apartment! We also had Alpine Swifts viewed from the terrace while having breakfast.

Kensington Cliffs

Towards the end of the first full week, we met up with Veronica and Dennis, members of an ex-pat forum that I joined a couple of years ago when Keith went over for an interview. We went to the Last Castle restaurant, which is really out of the way, up a dirt track (4×4 needed), but is a spectacular place. The choice is bbq chicken or pork – or both – with salad and chips or potato wedges. The pieces of meat were quite large and we were quite full. The views are amazing, and it’s quite cool as there are vine-covered pergolas casting lots of shade, and there was a slight breeze blowing. Then it was time to brave the heat again! En-route back to V&D’s house for coffee, we stopped off to view an apartment (they are property agents), which will come in very useful next time we go over.

Before meeting up with them, we went down to the harbour at Agios Georgios (St. George) to see what birds were about. The small island is home to a colony of Yellow-legged Gulls, some of which were flying around. There were some Crested Larks around, but not much more. It was so hot out of the car that we had to dash back to the apartment to freshen up again.

Looking out over the Avagas Gorge from Last Castle

The BBQ

We also met up with more people from the forum the following day. We had lunch at the Terebinth Tree in Mesa Chorio, which is run by an English couple. The place is up for sale, though, as they are wanting to retire. It was an enjoyable lunch with good company, some of whom we met up with back in January.

We woke up to some cloud!

As well as the new tripod, I also purchased a 10-stop neutral density filter to try out some long exposures. The one that most photographers buy is the Lee Filters ‘Big Stopper’, but this is quite expensive. I already had a filter holder for another brand, and discovered that I could get a much cheaper Hitech filter that fitted my existing holder. The filter creates motion blur and enables long exposures even when the light is bright. I didn’t actually get chance to try it out until almost the end of the holiday. We set out early in the hope that we would avoid the worst of the heat, and headed for a local bay that we’d spotted a couple of days previously. People were already swimming and sunning themselves. Here are a few experimental shots, but this was probably not the best test of the filter. The problem is that once the filter is in place, you can’t see anything through the viewfinder, so you have to set everything up before inserting it into the holder. Live View works, but the other issue is white balance. Apparently it’s best to set a custom white balance – something I’ve never done. Some images also look better in black and white.

The normal view

So, all in all, a great holiday/research trip, and we’re really looking forward to our next visit.


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