We are mindful of not leaving the planning of our next destination until later. So this morning we confirm that Vietnam will be our next destination or the SixBackpack traveling family. Yay we are finally heading back to Asia. We’re so looking forward to revisiting one of our favourite countries in the world.
We haven’t been back to Vietnam since 2012 which was our very first country we explored as the SixBackpacks traveling family. It brings back a whole lot of wonderful traveling memories with our younger family. It will be interesting to see the changes that have shaped Hoi’An where we intend making our home base. We Google the previous hotel we stayed at back in 2012 called the Sunflower Hotel, and notice that it has now transitioned into a backpacker’s hostel and is quite loud and unruly!
This morning we all get a sleep in, and I complete school work at the local cafe with Billie and Dacey. The walk there is warm, actually hot, and we walk past the little Cypriot homes that are growing the most magnificent looking bunch of grapes out in their front yard.
By the late afternoon I get out of the air conditioned comfort of our apartment and take a stroll to Larnaka Salt Lake. The others head off to the gym. The Larnaka Salt Lake is a 2.2km squared pinky-white salt landscape covering the surface and reflecting shimmering golden sunlight. There are four salt lakes and according to legend, the lake’s saltiness stems from Agios Lazaros or Saint Lazarus request of an old woman for food and drink. She refused, claiming her vines had dried up, to which Lazarus replied ‘may your vines be dry and be a salt lake forever more’. Quite a legend because this salt lake is massive. The more scientific explanation is that salt water penetrates the porous rock between the lake and the sea, making the water extremely salty.
I walk past a lone man who is looking out onto the salt lake with a camera hanging around his neck. I assume it’s his wife and daughter who sit waiting patiently for him in a hire car on the side of the road. As I walk past he mutters something to me about Flamingos. I stop and turn to face him and listen to what he’s saying. We strike up a conversation about when the Flamingo birds migrate here to Larnaka salt lake but I really don’t have any idea other than maybe when the rains come and the lake is full of water once again. He tells me he was here 12 years ago and missed the migratory birds then and was hoping he might see them on this short trip. But I don’t think he’s going to be in luck this time either.
I’ve seen photos and postcards of a water filled lake and thousands of pink Flamingo birds standing in the lake. It’s a pretty sight. But right now there’s no way this dry habitat would be an inviting environment for the flocks of pink migratory birds. After some research I discover that apparently there are 85 species of migratory birds, including the estimated 10,000 Flamingos, that arrive to the salt lake between November and March each year. The lake dries up in July and August and develops a 10cm thick crust of salt on its surface which I’m staring at right now.
In the Middle Ages and right up until 1986 people mined the salt for trading, but today the salt has not been classified as unhealthy for human purposes. But that didn’t seem to stop a group of people who walked out onto the salt lake with bags and picks and carried the heavy bags over their shoulders back to their car. I wonder what they’re doing with all that salt.
Situated overlooking the salt lake near the international airport is a mosque called Hala Sultan Tekke. It is the site of a grave that has been transformed into a mosque over many years. The grave is the site of the wet nurse of Prophet Mohammed and wife of Ouvadas Ibn. According to tourist literature, this is one of the holiest mosques that Muslims come to visit in the world and many make the pilgrimage to this mosque annually. I’m not sure if the crowds flock here, but the salt lake mosque is an impressive vision in the distance from where I’m standing.
I walk up a small mound of a hill that overlooks the salt lake and sit up there facing the setting golden sun and absorb the enormity of all that salt. It’s quite extraordinary how it changes so significantly throughout the seasons. I would love to see it full of water and 10,000 pink Flamingo birds standing with their long legs in the water. I start the walk back to the apartment and on my way take a piece of salt from the lake to show the girls. Dacey will appreciate this one.
We have endured another terrible night’s sleep with Charlie. She’s again had high temperatures throughout the night and there doesn’t seem to be any indication of the temperature breaking. She finally falls asleep in the early hours of the morning so I leave her be hoping she gets some much needed rest before we take her to see a doctor. But at the moment it’s been a difficult task finding any doctor’s service or rooms online in Larnaca.
Steve and I leave the sleeping apartment and go for a swim in the Med. It’s lovely and quiet but I myself am starting to feel like falling asleep in this warm bath due to lack of sleep! We are so very fortunate to have a quiet unassuming beach located just a block away. It makes up for sleeping on a fold out mattress each night! It’s like our own private beach, with guaranteed warm weather and inviting water lapping away at the shoreline. Looking out over the sea at our little beach is magical – to the right there is Makenzy beach and all the high rises and larger beaches with hundreds of white beach chairs lined up on the sand and to the left is Finikoudes beach with more high rises and a large marina and more white beach chairs lined up. It’s a perfect location and we relish the convenience of being able to walk home after a dip (or two or three) in the Mediterranean Sea each day.
We enjoy breakfast out at our usual breakfast café. It’s run by a Cypriot man and his never-looks-happy wife. They offer breakfast from 9-12:30pm every day. He then closes for a siesta and reopens for about an hour in the evenings from 6-7pm offering fresh fish for dinner. He’s a pensioner and does all the cooking at his café because he just loves cooking up a storm for guests. He walks around talking with customers and telling them how he purchases nothing but the best ingredients for all of his dishes. The breakfast is lovely and he is a great cook. We have already returned a couple of times to enjoy his full breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms and baked beans. And I’m sure we will again.
There are many English holidayers who come to Cyprus to enjoy the relaxed lifestyle, sunshine and food. Cyprus ranks as the 7th most popular destination for British people to move or holiday at (the top one is Spain). Each time we have enjoyed breakfast at this restaurant we notice the same English couples sitting at the same tables and in the same position. Nothing changes except the date – they are elderly and sit at their tables with their iPads completing crosswords or reading the news. They talk across the tables to another British couple who frequent the same restaurant for breakfast and bring their chocolate brown dog along who snoozes underneath the table. Most mornings after a swim we wander past and see them there doing the same thing as yesterday, and the day before…humans are such creatures of habit!
We return to the quiet apartment and Steve gets straight into booking tickets for the next leg of our journey. We plan on having a 3-night stopover in Bangkok and then fly into Da Nang, Vietnam and stay in Hoi’An for a month. This will take us all the way up to the end of Term 3. Then we have two weeks of school holidays which we plan to travel to another country in Asia to explore and then return to Hoi’An for the first month of Term 4.
On the school front, Dacey is not interested in completing her designated work. It’s getting frustrating and I can feel my resilience breaking apart being her Grade 6 supervisor. I often re-read the letter she, and other Distance Ed students, were asked to write to their supervisors. It gives me strength to keep going through these frustrating moments.
On the health front, Charlie got some sleep but she’s just not right. She’s really having a hard time with this temperature going up and down. So we try and find a doctor in and around Larnaka. There doesn’t seem to be any readily available doctor’s service. Steve walks down to our favourite night time café around the corner and asks the owner if he can tell us where there is a doctor close by. After a discussion with the man, who says there are no doctors here, he tells Steve that he should take a taxi to the General Hospital. The taxi company is directly opposite the favourite restaurant and Steve drops in to organise the ride to the hospital.
Steve returns to the apartment and he, Charlie and Ash go to the General Hospital. I stay behind with Billie and Dacey. Steve pays just 10 euros to see a doctor, and luckily there are not too many people in emergency right now. Charlie describes her symptoms to the doctor and a general check is performed but nothing is found that match her symptoms. The doctors can see that she’s very pale and weak. They take her temperature but it’s not recording higher than usual as she’s had Panadol. So they do some further tests which include two x-rays, blood and urine tests, insert a drip into her arm, and perform other tests.
The x-rays come back and reveal a 12% consolidation in her lungs! Say what? This is the start of pneumonia. The doctors confirm all of this to Steve and suggest that she stay overnight for a couple of nights in hospital so she can get complete rest and start her recovery. Steve keeps me updated via Messenger while I’m out and about with Billie and Dacey doing some errands up in Larnaka town. I don’t like the idea of her having to stay away from us in a foreign country if we can help it, and Steve and I both agree that if she can have complete bed rest back at the apartment that would work better for us.
Steve, Ash and Charlie spend most of the afternoon at the General Hospital with a drip in Charlie’s arm. The doctors allow Charlie to go home in the late afternoon as long as she can rest for a week and especially important over the next two days of the weekend. Steve gets a taxi back via a stop off at the pharmacy and 53 euros later Charlie has a bagful of medication to take.
Thank goodness we have access to quality health care and medicines.
Billie, Dacey and I walk to town while the others at the hospital and we purchase more Panadol for Dacey’s infected ear (yes she has a slight ear ache from all the swimming and searching for fish and crabs underwater), visit the printing shop to runoff some worksheets for the kids school but unfortunately the printer closes earlier than usual on Fridays. Instead we stop off for a cool drink, buy some yellow shorts for Dacey and sunglasses for Billie and top up on fresh fruit at the fruit shop. We’ve found a little fruit shop up near the main township and they have the tastiest peaches ever. We start the 20-minute journey back to the apartment walking along the beach promenade from Finikoudes Beach back to Makenzy Beach. It’s really hot still even though the sun is disappearing behind the buildings and streaming out like shards of glass through the clouds.
Another amazing sunset to enjoy and appreciate here on this island of Cyprus on our right and a glorious sea view to our left.
We meet Steve, Charlie and Ash back at apartment who pull up in a BMW taxi as we walk up the front of the apartment block. I’m wondering what the go is with all these taxis being luxury cars in Cyprus? There are so many brand new flashy Mercedes Benz with a small taxi sign on top of their roof. My first thought when the BMW drives up beside us and Ash is in the back seat waving at us with a big smile is why did the doctor give them a lift back?
Charlie proudly shows us her hospital battle marks in her arms. She already looks so much better after having the drip in her arm while she was at the hospital. Needles are a big deal for Charlie as she can’t stand the sight or thought of needles. So having two needles today was a massive accomplishment in facing these fears.
We all go back up to the apartment and sit down to listen to her hospital visit unfold. Between Charlie, Ash and Steve the story has the rest of us listening intently. Charlie pulls out her x-rays and holds them up against the window in the lounge room for us all to look at. I still can’t believe it cost us just 10 euros (A$15) for us to see a doctor at the General Hospital. It’s been a massive day for everyone but especially Charlie. Now we have to work out what we are going to do on the weekend as Steve has already booked a 7-seater hire car for two days over the weekend for a road trip or two around the island.
The girls enjoy home cooked diced pork with salad in pita bread while Steve and I head out for dinner down the road to another favourite food haunt. We enjoy some time alone to work out the next couple of days of our road trip and just to catch up and enjoy some barbequed octopus. Steve’s officially in food heaven.
It’s up early as Steve has booked a hire car for some exploring around the island of Cyprus. We may wake the kids early, but getting them moving is a whole other matter. Charlie is staying back this weekend as she’s in no condition to come along and needs complete bed rest, and this small and compact apartment is perfectly suited for her to do just that while everybody else is out of it for the next couple of days.
So the family minus Charlie jump into the hire car to experience road trip #1 in Cyprus. We have a map, a destination to drive to and a hire car. The car has cost 140 euros (A$210) for two days with a 300 euros deposit. Steve spent some time hunting down car hire companies here in Larnaka. Many didn’t have big enough cars for the six of us, and many tried to get Steve to come around to their thinking – “just put the kids in the back using three seat belts!” Like that would work with kids that are taller and bigger than me let alone the law. Thanks NOT mate. The other problem was that many of the car hire companies here in Larnaka prefer to hire cars out longer term rather than for only one or two days at a time. But finally he found a car hire man that had a 7-seater car who was willing to hire it to us for only two days.
So today we depart at midday (that’s out early with teens!) and drive along Cyprus’ southern coastline to the city of Lemesos which is 65km away from our home base Larnaka. The town of Lemesos is also called Limassol just to confuse everybody! We plan on visiting some of the southern beaches and enjoy other parts of southern Cyprus. We have some disgruntled kids coming along for the journey too – they’re not overly impressed with discovering Cyprus like we are but we need to get them out of the apartment and enjoy a change of scenery. It’s not all bad, but it is tough getting them to step out of the car to see some of the sites. Anyway…
If you would like to read more about our road trip to Lemesos please go to blog titled Day 230 | One: Cruising in Cyprus to Lemesos | 5 August 2017.
While we have a hire car we visit JUMBO on the way home to see if we can get some supplies for dinner. Everyone talks about JUMBO as the go-to place for everything and anything. But it isn’t. It’s a huge lace located in the industrial area of Larnaka. It’s set up like an IKEA store – one walking direction only through all the different departments of homewares and there’s no food in sight.
We return in the early evening and Charlie has enjoyed a day of catching up on her sleep and taking her medication. She’s also been given a puffer to use twice a day to open up her lungs. We enjoy getting back to the apartment after an interesting and at times frustrating day out with the three girls who were all quite stubborn about the road trip. I’m not sure what’s going on in our family lately but co-existing in this small apartment has been excruciating and today its showing its ugly face.
Tonight we head out to Portakali, as we didn’t purchase any food supplies, for dinner along the foreshore of Makenzy beach. It’s a place that offers us an easy walk-to location plus the food is incredibly good. It’s run by a little old Cypriot man who never seems to have enough waiting staff to cope with the high demand in tourist peak times. But we are happy enough to sit outside and enjoy the balmy night and an inquiry directed to the teens and tween as to why they’re going through such a negative stage. We mention about being open and willing to try things and learn different aspects of a country. I’m not sure if what we’re sharing at this dinner table is getting through, but the kids enjoy chatting together while Steve and I roll our eyes at certain comments that are meant to incite an argument between us. Pushing buttons is red hot tonight.
The girls walk back to the apartment after dinner which leaves Steve and me some time to have a chat and debrief. As we sit there alone, we notice another couple at another table with two young boys also in the middle of an argument. It’s a quiet argument but we can tell that the body language and the facial expressions show they’re unhappy with each other too tonight.
We order another beer and wine and sit together venting out the frustrations we both have with our tribe of children while the other couple with their two toddlers depart the restaurant separately.
We get going earlier than yesterday in the hope of returning earlier from our road trip. We depart at 11:15am and say goodbye to Charlie who is once again resting easy recovering from having 12% consolidation in her lungs. She’s loving being home alone and appreciates the quieter than usual apartment.
Our second road trip is heading deep into central Cyprus to the Troodos Mountains. Again we follow the motorway along the southern coast line to the city of Lemesos as we did yesterday, but here we turn north towards the hills. I’m not sure, but it seems that our conversation last night had a positive impact on the kids who have gotten out of bed and seem to be happily coming along on today’s adventure. However, they do mention to us that as long as there are no castles and no ruins, they’ll be happy campers. And today is all about mountains and waterfalls.
If you would like to read more about our second road trip to the Troodos Mountains please go to blog titled Day 231 | Two: Cruising in Cyprus to Troodos Mountains | 6 August 2017.
Unfortunately, we don’t make it home earlier than planned as we ventured onto the other side of the Troodos Mountains and made our way home the long route towards the capital Nicosia and along the United Nations buffer zone that hugs the border between the Republic of Cyprus and the occupied northern territory of the self proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Steve and I agree that we have to make the journey another time into the heart of Nicosia and across the border to see what it’s like on the other side. Passports required!
We head into Larnaka and make sure we find a supermarket that is open so we can restock our apartment pantry. All this eating out is definitely adding up and will be eroding the daily budget we are trying to keep under control. The supermarket is great and we stock up on many items.
Charlie is looking and sounding much better tonight which is great news and means we don’t need to take her for a return visit to the General Hospital tomorrow. We finish the night sitting on the balcony chatting about travel, life and news. We listen as a cover band plays an ACDC song and the lyrics drift into the night sky and the girls get a lesson in famous Australian bands.
Steve and I decide to get out and about before the kids wake up for a swim in the mornings. We walk all the way up to Makenzy beach – the beach that welcomes in the international flights and we watch the large birds of steel fly over our heads and land at the nearby International Airport. It’s a sight to behold while swimming in the Mediterranean Sea with one of these zooming by above our heads.
Charlie is having a relaxing week so she can fully recover from her illness. We return from swimming and I take Billie and Dacey out to the local coffee shop that has really good speed wifi so we can complete school work in another environment. Just to change it up a bit. I’ve found a great coffee here too.
It’s the same as yesterday. Steve and I depart for our morning swim in the Med. So lovely and relaxing and perfectly still. Finally, I’m starting to match the pace of life that is Cyprus. S.L.O.W.
Yesterday I organised visas online with a multiple entry for Vietnam for a three-month period. It’s a bit of a strange maze the visa situation in Vietnam because I’ told the government is constantly changing the visa rules and options. But I get in touch with my friend on the ground in Hoi’An and she puts me in touch with a couple of visa organisers. It’s suggested that we get a business visa so that we may be able to work while we’re living in Vietnam and earn a bit of money on the road. That might come in handy! It’s also another way to get to know some people there and integrate into Vietnamese life.
The girls are still motivated and enjoying the local Larnaka gym. Steve has signed all of them up except Dacey and me as we prefer swimming. Billie is getting right into the gym sessions and loving the hour workouts each day. She’s made a plan to eat healthy and exercise for the entire time we’re living in Cyprus. She’s set a goal and she’s really committed which is great to see. She even does sit ups on the lounge room floor each morning. Go Billie!
Steve and I repeat our morning swim this morning – a lovely kind of ground hog day which is something not many people get to say too often except the elderly Brits who return to their breakfast restaurant – and then I buy a coffee at the café down the road. We return to the apartment and sense that Charlie is feeling much better than any other day over this previous week. She’s feeling so much better that she gets out this afternoon for an easy session at the gym with Ash, Billie and Steve and a swim with Dacey and me afterwards. It’s great to have our Charlie girl back and so happy she’s feeling more like her old self.
But now I’m not sleeping as well as I could and I’m not enjoying the fold out bed that is located in the lounge room of our apartment. The tradeoff of being so close to the sea is starting to wane without proper sleep. After nearly two weeks the fold out bed thingy and it’s uncomfortableness is starting to give me the irrits and it’s making me feel deflated lately. This weekend I think we’ll need to swap beds with the kids for the two nights over the weekend to get a break from it.
Plus, it’s starting to feel claustrophobic in this two-bedroom Airbnb apartment and I’m stressing over that and not sleeping as well as I could be. I’m finally publishing blog posts from our final adventures in Morocco which is a relief to finally be catching up with the blog post writing but my motivation levels are fairly low now. But on the positive side of not getting enough sleep, writing slowly and finally publishing late travel posts, I can now focus on discovering and uncovering Cyprus.
And what an intriguing island Cyprus is turning out to be.