Cruising in Cyprus: Road Trip #2 to Troodos Mountains
We are off again in the hire car departing our apartment and a recovering Charlie at 11:15am for the 1.5-hour journey up to the Troodos Mountains. The other three kids seem to be a lot happier coming out today for this road trip, maybe something made sense at our dinner conversation last night. Steve and I have listened to the teen voice and agree wholeheartedly that today we will not be visiting any:
Instead the travel agenda is set for the natural environment: mountains, trees and waterfalls. Meanwhile Charlie is feeling better after spending the day in bed yesterday. She’s sleeping lots during the day and just resting as directed by the doctors. All she can do now is rest and wait for the medication to take effect.
The drive is down the motorway towards the city of Lemesos which we visited yesterday passing the white wind turbines that are scattered on the hills. Today’s route we take a turn off before reaching Lemesos and climb the largest mountain range in Cyprus which is pretty much located smack bang in the centre of the island. We stop off at a couple of viewing points on the side of the road to stretch the legs and take in the views (and of course for me to take some photos). It doesn’t make my day when I reach for the spare battery in my red bag to abruptly realise I left it in my camera bag from yesterday’s road trip! It takes me a good whole five minutes to calm down and forgive myself. So now I use the iPhone for many of the shots and the LUMIX camera sparingly throughout the day squeezing out the battery only when required. It all works out in the end. The girls amazingly are happy for me to take their photo jumping in the air at a stop where we stretch our legs. Maybe they think that’ll be the last of the photos! Wrong.
The Troodos Mountain range is renowned for its geology and presence of an undisturbed ophiolite* sequence known as Troodos Ophiolite. According to science, this massive mountain range rose from the sea due to a collision between the African and European tectonic plates which was also the process that created the island of Cyprus.
*Note: ophiolite is an igneous (solidified from lava or magma) rock consisting largely of serpentine (dark green mineral) formed from the submarine eruption.
The girls and hungry and we stop off at a well sign posted waterfall café that serves lunch and cakes all day long. It’s a large café area with a car park and its own waterfall. The café is actually charging people to walk down to see the waterfall here and it’s not cheap to see and experience your little bit of nature – 5 Euros adults and 3 Euros children. We enjoy the homemade baklava and apple cake with a cool drink at the cafe, but snub our noses at the payment to see a part of Cyprus that really shouldn’t be privately charged for.
We drive on and upwards, climbing higher and higher into the Troodos Mountain range until we reach a stop that has signs for a 1km nature trail to see the Kaledonia Waterfalls in the village of Platres. In actual fact it’s a 2.3km walk there to see the 13m high Kalidonia waterfall. The girls are reluctant but agree to walk the trail but it’s a lot cooler and it’s actually lightly raining up here.
Of course wearing flip flops are not conducive to the trail walk environment. Hmmm….we did purchase rather expensive and very trail oriented walking shoes before we departed Australia for our backpacking adventure JUST LIKE THIS ONE but the girls refuse to wear them at all. Go figure. The life of fashion conscious teens! Anyway it means I have many more pairs of shoes to choose from as we were pretty much the same size of foot at departure.
Unfortunately, the girls choose to stop and rest before reaching the top while Steve and I continue walking to the waterfall.Being within this green and cool environment is beautifully refreshing. The vegetation is rich, dense and natural with planes, elders and ivy along the riverbed. There is also the strawberry tree, barberry, bracken, Golden Oak and plenty of intense spider webs. I would really not appreciate navigating my way around here in the dark! Black pines cover the higher altitudes, the Calabrian pines occupy the lower altitudes. There are a few other walkers taking the walk, and if I think flip flops are hopeless in this kind of upward-rocks-exposed trail, that’s nothing compared to one woman who made it to the top in wedge heels! What the heck? Makes the girls in flip flops smart.
Steve and I stop at the top and enjoy the small but flowing waterfall from an exposed Gabbro rock with a bunch of other tourists and a couple of stray cats who hang around the overflowing rubbish bin hoping for more scraps and a scratch on the head.
We meet the girls where they stopped off and they’re playing with sticks like they’re swords with each other and make the journey back down.
We reach the base of the Kaledonia waterfall area and take a look at the over-priced and over-packed restaurant, and hope to use the toilet but it’s not possible unless purchasing from the restaurant. Dacey is busting but agrees she can hold on until we reach the next town near the top of the highest point – Mount Olympos at 1,952m. The journey there we realise the changing look of the landscape – slopes of pine-clad trees. The Calabrian Pine is the dominant tree species here, and at the very top it snows in the winter time with four functional ski slopes. Due to it being a lot cooler here – and it is – it’s become quite popular with the local Cypriots who escape the summer heat for the mountains. There’s lots of picnics, camping, nature trails as well as unique flora and fauna within the 9,147 hectares around Mount Olympos.
We walk around the highest altitude township of Prodromos situated at 1,390m. It’s busy up here with many cars and people enjoying wandering the extensive pathways or enjoying the large children’s playground. We are looking for food and finally agree on sitting at a café overlooking the pine trees. It’s tranquil and great food.
The Troodos Mountains are home to many monasteries and churches. Villages are located throughout the mountains and are an amazing experience of driving through them if you get the chance by taking the off the beaten path as we did (thanks Google maps!). The mountains are also a source of natural spring water and fruit trees including cherries, apples, pears and plums.
We make our homeward journey down the other side of the mountain range. So we have ventured up the Troodos Mountains from the south and are exiting them from the north. It’s certainly the longer way home, but we hope to see more of the mountains and enjoy this part of Cyprus that is very unique.
And we are so glad that we did do this. The northern side of the mountain range is quite different than the southern side. Firstly it’s lush and green compared to the craggy white rocky mountains of the southern side. There are so many tall pine trees covering the slopes on this side with dense forests at every turn. I’d love to come back one day and set out on a day trek – without the kids of course!
We meander down the spiral road, passing through villages until we arrive back onto the major motorway and we realise, after careful examination of the map, that we are driving parallel to the United Nations buffer zone that separates southern Cyprus and Turkey occupied northern Cyprus. The landscape has changed and is at once instantly flat with paddocks of upturned soil of varying colours of brown. The trees have all but disappeared and it’s taking a while for the eyes to readjust to this contrasting landscape before us. It’s also intriguing and beguiling that such an international arrangement can exist. But it does still since 1974.
We will be back to take a closer look and visit the capital city Nicosia (Lefkosia) on another road tripping weekend. But for now it’s cruising all the way back to Larnaka with the sun setting on another day here in Cyprus.