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The Barran Lands of Turkish Cyprus

Written on: Tuesday July 28th, 2009

From everything that I had read, Turkish Cyprus, in the north of the island, was significantly less built up or touristy than the Republic of Cyprus, the Greek counterpart spread across the south of the island.  Since I would be arriving from Turkey, it was only natural that the flight from here went into the north; specifically, Lefkosa (Nicosia).  It was here that I walked out of the airport just in time to feel the suffocating heat as I watched the last of the sun dip behind a mountain.  OK, this place has potential.

My plan was to head for the far, northeast tip of the island, but I soon learned that there were no more buses going there tonight.  The best I could do was to travel to Famagusta on the eastern coast.  At least that way I would have less distance to cover tomorrow.  I found the bus and asked when it left for Famagusta.  The scheduled 9:30pm departure was not ideal, but acceptable.  When the bus arrived the driver sat down and started playing chess with another driver, prompting me to once again inquire about departure.  This time I was told it wouldn't leave until midnight since there weren't enough people yet.  Shite!  Fortunately another traveller was going to Famagusta, and he was a local guy.  He set up a cab that we shared, the cost only slightly higher than the bus fare.

I was dropped off at dee European Hotel, a questionable place just outside the city center walls.  The price was a bit steep for backpacking, but I wanted a quiet night to myself and this it offered. 

The next day I explored the town, which was literally behind ancient walls!  Heaps of Frankish church ruins dotted the city.  It was an interesting place to spend a half day.  But now my bus was ready, and after buying a kabob from the local vendor, I hopped aboard and started the journey up the Karpas Peninsula.   The three hour journey was interesting, as we stopped at a plethora of tiny villages to drop people off.  This was truly off the beaten path, and I was liking it.  Eventually we made it to Dipkarpaz, which, I learned, was the final stop for the bus.  Hmmm...having to travel another 20km, hiking was out of the question, espcially in this 42C heat.  So I ducked into a local shop and asked for help.  I explained where I wanted to go, and they called the place.  I was able to talk with the resort owner and convinced him to send a vehicle to pick me up. 

The drive to the resort was stunning!  The landscape was so barren, it seemed impossible for local farmers to grow anything.  Mountains sprung up behind dusty fields.  Wild donkey roamed freely throughout the region, and they were ceratainly not afraid of autos.  Approaching the resort, I thought it was wonderful!  The beach was huge and seemed to hold very few people.  Sadly, that very fact would be one of the biggest downfalls of my time here.

I soon learned that I was the only guest at Hasan's Turtle Beach Resort.  And there were only two employees working when I arrived, one of whom spoke some English.  Hmmm...this could be interesting.  I decided to shake it off and check out my room, which was a wooden shack with zero air flow.  Of course a fan was not provided and A/C was unheard of.  Still optomistic, I went to the beach.  There were four other people in my immediate vicinity.  Ok, so this won't be a social part of the trip.  I can simply read, run and swim at the beach.  And I did just that.  The beach was bordered by two small peninsulas, making for a perfect running pocket.  The sun baked my skin as the 1000 page novel was getting more and more interesting.

Returning from the beach, there was a European couple having a drink at the 'resort', and they invited me to join them.  We chatted about travel and work, and I so wished they were staying for the night.  Alas, they split, and I wandered over to the table at which the workers were drinking beer.  I introduced myself and ordered an Efes.  Soon our communication improved to some extent, mostly aided by the beer.  Fortunately they had food, and I ordered the grilled squid.  It was not until the next morning that I would learn the hard way that the squid I was served had gone bad.

I slept like shit.  It was hot as hell and my stomach felt like Chernobyl.  And now they want to serve me more food?  I don't trust anything here!  I ate an egg and some fruit, hoping to god this wasn't another bout with food poinsoning, although I was quite certain it was.  I went to the beach and tried to rest, but my system was ready to purge and there was nothing I could do about it.  That's one of the cool things about the sea-it could be a very effective place to deal with problems such as this.  A waded far from any people and removed my shorts.  Fifteen minutes later I was back on the beach, feeling slightly better, although I knew this was not even close to over.  I'm really not sure why, but I then decided to go for a run.  I liked running the previous day and hoped more than thought that this might help fix things internally.  The run was good, the stomach wasn't.  Back to the sea.

Evening came and I could barely stomach an egg and chips.  Then the guys wanted to take me to a neighboring bar for a drink.  Urgh!  I went along, stopping yet again at the facilities before we took off.  The place they took me to was at the very tip of the peninsula, and I was actually glad that I went.  But I was happier still that we only stayed for one beer.  Back to Hasan's we went, and back to the toilet I did.  That night I absolutely could not sleep..it was so hot.  I moved to an outdoor hammock, but Charlie the local dog had a protective bark that prevented any exterior sleeping in the near vicinity.   It was interesting, however, when Charlie had a tangle with a wild donkey that wandered into the property at 2:30am!  I thought for certain the donkey was going to (hopefully) jump right over me and the hammock!  But it turned at the last moment, and Charlie chased it for several minutes until it was off his turf.  At five in the morning I conceeded and went back into the room, only to split my timing staring at the ceiling and running into the toilet.

The next day I decided that I was leaving, no matter what.  Buses apparently were sporadic, and drivers were few.  I asked one of the guys who worked there if he would drive me all the way to Nicosia, as at this point I simply wanted to spend the night there and get up at a reasonable hour for my flight out the next day.  He did so for a grotesque fee, but I didn't care. 

Arriving into town, I had no place to stay.  The driver offered me a bed at his house, but upon getting there, I thought that, since he was only going to be home for one night, he'd rather spend it alone with his wife and family.  In a twist of fate, the driver asked a neighbor to come over to help translate.  This guy, Hilmi, was brilliant.  Educated in Cyprus and not having travelled much, I was surprised to hear his nearly fluent English!  He explained things for both me and the driver, and then offered his own time and car to help me find another place to crash.  He, too, actually offered a couch at his sister's place, but I simply wanted a air conditioned room to myself at this point.  Eventually we found a spot and went back to retrieve my bags and bring them to the, again overpriced, hotel.  He even found me an interenet joint and offered to pay for my time there, seemingly out of assumed guilt for knowing how much I paid for the room.  We agreed to meet the next day for lunch, and I cooled off in the room.

Waking to the wonderful feeling of intestinal issues getting back to normal, I felt comfortable and ready for my flight later that day.  But first I was picked up by Hilmi and brought to his sister's place for lunch: a sandwhich, fruit and some seriously tasty homemade lemonade.  His sister had some friends over, and I seemed to be the cause of their giggles.  After the obligatory photos were taken, I thanked everybody and Hilmi brought me to the airport.  Getting there, I thanked him too.  He was a really good friend to me at a time when I really needed a hand.  For that I wish him the best and will always be grateful to have met him in Cyprus.