Lara Beach: worth the drive
A drive off-road to Lara Beach is rewarded with a spectacular view of blue beaches and if you’re lucky turtles. You just have to deal with the bumpy road.
Don’t tell the rental car company, but the Matchbox and I went off-road today. I’m almost certain I voided my insurance when I left the tarmac, but took the “she’ll be right mate” approach. Fortunately “she” was.
With the sounds of Jack Johnson coming from my iPod, I left the asphalt behind at Avigos Georgios. I then bumped along the rocky, potholed dirt “road” for about 5kms.
The guide book told me that 2WD cars could make it when it was dry.
Well… the guidebook was right, but there was a lot of sweating happening, and not just from the heat.
This stretch of road is on the Akamas Peninsula in the south west of Cyprus and definitely worth the trip. Lara Beach is the best known beach along here and is one of the few remaining havens for green and logger head turtles to hatch.
Stopping in at Lara Beach Restaurant, which is perched on a point over the beach, it was hard to believe there weren’t more people down here. But then thinking about the road, perhaps it wasn’t hard to believe.
The guide book told me there was a sealed road up to Oinia just near the turn off to the restaurant. I’m not sure at what point in time there was a sealed road there, but my thought is “never”.
Climbing up a hill that became bumpier and rockier, the sweat increased and I wondered if I had taken the wrong turn despite the sign pointing in the direction I was headed, afterall signage in Cyprus isn’t exactly reliable. Up and up I went, and all I could think to reassure myself was, “what goes up must come down” and so on I went.
Stopping to take in the view occasionally, I eventually saw a human being, a farmer with his Alsatian. And at last a sign, in Greek, but fortunately I could read the name of the town I was heading towards.
Passing freshly harvested fields, it boggled my mind that people would farm the steep rocky land, but it’s obviously been successful. It’s not just grain fields, I saw a herd of goats being mustered, and possibly some sheep as well. Farming can be a hard life anywhere, but at least here they have a fantastic view of Lara Beach.
Wondering how much farther I had to go, finally, up ahead was the beautiful black tarmac. Never happier to be on asphalt, grateful no tyres were punctured and figured I should probably wash the car soon.
Finally I reached the village of Droussia (or Drouchia, or Droushia depending on how you transliterate the name, something that can be infuriating when it changes from one sign to the next and the map). I’m staying in Sappho Manor House, an Agrotourism accommodation; basically an old village house that has been converted into rooms with a pool thrown in.
The village is tiny, but has a hotel on the outskirts that seems to be frequented by Cypriots on their weekends away. A view down to the sea and over to the mountains, it’s far removed from Paphos, but close enough to be an easy drive (more so if you take the highway rather than the way I came).
Paphos is… well I’m not about to do its tourism any favours, but it’s ugly. It’s full of three quarter naked sunburnt British and Russian tourists on package deal holidays or cheap flight getaways. The streets are lined with pubs serving all day English breakfast, Guiness, and Sunday roast, and Cyprus’ largest shopping centre opened in 2013 filled with about 125 mostly British shops including M&S.
The best thing about it was the mosaics in the Archaeological Park. Dating from Hellenistic and Roman times, some are in very good condition and showing stories I remember from school.
Other than that, it’s not somewhere I’d bother going. If you were to pass through in a day, you’d have plenty of time to see everything on offer. I’ve never understood the concept of going to a foreign country just to experience everything you can do at home.
For now, I’m whiling away a Saturday afternoon in my stone-slab floor room, the village sounds behind me. The church is directly across the road from me; I’ll be waking to the sound of bells and the faithful flocking to the sermon of the Mercedes driving priest.