Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand
differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or
determined by the will – whatever we may think. They flower
spontaneously out of the demands of our natures – and the best of
them lead us not only outwards in space, but inwards as well.
Lawrence Durrell – Bitter Lemons of Cyprus
|Caves and rock formations near Cape Greco, Cyprus|
Some say that life is more like a circle or a spiral than a straight
line, and that when we are older we become more like we were
when we were very young. I was on the bike the other day and
thought about how much I enjoyed cycling as a child – I remember
the wonderful feeling when I could finally balance unaided on two
wheels. Even now I sometimes deliberately focus on that feeling of
balance, the awareness of the many and varied muscles used for
this quite miraculous balancing act. I still enjoy it so much. Such a
sense of freedom.
Today was the first day this year in this country, when I could cycle
in a sleeveless top and shorts, enjoy the breeze, the waves of warm
air and then cooler air in the shade. It was not as hot as it had been
in Cyprus, where I was lucky enough to spend a week last month,
but there, it was so hot that the first day when I went out on the
bike I'd forgotten how fiercely the sun could burn my
unaccustomed skin. So my first excursion was shorter than I had
intended because of the intense heat, and the cycle paths had
hardly any shade. On the second day I plastered myself with sun
block and wore a long sleeved shirt.
The first journey was to Cape Greco, a promontory on the south
east, then I followed the road, and cycle path, further north, to
Although there were plenty of gorgeous flowering bushes and small
trees, even the occasional palm, by the path side, the bushes were
so small and the sun so high in the sky, that there was hardly any
shade. When I reached a patch, I would stop for a while and drink
some water, so most of the photographs are of friendly and
welcome trees. The earth is dry and rocky, the plants spiny and
The following day I took the road north to Paralimni, then
branched off east on a minor road, which led to the church of the
Prophet Elijah, perched on the top of a hill. I parked my bike in the
shade of a tree in the car park, and climbed the steps.
All the trees are wrapped in colourful wish ribbons.
park. There was a lovely atmosphere to this place, no tourists, no
inflated prices, only one other customer when I was there, a local
person who stopped for a sandwich. Run by a friendly middle aged
couple, this café was shaded by trees, serene and unpretentious,
tucked into the rock at the foot of this vivid little church.
On the way back I noticed another little church by the roadside.
Dedicated to Saint Pantelimonas. There were no cars parked beside
it, and no one inside either, though the door was open. Among the
paintings of the saints, I was struck by one – or two rather – in
particular, who wore turban-like headgear. Surely this is what
people wear in hot countries, at least in this part of the world but I
didn't remember seeing saints, disciples, or even Jesus himself,
depicted as wearing a turban. Would he have worn one? I'm no
scholar of dress in Biblical times, but I find it strangely exciting to
see these people with haloes round their turbans.
Cyprus emerged from the sea, from volcanic lava, dried with time
into bubbled rock and at the sea-edge, these hollows are filled with
warm sea water, washed by tides, over and over. There are caves
hollowed out from the shore. The soil is dry, the land is bony, the
shrubs flower magnificently, and there are few trees. You notice
this, cycling in the hot sun, needing shade. You notice it in the
blessed shade of eucalyptus and pine, planted round the church of
Saint Pantelimonas (the all-compassionate). A truck in the nearby
field, trailed by a cloud of pinkish dust.
This landscape seems to have leapt inside me, settled there.
Someone asks me why and I don't know. Its stoniness, its aridity,
has gripped me. The few trees are all the more magnificent when
you reach their shade. And, any direction you go in, you would be
bound to reach the sea, its clarity, its changing colours, pale blue,
turquoise, deep blue and that purple that Homer must have been
referring to, when he called it 'wine-dark'. Sometimes smooth as a
reflecting mirror, sometimes stormy.
reflecting mirror, sometimes stormy.