Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Lapta and the Mountains

In North Cyprus, near Kyrenia/Girne, (remembering that a friend asked if I could make it clear what country or region I am writing about). Notes from my journal.


Up in the mountains.
The day's plan woven out, elaborated, changed. Well, it was more an idea than a plan. To visit and explore the village or small town of Lapta, then from there to go back to the main road, follow it west to the Hotel Sympatie and find again the little path leading to the splendid walkway beside the sea. But instead, after walking along the looping roads winding uphill through Lapta, quite by chance I come across a mountain trail. 

Lapta the lovely! The place to be! A village, with few signs of tourism – just a very faded sign with a picture of Aphrodite – holiday rooms to let – its lettering so old and crumbled-away that it's possibly from a former era.

Oh! The call to prayer echoes off the mountains. Rises, circles, pulses, sounds like more than one, but it's an echo, I think.

The past may be a foreign country, but the mountains are another time, another season and a different perception. Not foreign. A sharpness of focus. So much is tuned out. Your attention wakes up. The rooster calls, the doves or pigeons on the church tower, cooing in the sunlight. The clink of a hammer. The yellow leaves of a fig tree.

The mountain tops are becoming wreathed in mist.

The quiet of the houses. One bend after another, up and up. I'm so glad I took the dolmus, the mini-bus, which came along just as I reached the road into Alsançak village, to the town centre of Lapta.  A good place to begin walking.

Three women drinking coffee inside a building with a window screen door. One opens it, comes towards me, smiling, says a word I don't recognize. She repeats the word and points uphill. Clearly that's where I have to go!

Up and up, then the road ends in front of a couple of houses, but there's a muddy little path. I decide to take it, past a cistern, come out onto a square and there's a sign saying there's a walking trail. 

I hadn't gone far before the trails forked, but the signpost was not very helpful.

I followed the trail that went uphill and here I am, in the mountains, a view out over all the houses, Girne in the distance, still in sunlight, but here, clouds shroud the mountains.

The pink earth, the pine trees. 

I walked for about 4 hours. Though at least one of these hours was spent walking back down and losing the right road, there were so many curving and twisting little roads, I went much too far west and had to walk back. Just about collapsed at the only café at the 'town centre' full of men playing cards. But no choice. Had one of those sticky sweet circles and a Cyprus coffee. The grey-haired man (dressed in black of course) noticed how I gulped down the water and brought me more. Then I had to ask for the toilet – at least there was one.

I take another dolmus to Kyrenia/Girne. A very nice driver who spoke a little English. When I got off in the town centre, I had to wait before crossing a narrow road, while a car tried to turn, and this, and the mud and the broken paving stones and the puddles and the gravel and the hooting of a klaxon, all so reminded me of Tirana and the feeling of knowing this place now, feeling at home here and comfortable, there was that unfolding wings feeling in the chest, unfolding and rising, oh so good. The Post Office is closed but the Tourist Office produces maps, when asked, of walking trails (but not the one I discovered today).


Dolmus back from Kyrenia to the road end, where almost all the traffic disappears, and there's a 15 minute walk in the quiet, starry darkness.

That thin moon smile, just tinged with bronze, low in the sky and on the other side Orion lies down, in a bed of pine needles, gazing at the slender fingers of the mountains, counting out the aeons, and remembering the sea and how it felt, to be lapped and washed over, and over, turning into ocean underwater dreams.

I passed a cricket on the dark walk home. I stopped to listen to it, sing a cricket lullaby.

The dolmus driver sounds his horn in the evening rush hour traffic, a tail-back at the roundabout. People call out their destinations and he pulls in, the door grinds open. He flicks a coin or two of change to the proffered fare, swings out into the traffic as the door limbers up and yawns and lets out a breath of protest, closes, and someone sounds their horn and he calls out – some Turkish informality no doubt – then stops, winds down his window, some excited talk passes between him and the other driver and after their discussion which I do not understand a word of, the only words in Turkish I know being lütfen (please) and mersi (thankyou) and I cannot say I hear them in the conversation, still, perhaps because she is a woman he lets her go in front of him – for these men despite their macho shouts and swagger, have a tenderness for women.

Like the man in the
café where there were only men sitting at the outside table playing cards, but I was so tired from a long walk in the mountains, then back down through the winding layers of village streets, branching off like an abundant tree, and so getting lost, that I would have sat down on the pavement had the pavement with its sloping patterned bricks transformed itself into a waiter offering a tiny cup of thick sweet Turkish coffee.

The man with the salt and pepper hair saw how I gulped down the water perhaps noticed how I sighed at the first sip of the coffee, burning my fingers on the white china cup with its tiny handle. He brought me more water and bared his teeth at me which was more frightening than his first stern look as I sat down.

The evening cats come as I sit out on the balcony, picking black salty olives from a plastic cup. They make their presence known by throaty yowls. But the tortoiseshell has settled herself on the table, made of woven faux canework. She seems content to be companionable. Then scratches her ear, jumps down and exits the pool of light around the balcony.

I say thank you to the grizzled man, thin, straight-backed and self-contained. He nods his head in acknowledgement.

Something about this small exchange spirits me back in time. Or – an older time rises up, a warm infusion in God's mild-mannered brew, breathed on, like some original creation. We bask in the reflected pleasure of our Creator, don't we? We long to feel the sunlight fall on us, hear the pine trees whisper – all is exactly as it should be, here, where it all began, where Aphrodite walked out of the warm sea and thought – in some language or another – oh, in Greek of course - I am!  εíμαι!

And there was no time then, that was still to come so she did not then think – I belong here, it was all-at-once – this I am! - so singular – and at the same time, something like – so this is where I am and though I see these things around me – this light and warmth these sea waves, these rocks these twisting trees, these ribbon-rippling trunks and shivering grey-green olive leaves as if fallen from the sun itself – they are not separate from me, they are also who I am, so this is where I live and breathe and have my being.

This is how and where love came to be, in this recognition – self and other – this essential one-ness, no separation.
So it began and – as we drop time's curtains, fold them away – so it always is.

Time's sequential ways are lulled asleep. Light on mountains, pine trees, and the yellow leaves of the fig tree, 

the black olives on the olive trees, the solitary cricket and the slender smile of moon, the ginger cat, who purrs and wriggles, jumps into my lap in a frenzy of delight, the lemon trees, the circle of pastry, dripping oil and honey onto my jeans, the cat circling, purring, chewing the end of my pen as I write, the grey-haired man who brings me extra water – are all one, all here and now, like our dreams, like God's dream as he blows on the surface of this sea-in-the-centre-of-the-world and that first breath is still the one that ripples over our skin.


Forest Dream Weaver said...

This is really beautiful....the writing, photos and the place. I'm surprised to see oranges/tangerines fruiting in spring.
Aphrodite still protects her island!

dritanje said...

Thanks Ruby! Yes, you see oranges on the trees at this time of year (lemons ripen later) in warm places, it was the same in Greece and Albania too. So many oranges that people don't bother to pick them and they just fall off and lie around on the ground.
I'm beginning to think that Aphrodite really does live here...
M xx

The Solitary Walker said...

Love the rusty signs to nowhere!

dritanje said...

Yes those signposts were amusing. Maybe they just haven't around to re-writing on them.

three sea horses said...

Once again you had me there along with you! Beautiful - i could hear and feel it. Xxx

dritanje said...

Glad you were there too! xx