Now I’ve given myself a good talking to and come to terms with the prospect of meeting a snake, I can really enjoy hiking in Cyprus. It’s not all baked dry and barren as you may imagine, but dotted with mountains, pine forests, waterfalls, olive groves and the inevitable fruit trees. On the move I can pick bananas, pomegranates, oranges and figs although admittedly my entitlement to do so may sometimes be questionable.
Agios Dimitrianos is a typical Cypriot village with black-clad old ladies and donkeys dozing in doorways, splodges of sticky fruit squashed on the narrow roads and menfolk putting the world to rights over strong Greek coffee and even stronger throat-stripping alcohol. I accepted a drink once and it’s the only time I’ve felt alcohol actually burning my eyeballs. No kidding.
With my ‘snake avoidance plan’ fresh in mind (don’t sit under trees or on a rock or scream at every piece of rubber tubing) I set off into the hills.
What could possibly go wrong? The bullet when it came sent a volley of birds shrieking towards the heavens and a rush of air ‘whop, whop’ whizzing by my ears, almost as an aftershock.
All the hunters I’ve encountered (and to be honest, that’s not many) have looked startlingly similar. Impressive handlebar moustache, thick, bushy eyebrows, a baseball cap with an entirely inappropriate slogan such as ‘peace’ and the unmistakeable whiff of dog.
Two hunters, one with gun at the ready plus dog – can you spot them?
Just then a battered pick up truck bounced towards us in a cloud of dust. I could pick out three beaming faces and hands waving enthusiastically in greeting. I was almost tempted to stop and practise my halting Greek but the gun butts hanging out of the car windows do tend to dampen your resolve somewhat.
The Troodos mountains loomed large ahead although the rows of vines studding the slopes looked a little scraggy and neglected. (Do all vines look like this at some stage in their growth cycle?)
Faced with a fork in my route I was momentarily uncertain but as luck would have it there were two local women nearby. I almost didn’t spot them as they were up a tree; only the falling olives alerted me to their presence. I walked away proud as punch having explained my predicament and ascertained the correct route – all in Greek. Not many words were exchanged but it’s a start.
I needed a drink. Now…which way to the taverna…?