Thursday, 26 September 2013

Getting to Cyprus... with your dog

For more specific information on cost, procedure and requirements for flying with your dog, see my earlier post:

The day before my journey back to Cyprus....

Until now, I have tried to write about the positive aspects of traveling with a dog to and around Cyprus. I decided not to write about the places that don't allow dogs, and instead just to focus on the places that do. I would like to encourage people to holiday with their pets, and to give advice on how to do this in the easiest, least stressful, most economical ways.

However, I also want to be honest about my experiences, and today I want to complain a little.

I booked flights for this summer with CyprusAirways, traveling from Cyprus to Crete with return. The journey out was relatively stress free. Staff in the airport were civil, the price was lower than for previous flights, there were no delays... fine.

Now the airline has changed my flight home. We have to fly from Crete to Thessaloniki (totally the wrong direction), wait for 40 minutes without leaving the plane, then on to Larnaca from there. It's a total of 4 hours for poor Sage, sitting in her cage in the belly of the plane.

I know animals do journeys like this, and longer, all the time. I'm just very anxious that there will be delays, or a sudden change of planes. That I won't be able to go to check on her if we are held up in Thessaloniki.

When they changed our flights, I checked every other option. There is nothing we can do. There are no ferries, at all, from Europe to Cyprus. The cheaper airlines, which do have direct flights (such as Ryanair from Chania to Paphos) don't carry animals at all. Every other flight would go via Athens or somewhere else, with long waits in the airport or multiple changes.

I really hope this is a temporary blip from CyprusAirways. We'll see how this journey goes...
Arriving at Larnaca airport after a 4 hour flight from Crete via Thessaloniki
The day after my journey back to Cyprus...

On the whole, everything went smoothly enough. The main problem I faced was my own fault. I arrived at Heraklion airport and was lucky enough to have a very kind and patient friend with me to help. If you are traveling without someone to help, I'd recommend having everything ready, and paying for a minivan to the airport, with the carrier cage already constructed, and the dog inside!

I tried to check my suitcase first, so that I would have less luggage to think about, to focus on my huge carrier cage and dog. Unfortunately, I had left the screws that attach the top of the cage to the bottom... inside my checked suitcase. I left Sage tied to a post in the shade, with the 2 halves of the cage, and my friend, and went running back inside. It was a bit of a pain to get my suitcase back, everyone tutting and looking annoyed, and finally I had to run round to Arrivals, grab the suitcase, back to Departures, and start over again. It was also a hot day, which made running with suitcases even more unpleasant. Luckily it is a small airport.

One extra complication was that you are not permitted to park outside the airport except to unload luggage, so my friend had to fend off officious security guards, at least 3 times, who were trying to get her to move her car.
We had got to the airport in plenty of time, but by the time I had fixed the cage, coaxed poor Sage inside with a biscuit or two, re-checked my suitcase, checked Sage in where they check 'special luggage', panicked that I'd left the wheels on her cage and caused a scene so that the security guard had to lift the whole thing so that I could remove the wheels...... I ran back to security just in time as my plane was boarding.

The staff of Cyprus Airways were wonderful. At the airport they were very helpful and efficient. On board, I asked an air steward where the compartment for animals was, in relation to where I was sitting, and she went to find out for me. Then the pilot (or co-pilot?) came over to tell me that Sage would be more or less under my seat, at the back of the plane. They were extremely nice and reassuring. After re-boarding the plane in Thessaloniki (luggage and Sage stayed on the plane in the meantime), the same guy (pilot/co-pilot) recognised me, and told me he'd checked on Sage and she was fine!! I was very touched that he'd made the effort to do this.

When she finally came out at the collection point for 'special luggage' at Larnaca Airport, I could see I wasn't going to get any help loading her, in her cage, onto a trolley already packed with suitcase and hand luggage. Staff there were not particularly willing. But after a long and stressful day of traveling I was at the end of my tether and demanded that the guy standing around 'working' help me lift the cage, with a kind of 'I'm not taking no for an answer' tone of voice. He helped.

And so we arrived, safe and sound. We were met at the gate, and found a quiet spot outside to dismantle the cage so as to fit in the car, and to let Sage have a breather and a long drink of water.

I still hope that they resume flights (for animals) between Crete and Cyprus, but all in all, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Hike (or drive) to Milomeris Waterfalls, Troodos... with your dog

At Milomeris Waterfalls, Troodos
Another nice walk that we have done with Sage in the Troodos Mountains is the linear route that leads to the Milomeris Waterfalls. Driving a short distance from the village of Pano Platres, in the direction of Troodos, there is a small sign post directing you into the bushes at the side of the road... You can leave your car directly opposite in a small parking area, free of charge.

The Cyprus Tourism Website (CTO) rates this walk as a difficulty level 3 (out of 3). I don't think I agree at all. The first part of the trail is a bit steep, and I remember it was a bit slippery. But, with decent shoes, and some care, I think this is quite a manageable walk. It's also fairly short (CTO says 1.2 km). 
It's a well-maintained woodland path, with steps to help you over the more difficult areas, sign posts, bridges etc. 

We did this walk in late May, and we only saw another two or three groups of people in the woodland area leading to the waterfalls. One of these groups did complain about Sage being off her lead, but, of course, this can happen anywhere. It did make me a bit wary and uncomfortable though. It's pretty hard to keep an excited, 30 kg dog on a lead when walking down steep hills and crossing rivers....

This is one of Sage's favourite things though. To be in a woody, shady place, climbing over rocks and tree stumps, running through the river, chasing after whatever insects or lizards she finds, or failing that sticks that we throw, running ahead and charging back nearly knocking us down.... this is the best kind of hiking in Sage's opinion.

At the end of the trail, which only takes about 30 minutes, you reach a road and parking area and a lot more people. This is the other way to visit the Milomeris Waterfalls - by road that starts from the Platres-Lemesos road, about 1km from Psilo Dendro.

We were lucky. When we arrived at the falls, there weren't too many people there, and we managed to pass through a find a space near the water where we were not bothering anybody. We had to keep Sage on her leash though.

I tried out the water, it was pretty cold.

After a few minutes watching the falls, and daring myself to go closer to the water, a huge tour group arrived. We timed it badly, and were trying to leave as more than 5o people filed by, looking annoyed and/or scared at having to walk by Sage. There is not much space there by the falls, and the last section of the path is a bit difficult and you have to scramble a bit.

We finally escaped, after the entire group had gone by, and saw another couple with a large dog, heading for the waterfalls. I don't know if they managed to squeeze in, or decided to wait for a quieter moment.

I imagine that the Milomeris Waterfalls might be a bit too busy during high summer to visit with your dog. The walk to and from the falls is fine, as most people approach by road, but if you are not going to get to the water, I think there are nicer hikes in this area (such as the Artemis Trail or the Caledonian Trail). Milomeris is probably best seen in the Spring, when there is a high volume of water, and not too many people...

On our way back from the Falls we stopped off for lunch at the nearby Neromilos Restaurant at Pera Pedi:

See CTO information on this hike:!ut/p/c5/pc9ND4IwDAbgX2TWdoNsx40wviKgKKIXw8EYEkEPxt_viBfFqAfb45M37ct2zO3Q3rpje-3OQ3tiDdv5-9BqXSWCIPIXAZAqV7XMMywEOt8-O9rRM-URIYJzl1aF0YGNCYp6riGpjA3zqMLCo2kaOACFFMQiXkJW0V-3-Y_0Zuzq7-HDaHj4t26v_v79i0tMpfPMS1MShHLqQAsFhEBpnXOSxp_63JDLl0aJcAUK-Y__OMvjc39gl369bqBLumSm74EMJhc!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfRUZBQVNJNDIwMDJROTAyMTAySlZOMzJJSDM!/?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/English__en/CTO+B2C/Tourist+Information/Routes/Nature+Routes/Katarraktis_Myllomeris_Watterfalls_Trail_Linear

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Hike through College Forest Nature Trails, Troodos... with your dog

Sage on one of the College Forest Nature Trails
While driving back from Kalopanayiotis towards Prodromos, some visitors of ours wanted to see a bit more of Cyprus' wildlife, and stretch their legs after a long day in the car, so we stopped at the first Nature Trail signpost we saw.

This part of the Troodos mountains is under the administration of the Cyprus Forestry College, which is based in Prodromos village, Limassol. It provides training in various aspects of forestry to students of the College, and includes various nature trails for all visitors, with information plaques to identify the different species of plants.$file/Nature%20Trails%20within%20theCollege%20Forest.pdf

I'm sure we started the linear walk suggested on the Department of Forestry website, that starts by the Childrens' Playground by Prodromos Square, and ends on the Pedhoulas-Kakopetria road.

We didn't do much of this walk, honestly, and I'm not sure exactly where it would have ended up. It was lovely and shady, with gigantic trees (black pines) creating a really dense woodland.

We spent most of our time trying to identify various plants, such as the rock rose (labdanum), that grows in Crete and Cyprus and is used as an essential oil for perfumes: 

And Sage managed to fit at least 3 pine cones in her mouth at once (a record!), so I consider it was a success.

This was the same day that we visited the UNESCO protected monastery of Agios Ioannis Lampadistis, and had lunch at the Old Cinema Taverna, in the lovely village of Kalopanayiotis. The College Forest nature trails are close by, and turned out to be a great place for Sage (and all of us) to let off steam after a day of car travel, monuments and tavernas:

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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Eat at Neromilos Restaurant, Pera Pedi... with your dog

At Neromilos Restaurant, Pera Pedi
 After a long morning hiking in the Troodos mountains, we were driving hungrily back to our base in Vouni, when we came to the village of Pera Pedi. We left the car in the village car park, and saw a choice of two tavernas - one a fairly traditional looking Cypriot taverna, and the other a Czech Restaurant called Neromilos.

At first we thought the Czech place was closed as we couldn't find the entrance. It turned out they had built up a barricade of chairs so that their own dogs could enjoy a bit of a run around while the restaurant was empty.

The owner was very friendly to Sage. She spent a long time petting her and playing with her. She was clearly a dog lover. I think she said she had at least 2 dogs of her own, although we didn't see them.

It seemed that the customers knew the owner and the place well, and it was generally a popular place. I liked that several groups were spending the afternoon drinking tea from elaborate matching tea sets - not something I am used to seeing in Cyprus!

The food was good, although I wish I had been more adventurous now. We ordered lamb ribs and souvlaki, both of which were tasty, but the portions were quite small for the prices (from 10 Euros for a main dish). They were served with mashed potato, which was also a new experience for me in Cyprus. I liked the strange mix of cultures, but I think I would have preferred to try a traditional Czech dish. The menu said they cook goulash on particular days (Fridays, I think), and there were some dishes you could order in advance.

The decor of the place was as mixed and surprising as the food. It was lovely to sit in the shade of the trees, listening to running water, at lovely dark wood tables.  I wasn't so keen on the stuffed animal heads and skulls decorating the bar in the back room - on the way to the toilets.

This was an easy, welcoming, cool and shady place to bring our dog after a long morning around the Troodos mountains.

I found this description on Cyprus Village Link (

Neromilos Taverna: Pera Pedi, watermill and nightingales (in season). Eastern European menu a speciality. Open every day exc.Monday. Chrysis & Gabriella, tel: 25470536

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