Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Hike the Caledonia Trail ...with your dog

On the route up to the Caledonia Falls path
I have walked a part of this trail before, from the parking area by Psilo Dendro (just outside of the village of Platres) as far as the waterfalls themselves. This is a lovely, short walk, which I did with my two young nephews. It was a perfect length for that, taking into account time spent climbing rocks and throwing sticks and getting stuck on one side of the river or the other... I wrote about it here

This time, without young nephews, I decided to hike the whole trail, which I'd seen described in various guidebooks. We did this hike sometime in February. There were a few people around, a couple of other groups with dogs, but it definitely wasn't too busy to have Sage there with us. 
First you walk a few metres from the car park to the start of the trail, going by a paddock of horses, before continuing along the trail which runs through the woods. This first stage of the trail is only about 1.5km, but is a bit difficult - the path is a bit uneven and you have to scramble a bit. It is lovely though, following the river through the woods, seeing strawberry trees and pines.
Strawberry tree (Arbutus andrachne)
After a short while, the path opens up and you see the Falls. I've yet to see them in the summer months, but they are pretty spectacular during winter.
Caledonia Falls
The trail continues up around and above the Falls, to the left hand side as you approach them. From here the route is a incessantly uphill, and I found it a bit hard going. You are walking up the river gorge, and it takes some effort. Still, the surroundings are lovely. We hardly met anyone coming along this section of the trail and it was lovely and peaceful.
At some point after another half or so, you reach an enormous set of steps, that take you up out of the gorge and onto the mountainside. The views from the top here were lovely. 
I think quite a few people start the Falls walk from the top here, and (sensibly) walk down the the gorge (although they presumably have to walk back up afterwards...?)

From the point where we left the gorge, it wasn't very clear where we should be heading. I'd been reading about circular paths that lead you through mountain trails and back down to Psilo Dendro... and there was even a map at the entrance to the gorge, although it didn't mark the route we were looking for.

So we boldly set off along the unmade road that seemed to curve back along the top of the gorge. This road is to your right as you are leaving the gorge. Then we more or less followed our noses, as there were no markers or signs for the next few kms.

There were a few forks in the path, but we kept trying to follow the gorge as much as possible. After a while the village of Platres came into view far below us in the distance, and we headed for there. This part of the route was easier than the gorge walk; the paths are well maintained and you are mostly heading downhill.

The village of Platres
The path did eventually take us back to our starting point - I think it was about 8-10kms, but the terrain and the gradients made it feel like more. I definitely recommend this route to anyone who likes exploring the mountains, and prefers the quieter 'off the beaten track' paths of the Troodos. Sage would recommend it to any dog who enjoys splashing around in rivers, jumping over big rocks, and eating pine cones...

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Kamares to the Aliki... with your dog

18th Century Ottoman Aqueduct (the so-called Kamares or Arches)
After almost a year of driving by the impressive Kamares Aqueduct, and talking about exploring the paths that begin from here, we finally stopped there on a cold Sunday, a few weeks back. The Aqueduct was built during the 18th Century, under one of the Ottoman governors of Cyprus - Abou Bekir Pasha - to bring water from the area of the Tremithos-Kiti dam, to Larnaca (or Kition as it was then called). 

Path from Kamares towards the Aliki lake
This water system ran for 15km, 8 of which was along underground channels, 7km along substructions and arcades (such as the Kamares). 3 series of arches remain from this aqueduct; those pictured here are just south of the Kamares neighbourhood of Larnaca. I found this information on the Kamares very useful.. 

From this point you can either follow the path at the north end of the arches, which leads to the Hala Sultan Teke mosque and on to Larnaca Airport, or take the path at the southern end, which ends at a small parking area near the Patticheio park.

On this particular Sunday we chose the path that leads to Patticheio. It is a 4km route (so 8km if you don't have somebody to collect you at the other end).

There were a few people out and about, some with children, so we had to keep grabbing hold of Sage and holding her out of the way. But there is plenty of space along the way for throwing sticks, watching your dog disappear off into muddy rivers and over-your-head high grasses.

Like almost all dogs, Sage always enjoys going somewhere new, discovering all the unfamiliar smells of an area. She seemed to really enjoy this walk, running off either side of the path to see what was around. As this is quite a common spot for dog walkers, I suppose there are lots of smells to interest a dog...

The length of the walk was just about right for Sage too, although during the summer months we all would have suffered a bit as there is very little shade until you reach the area near Patticheio.

Do carry your own water if you're walking here in summer.

The path has distance markers, which is useful for runners too.

After 2-3km passing through marshlands around the edge of the lake, you reach the lake proper (on your right), and you can spot the Hala Sultan Teke in the distance on the other side.  This part of the path gets more shaded, with woodland areas. There is even a hide for bird watching (the famous flamingos if you're lucky enough to be there in winter/spring).

After 4 kms, you reach a part of the lake that has information boards about the historical salt industry that used to flourish in the area. There is a parking area, sometimes a van to buy drinks, bins for dog mess etc. We met a few other dog walkers around this point, and it seems quite a popular evening spot for dog walks. 

View of Hala Sultan from the other side of the Aliki

Dog bins and bags at the parking area at the end of the path

Family portrait

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Picnic, walk or cycle in Oroklini Hills... with your dog

Section of the E4 path that runs through Oroklini Hills
This is a small secret of the Larnaca district, which I learned about while interviewing for Dog of the Month. Pass through the village of Oroklini until you reach a turn off which winds it's way uphill, and signs for the Profitis Ilias church. At the top of this road you will find parking spaces, a picnic area, special dog poo bins (with bags provided!), and great views out over Oroklini down to the coast.

Picnic area at Oroklini Hills
From this point you can follow several pathways and explore on foot or bike. One path leads round to the church of Profit Ilias (Elijah). A small water tap at the side of this church has been quite useful in the past - although I'm not sure that is really encouraged..

In the other direction you pass small woodland areas with pine trees. After the woods the path continues around through fields and you can circle round to the look out point at the highest of the hills.

Along these paths we've seen professional cyclists training for competition, as well as others just enjoying some off-road terrain on their bikes. I haven't seen people cycling with their dogs here yet...

The views from these hills are not the spectacular mountain views of the Troodos, nor the wild natural beauty of Cape Gkreko, but they are quite lovely in their own gentle way. We were last here in late summer/early autumn, when Cyprus is at its barest and most arid. The fields were parched white earth and from above on the hills they appear almost desert-like. In some areas, dried thistles and shrubs were the only plant life remaining.

I do prefer Cyprus in the Spring, after the winter has refreshed the fields and suddenly everywhere you look are grasses and wild flowers. But there is beauty in the dry, empty landscapes too, I think.

We met a few other dog walkers at the hills, and felt comfortable to let Sage run around off her leash, except in the picnic area as she tends to get a bit too interested in other peoples' sandwiches.

Warning - keep in mind that people use some of these fields for hunting during hunting season (autumn/winter). Keep your dog close by or on the leash if you hear or see hunters in the area. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Spend a day around Kalavasos Dam...with your dog

Kalavasos dam
This is one of my favourite walks so far in Cyprus. The main reason I liked this area so much is because there are no organised, sign-posted routes, just fields and hills and small pathways stretching as far as the foothills of the Troodos mountains in the distance. It has a very wild, unexplored feeling - which is quite hard to find in Cyprus.

We came here sometime in November and the weather was glorious. It was warm enough to hike just wearing a t-shirt, but no so hot that you have to carry gallons of water with you. There was very little shade, so this is not a walk to do in high summer.

We left the car just next to the dam, and headed off on what seemed, at first sight, to be a path (round to the left of the reservoir if you're facing the water from the dam).

The path soon ended, and we found ourselves sliding down loose scree towards the water - where the elusive path seemed to continue on its way.

In fact, the path did continue, but only as far as the next small outcrop, then again we had to go cross country to continue round. On each of these 'outcrops', which formed little man-made beaches all the way around the reservoir, people had set up fishing lines and were enjoying a Sunday by the dam fishing, having picnics, just sitting and  chatting with friends. I noticed that quite a few of them had driven to the spot where they were fishing, but I didn't see any access and don't know how they got there!

We walked for quite a while, scrambling up and down the banks, trying to circumnavigate the reservoir. We got about halfway. After edging our way round a particularly narrow path, over loose stones and scree, through brambles and spiky plants, we saw that the 'path' we were heading for was not a path. I'm sure we could have found a way to continue round, but we took another direction and headed off towards the hills trying to circle our way back towards the dam.

After a short while walking, we found ourselves on a small but asphalted road, near an army base. Following this road led us eventually back down to the dam (and our car).

So, I can't really recommend a particular route, but I do recommend this area for a hike for anyone keen on hiking and exploring. You should be prepared for a bit of scrambling (good shoes or hiking boots are a must) and carry water with you.

Alternatively, bring a cooler with beers (and a fishing line if you've got a license) and enjoy some time away from the noise and bustle of the towns and beaches.

This is a lovely place to walk with your dog, as there are few people around and plenty of space for everybody. There are no roads, so you don't have to worry about traffic. There are no organised picnic areas or parks with sign-posts forbidding dogs. Just a big wild space for running around.

A warning -  As we were scuttling around on non-existant paths and pushing our way through overgrown terrain, I did have a minor panic about snakes. There is only one snake in Cyprus that is a threat to humans, but several that could cause a nasty bite to a curious dog. It's a good idea to be aware of the possible dangers at all times of the year, but during their mating season (April-June in Cyprus) you should be particularly vigilant. I usually try to make noise and cause a disturbance when passing through undergrowth (or hit a stick on the ground when walking). I also keep Sage on her leash if we are walking through any area where I can't see all the terrain, or if I feel like she might stick her nose into a bush or snake-like home.

I wrote about the potential dangers to your dog in Cyprus, including snakes, in a previous post: http://bit.ly/1jtmd2z

I have also written a bit about this general area in a previous post, focusing more on the history and archaeological survey that was carried out in this area when the dam was constructed: http://bit.ly/MnSKLg

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