By Adrian GatesArmourer

Those of you that have followed my articles on our website will remember that I served at RAF Akrotiri in the early 1960s and that I was a fanatical motor cycle enthusiast. Come to think of it nothing has changed, except that I now own four motor cycles; however, I have not forgotten the beloved BSA Super Rocket that I owned while in Cyprus and rode back to RAF Ballykelly in 1963, eventually selling it with nearly 120,000 miles on the clock. I really enjoyed my tour in Cyprus, so much so that I was loath to return as I was sure I would not find the “wonderful Cyprus” that I knew as it is now in the EU and so uses the Euro as its currency.

Anyway, on Saturday 7th February this year I returned for a five week holiday based in Paphos which, in the early 1960s, had been a very small fishing village. I can only remember going there twice during my tour as the road was not the best and there seemed little of interest for me at that stage of my life. Now it has a modern small airport and when my aircraft landed at about 3 p.m. four others landed within a few minutes of each other, so getting through customs took some time. I had pre-booked a car for the five weeks - a red Mazda 3 – and my first shock was when, within a few miles of the airport, I drove onto a good two- lane motor way that went right into Paphos. The roads in this now huge town of probably 50,000 plus, including many thousands of holiday makers - mostly British I soon discovered - were mostly dual carriage ways with cycle lanes and pedestrian walk ways; quite amazing! As usual, I had difficulty finding my apartment as I still do not use GPS; I suppose I will have to adapt to the system as I have an unused Tom Tom and my I-phone also has a pretty good system. My main problem is that I cannot see either screen while using my driving glasses and, anyway, the screen on the I-phone is useless in sunlight. The temperature was between 17 and 20℃ during the day, for most of my stay, and it rained on about fifteen days.

I was based in a luxury two-bed apartment on a very large gated complex but the only real luxuries were the three magnificent swimming pools; however as it was February I had no interest in them. Even though I only saw a few people use the pools there was a lifeguard on duty every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. On the Sunday I headed west along the coast and eventually turned north and proceeded to gain height. What a road! There were bends every one hundred yards, the surface was perfect and the views magnificent. Motorcycling utopia I would say; I returned to Paphos wishing that I had the use of a motor cycle and wondering if such roads were common on the Island as surely millions of tons of hillside must have been displaced to make it.

On the Tuesday Frank and Mandy, who live in Bedford, came for a nearly a week. Frank is another motor cycle enthusiast who had visited me in Ireland. We had attended an event in Sligo after which, on the Sunday morning, we set off for Dublin Docks, some one hundred and thirty miles away. He caught a ferry to Holyhead and then rode the two hundred and thirty odd miles to Bedford, mainly in the dark and in storm winds. That is what I call real enthusiasm, but then he is only in his fifties. During the following few days we found many such roads including the motorway from Paphos to Nicosia. I also tried to find the ‘Half Way House’ café we often used in the 1960s which was located some thirty miles from Limassol, but without any success. This was another indication that common sites in those days were no longer around; Ali’s Bar in Episcopy village could not be found either; a real disappointment that must be for those who used to visit the “dive” nightly.

We had an enjoyable day up on Mount Trudos where there were good skiing conditions; once again the roads were in very good order, and mainly new but, as is to be expected, very twisty up on the mountain; Frank was an ace on his phone’s GPS and he warned me of any really tight corners, of which there were many!

Another day we visited Nicosia using the newish motorway system; it was very good indeed and around Limassol it had three lanes. I had heard there was a motorcycle museum in Nicosia so we headed for it while Mandy went shopping. Alas it did not open until 4 p.m. so we hung around and found a deserted customs crossing set up after the 1974 Turkish invasion. The museum did not open so we found Mandy and then left as I do not like driving in the dark. We were delayed a bit so I drove rather fast but the last thirty miles were in the dark; I find motor way driving at night easier than it is on smaller roads.

The next week most of my family came out and stopped in the same complex. There were now five adults, three children and two hired cars. They enjoyed Aphrodite’s Rock - which is now served by a very good road and has a car park, café and underpass- but wondered what all the fuss was about; that is what commercialism is all about. The ruins of Curium Palace have been developed into a first class archaeological site, and are well worth a visit; even the children - age nine to eleven - tolerated it; the views are magnificent! We also visited what was, in the 1960s, my favourite spot on the Island – Kyrenia, on the north cost. This meant parking the cars in Nicosia, walking across both border posts and catching a coach to Kyrenia. The fare was about €1.30 a head for the twenty-five mile journey. A first class dual carriageway had been blasted through the mountains and, instead of being a small village, Kyrenia is now a huge city with two universities. We had a meal in the old harbour where one of the very few places which I recognised from the 1960s was a bar on the harbour-side. The cost of living in the north seemed cheaper than the south but the price of meals seemed to be about the same, and was quite comparable to those in Ireland.

We also visited Trudos where there was still snow; everyone went tobogganing and had a great time. On the same day we visited a traditional Cypriot village which was crowded with tourists. I explored the little back streets and found a plaque on a wall pointing the way to the hide out of General Grivas, the EOKA leader in the 1950s and early 1960s.

They all had a very good time and the kids even went swimming in the complex, but it sure was cold!