Caught up in the business of living here in Cyprus I forget, often, just how wonderful a place it can be.
Yesterday we spent the day at Lara. It was Li'l Bro and the Cousins' Last Day (Bridie left to go back to work last week), and they had planned to visit Lara Bay in the afternoon, inviting Alex and Sophia to go with them.
I rarely get to Lara, the turtle nesting beach half way up the Akamas Peninsula. Getting there takes an hour, and the beach is sandy – a fine, dark sand that gets everywhere and sticks to everything – and I usually have too many other things to get through. But when Leo asked mid-morning with a winning expression “Couldn't you take us, too?”, I folded up the day's To Do list that I had just finished, and started making a picnic.
Into the coolers and dry bag went tuna salad, tzatziki, hummous, cherry tomatoes from Yiayia, fresh figs, passion fruits, pitta breads and the loaf that I had just baked, as well as the sponge cake that Zenon made yesterday. I found the old table cloths to sit on and rooted out the picnic plates, knives, and forks. Then made two litres of ice tea, got juice out of the fridge, and called the Big Ones to load the Land Rover. We were at the beach by one.
I looked at the number of cars parked around the access point, and my heart sank. 'We must be mad. It will be a zoo down there,' I thought. 'Imagine planning a trip to Lara Beach on the sixteenth of August, the high point of Cypriot summer holidays..'
Oh, Asproulla of Little Faith!
I had forgotten how huge the beach is: an arc of at least seven hundred metres, it is also at least fifteen metres wide. The expanse of sand swallowed the hundreds of people with ease, and we found a spot at the bottom of the slope, far from our nearest neighbours and close -- but not too close -- to a marked turtle nest. All along the sand people were playing raquetball, building sand castles, enjoying the day. A fresh breeze came off the water. The Big Ones and Philipp set up the umbrellas, then dashed to the water.
“The sea's not like Petra here,” Li'l Bro reminded me. “Which has been uncomfortably fresh these last few days. Here you sweat when you swim!”
He wasn't kidding. The water was like a bath. Shallow and sandy, perfect for wallowing. There were ripples, not waves, and I floated like a starfish and felt all sorts of tensions that I didn't know I had just drift away.
After a while, everyone settled down to eat the sandwiches that Mili had made and the picnic that I had brought, then the Big Ones and Philipp went off to jump off the seven metre rocks at the headland, Li'l Bro took off for two hours of snorkelling, and I stayed under the umbrellas watching the Littles and Timi paly out an endless sand fight.
Bliss! I read, wallowed, day-dreamed... Where did the day go? The Big Ones returned for chicken fights – no pictures of that as I participated – and before we knew it the shadows were lengthening and the time had come to pack up the gear, slog uphill through the heavy sand, and drive back to the Last Supper as Li'l Bro had dubbed the evening planned by Mili and Phil to mark their youngest son and his children's final evening.
I looked at myself in the mirror somewhat ruefully that evening: although I had never actually sunbathed, the glare from sand and water had burned me a delicate pinkish tomato colour. 'Oh well,' I thought, spraying myself thoroughly with Aloe Vera. 'I guess I'll get a tan after all this summer!'