Cyprus: An Island of Unforgettable Accomplishments!

Γεια σας!

The awesome guys from the my Silver Team. From far left: Danny, Me, Misbah, Stewart, Aasir, Matteo and Holly. Photo credits go to Mr. Upton.
The awesome guys from the my Silver Team. From far left: Danny, Me, Misbah, Stewart, Aasir, Matteo and Holly. Photo credits go to Mr. Upton.

Yesterday and the two days before yesterday I posted about my little escapade to Antalya, Turkey. I must be the luckiest globe-trotting expatriate in the world that month. Within less than a week after returning from that holiday, I travelled to Cyprus for a week-long expedition trip organised by my school! Luckily for me, I had already written about some my experiences for my school’s newsletter, so why re-invent the wheel right? Here is what we all did back then:

From the NCBIS Newsletter for 5th of April:

Photograph not owned by me. Credits go to Aasir Osman.

The International Award Expedition to Cyprus was my first ever school trip abroad, and one I will never forget.We travelled to a region in the north-east of the island known as the Akamas peninsula, an area of pristine natural beauty and shining coastlines. Our hotel was located near a village and was right in front of the beach. For the first few days, we were all preparing for the actual expedition, where we had to hike for days and camp out in the wilderness. The students were divided into two: those who were qualifying for the Gold Award and those for the Silver Award. I was in a team of 7 which went for the Silver Award. To qualify, we had to trek for 3 days and camp out for 2 nights. For Gold Award members to qualify, they had to add one extra day of trekking and night of camping.

My Silver Team planning the routes for the expedition. Photo credits go to Mr. Mahy.

The whole journey was gruelling, to say the least. It was not at all easy carrying 15 kilograms of tent, sleeping bags, clothes and food in our backpacks and work for a daily minimum of sixteen kilometres. Fortunately we have undertaken practice and training before the trip itself at school so it did not come as a shock for us as much. We stopped quite frequently to reenergise and enjoy the breathtaking landscapes. There was a great feeling on companionship throughout the trip as we had to walk together as a team and to watch out for each other if anything happens. We also got to know each other better and became closer friends, since we chatted a lot to pass the time outdoors.

I should also mention that a lot of drama happened to almost everyone in the trip which made it almost like a reality TV show. Many of us got hopelessly lost, some of us were injured and many were overwhelmed by the sheer difficulty of the whole expedition. There were also really strange things being said and done there which was hilarious, but it would take way too long to list all of them.

All of us together! All four teams, two Silvers and two Golds combined, plus the teachers who helped to organise the trip for us. Photo credits to the teachers.

All-in-all, I would say that despite the mixed emotions we feel as a group, we all came out stronger than we were before the trip. We learnt more about our own strengths, weaknesses and strove to achieve the impossible. The whole experience taught us many lessons which will be valuable in school as well as later in life.  Personally, the trip one of the best experiences of my life and I do not regret even a second of it.

Flight and Arrival to Cyprus

The view from my room balcony. Yes, I took this photo. Notice the watermark I put at the bottom. That shows it’s originally mine.

The whole trip lasted from Friday 27th of February until Friday 6th of March. The itenerary for the trip can be found here on this website. The first Friday was our flight day. We left Cairo early afternoon from the school for the airport and took off at five o’clock. The flight from Cairo to Larnaca, Cyprus’s main aiport, was very short. It was as if I was flying to Luxor or Aswan. The flight on EgyptAir lasted a little more than an hour only and we arrived just as the sun was about to set.

The bus ride from Larnaca to Akamas was a really long one – three hours of sitting in a bus did not sit well with the restless teenagers, who eventually started to throw rubbish at each other. We arrived at our hotel in Latchi village late at night and checked in. The hotel was located at a very scenic spot. It was right in front of the Mediterranean sea and the best thing is, my friend Danny and myself both got a room with a beachfront balcony on the second floor. That’s the best room in the hotel! After putting all of our things in the room and getting changed, we all came down for dinner. The hotel staff were really friendly and generous to us. The portions for the three-course meal we ordered were massive! This was the way our dinners were like every night we stayed in Cyprus, with the exception of when we were camping, of course! I did not forget to give a positive review of this hotel on TripAdvisor. The name of it is Souli Beach Hotel.

Lost on the First Day of Hiking!

The views of the sea from the first day of hiking. Photo credit goes to Aasir Osman.

The first two days was used to prepare for our proper expedition on Monday. On Sunday we had a practice expedition, which as a 5 km circuit around the village. It was a breeze because the distance was so short and we had a lot of energy that day. The next day was completely different though. On our first day of our journey, we got hopelessly lost to the point that we detoured about 7 or 8 km off the inteded route! It was not easy having to navigate on our own using only maps and compasses, especially if you’re not a local of the area. Eventually we found our way back on the right path and arrived at our first checkpoint in the evening.

The first night camping was reasonably comfortable. After 21 kilometers worth of hiking, getting the chance for rest feels like heaven on earth. We set up camp at an established campsite, equipped with proper toilets and benches where we cooked our own food for the night using portable gas cookers. I woke up the next day feeling extremely refreshed, while other people complain of getting the worst sleep in their lifetimes.

We’re All About That Pace!

The teachers occasionally check on us to see if we're alright. This shows my team while resting. Photo credit goes to teachers.
The teachers occasionally check on us to see if we’re alright. This shows my team while resting. Photo credit goes to teachers.

The next two days were a breeze, because we familiarised ourselves with the surroundings better and learnt to navigate more confidently than before. The scenery changes from mountains to farmlands, to valleys and plateaux as we traverse the whole peninsula to reach the western side of the island. To pass time, I chatted for a long time with my other team members. We made jokes and talked about things like the latest Hollywood films or Internet memes. I went so far as to blurt out that Vladimir Putin followed me on Instagram! (This turned out to be false, as I was confused by some of my followers who posted a lot of Putin photos.) We arrived on our last checkpoint at a small town named Ayios Georgios (St. George) and returned to Latchi with a bus arranged by the company supervising the expedition.

Anyway on the second and third day of our expedition, a really catchy pop song suddenly entered my brain and started replaying over and over again. It was no other than Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, the hottest hit of 2014! Trainor’s voice echoed in my mind so much to the point that I went along with it and tried to create a parody of the song based on the experiences of our camping trip!

The name of the song is “All About That Pace“, and it is about what it says on the title: about how we did not rush to get to finish the hike. It’s a satirical outlook on all the difficulties we all faced, whether we were Silver or Gold teams. It celebrates all the fun things we did for the trip in one song. I couldn’t stop singing it after completing the lyrics in my head on the last expedition day! I eventually performed it for the qualifying presentation for our team and all the supervisors and teachers, as well as my friends, loved it!


Final Words

Farmland in the Cypriot countryside. Currently my desktop background. Photo credit goes to Misbah Shoaib.

Would I go back to Cyprus again? Yes! I couldn’t say the same for the rest of the team, or the other teams. For most of them, the trip did not go as well as they have wanted. A number of people failed to qualify for their expedition or had to pull out due to medical reasons. It’s a pity, really, because next year we won’t get the same opportunity due to preparing for our final IB exams. The trip was really a test of strength and perseverance.

Would I visit Cyprus just to hike again? Maybe, but I would prefer going there for pleasure, like to enjoy more historical attractions or to relax on the beach. We spent very little time at the beach compared to the mountains – the weather was too cold for us to swim! I’d also want to learn more about Cyprus’s divided nature and visit the Turkish republic in the north of tthe country. We did not go sightseeing in any of the big towns during our trip, which was a real shame, but it wasn’t the purpose of the whole trip anyway. Personally, I would visit Cyprus to visit Nicosia (Lefkosia in Greek, Lefkoşa in Turkish), one of the few remaining divided capital cities in the world. Since I am known to be a history and international politics geek, this would help me learn to know more about this region.

"I am very satisfied with the whole experience," said the guy taking the selfie.
“I am really satisfied with the whole experience,” said the smiling teenager while taking his selfie.

I would definitely recommend anyone who wants to visit Cyprus for holidays. It has warmer weather, tasty local cuisine and conveniene with having a largely English-speaking population. The infrastructure of the country is pretty much geared towards tourism, so you’d be treated very well there. The people are also friendly and welcoming, and would be even more so if you try to speak some Greek with them. Overall, I would rate this lengthy visit a 9/10 for all  the wonderful and fantastic things it has to offer!



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