The Monkey Tracker

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cyprus - Land of The Ioannou

A.K.A Land of the Steven

Well actually it should be land of the Stavro as Beric discovered back in Kaly. "Theres this crazy mafia guy, s.... st..., I don't know his name
Is it Stavro?
What how did you know?
Thats my name.
I've known you for 24 years and never heard that..."

Yep I was named after my Papou (grandfather) Stavro who moved to Australia over 60 years ago from the small mediterranian country of Cyprus. As is the case with many immigrants he was seeking prosperity and ultimately a better life than what was available at home during the time. He eventually moved Ayr where he met my grandmother and had a cane farm, then later moved to Townsville. Its interesting to think that I wouldn't even be here if he hadn't made that enourmous journey to the other side of the world all those years ago.

Cyprus is familiar territory for me, I first visited way back when I was just five years old. I only remember a couple of things from that trip, one was a nasty encounter with a prickly pear cactus. These things are covered in tiny sharp hairs as I discovered when I grabbed one back then. I knew better this time though.

In 2005, just out of school I returned on a 6 week cultural exchange program with a group of other Cypriot descendants from all around Australia and South Africa. This was my longest ever overseas trip (until now) and really planted the seed for more exploration and travel. We learnt greek at the University of Cyprus and toured the country discovering the culture. Then we all separated to spend time with our families around the country.
Members of  ''Team QLD'' back in 2005
I went back for another week on a family holiday in 2008 and for the first time discovered that there was actually some pretty good climbing around. I'm always keen to travel to Cyprus and with the added bounus of good climbing, the monkeys had to stop here on our trip!

Even with the previous visits I had not yet met all of my family and our first destination was Nicosia where we stayed with my Papou's niece Souli, her husband Andreas and their two boys George and Constantino.

We were greeted with a much welcome feast and this very appropriate doormat, Beric and I have been talking this sort of jibberish for years.

After weeks of solid climbing our first task was to crash and burn... An enforced rest day on the couch along with greek coffee and sweets from my Thea (aunty) Yourgoula were just what we needed.

For the first time in cyprus I had a car and freedom to go anywere I wanted. Let the arbitrary driving misions begin! We wend to Agia Napa, the most famous tourist beach in Cyprus and then Cavo Greko to scope out some potential climbing.

We spent some time in the center of Nicosia and walked along the UN patrolled border area.

Cyprus has seen countless conflicts throughout the centuries, mostly due to its highly strategic position between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and the British have all had power one stage. Even today despite a booming tourist industry and high living standards it remains under conflict.

In 1974 the Turkish army invaded cyprus and took control of the northern side of the island. All Greek Cypriots were forced to leave their houses and posessions and became refugees in their own country. Since that time the capital Nicosia has been divided in two and separated by a Green Line which is patrolled by UN soldiers. Evidence of the conflict is everywhere around the border with decrepit old buidings and bullet hole ridden walls. Nicosia is the only remaining 'divided capital' in the whole world.

The only country to actually recognise the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" is Turkey. The place doesn't even exist according the the rest of the world. And another thing, whats with the huge Turkish flag on the hill overlooking the southern part of Cyprus? Highly arrogant and disrespectful to the people who lost everything in the invasion.

At night Andreas would take us out on walks with his Cronies from the E4 Club, a group of crazy old men that like to participate in extreme sports. We like that. Andreas always had words of wisdom, mostly to do with why Nomad shouldn't be trapped with a girlfriend. Highly amusing for Beric and I haha.

"FRESH LEMON!" and "FIRE!" Andreas would yell at Beric randomly for some reason. Who are we to argue.

It was Souli's birthday while we were there and we had a surprise party.

Even Dora the dog got in on the celebrations.

Andreas and Souli took us out for the famous Souvlaki at Bablyon Pub.

It was great to meet you Souli and Andreas, thanks for having us and I hope to see you again soon!

After a couple of days we drove to the other side of the country (about 90 minutes!) to the village of Pegeia where my Papou was born and most of my family still lives.


At the beach we met Andreas, the king of Coral Bay. He is down here 365 days a year and is always keen to show vistors around.

We went to see my Papou's sister, Thea Thespina and my cousins for lunch in the village. We feasted on fresh chicken and rabbit from the cages outside the kitchen. 

While in Pegeia we were lucky enough to stay in my Thea Irini's apartment for the week. Thanks again for the wonderful hospitality!

Andreas took us on a 4wd adventure out to see the Akamas Peninsular on the far western side of Cyprus. This is where they used to run the Cyprus Rally before the whole area became a national park. We walked through Avakas Gorge and then went for a swim at Lara Bay

Andreas showing us his banana farm:

One night my cousin George took us to to see Stavro at his new club, Neos.

Stavro has a hotel, two clubs and an amusement park and is soon running for Mayer in Pegeia. He is married with two sons and a new baby daughter Irini and yet he still seems to have plenty of free time.

I was lucky enough to stay at Stavro's hotel back in 2005 and it was great to catch up again. Hope to see you in Australia one day soon!

My youngest cousin Irini:

After a good few days of rest we were keen to climb again so we drove up to a crag called Gerakopetra near the Village of Ineia. This area has spectacular views over the Akamas Peninsular and is a type of sandstone similar to the Grampians or Arapiles in Australia. The classic was Nomos Tis Varititas (The Laws of Gravity)

We spent a few days climbing here and at another crag in the Dhiarizos river bed. The theme of this place was Slab Action. Lets just say the angle of the rock was a little less than vertical and even Nomad A.K.A The Slab King was shut down. English people will bolt any featureless crap they can find apparently.

My Thea Maritsa and Theo Neofito have a citrus farm and no trip to Cyprus would be complete without a tour.

Theo Nick and his family in Pegeia

The Troodos Mountains are the highest point in Cyprus, reaching over 2000m. We drove up there one day and we found an totally different environment with large pine forests that reminded us of California. They even have a ski field up there. In winter you can ski and then be swimming on a mediterranian beach less than two hours later!

Wise guy hey?

That afternoon we visited Petra Tou Romio, the birthplace of Aphrodite. 

They don't seem to approve of our climbing activities around here but Nomad and I tried to get to some rock.

The sea was a bit rough and we didn't manage to climb it anyway.

Meanwhile beric was kept amused collecting rocks... He spent nearly an hour looking for a love heart shaped rock??

He became highly protective of his prized rocks but eventually had to cull them down from like 30 to just four. Madness.

Near Pegeia in the town of Pafos there is a collection of ancient mosaics and ruins 


We also found some Italian type ice cream.

On our last day in Pegeia we went to a soccer match with the local Pegeia team up against Pafos. We assumed this would be like any other stadium we just went into the nearest entrance. Rookie error. The stadium is divided into two halves and fans are separated by barbed wire fences to prevent riots... We were on the opposition side and wearing the wrong colours! We made a quick retreat and found my cousins on the correct side.

No blog would be complete without a photo of Beric and a random girl, so here it is:

We met these two at the good old Blazing Saddles Pub in Coral Bay.

On our last day we went to visit my friend Marios and his family for lunch. Marios had been living in Townsville studying at JCU for the past 8 years and only recently returned to Cyprus. At their house Marios had an amazing collection of insects and preserved animals. Marios' Dad, Aristos is an expert taxidermist and the collection of animals was unbelievable. One of the most impressive things we have seen in all our travels, it was like a private museum!

It was lovely to meet you Aristos, Chrystalla and Stavroula and great to see you again Marios!

The media circus never ends on this trip, check out this movie:

That pretty much sums up our Cyprus adventure, it was great to see everyone again and I'm sure I'll be back soon for trip number five!


  1. Another great blogboys, enjoyed it! Abert

  2. Hey guys! we enjoyed the blog! thanks for mentioning us. It was lovely to have met the three lost monkeys. It has made me want to travel even more and i will defo pass by Townsville if i'm ever in Australia again. I'd be lucky if i get to do atleast 1/4 of the travels you guys have done!! keep climbing :)


  3. i hope to see you again guys :-)
    cousin George