North Cyprus – Walking the Crusader Path with cyprusscene.com

By Chris Elliott….

It has been a few weeks since I went walking and I would like to tell you about when I last ventured out there were some very high winds blowing causing the trees to rattle and shake and to say the least my knees were shaking as I had decided to go up the Crusader Path to Bellapais and then across ground unknown after that in the mountains.

I had been up the Crusader Path once before so I was comfortable with the conditions and went to Ozanköy village where I parked next to the Mosque and with the Ataturk memorial on my right I set off walking complete with drinks, sandwiches and a phone eastwards past the Nook Cafe and Corner House Restaurant towards the now closed Five Fingers restaurant. The road bends to the right here and starts ascending uphill towards Erol’s restaurant, over a tiny bridge with black painted railings. As you start to climb the hill you pass a newly refurbished old building and behind this and through an old blue gate in the wall on the right is the old Byzantine church Panayia Potamiitissa which I have been in and I will tell you more of this on another occasion.

Continue up the slope towards Errol’s restaurant but when you come to a junction turn right and continue past some modern apartments and older buildings and some walled fields and just relax and enjoy the slight upward walk which at one stage passes through a narrow section of road on a right hand bend and you will see high stone walls on either side in which you may see many flowers and plants growing.

Continue on and  you will be passing interesting and rather expensive looking houses as the road continues to rise in front of you and after a section with mixed tarmac and concrete surfaces you will come to a left hand bend with a gravel path dropping away in front of you into the ravine. This is the old ‘Crusader Path’ which winds its way up the left hand side of the pine filled ravine towards Bellapais village. Again depending on the time of year you may encounter lush plant growth with many wild flowers. You will also see some new houses that are in various stages of construction on the right with another higher up on the left with a number of fenced fields with some derelict buildings

Due to the mixture of cobbled track, loose shale or grass care should be taken and good walking shoes or boots are recommended as the slope is steep in some places with narrow sections as well. The views from here are breathtaking, more so as you look back at where you have come from and on the skyline you see the sea and depending on the weather conditions the Turkish coast and mountains.

By now the wind had dropped to normal levels so I was feeling a lot more comfortable with my task and the uphill climb and as I started to reach the top I could see on the left hand side of the ravine where training wires and irrigation pipes had been erected for what looked like vines of some description. Soon after a final uphill climb on a narrow and loose track with grass I came out onto a tarmac road and turning to the right I continued up to the top before it splits to the right and takes you up to the Bellapais Gardens Holiday Complex right below the foundations of the Abbey.

It’s worth taking a few moments breather before this final climb by looking down at the private garden of the Bellapais Gardens Holiday Complex.

As you continue your climb past the Bellapais Gardens Hotel reception building do take a moment to admire the cliff face on the left and the variety of plants growing on it and again depending on the time of year you may see water trickling down the rock face.

Continue on now up the final concrete section which is rather steep before you turn left into Bellapais road and in front of you will see a number of potential stopping points for refreshments but you may wish to continue to the Tree of Idleness Restaurant and reaching the junction there are even more tempting places to stop for coffee as well as exploring the Bellapais Abbey or Kybele Restaurant Gardens where the views are just spectacular.

Now you have taken a brief rest it’s time to continue up the road opposite the Abbey and keep going past the Bahceli Market on the left and continue up the narrow road up an increasing incline before the road opens up and perhaps breathless, you can see Bitter Lemons on your left hand side, the house made famous by Lawrence Durrell, when he lived there. Again I have visited this building in the past when it was open and hope to tell you more of this on another occasion.

Turning left at Bitter Lemons you will see a narrow concrete path marked (Kemer Sokak) on the right which you must walk for a short distance before you come to a junction with another narrow path on the left with steps leading up to a small archway through which you must walk and just keep going to the end before you  turn right and continue on before you come to some more steps that lead up to a tarmac road. Turn right here and continue on before reaching  a T junction where you turn left again..

The views from this area are again spectacular with views of the village and Abbey plus scenes of Kyrenia leading down to the sea. From here follow the road upwards with some big house on your left hand side and a forested area with the sun streaming through and I was spellbound to see swifts skimming the road surface towards me they then broke away like small jet aircraft. The road continues to curve upwards to the right before you see a dirt track on your left. This is clearly marked by the remains of what may have been a pillbox or sentry post from years gone by.

You are now on the most difficult part of your journey because although the track will lead you downhill it also rises and the surface is such that walking boots or shoes and perhaps a hiking stick would be good advice. If you were up here and the weather turned and the cloud base dropped it would be very uncomfortable and if it were raining it would be even worse. Pick your day.  I took a chance to start my day walking but I would have turned back at this point if the weather was still far from ideal.

From here the undulating track goes down hill and you realise you really are alone with your thoughts and nature all around you and the only sign of man is the odd hunters cartridge or drink container. Despite my words of caution I must say the views really are incredible and worth making the effort to see them.

As you go down and the track twists and winds just keep moving ahead and ignore three tracks on your left hand side and then you will see what looks like a derelict house in the trees on the left and beyond that a large circular water tank on your right. Beyond this you will pass some more unfinished houses on the left before the track goes down and to the left before it turns to the right for a final uphill walk on cobbles before you reach a tarmac road that leads through a small development of houses on both sides. At the very end turn right onto another downhill road which has both tarmac and concrete sections as it twists and turns before bringing you back to the point where you stepped off the Crusader Path some hours ago.

From here it’s a pleasant walk downhill although you may find your knees and legs are aching but it is not long before you cross the small bridge just after the old church and then walk up the no entry street to arrive back at your car and if you have time call in at The Nook for a refreshing drink.


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