By Margaret Sheard …
In 2015 we met an extraordinary man, Joel Stratte-McClure, who has spent 20 years trekking around the Mediterranean and during this time he has written 3 books about his adventures, the last one being “The Idiot and the Odyssey III”.
This last book takes readers from Greece through Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt to Tunisia in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and includes his time in Cyprus and makes very interesting and humorous reading. It was published in September 2018 and is available, together with the first two books by Joel Stratte-McClure, from Amazon. Although I haven’t read the first two volumes, or indeed the whole of Volume III, I have read the Cyprus coverage which I thoroughly enjoyed, especially being able to relate to many places Joel passed through in Northern Cyprus.
Joel’s long time partner of over 20 years, Liz Chapin, has accompanied him on some parts of his MedTrek and we were pleased to meet her when Joel started his walk in North Cyprus and we joined them in Dipkarpaz and enjoyed a nice meal at a very friendly restaurant, where the family insisted on us seeing the kitchen and food being prepared and cooked in the traditional oven.
Prior to this Chris had joined Joel and Liz, together with Michael and Viola de Glanville and he also joined in for a short part of the MedTrek near Kyrenia Castle. I am giving below an excerpt from Joel’s book which refers to the involvement of Chris for a short time.
“ I’m a little worried about the walk east of Girne because Chris Elliott, the co-founder and chief editor of the “cyprusscene” website, told me, after he interviewed me about all things MedTrek, about the obstacles I’d face on the walk. “You won’t be able to get around the new harbor, there are lots of fenced military installations, the hotels have tight security, there’s a mosque and there are cliffs,” he said. “You’ll have to walk most of the way on the main road.” “Well, if that’s the case, we might make a diversion to Bellapais and see the home where Lawrence Durrell lived while accumulating information for his book Bitter Lemons,” I said, just to show Chris that I knew Durrell had written a book about life in Cyprus.
When Chris arrives at Michael’s home, where we have been invited to stay (Thanks again, guys!), the next morning at 7:30 he takes five of us – himself, Liz, Michael, Viola and me – on a drive to check out his aforementioned MedTrekking hazards before accompanying us to the start of the hike near the castle. Indeed, he was right. There is a new harbor, as well as lots of fenced military installations, hotels with tight security, a mosque and cliffs. “Shouldn’t be a problem,” I tell a skeptical Chris, who MedTreks a couple of kilometers with us. ‘The path is the goal and we’re in absolutely no hurry.‘
Though he makes one misstep into the water, Chris has an opportunity to witness us walking close to the sea, on rocks, on a narrow board across a stream and over fences before he leaves us, taking Liz and Viola with him. Then Michael and I are able to MedTrek the next 23 kilometers without once diverting from the sea (except for when we cut up to Michael’s home for a fish/vegetable/rice/pure health lunch). ”
Joel has a brilliant sense of humour and it was inevitable he would from time to time find himself in all types of predicaments and situations. One such incident happened in South Cyprus :
“ I’d heard about the UK’s Sovereign Base Area in Akrotiri, just after the Lady’s Mile Beach, but when I arrive, I find a fairly simple fence with a hard-to-read sign and, on the other side, see a beach club with sunbathers and someone giving windsurfing lessons. It looks so casual and loose that I walk around the fence in the sea, say “G’day” to the sunbathers and continue unperturbed for 400 meters – until I encounter gun-toting army guards who call the military police. As I put it in my blog: The Idiot mistakenly entered the British Royal Air Force Akrotiri base, which blocks access to the end of a peninsula west of Limassol, because he couldn’t read the small print on the sign and didn’t let the fence, which extends only a short distance into the sea, bother him. When stopped by gun-toting guards after walking 400 meters onto the base, he feigned ignorance, apologized, suggested a larger sign and a more serious fence, and was pleasantly escorted back onto Cypriot soil to resume the MedTrek after the military analyzed his passport, questioned him, asked what he wrote on a piece of paper (I simply put “RAF/US” because there were some US troops among the windsurfers and sunbathers at the Beach Club), and said they would like to follow The Idiot.”
The way in which Joel has put this wonderful journey into words is very interesting, educational, and extremely funny in a lot of instances. I am sure I will get around to reading the whole of The Idiot and the Odyssey III very soon.