Since Dan and Bec have been globetrotting and generally enjoying a fun filled life of late I humbly offered to sub-in for an episode of the blog. I’m not able to post any pics as a guest contributor, but I’ll call on Dan to provide the color on this one. Let’s hope it goes okay so they might invite me back!
Way back in May, Dan and I decided that a boys-only golf trip might be in the cards for 2015. We checked our calendars and, most importantly, got the thumbs up from Bec and my wife Jenn and proceeded down the booking path. Since my vacation days were running on fumes we decided to keep it short and relatively close. We had heard good things about the quality of golf courses in Cyprus, of all places, and it being only a 4 hour flight away, we thought “why not?” Over the course of the summer we rounded out the itinerary and on October 14th boarded our Etihad flight to the Larnaca International Airport!
The flight was full and we were “lucky” enough to be seated next to an artificial turf sales rep who services the Gulf region. We were surprised to hear how big a business fake grass is in this part of the world and how many ways it can be used. After the longer than desired tutorial, we donned the headphones and settled into some wine and the latest Terminator flick. Before we knew it, the descent had begun and we were about to set down in the Mediterranean.
After an efficient clear through customs Dan hit the duty free in search of some local beverage selection while I waited for our clubs. Beer, wine, and golf clubs in hand, we headed to the rental car lot. The weather was gorgeous – especially compared to the fall heat and stickiness of Abu Dhabi. Dan had booked us a Rav 4. Upon inspection it looked like the Turks had used it when invading Cyprus in 1974! Ok, slight exaggeration, but its 20,000 km of usage must have seen some rough terrain. We took lots of pictures as evidence that we didn’t cause the damage and got on our way towards Paphos on the southwest part of the island – and our home for the next 3 nights.
Our malfunctioning GPS led us the wrong way initially, but being the savvy male navigators we are, we righted the ship within a few highway exits and got back on track. We had a 4pm tee time to make after all!
First stop on our golf trip extravaganza was Aphrodite Hills, a beautiful and scenic course that weaves its way amongst several hundred Greek style villas and a resort community. We only had time to play 9 before sunset so we stocked our on-board cooler with a few Keo tall boys and started off from the 10th tee. Keo is one of the two popular locally brewed lager type beers in Cyprus – Leon being the other. It didn’t help much with our swing rust (Dan nearly sent a drive through the windshield of a passing delivery truck) but we continued trying. By about the 6th hole we agreed that keeping score was no longer a good plan and chalked it up to a practice round.
After finding our accommodation, a quaint 2-bed townhome in a resort type compound, we freshened up and headed into town for some action! It became pretty apparent that the high-octane action had left Paphos along with the summer tourists but we found a very nice and rustic taverna where we plopped down for some local cuisine. We ended the meal with a small shot of Zivania, a traditional Cypriot spirit distilled from a mixture of grape pomace and local dry wines. Needless to say we both enjoyed it. We ended the night with a couple more local brews along the Paphos waterfront – a perfect start to the trip!
The alarm startled us awake at about 8am the next morning – we had a 10:30 tee time at the new Nick Faldo designed Elea Golf Estates. Dan had a chipper demeanor while I could barely touch my breakfast. Guess those last two drafts on our first night weren’t such a good idea after all. Adding insult to injury the course had run out of golf carts. Walking was our only option so we manned up, met our playing partners, and let ‘er rip off the first tee. Expectations were, not surprisingly, low that morning. After a few holes and a few bottles of water the chitchat with our playing partners – a lovely Scottish couple – picked up and we ended up having a very enjoyable round. The course was meticulously manicured and offered stunning views of the Cypriot landscape. After the round (we did keep score this time) we headed back into town for some lunch and decided on a relatively quiet evening. Our 9:30am tee time at Secret Valley awaited us the next morning.
Others had told us that Secret Valley was a tricky little course with some gimmicky holes, but overall, a great golfing experience. They were bang on! Thankfully we had stocked our bags with balls because we both lost our fair share throughout the round. Some holes were fairway or bust – unless you wanted to venture into a small critter infested ravine to rescue it. The golf got a bit better as the round progressed and we finished up strong on the 19th hole with a burger and pint of Keo.
The afternoon was spent walking through the Tombs of the Kings. Thankfully Dan recommended we spend some time at this ruin, a large necropolis on the outskirts of Paphos – also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The following description courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia: The underground tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century BC, are carved out of solid rock, and are thought to have been the burial sites of Paphitic aristocrats and high officials up to the third century AD (the name comes from the magnificence of the tombs; no kings were in fact buried here). Some of the tombs feature Doric columns and frescoed walls. Archaeological excavations are still being carried out at the site. The tombs are cut into the native rock, and at times imitated the houses of the living.
Although the tombs have been known and casually explored for centuries, they were first subjected to systematic excavation in the later 1970s and the 1980s under the direction of Dr. Sophocles Hadjisavvas, former Director of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus.
Part of the importance of the tombs lies in the Paphian habit of including Rhodian amphorae among the offerings in a burial. Through the manufacturing stamps placed on the handles of these amphorae, it is possible to give them a date and, through them, the other material from the same burial.
And we’re back …
After the tomb exploration we headed to Lighthouse Beach for a swim in the sea and a western view of the sunset. Dan took some superb shots – several of which are postcard worthy – while I kept watch of our cans of Leon at the beach bar. Being our last night in Paphos we wanted to try something new for dinner so we walked a slightly different route down to the waterfront. Low and behold we ended up at a somewhat fancy Mediterranean spot only a stones throw away from where we’d eaten the previous two nights. So much for that plan! We indulged in a nice bottle of Cypriote Shiraz and probably the best food we ate all week. Another early tee time on the horizon, we marched back to our townhouse, enjoyed a nightcap on the back patio and hit the sack.
7am Saturday morning we packed up the Rav 4, closed down the townhouse, and hit the road towards Aphrodite Hills in hopes that we’d be able to play the front nine this time around. Luck was on our side as, coffees in hand; we drove out to the first hole to hit our final opening tee balls of the week. As advertised, the front side was much more interesting and appealing than the back. Two holes stood out: the par 5 3rd and the par 3 7th. Both required solid tee shots over cavernous, wide ravines. It was my birthday and the golf gods rewarded me with a couple of good strikes, which was a very good gift since I lost most of my golf balls at Secret Valley the morning before. Dan’s game also rounded into form as we both shot our low nines of the week! The good friend that he is, Dan treated me to a birthday breakfast buffet before we loaded the clubs for the final time and hit the highway towards Larnaca.
After an uneventful check in and security clearance we grabbed some Zivania from duty free, enjoyed one final Keo pint, and boarded our flight back to Abu Dhabi. It was another full flight, being the end of a long weekend in the UAE, but thankfully we didn’t have to hear about any fake grass on this return leg!