The pleasure of the cruise for us was sitting on deck, in the glorious moonlight, cruising along at a decent clip on a glassy, smooth almost unruffled sea. We didn't get entangled with a single Gaza-bound flotilla, never encountered the Turkish navy, nor got within eyesight of an Israeli-Cypriot drilling rig. The balmy night air, the hypnotic view of the wake thrust aside by the ship's prow, the throb of the engines and an ever-so-gentle swaying put us in the mood for a good night's sleep. Early the next morning, we entered Larnaca harbor. My immediate reaction on viewing it out of the porthole was that we had turned around during the night and sailed back to Bat Yam...but that's a tad uncharitable. Larnaca, it turns out, was a somewhat pleasant enough city, gently laid back on a Saturday morning, with not too much traffic in the streets; which it turned out was a good thing because driving in Cyprus – courtesy of its colonial heritage – is on the left, like in South Africa and we had decided to hire a car for the day.
Actually it only took a few minutes for us to do the "mind switch" and revert from left-hand drive to right-hand drive and call on our early driving education (sitting on dad's knee steering his enormous old Chevy...) But don't be fooled – driving in Israel for more than 20 years has left its mark – our car was a manual model and more than once I found myself trying to shift the door handle into third...
Once we collected our vehicle we met up with friends of the Blums', Sharon and Frank, who had moved to Cyprus from Durban 10 years ago. They offered to show us around the island for the day, and off we trundled, following them along the main highway up into the hill country towards Nicosia, to the village of Lefkara, famous for its fine filigree lace.
|The view from Lefkara to the sea|
Neil decided to mount a one-man search party and resolutely plunged into the store. I know what you're thinking – why not just call them on a cell phone? Well, it turns out that none of us had thought of setting up international calling facilities, so we had no reception...and besides, Marlyn had left her phone in the car. Eventually Neil staggered out of the store, totally bewildered. He had searched all five floors, and nary a sight of the girls. Had they been abducted by M&S staff, intent on holding them hostage until they bought thousands of Euro worth of goods? So, we waited – and I had visions of us missing the ship, being incarcerated in a Cypriot prison as illegal aliens, trying to explain to the children how their mothers had been engulfed in the bowels of M&S, when they appeared, smiling and – joy of joys – not a package between them (credit cards had been mercifully left in the car!).We made it back to the ship in time, took a nap, met for dinner and then settled in for the night cruise back to Haifa.
We arrived early Sunday morning, having been away for around 48 hours – and as we stepped off the Golden Iris and headed for the station and the train to take us back to Hod Hasharon, it really felt like a week. Until we got on the train – remind me, never, ever to take a train from Haifa (or anywhere in the country for that matter) between 7:00 and 9:30 in the morning. It was already packed with commuters and soldiers heading back to their bases – so full in fact that Neil and Lynore sat on the steps and I stood the entire 1½-hour journey home....still, we'd been to Cyprus, we'd been "chutz l'aretz" for the weekend– albeit in the blink of an eye – and it was worth every single micro-second – even standing in the train all the way home.