21 November 2016
From the cold windy coastline at Gosport yesterday we dashed back home to get warm with coffee and showers. There was just time to download all the race photos from my camera to my Mac and from there blue tooth them to my iPad before were were off again. This time we were Gatwick bound.
At Fleet, we stopped for a very late lunch and more warming coffee. The rain had stopped but the temperature hadn’t risen. When our lovely sat nav lady told us to turn off the motorway two junctions before we usually do, Commando ignored her, thinking he might have accidentally changed the setting to ‘avoid motorways’ for my benefit and forgotten about it. This turned out to be a fatal mistake. The sat nav lady knew something we didn’t. Within a mile or two we’d hit heavy traffic. Before long we were driving at walking pace.
“Thank goodness we have an airport hotel for the night rather than a flight to catch,” I said as we crawled, painfully slowly, forwards.
For more than half an hour we were stuck, inching towards the next exit, which was still one before ours. Every so often we passed signs warning us to get into the left lane and telling us the motorway ahead was closed. We were already in the left lane but, as the distance until the next exit grew smaller, impatient drivers were still using the two lanes to our right. All the while the sat nav woman reminded us to leave the motorway. After the hundredth time, I was sure I could hear a note of irritation in her voice.
Finally, with just two hundred yards to go and cars still passing on the right, the motorway maintenance van blocking the view directly ahead of us pulled to the right.
“Something must have happened ahead,” Commando said moving uncertainly forward.
The maintenance van driver waved him to stay back so, still feeling there must be something going on ahead, he did. After a short while puzzling we realised the van driver, annoyed with cars ignoring the signs, was purposely blocking the right lane. This last yards before the exit were still hideously slow, but at least we no longer had queue jumpers trying to get in ahead making them even slower.
Just before the junction we had a clear view ahead. The motorway was completely closed, block by a huge lorry behind which some kind of work was going on. This may well have been a lesson in listening to the sat nav lady but I’m sure it’s not one Commando will learn any time soon.
Now we were off the motorway and actually moving but it was getting quickly darker and we had no idea where we were. Thankfully, our sat nav friend seemed to know where she was leading us and we had no choice but to follow on a long winding journey through unfamiliar villages and towns. Finally, much to Commando’s relief, we turned onto the M23 and, from then on, progress was swift. Our two hour drive to Gatwick had turned into a frustrating three hour mystery tour but at last we arrived at our hotel. Now we could finally relax. Actually, with a transfer to the airport just before five in the morning, there was precious little time for anything but a meal, a drink and sleep.
It felt as if I’d hardly closed my eyes before the alarm was walking me. There wasn’t even time for breakfast, just a shower and a gathering of our belongings before we were on the airport bus. The next hours were a whirl of check in, airport breakfast and the four hour flight to the Cyprus sunshine. Of course, when we arrived, there were precious few hours of sun left to us. We met Mike and Yolanda, the owners of 2:09 events, at the airport, along with some of the other runners competing in the four day event. For once, Commando was one of the youngest in the group.
The journey to the Coral Beach Hotel seemed a series of snapshots of half remembered places. Eight years ago we arrived at night and travelled in a hire car. Needless to say we got lost and only reached our hotel after several false starts. In fact, when we eventually reached Coral Bay we ended up stopping at a taxi rank and paying a taxi driver to guide us there. We look back now and laugh but, at the time, it made for a fraught start to our holiday. This time it was daylight and the journey was far more relaxed with Commando pointing out landmarks through the window of the transfer bus. Some, like the Tombs of the Kings and the taxi rank in Coral Bay I remembered, others I didn’t recognise at all.
The hotel was the same, familiar and strange in equal measure. The reception I barely recalled at all but the corridors and the lift felt a little like home. This time, rather than overlooking the mountains, our room had a sea view. Left to my own devices I might have sat on the balcony looking out at the sea until morning, wondering about the little, terracotta roofed house I could see alone on the edge of the cliff and the half built hotel in the distance, but Commando wanted to explore and we needed to eat. Breakfast at the airport had been a long time ago and a few sweets on the plane hardly counted as lunch.
By the time we’d freshened up and unpacked the sun we’d come so far to see was an orange ball, slowly sinking into the sea. We walked around a pool fringed with palms and pink clouds.
“Do you remember this?” Commando asked,
“Sort of,” I said, not sure if I did or if it was just a combination of different pools in different hotels I remembered, all with rows of loungers, palm trees and bougainvillea.
The beach conjured memories of jumping warm waves and soft white sand in my shoes. It seemed smaller somehow though than the one I remembered. We slowly walked along, past the little stone harbour filled with boats, as the sun sank deeper and deeper. When it finally dropped into the sea we left in search of food.
The walk back up the hill towards the strip of shops and restaurants in Coral Bay brought memories flooding back. The cicadas chirping in the bushes beside the path, the little houses we’d wished were ours. Many of the restaurants were closed for the season though and the once busy street was no longer all hustle and bustle as we remembered it. Unable to decide where to eat, we turned back, thinking we might get a meal in the hotel. Half way down the hill though, we stumbled upon Coral Oasis, a place we’d missed last time we were here, or maybe it wasn’t there then?
It turned out to be a good find. A friendly English hostess, good Greek food and music plus a shared desert of banana split complete with sparklers. Sensibly, we left before the advertised plate smashing and dancing began.
Later we sat on our balcony with cups of coffee, listening to the waves and looking out at the dark sea. Every so often a small light flashed, sometimes pointing out to sea, others landwards. Was it perhaps a lighthouse I’d missed when I’d looked across the bay earlier, or someone from the little house? The hint of a mystery and the mesmeric crashing of the waves were a fitting end to a long, tiring day.
Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures.