Coral Bay, searching for a shipwreck

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23 November 2016

Although we had another day before the first of the running events, Commando went for another social run this morning. There was no chance for me to laze in the hotel room or sit dreaming on the balcony though. Eddie had invited me out on a walk. It was a challenge I couldn’t resist. I think he was trying to test my mettle. 

It turned out to be less strenuous than I expected. We walked along Sea Caves Road parallel to the walk I took yesterday. There were no rocks, no sand, it was mostly flat and easy going. As we walked we talked. Eddie told me about the Nordic Walking classes he runs and how Sue had saved his life, turning him from an alcoholic into a runner by stealth. She’d been injured and asked him to walk a half marathon with her. After the first few miles she began to run.
“I could either carry on walking on my own, quit there and then, or follow her,” he said. “I followed her and it was the start of me becoming a runner.”
It occurred to me he might be planning to do the same with me. Suddenly the idea of walking any of the events with him seemed slightly less appealing.

Eddie has completed the Cyorus 4 Day Challenge several times and knows the area fairly well so, to get away from the subject of running, I asked him about the shipwreck. After seeing the fossil ship yesterday afternoon I was convinced there was no real shipwreck at all but Eddie confirmed there was, just further along the coast than I’d walked.

After a shower and breakfast Commando headed for the sunbeds. He needed to conserve his energy for the first race tomorrow. For a while I sat beside him reading but I’m not good at sitting around doing nothing, even with a good book and sunshine so I was soon itching to go walking. First I had to get some bottled water from the shop across the road.

Water takes on a new importance when you can’t just drink it out of the tap. To Cypriots, it’s a precious commodity. They have very little rainfall. There are no rivers, just small, impermanent streams that are usually dry in summer. When we were here in 2008 there had been no rain in Limassol, according to my friend Helen, for three years, the domestic tap water was turned off for hours every day and water was being shipped in tankers from Greece. Imagine that! Tap water is mostly desalinated sea water and chlorinated. Drinking it is not a great plan. Thankfully, bottled water is cheap and plentiful.

When I left the shop, clutching my cool bottle of water, I bumped into Sue coming the other way.
“Eddie is resting so I’m going to Paphos on the bus,” she told me with the girlish giggle that seemed to come with everything she said.
“Commando’s resting too,” I said.
“Do you want to come to Paphos with me?”
“Actually I was going for a walk. There’s a shipwreck along the coast I want to see.”
“That sounds interesting. Do you mind if I come with you?”
“It’s quite a long way and it’s tough going in places,” I said, half hoping she’d decide against it. She looked so small and frail I couldn’t imagine her managing the rock strewn trail. Besides, I was looking forward to a quiet walk on my own.
“I don’t mind that,” she giggled, falling into step with me.
“I suppose we could always turn back if it gets too much,” I said, resigning myself to a walking companion and, undoubtedly a far slower and shorter walk than I’d planned. “I tend to walk quite fast so if I’m too fast for you tell me and I’ll slow down.”
“Eddie said you’re a fast walker,” she said.

We followed the same route I took yesterday, down the rickety steps, with me panicking Sue was going to fall and break something, across the sandy beach and up onto the cliffs beside the banana plantation. Soon we’d come to the Ancient Greek ruin, which I’ve found out used to be a warehouse storing carob, a bean grown locally and used as a sweetener and chocolate substitute.

Today there were men working inside, laying concrete on parts of the floor. Sue seemed as enchanted with the place as I’d been and we stopped for a good look. The workmen didn’t seem to mind us being there and I tried to ask them what the building was going to be. Unusually for Cypriots, they didn’t speak much English and all I could glean was that there were going to be shops of some kind or maybe a restaurant. Part of me was sad to think of it being repaired because I loved its dilapidated look but I suppose it will at least be saved. Perhaps it is something to do with the new hotel being built here?

Around the bend we passed the building site and then we were at the shrine. Of course, I’d seen it before so, if I’d been alone, I’d probably have walked on by. Understandably, Sue wanted to stop and have a proper look though. As she walked around reading the inscriptions I told her what I’d found out about it. Apparently, the rock in the centre of the little building once stood just outside the Coral Bay Harbour and caused several shipwrecks, eventually it was dug up and moved to this spot as a memorial to the sailors who died and, it would seem, it has now become a general memorial. Apparently, people come every day to keep the candle in the little box burning. Perhaps those are the lights I’ve seen from my balcony window at night?

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Sue seemed quite enchanted with the little shrine and, for a while, it seemed as if she was going to stop to read every single stone. I began to think our walk was going to end right there and then. Eventually, feeling slightly guilty, I managed to drag her away and we carried on.

It wasn’t long before we’d stopped again, this time in front of the odd little white building with the flag. Yesterday I’d been hurrying away from the naked man on the rocks so I’d not really had a chance to look at it properly. Now I could see it was little more than a tin shack, perhaps a kiosk of some kind in the summer months. Beside it was a small covered area with a roof of woven sticks, maybe a shelter where people could sit and drink? There was a small, handwritten sign beside the window saying ‘welcome to Limni.’ This was a puzzle because Limni is a resort quite some distance along the coast. Perhaps it was a joke? The tattered flag was still flying And now I was able to tell Sue I thought it was the Jack of the Hellenic Navy.

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We walked on across the barren landscape, following a flattened trail through outcrops of big boulders. It was hard to tell whether we’d passed the place I turned back yesterday as the twists and turns, the coves, spiny shrubs and rocks all began to look the same. To our right a seemingly unending range of mountains was dotted at the base with the stone or white painted houses of the town of Peyia or Pegeia, everything here seems to have several spellings, even on the road signs. We came across yet more building work, men climbing about on half built blue painted pillars and floors. If I passed it before I hadn’t noticed but I was too busy worrying about the naked man then. It looked like another hotel and it seems every scrap of flat land here is either being built on or farmed.

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When the path ended at the bottom of a rocky slope I knew we’d passed my turning point.  Somehow I must have missed the fossil ship, perhaps when we’d been looking inland at the building site. For a moment I thought there was no way through and we’d have to turn back. Then I spotted a tell tale green arrow painted on the rocks.

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It was a bit of a climb and in places we had to scramble over quite large boulders. Mindful of Sue’s advancing years and her tiny stature, I kept stopping to ask if she was OK and offering to help her across some of the larger obstacles. She didn’t need my help though and, after a short while, we were back on slightly flatter ground beside a large square block topped with piles of tiny stones, some in the form of miniature cairns. Why it was there and what it was all about was a mystery.

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On we went, winding our way past large rocks that looked as if they might have dropped from the sky. Then we came to a small garden surrounded by rocks. There were palm trees, aloes and cacti and a row of solar panels, quite a sensible thing to have in Cyprus I should think. Half of the garden was screened off with some kind of green fabric and behind it there looked to be fruit trees. Perhaps this was the kitchen garden.

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The going got easier after this. The sandy path wound around the next tiny bay. On the sea we thought we could see a large ship in the distance but, as we got closer, it turned out to be a small, flat topped island.

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A few minutes later we reached Yialos Tavern, a small dark wood building with a large, covered seating area, the open sides facing the sea. It looked to be open, although there was no one about. If there had been it might have been tempting to stop for a drink and a rest, but I’d seen the Tavern marked on the map so I knew we weren’t far from the shipwreck now.

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We walked on along the narrow band of reddish sand running through the undulating rocky landscape. The little islet grew larger and larger. Then we got our first view of the ship. It seemed to be nestled on the rocks just ahead, a large rusting thing almost camouflaged by the browns and creams of the landscape. For a moment it looked as if our quest was almost over but it turned out to be a lot further away than it looked.

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The ground dipped down and the tantalising view we’d had of the ship disappeared, replaced by another small bay, one more toothmark in this giant chewed shoreline. Now, rather than standing on a cliff top looking down at the sea, we were on a gently sloping shore. If we’d wanted we could have used the large flat rocks as stepping stones and dipped our toes in the impossibly clear turquoise water. Beneath the rippling waves we could see every stone. On the opposite side of the bay was a little white house with a curved roof and balconies overlooking the sea. Between the palms in the small garden I thought I spied part of the ship.

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The path in front of the house was narrow and we weren’t sure if we could get through to the other side so we walked behind it across rough, rutted fields filled with lumps of stone. Finally we reached the next bay and the ship was there in front of us in all its rusting glory.

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The Edro III may not be a galleon made of wood with masts and sails but I liked the way the rust striped the pale hull. There is an interesting story attached to it too. On 8 December 2011 the ship, built in Tønsberg, Norway in 1966 and registered in Freetown, Sierra Leone was heading from Limassol to Rhodes with a cargo of plasterboard. The seas were heavy, the engines failed and the ship ran aground. The nine crew members, seven Albanians and two Egyptians were airlifted to Paphos by a British Military helicopter.

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As this is a protected area where sea turtles nest, the diesel, hydrocarbons and marine pollutants onboard were removed by a Cypriot marine salvage company and the hull made watertight. There were plans to remove the ship but the cost of half a million euros was more than the scrap value and the Albanian shipping company who own her had an issue with their insurance. The Russian insurers demanded the owners pay an excess before they would cough up and the owners just didn’t have the money. It seems the wreck is there to stay and she has become quite a tourist attraction. She is even marked on Google Maps.

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Even if the shipwreck hadn’t been worth the walk of almost three miles over the rocky clifftop, the cliffs themselves were. The white limestone is pocked with sea caves and towers of striated stone that must once have been arches like the ones we’d seen earlier.

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We strolled around the bay admiring the fantastical rock formations until we reached the ship. It was well and truly marooned on the rocks, listing at an odd angle and slowly rusting away. It is odd to think it’s been there for five years and I wonder if, eventually, the sea, the rust and the barnacles will claim it and it will end up looking just like the fossil ship further along the coast?

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Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

6 thoughts on “Coral Bay, searching for a shipwreck”

    1. That sounds like a plan! It was certainly an interesting walk and my companion did far better than I, despite being several decades older!

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