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Published: March 26th 2016
The first day at sea after leaving Aqaba was pretty uneventful. I basically spent the day working on my photos from Jordan and writing the previous blog entry. We had to sail back down the Gulf of Aqaba and around the Sinai Peninsula into the Gulf of Suez. We reached the coast off Suez at about 4:30pm and set anchor. At that point it was just a matter of waiting until the next morning when we would join a convoy entering the Suez Canal.
Most of the passengers on board the Aegean Odyssey were pretty excited about going through the canal, including myself. It is a pretty amazing feat of human engineering and political will, really. The facts you can look up for yourself if you’re interested, but one tidbit we were told was that passage through the canal costs a ship about a quarter of a million dollars. That goes to show how immensely useful the canal is to world shipping. And no doubt for the Egyptian economy too!
By the time we awoke on Good Friday we were already in the canal. The convoy started, apparently, at 4:00am and they put cruise ships in first. We were
due to exit into the Mediterranean Sea at about 3:00pm that afternoon. My first sight of the canal was… sand. Probably not a great surprise considering where we are, but I was hoping for more. Shortly afterwards we entered the Bitter Lake and as the land disappeared it was like being back at sea. The canal became narrower than ever once we exited the lake and the canal continued.
Throughout the day there were a lot of passengers out on the various decks snapping away with their cameras. Naturally I was among them for a while. I can’t say I got any amazing photos, but it was definitely interesting watching Egypt go past. There’s also a lot of construction work going on. They have finished the new passing channel in the middle section of the canal, so I’m not quite sure what all the work was. Most of it seemed to be on the Sinai side, possibly the creation of new villages and in one case it looked like a resort of some kind. Just before 3pm we reached Port Said and were away into the Mediterranean. We headed north because our destination for Saturday was the island of
We docked in Limassol fairly early on Saturday morning and had disembarked the ship before 9:00am. Once again we were on the buses, heading to the ancient ruins of Kourion. It was quite bizarre driving through Limassol because after visiting the Middle East, the European feel was so much like being home – quite different to my feeling when I first visited Greece. Something that added to the feeling of familiarity was that in Cyprus they drive on the left-hand side. I wasn’t expecting that considering the island is controlled by Greece and Turkey, both of whom drive on the right. No doubt it’s a vestige of British colonialism.
Our first stop was on the way to Kourion – a photo stop at the medieval Colossi Castle. We had ten minutes to walk around outside the grounds and take photos as best we could before we got back on the bus. It was kind of funny seeing the other passengers all rugged up because it was a brisk 17 degrees, although it warmed up a bit as the day progressed. Not a lot though. Personally, I was loving it because I much prefer the cooler conditions.
We headed up into the hills and soon reached the Acropolis of ancient Kourion. Our guide, a lovely old Greek lady named Maria, told us that a university team from Sydney was currently doing some archaeology on the site. We didn’t see them, but we did visit two of the most impressive parts of the ancient city.
The first was the House of Eustolios. Although there is not a lot left of the house, like most ancient ruins, there were some impressive mosaic floors. The mosaics were in various degrees of completeness, but a couple were almost completely intact. The house also contained extensive baths which were quite interesting.
After that we headed to the Roman theatre which was pretty much intact. Apparently it is even used for performances in the modern day. It seats over 2,000 people, so while not the biggest ancient theatre I’ve seen, it wasn’t insignificant.
From there we had some free time, but there wasn’t a lot to do because the other places of interest on the site were too far away. I decided to peruse the gift shop. I managed to find a book that I wanted to buy and that
was when I realised that I hadn’t changed the currency in my wallet. My Euros were sitting safely in the safe of my cabin aboard the ship! Of course, the gift shop wouldn’t accept US dollars, nor did they accept cards. And being on top of a hill in the countryside, there weren’t a lot of ATM’s about! I looked around for someone I knew who could lend me 10 euros but most of the other passengers I know well enough to ask are in other tour groups. I had to resign myself to not buying any souvenirs in Cyprus.
When our fifteen minutes of freedom were up, we were back on the bus and away to the next location. This was the Sanctuary of Apollo and it was only a couple of minutes down the road. Again, it was mostly in ruins but there was evidence of the archaeologists at work… well, they would have been had it not been a Saturday, I suppose. The most impressive structure was a couple of columns and a little bit of the roof of the Sanctuary itself. I was less impressed when our guide told us the columns themselves were modern
reconstructions. Again we had free time to wander around and take photos before heading back to the bus.
It was then time to head down the hill into Limassol itself. The drive was nice, even if I almost fell asleep. Driving along the water was particularly nice and it was surprising to see some very fancy shops in places. As nice as it is, Limassol hadn’t given the impression of a great deal of wealth up to that point.
The bus stopped in the middle of downtown and we got off for a look around. Here we had more free time but the only thing of interest was Limassol castle built by the Ottomans in the 16th
century. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to justify purchasing an entry ticket… even if I did have euros on me. I wandered around the shops looking for an ATM or anything of particular interest worth buying but found neither. Well, that’s not quite true. I did find an ATM just as we were leaving but clearly I hadn’t been looking too hard because I must have walked right past it when we arrived!
Leaving Limassol ended up being a
little chaotic because a particularly old member of our group had a fall and the ship staff that were organising the buses had to help him. There wasn’t anywhere for the buses to park either so they had to partially hold up traffic while we boarded – a process that isn’t the quickest when it comes to the age of most of the passengers. But eventually everyone got on and the buses took us back to the ship. We were a little bit late so the café on board was pretty packed as everyone had lunch at the same time.
And that’s pretty much it. Our visit to Limassol was very fleeting and I don’t doubt there is much more to see in Cyprus. We are somewhere in the Mediterranean now, on our way to Rhodes. I’m really looking forward to that as we have over 24 hours in port and only a half-day tour to Lindos tomorrow. That means a free morning to wander the Old Town of Rhodes on Monday and from the pictures I have seen so far, the photography opportunities should be great on both days!
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