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On and off the beaten track

This is the book that will remind every expat why they first moved to Cyprus. It’s the book that will make locals fall back in love with their island and enchant tourists who visits our shores. It perfectly conveys what I first saw when I arrived twenty-odd years ago: an island of high blue skies, quiet seas and sweeping valleys sprinkled with secret churches; a landscape striped with the sun-drenched tracks that summon one up and on, into the richly forested hills… It makes you want to explore the hidden corners of our Mediterranean island, and gives you the wherewithal to do just that. It’s title? On And Off The Beaten Track.

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Walking alongside Kannaviou damAyia Paraskevi church
Authored by long-term residents and writers Colin Gorton and Sandra Sizmur, On And Off The Beaten Track is the Phoenix Walking Group’s guide to 28 little-known walks in the Paphos region. And while it’s an enchanting read even for those whose ambulatory exploits usually include no more than a stroll round the mall, it’s also a delightful incitement to take to the paths less followed, and gently discover the magic of the countryside…
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“We actually wrote the book in response to feedback,” Colin says, explaining that the group’s off-road walks, published in a local magazine, often prompted requests for further information. “Both Sandy and I have been members of the Phoenix Walking Group for some years now, and have discovered there’s a freedom to walking in Cyprus,” he adds. “Roads here don’t have barbed wire or fences, there aren’t ‘keep out’ signs or dogs. And it’s so peaceful… You come out of a bit of forest and there’s a fantastic view in front of you: an eagle or a buzzard floating in the breeze, a field that’s a carpet of colour; you stand there gobsmacked and there’s not a sound.”

“On And Off The Beaten Track may take people out of their comfort zone,” Sandra continues, “but only with regards to discovering new places. There are so many tracks out there that the vast majority are not aware of. And that’s been one of our aims really, to introduce walkers to entirely new places.”

“What we’ve got, I suppose, is a highly individualistic book of walks for the moderately able. You certainly don’t need ropes or crampons to do our walks,” Colin chuckles. “Neither Sandra or I are in the first flush of youth! But we do know these walks very well, and if there are any difficult bits they’re certainly highlighted.”

With five sections comprising a total of 28 walks in the areas around Paphos, On And Off The Beaten Track provides easy-to-follow directions, maps and photos along with the length, difficulty, timing and precise location of each starting point. For the more technologically-minded, there are GPS coordinates, while those newly arrived in Cyprus will find the To Help You on Your Way section (information on weather patterns, dogs and snakes will be most beneficial to those unfamiliar with the peccadillos of island life!) particularly useful. And the descriptions of the walks themselves are both thorough and enticing, as the members of the Phoenix Walking Group lead us into the island’s little-known places and spaces…

“Carefully negotiate the track, picking your way downwards and towards the sea until you rejoin our sandy track that winds along to your right,” write Paula Devlin and Leo Kelly in Around Historic Kissonerga. “You may smell the delicate scent of wild thyme that grows profusely underfoot. Along the coast, to your left, you will spot the rusting MV Demetrios II which grounded on the rocks in March 1998 and which, despite being battered by the elements, still remains an iconic part of the Paphos coastline.”

Flora, fauna, terrain, local colour, alternate routes and thoughtful pauses are all covered in the texts, along with everything that makes Cyprus’ countryside so special… “Once you have skirted the next inlet there is another opportunity to sit on a bench and take in the breathtaking views out to sea or along to Aphrodite’s Rock itself,” suggest Carol and Derek Pengelly as they guide us round the coastline and allow us to pause in wonder. Peter and Diane Atkin provide gastronomic tips on the way from Kamares up to Koili Village, “There is ample parking at Vatouthkia Taverna, a popular venue for classic Cypriot food cooked with feeling and an appreciation of local produce”. And Colin himself reminds us that it can get hot out there, especially when walking from Polis to Chrysochou: “The river snakes to and fro, completely hidden by dense bamboo thickets, and there is little shade for about half an hour now.”

In all, 15 writers have contributed to the book. Designed with the walker in mind, the book, says Sandra is “lightweight enough for you to pop into your rucksack and carry with you all the time. We really do hope it will introduce people to areas and scenery they didn’t know existed,” she says, adding that both she and Colin are quietly proud of what they’ve produced. “I’m so pleased it’s worked out as well as it has. We’ve sold over 200 copies in the one month since publication,” she says, explaining that a follow-up, which will complement the first edition, is already in the works.

“It’s really about discovering a whole new world. And that’s what we hope that On And Off The Beaten Track will ultimately do: introduce” – or perhaps, in that this is a book that will appeal to everyone of us who has ever fallen for this wonderful island, re-introduce –“the hidden delights of Cyprus.”

On and Off the Beaten Track
, authored by Colin Gorton, Sandra Sizmur and various members of the Phoenix Walking Group. The book is designed and printed by Shields Create and is available from Hearns in Peyia, Axels Bookshop in Paphos, Polis Charity Bookshop, and Yiotis Supermarket in Latchi at a cost of €6. For more information on both the book and the group email [email protected] All profits from the sale of the book will go to The Friends’ Hospice in Paphos


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