scavenger season

We’re all scavengers at heart. Who doesn’t like picking something up for nothing and making use of it? I love it, as do other members of the family. And what better place to do a bit of scavenging, than on the beach?

Since we moved here the shoreline around the island has been an endless source of treasures and surprises all rolled into one. If you like collecting driftwood, shells, pebbles and odd bits of this and that blown in by the tide, you’d love it here too.

This weekend there was some major scavenging to be done. It was almost a salvage job, but I’ll come back to that. Let’s call it ‘Op Groin’ or ‘Operation Groin’ for non-military types. The start of the operation was some weeks back on another beach where an interesting piece of wood was spotted protruding from the wet sand as the sea retreated into the distance. Sunday afternoon dog walkers passed by without a glance, until someone began digging and digging and digging… without a spade too! Some time later, along time later actually, a giant oak groin/beam was uncovered and claimed by the digger. Determined not to loose his booty he hauled it across the beach into the dunes and buried it. This short sentence does not accurately describe the Herculean effort it took or the toll on clothes and hands and patience, by those of us who advised against it. Once in the dunes, photos were taken of the ‘secret’ location so Pirate-like he could return to collect it another day. End of the first part of Op Groin.

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Several weeks passed. Christmas came and went before Op Groin went into full swing again. More troops were recruited to help with the next sortie. There was some doubt about whether the buried treasure could be found, but ‘sniffer-dog-like’, the damp wood buried in the dunes was uncovered again and four healthy volunteers shouldered the weight and carried it down the beach, along the footpath and back to the recovery vehicle on the road. Success is a six foot beam drying in the garage.

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But it wasn’t all over. This beam needed other similar pieces to be really useful. Fortunately, two more likely items were spotted quite recently nearby, so this weekend Op Groin Part 2 swung into play. The battered wood was spotted quite quickly this time, not buried, just lying on the rocks. And while the storm clouds brewed overhead, I helped manhandle the pieces into the vehicle, at the same time as rescuing an old football and some interesting pebbles, before we piled into the car as the heavens opened. Two more immense beams are now drying in another outside store. Thank goodness that’s over!

Today on a cycle along the beach keen eyes spotted a mast leaning at an odd angle from the shore. We headed over, careless of brambles and mud, wondering what a large boat could be doing so close in. It was a sorry sight. A large, rather lovely yacht was marooned on the beach, lying on its side, all out of sorts its hull imbedded in the sand. We later discovered that this yacht was swept ashore just a few hours after Op Groin had ended. Now, that would have been a very big salvage operation. Fortunately for the owners our prime family scavenger had returned to London by the time the boat appeared. No one’s too clear about the law of salvage, so we left the boat safely in the hands of a couple of frolicking seals.

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As for Op Groin, thankfully the operation didn’t leave any casualties, apart from sore shoulders, and one day the wood drying in the garage may be turned into a beautiful table or a bench or even a bed… we can but hope.

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the end of summer?

Today feels like coming towards the end of a very long summer holiday and the approach of September has a ‘back to school’ aura about it. The sand between my toes and now collecting in corners on the floor of the car is a tell tale sign of days spent at the beach. Damp towels, sandy snorkel masks and a striped beach bag in need of repair will soon be packed or thrown away, having served us for over two years.

It’s always sad feeling the summer come to an end. The past two years, although not a complete holiday, have felt more like a vacation than any other period of my life. Sitting watching the sun sink towards the horizon across the water tonight could hardly be more idyllic… as the sun sets on our time here. Even now there’s a warm breeze fluttering against my face while the sea is shimmering gold, and miniature waves lap with calming rhythm against the sand below us.

This week has been filled with ‘last times’ as we have revisited favourite haunts from cafes and umbrella lined bazaars in bustling Nicosia and the buzz of Kyrenia’s harbour at night to the remote wilderness of the Karpaz peninsular and its idyllic golden beaches.

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I don’t want to say goodbye to these places I’ve come to treasure and which are filled with happy memories of time spent with family and friends. Today we went to a different part of the beach and had a drink at a different cafe. This was partly for a change, but also on my part, I wanted to avoid the feeling of having to go somewhere knowing we’re not coming back any time soon. I decided I’d rather remember the last time there and hope we will return one day. I don’t like goodbyes.

Although we have been revisiting what I would call our ‘top spots’ on the island, we’ve also ventured out on a new experience.

On Friday we were guests on board an 80ft yacht with a Turkish captain and his mother. http://www.velayachting.com It was an unforgettable time from the moment we stepped aboard and removed our shoes to the fond farewells at the end of the day. Yacht ‘Vela’ was a treat. A beautiful old sailing boat with wood lined decks, neatly coiled ropes and relaxing navy cushions everywhere became our home for a few hours. A handful of us enjoyed a jaunt down the coast of northern Cyprus for the day stopping off at bays for swims and snorkelling along the way. This time it was a relief to know that while I lounged on a deck cushion the responsibility for dropping and picking up the anchor was someone else’s nightmare. It was a kind of treat not having to heave ropes or jump across jetties to secure lines, although one member of the party couldn’t resist lending a hand! I wasn’t even required to go below and rustle up rations as ‘Mama’, (we had been instructed to call her this), had already prepared a sumptuous feast of Turkish dishes spread out on the table when we returned from our swim.

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Meanwhile, Captain Serhat was doing his bit precariously barbecuing fish and lamb at the bows. Peaceful music tinkled all around and during the lunch we were serenaded by what sounded like snatches of an opera. It was a surreal yet lovely experience and Capt Serhat had some good banter with the other skipper on board, as they exchanged plenty of old sea tales. He also impressed us with a tight 360 manoeuvre below the castle walls… although someone kept muttering, “bow thrusters are cheating”. During the day there was ample time to watch the coast go by, muse on the identity of a flock of birds and natter with friends who had joined us, while we sipped strong Turkish coffee from miniature China cups. It was in fact a perfect finish to our Cyprus adventure as we sail into unchartered waters and life back in the UK.

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Last night was also topped off with a mini ‘night exercise’ along the beach. Having swum with turtles and seen their carefully marked nests on the beaches here, we were hoping to catch a glimpse of some baby turtles making their way to the sea by moonlight. Torches in hand we followed a path and steps onto the darkened beach where the crashing waves drowned out all other sounds. We were alone on the beach checking the sand for signs of mini turtles or broken shells, even the tell-tale pattern of fin prints in the soft sand. Although we saw a few of these and some scuttling mini crabs, there were no turtles in sight. Gradually a silvery moon appeared from behind a cloud and we took a break on a couple of empty sun loungers. Sometime later I woke with a start realising we had both fallen asleep. We’d probably slept through the turtle-hatching bonanza and missed everything. Either way it was too late, as we drove back along the cliff tops a little while later, I wondered why the light seemed bright in the car and realised the driver still had his head torch turned on, adding a third beam to the car headlights on the dirt track… time to call it a day. The quest for hatching turtles will have to wait for another summer – maybe on a return trip?