An early start from Kakopetria, and a pleasant drives over a road full of bends, brings me to the North Face of Mount Olympus. Not to be confused with the mountain with the same name in Greece, the house of the Greek gods, Mount Olympus in Cyprus is the highest mountain of the island at 1952 metres. It feels cool: the perfect temperature to start hiking. I first walk under the ski-lift, which of course is closed right now. I can see the slopes running to the summit of the mountain. A little more to the right, I see red-and-white poles and white spheres which contain long distance radars on top of the mountain. I now walk through the pine forest, with early sunlight filtering through, casting rays of light on the trail. The reason I picked Artemis trail of all the options I had was that this runs around the summit of Mount Olympus, at high altitude, which guarantees the best views around. It also turns out to be well signposted, with explanatory boards to learn a little more about the things you see.
There are some black pine trees which are over 500 years old, which the signboard reminds us was a young tree when Magellan was setting out on his exploratory sailings of the oceans. The trail meanders through the forest, crosses the road, and stays more or less at the same altitude of over 1800m. The going is easy, and when I come to the south side of the mountain, I start getting open views towards the southern coastline of the island. There are rock formations, with pyroxinite, harzburgite, and dunite; these are rocks that belong to the upper mantle of the planet. Apart from the multitude of pine trees, I see many others, among them endemic trees to this upper region of the Troodos mountains. The trail meanders around the western slopes of Mount Olympus, and I can see the summit again.
A little further on, I come across an old, half open foetid juniper, growing over the trail. From here, it is not far until I reach the ski-lift again. I have done the trail faster than I expected, and I decide to go for the summit, and see how close I can get to it. I climb right under the pylons of the ski-lift, making it a steep climb on loose gravel. Inevitably, I find items dropped by skiers, like a half pole and part of a binding. I walk towards the summit, find a fence with a sign warning there are dogs on patrol, and walk around it, the white balls contrasting with the blue sky. When I reach the road, where a viewpoint is marked on my map, I see military vehicles going up, and a manned boom gate, and I realise that continuing here is pointless. The Brits have used this vantage point to monitor the east of the Mediterranean, and likely also part of the Middle East across the sea, for decades, and continue to do so even more than 60 years after Cyprus achieved independence. I retrace my steps, and take the expert slope down; I have to slalom to avoid falling down the loose rocks. I take a few last breaths with the wonderful fresh air with a heavy pine scent, before I drive back to Kakopetria for breakfast.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Artemis trail (Cyprus). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Artemis trail. Read more about this site.