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We had been dreaming up a relaxing camping weekend. Plenty of sitting on the beach, watching the waves, and swimming in the ocean. Just a tent on the beach and your bathing suit as the only essential piece of clothing for an entire weekend.

But then everything turned out quite differently.

On Friday, Timo and I pack up all our camping equipment. David is still in daycare so that we have a chance to pack everything, without things being mysteriously unpacked again and without having to try all the foods “right now.”

I always find packing a little annoying, but we’ve got it down for the most part now. Last-minute, I realize that I almost forgot a sweater for David and some juice for the drive. And packing the latter might have just prevented a little drama. I make a note on my master packing list so this won’t happen again, and shortly after we’re on our way to pick up David.

We’d planned for him to skip nap time at daycare so that he would sleep during the long drive. But the prospect of going camping is possibly too exciting. He doesn’t sleep for a single second.

This time we’re on the road without our local friends from Cyprus, which makes me slightly nervous. “What if someone starts talking to us in Greek? We don’t understand the local customs here.” I push the thought aside. It’s been a year since we’ve moved to Cyprus, we are doing fabulous, and everyone speaks really good English. There’s no reason to be nervous.

2.5 hours later we reach Latchi and the entrance to the Akamas region, a peninsula that we’re eager to explore. We were here just a few weeks ago on a boat. This time we are driving ourselves, and we’ve planned to stay for two nights.

Akamas is an off-road region that’s typically visited by tourists who explore the area on quads and buggies. One tour provider takes jeeps in from Latchi to the Blue Lagoon, the most famous bay in Akamas. Besides, there’s also a couple of locals who regularly come here with their four-wheel drives.

Since we haven’t really prepared anything for the drive, we just follow the signs to the Blue Lagoon.

When looking over from the boat last time, I’d wondered how you’d get there by car. You could only see some road-like path on the slope; one I didn’t expect to be used, or at least not by people who weren’t completely reckless with their lives.

Of course this is exactly the road I find myself on moments later. Thankfully, we are on the left side closer to the hill, so that the oncoming cars (three total during the passing) are the ones who are dangerously close to the slope.

“We are not taking this road on the way out!” I exclaim and cover my eyes while we are trying to make space, hugging the mountain with our Landcruiser. Luckily, Timo remembers to collapse our side mirrors with the tap of a button. Phew, just in time. Where the mirrors were sticking out just a second ago, the other car is now slowly driving past us, just inches away. They totally would have damaged them I think to myself. But in order not to fall off the cliff, the driver didn’t really have a choice.

Just before reaching the Blue Lagoon the roads become wider again, and I catch my breath. Now we just have to find a spot for our tent, and soon it will be time to relax. David is also keen to find a parking spot and walk around. Everyone is a bit tense by now.

We drive past the Blue Lagoon and immediately see a ton of tourists. It’s Friday afternoon, and there are plenty of quad drivers, Jeep bus drivers, and hikers. It’s the first time I see the Blue Lagoon and the beach from the land side. I’m a little disappointed. The beach is a small pebble beach and there’s no proper access. I’m sure I saw some pavilions here last time, but right now I have no idea how it’s supposed to work.

But no worries, we don’t want to camp right here anyway, so we drive to the next bay. This one we’ve also seen from the boat, and we definitely spotted some tents last time. The bay is more suitable for camping, and it’s even got a little piece of sandy beach. However, there’s also a sign that says “No Camping.” Damn, we really can’t pitch our tent right by this sign in the middle of the day, while the place is buzzing from day visitors.

So we have to keep driving, feeling a bit on edge. But first, we stop for a little while and give both dog and kiddo a little break from the car. Stormy is so relieved to get out of his crate, he seems more stressed than on our last trip. It’s the first time that he’s with us on an off-road adventure, and of course, the car is quite shaky at times. I keep thinking this is just not for him anymore. He does endure everything with grace, but it’s not truly a whole lotta fun for him. I commit to finding a different solution next time, a place where he can spend the weekend with less strain.

Meanwhile, we still haven’t found a place to pitch our tent. Either the beach isn’t accessible, or the spots are directly on the water with strong currents. The surface is rocky and uneven.

The street leading down to the tip of the peninsula is so bad that we choose to walk it on foot first. Also to figure out if it’s even worth going down by car. And so we keep walking and walking, looking for the perfect little blissful camping spot for our two nights.

The sun is still burning, and it’s 30 degrees. We’re slowly but surely getting tired and irritable. Not a good starting position for this weekend.

After a decent amount of time spent searching, still not having found the perfect spot, we return to the car for a drink and some shade. There’s so little shade around here, another reason why I want to sleep close to the water.

I’m wondering where the other people spend their nights when they talk about camping in the Akamas, and I’m getting the sense that we’re just too dumb to find the right spot.

It’s getting late, and we’re running out of steam.

Timo suggests driving to the other side of the peninsula to find something there. The terrain looks rough though, and I’m worried about the road through the mountains.

At that moment I see a cloud of dust in the distance. My eyes follow the buggy coming down and going up again. “Shall we just drive up that road and camp at the top?” I ask Timo. “We’re not right on the ocean there, but at least we have a nice view. I mean, I hope so…”

No sooner said than done! A little later we are making our way up the hill, it’s a little wonky, and the road is extremely dusty. I’m worried we’ll get stuck. Or slide off the dusty surface. But our car makes it up the mountain, safe and sound.

“Wow, let’s stop here!” I call out as we get to a spot that’s a little wider with a lookout. The view is fantastic and the little bend is perfect to set up our tent.

“If you want to ruin our stuff, then let’s do it,” Timo says in an irritated tone. We end up having a debate over whether the spot is appropriate to set up a tent or not. Eventually, we decide not to. The ground is rocky with spiky pebbles, and everything in sight is covered with a thick layer of dust, which would end up on all of our things as well.

We decide to sleep in the car. At first, I’m set on moving the car so we have the perfect view from inside, but then we can’t be bothered, and just let it sit on the side of the road.

Finally we’ve arrived, finally, we can get out and relax. I let our kiddo and dog out of the car, we set up the camping chairs, and enjoy the view. 10 mins of bliss until we’re interrupted by some loud engine noise, and all of a sudden two buggies park right in front of our camping chairs and are now taking up the space of our beautiful view.

“You can’t be serious,” I mumble to myself. I’m feeling a bit ridiculous, sitting here in my camping chair next to my car, staring straight at eight Russian tourists who are standing about two meters away.

“Come on, just keep going,” I say a mantra in my head. It’s a bit mean, I know – seeing everyone has a right to be here. They take plenty of photos, one from the left, then from the right, and finally, they all get back on their vehicles and leave.

Now we’ve finally got the space to ourselves. We eat home-made pasta salad for dinner. I tie Stormy to a chair now that we’ve spotted a few goats in the distance. Even though he’s an old man and struggles to move around at all these days, I still don’t trust his hunting instincts. Of course, the first thing he does instead is lie down in a burr bush.

David wants to check out the goats as well, but the road has a steep slope, and so I don’t want to let him run around by himself. This isn’t quite what I had in mind when I thought about a relaxing camping weekend.

Meanwhile, it’s late in the evening and Timo is clearing the trunk and back seats so that we have space to sleep there. We’ve never done it before but have quite a sizeable car, so what could go wrong?

“Oh…” I hear Timo exclaim. “Oh, what?” “This will be tight,” he declares and I start cursing a little. It seems like our car isn’t that spacious after all.

“Sleepytime, sleepytime,” David starts fussing, and I try to explain to him that sleeping in a car is way cooler than a tent. “No. Tent, tent!” He’s not convinced. I’m not either, but we don’t have a choice at this stage. It’s starting to get dark, and we will have to spend the night here, no matter how.

We try to get David to sleep. Taking turns, we lie down with him, but he’s so wound up that he just jumps around, and doesn’t go to sleep at all. We attempt to leave him in the car on his own, which he doesn’t appreciate much either and just keeps fidgeting around. And so he ends up in Timo’s arm outside with us in the camping chairs.

Stormy starts to get nervous, and so at 7 pm I take him on an early evening walk. As I return I hear Timo shout “I’m going nuts!” “What’s wrong?” I ask. “I’m getting destroyed by bugs.”

Thank goodness I packed mosquito repellant. Plain useless though it turns out. The sand flies are not impressed at all.

I start laughing. The whole situation is so absurd, it’s almost funny. I shift my focus to the beautiful view. We have a stunning 180-degree view over the bay. It’s beautiful despite the circumstances.

David finally falls asleep, and I can put him down in the car. Timo joins him shortly after. The drive was pretty exhausting.

I’ve just opened a beer, and I’m keen to have at least a little of it, and so I stay outside by myself.

Just a few moments later I jump up and wake Timo up again. “You gotta come out and watch this! You can see the milky way from here!”

Timo crawls out of the car, slightly skeptical and we both sit back into our camping chairs. “It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?” My eyes are beaming. It’s a new moon, and even the closest villages are pretty far away. We can still see the lights of the harbor, but they are far enough not to interfere with the beautiful night sky.

It feels like we are staring right into the universe, everything around us covered in stars. Millions of them twinkling, and the milky way stretching across the sky right above us.

The last time I saw the milky way like this was in Australia. Unbelievable that it’s been 10 years since then. I want to make an effort to spend more nights outdoors I think to myself. It just doesn’t seem right to see a sky like this only every 10 years.

Timo and I sit there for a while, before crawling into the car. It is tight. So tight that I cannot stretch my legs properly, nor move my body to the side in any way. We both squeeze in somehow, and just as I think to myself that I’ll never fall asleep like this, I doze off.

The night is unsettling and long. Every time one of us tries to turn, the other person wakes up. We have to negotiate space at times. “I’d love to turn to the left, do you mind putting your leg next to the front seat? If you hug the wheel case it might work, okay?” Every time I wake up, I think, “Oh no, it’s still dark outside. When will this night finally end?”

Just David is sleeping safe and sound next to me. The perks of being a tiny human.

At 6 am the sky starts to change colors, and we jump out of the car, relieved. What a night. I take Stormy out of his crate and prepare some breakfast. Breakfast meaning I grab the camping chairs, put them out, and unwrap some chocolate croissants. Not the most nutritious I must admit, but pretty yummy.

David had woken up at the same time, and now the three of us are sitting together, watching the sun rising right above the ocean, reflecting perfectly on the water.

After breakfast, we pack everything up. We haven’t fully decided what to do today, but I definitely want to go to the Blue Lagoon before all the tourists arrive. Shortly after, we leave our spot, head down the mountain, almost experts at the off-road driving by now. Soon we’re back at the Blue Lagoon, the most famous bay of Cyprus due to its crystal clear and turquoise waters.

Although, how do we get down to the water? We go around the bay, and stop at different spots but see only steep slopes. Until Timo spots the access point, which presents us with yet another adventure.

We carry David and Stormy down the ledge first, and once we’re all down, including our beach bags, I allow myself a big sigh. I find a spot in the shade and tie Stormy up. It’s so early I could probably let him run off-leash but don’t want him to step into something or eat random stuff off the sand.

It’s sad that as soon as a place attracts many people, it ends up with so much trash. We always make sure to leave no trace and usually pick up other people’s trash on top of our own.

The water is beautiful still, and since it’s only 8 am all we can see is just one sailing boat that had anchored in the bay overnight. Timo and I each go out snorkeling and watch some fish, and David is joyfully swimming in the sea, too. Just as we are back on the sand, we hear a splash in the water and catch sight of a sea serpent right where we were standing earlier. Excellent timing to continue the journey.

We had considered briefly to drive to the other side of the Akamas, and spend another night there. But Timo heard some unfamiliar sounds coming from the engine, and so we don’t want to risk being stuck in the mountains somewhere.

Secretly we’re also just really looking forward to our own bed. We text our friends who live in a town that’s on our way home, and they invite us to drop in for lunch.

And soon it’s time to drive home, along the dusty dangerous road. The whole time I’m praying that no one is coming towards us, because now it would be us who’d have to swerve to the right, dangerously close to the steep slope. But at 9 am, no one is on the road yet, and I’m so relieved once we’re back on the regular road.

Even though our camping adventure turned out completely differently than planned, it was still awesome. We’re already indulging in the memories on our way home: “The car is so rad off-road!” “The stars were stunning, right?” “Remember the goat?”

We’re even more keen now to explore the outdoors off the beaten path and work towards having a perfect camping setup, even toying with the idea of getting a rooftop tent. That way we could camp virtually anywhere and sleep with maximum comfort.

And even if the Cypriots are going to call us crazy: We’re dead set on sleeping outside again soon.

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