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“Seriously dude, what do we even look like?” I stare at Timo, first horrified, then breaking out in laughter. Timo is standing next to me in a flimsy t-shirt, filthy pants, and a scruffy beard. I haven’t washed my hair in three days, and my skin has a slight itch. I spot a few leaves of seaweed in David’s hair. A slightly fishy smell is in the air.
We are at a child’s birthday party hosted by a neighbor in our apartment complex, and I realize that our hygiene (or lack thereof) might attract some attention. A few hours prior I was still feeling completely normal like this. But in all fairness we weren’t attending some festivities, we were hanging out on a beach somewhere in the middle of nowhere. For 40 hours or so.
The last days and weeks had been exhausting. I can’t say exactly why or what had been going on, but we had felt depleted. In fact, I nearly canceled our camping trip because of the daunting logistics of packing and going away. But I figured we should stick to the plan, and our beloved friends Maria and Rallis were counting on us as well.
On Friday, Timo and I pack everything, pick up David at 2 pm from daycare, and take off right away. The original plan is to drive to the Akamas region, a beautiful area only accessible by four-wheel drive. As our friends start loading their Landrover, Timo and Rallis disappear under the car for a moment.
“What’s plan B?” I hear as we learn the diesel tank is leaking. It’s impossible to drive like that for 3-4 hours. Instead, we start hauling everything from the Land Rover into Maria’s Volkswagen. And so we end up hitting the road a little later than planned.
Obviously, at this hour we can’t make it to Akamas anymore, especially since the Volkswagen isn’t equipped to drive the roads there anyway. Our friends suggests to show us another spot instead. Apparently, it’s known for its beautiful trees that reach all the way to the sandy beach.
We arrive about 1.5 hours later. Nature has something absolutely mindblowing in store for us – a reason for others to find a camp spot here possibly, but a reason for us to continue searching: turtle nestings right on the beach! It is magical, especially today being a full moon. I’m sure, this is the night the little ones will hatch, and plan their escape to crawl into the water.
We have two dogs with us though, and thus we can’t stay. Continuing our drive we search for a different camp spot. And search. And search.
The sun is slowly setting as Rallis and Timo finally wave us down to stop. They have found a spot where we can access the shore by foot, and pitch our tents right on the beach. We have to park the car a little further up because there’s no vehicle access to the beach. Child, bags, heavy stuff, and all our camping equipment have to be carried down to the gravel beach, one by one.
We barely finish setting everything up before the sun sets completely. Before long we just sit, eating home-made pasta salad, and watching the full moon rise.
It is so unbelievably beautiful. The moon is rising, deep red on the horizon right above the ocean, with the gentle sound of waves hitting the rocky shore.
David has been looking forward to camping so much, he’s genuinely excited to go to bed. The night is mellow, and we barely need a blanket to sleep. Once he’s finally sleeping (it did take a little longer as he could barely contain his excitement), I go back outside to join Timo, Maria, and Rallis. We continue watching the sea and enjoying the blissful silence.
Later we sneak into our tent, which is surprisingly cozy considering we’re sleeping on a bed of gravel.
We wake up reasonably rested the next morning. I first check on the dogs. Whenever we have Stormy with us, I’m a bit worried. Is it too much for him, given his age? Is he too hot? On our last camping trip, he managed to escape from our tent at night, and so now he has to sleep in his crate.
But my worries are unfounded. Stormy as well as Belly, Maria and Rallis’ dog, are still sleeping peacefully.
I love waking up by the ocean. There’s no other sound but waves. No cars. No other smells. And here, there’s not even cell phone reception. A deep sense of relaxation overcomes me, I had been yearning for this. I notice how many things become genuinely unimportant at once. Why was I constantly stressing over things the past few weeks? The only thing that counts right now, is that we’re all here together by the ocean.
We have breakfast sitting in our camping chairs by the water. Saltwater tugs at my feet while I’m nibbling on my chocolate croissant. The dogs are running free on the beach. Since we’re camping right behind cliffs, there’s only one path that leads to the top. This is the first time since living in Cyprus that I dare to let Stormy run around off-leash.
Well, the old man doesn’t run much anymore. After breakfast, he’s already found a little shady spot behind our tent where he pretty much remains curled up for the rest of the day. Incomprehensible to Belly, who ends up frolicking in the sea all day.
During the next few hours, we perfect our unique beach routine. Watching the ocean, dipping in for a refresh, watching the ocean, racing each other on the sand, watching the ocean, jumping on the SUP, watching the ocean, eating, watching the ocean, playing with rocks, watching the ocean, snoozing, watching the ocean, swimming, watching the ocean…
And then the day is over. At night, we make grilled Halloumi (a typical cheese in Cyprus), zucchini, and pita, and enjoy our delicious dinner while the sun is setting. It’s been a hot day considering it’s already the middle of September, so I’m grateful once the dark and cool night unfolds.
After David is sound asleep in the tent, all of the adults sit outside, drinking beer and stargazing. We all go to bed early. Watching the ocean all day does make you tired.
The next morning is relaxed at first: breakfast by the water, swimming, but then it takes a hectic turn. The night before Maria had already brought us news there might be a storm coming, as she had briefly checked her phone back in the car. I can’t really imagine a storm hitting us: the sky is blue, and there’s barely a cloud as far as the eye can see.
I still can’t see a storm front from our camping spot. All the more surprised I see Timo coming back from the car, visibly worried, wanting to know why I haven’t packed yet. Packing, what? I don’t want to leave the beach yet. Disgruntled, I grab two boxes and start walking up the path. And then I see them: Big clouds looming in the sky right behind the cliffs.
And so we pack everything together as quickly as possible and carry all of the equipment back to the car. Phew, was it really this much on Friday when we arrived? All the back and forth in the bright sun is exhausting, and I pledge to take less next time. Before it’s time to get into the car, I jump into the water one last time to cool down. It’s just before 11 when we’re already on our way back.
Lucky us as we realize later: Having been on the road for less than half an hour, it starts bucketing down. We keep going, driving home right along the edge of the storm, and just as we get home, it starts raining here, too.
We leave all of our stuff in the car and retreat into the dry house. I see my neighbor passing by through the window. “Everything okay with you, you need any help?” I call out to her, just remembering they are celebrating a child’s birthday by the pool today. David is invited, too, but I hadn’t expected we’d be back in time. “Yes, everything okay, we’ve moved inside now. Come over, there’ll be pizza soon.”
This sounds too tempting to say no. And so, not much later, we find ourselves amidst all of these well-dressed parents, and I wonder how come I didn’t notice our fishy smell over the last couple days.
“We just came back from camping,“ I say shyly, answering a few questions that follow.
“You went wild camping? There weren’t even showers by the beach? No restaurants? 20 mins away from the next town and no reception? You are absolutely crazy!”
No, I think quietly to myself, this isn’t crazy at all. What’s crazy is that we spend so many hours of the day inside. In front of screens and staring at our phones. That we start our days rushing, and that we watch TV instead of the sunset at night. That we have replaced true relaxation with convenience and routine. To the point where we think it’s crazy to spend a weekend outdoors, in our natural environment.
But a little, okay yes, it’s a little crazy that you can really watch the ocean for hours, and be happy and blissful just doing that.