Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – The Long and Winding Road by Ken Dunn

The old Lefkoşa to Girne Road

Before the dual carriageway to Lefkoşa was built the journey from Girne took quite a while. The road was similar to those still found in and above many of the villages in the North. The section from Girne before the turn to St Hilarion was particularly dangerous. There were no safety rails in those days and the local driving standards were just as scary as they are now. The number of drivers who mis-judged some of the very tight corners on the way up or down were many, their exhuberance propelling them over the edge of the road and down onto the rocks of the valley far below. Occasional rock falls didn’t help either.

We often used the ‘Five Fingers’ route, the Beşparmak Pass, as this was far less dangerous, albeit winding and steep and a slightly longer journey to Lefkoşa. At the time it was worth travelling the greater distance as it was a spectacularly scenic experience. The Pine trees along the route were magnificent to see, growing tall and thickly on either side of the road, soaring up above us, with occasional glimpses of the land and sea below.

Then, I think it was in the late 80’s, we heard that there was to be a new road, built to replace the old route up through the pass. The rumour going around was that the Saudis would be funding it. Other Ancient Brits stated that the authorities had, long ago in the 50’s or 60’s, drawn up plans for such a road but it had never been attempted.

Discussing this in one of the watering holes with a few of the AB’s I fell into chatting with a newcomer. He turned out to be the chief civil engineer who had been appointed to oversee the whole construction so, was duly given the title of ‘Neville, The Road.’

Over the proceeding months he was happy to give us regular ‘updates ‘ as to how the work was progressing. Eventually he became weary of this and we could tell all was not well. Delays and all kinds of cock-ups were at the root of this, some of them to do with blasting away the wrong sections of the steep, rocky hillside of the pass. The noise of these explosions could be easily heard west of Girne for quite some time. Heavy machinery broke down sometimes adding further delays so we all waited, hoping there would be a new road as soon as possible and no further delays would occur.

Before the construction began everyone had to use the Five Fingers route as the other road would be either completely by-passed or buried by the new one and was consequently closed. But this route was clogging up fast with all the trans-mountain traffic having no other, shorter route between both centres. Then came the news that instead of a dual carriageway, as we had all expected, only one side would be completed.

Neville the Road explained why. Somehow (?) the money had run out and that, for now, was all that could be achieved. But at least it was a very direct, relatively straight and a much safer route than before. The journey time was reduced, travelling at a moderate speed, to just over thirty minutes or, if a Cypriot, twelve and a half, instead of the previous one hour plus.

So, there we were with a satisfactory way, at last, of getting to Lefkoşa, doing what ever had to be done, and returning in less than half a day without feeling exhausted. Magic! But that didn’t last. The local boy racers saw this as a challenge and flashed up and down the thing, ‘go faster stripes’ everywhere, overtaking, undertaking and creating mayhem. The death toll mounted until the Police had to squat by the road-side, waving speed guns.

It did calm down but the standards of driving didn’t improve. Years later when the other carriageway was completed it was, as it is today, safer than before but the urge for speed still remains. The existing speed cameras, although welcome, have not had much of an impact.

One manifestation of the new, single carriageway road was the gradual addition of large advertising hoardings but only two or three of these to begin with. One, which I think is still there, had the huge figure of a well dressed chap but his head was a massive glitter ball. I’ve no idea what that was pushing. The one I will always remember, long gone now, was on the left, going into Lefkoşa just before the roundabout. It must have been thirty to forty feet wide and over twenty feet high. A huge, bright yellow rectangle with only one massive, four letter word in capitals across it in vivid, livid red.

For the life of me I had no idea what the sales pitch might have been behind this but, notwithstanding it was a misspelling of sorts, it was a shock to see it for the first time and impossible to miss.

I’ve often mused that it should have remained to act as a heartfelt farewell to the GC’s who come over to the TRNC these days and then drive down, passing the position where it once stood. Suitably edited, the word was, ‘K x x T!’ I’m sure you can supply first the vowel and then the consonant that are missing.

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