Steve’s Top 10 for This Year

Just when I thought I was done for the year, Kim pipes up and suggests I publish my top 10 for the year. So here goes….

  1. Cappadocia – mindblowing, spectacular, so different and the balloon ride was captivating. See


2. Paragliding over Oludeniz – most fun we’ve had in a long time.

DCIM100GOPRO3. Lindos on Rhodes – beautiful bay underneath a stunning acropolis – a natural citadel which was fortified successively by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Knights of St John and the Ottomans. The town underneath the acropolis is brilliant with great little shops and ships captains’ houses that have been converted into restaurants and bars. See


4. Skopolos – enchanting Greek island with beautiful wooded bays and pebble beaches. Surprisingly bereft of Mamma Mia glitz, but the church from the film was a very impressive setting. And a great seafood platter for lunch that Dee hasn’t stopped talking about. See


5. Santorini – visited for the third time and still as picture perfect as ever. Managed to visit a few different places this time – Ancient Thira was a find as was Gaia Winery right on the beach. See


6. Little Cyclades – sailed straight past these islands in previous years but this time we headed to the islands of Koufonissi, Iraklia, and Schinoussa. These islands are one of the best kept secrets with the chora at Koufonissi the highlight of the group. See


7. Kasterlorizo – party time with 50 other Aussies – what more can I say. Thanks Greg. See

8. Side – Mustafa looked after us superbly as we waited out a nasty storm in an ancient harbour – wandering through great Roman ruins that were right on the waterfront. See

9. Konya – The stunning Mevlana Museum – especially when lit up at night, the Whirling Dervishes, and the Lamb , the beautifully slow cooked tandoor kebab, so nice we had to visit again and pig out on 500g of Tandoor Lamb each.



10. The Beaches of Mikonos – super cool and super beautiful. See



Honorable mentions go to

Exploring the North

Now that I’m back in WA, its time to finish off the blogging for 2015 and write a little about our time exploring the North of Cyprus.

Depending on your point of view, the North is either referred to as the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus or The Occupied Territories.

Whatever your point of view is, there’s a bit to see in the North. In a nutshell, there’s three main fortified cities in Farmagusta, Girne and the divided capital of Leftkosa, three pretty cool castles (Kantara, Buffavento, and St Hilarion) perched high up in the mountains, the Roman ruins at Salimas and some nice monasteries in various locations.


With a great little hire car, we started with Famagusta on the East Coast, which took us an hour and a bit to get to. We got a lot of mis-information about the North before we got there; and we were pleasantly surprised when this information proved to be incorrect. For example, we were told the roads were fairly basic but in fact there were really nice roads everywhere. Famagusta is an old medieval fortified city, with city walls extending right around the old city down to the harbour. Othello’s Castle is a highlight, where a certain Mr. Shakespeare set his play of the same name. Further along the wall, there is the Venetian (winged) Lions of St Mark. Next to the town square in the old city is the Lala Mustafa Paşa Mosque, which started out life as a wonderful looking Gothic St Nicholas Cathedral in 1100AD. Everywhere you look in the old city,  you see ancient sites, some are in good condition and some are ruins, all within the same fortified walls, that are great to walk on top of.


After checking out the old city, we wandered across to the modern district, which is now a ghost town. Back in the early 70’s, Famagusta was one of the “It” destinations for the 70’s jet-set, attracting thousands of visitors each year to the modern district, where the luxury hotels and apartments were situated next to an idyllic looking beach. But 40 years ago, this paradise came to an abrupt and untimely end.


Following a Greek military coup in July 1974, Turkish forces invaded. Turkish tanks got as far as this beachside strip and what is left now is a Demilitarised Zone patrolled by the UN between the north and south, full of bombarded and crumbling hotels and apartments, right next to one of the nicest beaches in Cyprus. Its quite surreal and sad, a waste in every sense of the word.


Outside Famagusta we visited the Saint Barnabas Monastery & Museum, which was worth a look see; and Salamis – the ancient Roman City that was the one time capital of Cyprus as far back as 1100 BC.


In its heyday, Salamis was up there as far as ancient cities of the world went, although now its lost a lot of its magnificence through a series of earthquakes and the pillaging that occurred to build Famagusta in the middle ages.


We’d already been to Nicosia, albeit briefly, when we dropped off Hugh and took a walk across the DMZ from South to North and back again. This time we were in the North so no crossing the DMZ. We headed inland and parked just outside the circular defense that was erected by the Venetian rulers to ward off the Ottoman invaders. Well that didn’t work. We re-inacted the Ottoman invasion as we walked through the main gate and followed the blue line past all the nominated sites. Not exactly the same as in 1570 when the Ottomans landed in Larnaka and three months later stormed the fortifications killing some 50,000 inhabitants. We passed on the storming and killing bit, but we did have a great stroll around some interesting old building and well preserved walls and moats.


Our next trip was back to the coast to Girne, otherwise known as Kyrenia. Its here we found one of the few chandleries in the North, where we managed to get some of the boat stuff we were after. Girne also has a nice shopping district and some cool bars around the old harbour. But the highlight of Girne is undoubtedly Kyrenia Castle, right on the waterfront next to the old harbour.DSC_0191


We walked along very top of the castle and through its many nooks and crannies. Many of its rooms were taken over with museum exhibits including a shipwreck museum. The dungeons too got a good workout and this is where the exhibits got a little macabre. The shipwreck museum was also inside the castle and part of the admission fee.

The lowlight of Girne was the uneven footpath, where I tripped and bent my toe upwards in a reverse L shape. For all of you that kindly enquired, I was indeed completely sober at the time – on land and sober must be the most dangerous combination as far as my safety is concerned. The good news was that the said footpath was next street across from the Kyrenia Medical Centre.


Perfect place to take my north pointing toe. After seeing the GP and having some X-Rays taken, it was off to the orthopedic surgeon to have it straightened out and have a pin inserted. And all for 1500 turkish lira – less than $750 – bargain (for my travel insurance).

After spending a day with my foot up as per Doctor’s orders, it was time to resume exploring Northern Cyprus (not exactly Doctor’s orders). We took off along the Karpaz Peninsula, where La Mischief was parked. The  peninsula is quite big, wild and exposed, with lovely beaches and an interesting monastery at the end, complete with some very friendly and somewhat bossy wild donkeys.

Then it was off to check out the castles, perched high in the mountain range.


We’d all ready done Kantara Castle, on the morning that I broke my toe, so that was a bit of good timing. They say that if you go to Kantara Castle on a clear day, you can see mountains of Syria. That’s a bit disconcerting, given whats going on in Syria, but it wasn’t the clearest day so no Syrian mountains were sighted.

My toe was well and truly broken by the time we go to Buffavento Castle. The 10 million steps up to this Castle were a bit tough on my new  walking style, but I eventually got all the way up there. This was a great castle, with stunning 360 degree views once you reach the top.

Buffavento conquered, we continued onto St Hilarion. To get there, we drove through a military area including a firing range – fine as long as you just drive along the main road. It adds a little bit of spice to the visit. St Hilarion was where the King of Cyprus used to hang out and is therefore pretty upmarket as far as castles go. Great view overlooking Girne on the coast as well. Pretty extensive and pretty impressive.

DSC_0325Moving right along, we continued on to Bellapais Abbey, just above Girne. It was a very picturesque mostastery, with an equally picturesque little village, with very narrow streets – a magnet for tourists.

The drive back from Girne to Karpaz takes about 90 minutes and is very spectacular – with coast on one side and mountains on the other.

Its good when you’re somewhere where you run out of time at about the same time as you run out of sights and thats what happened to us here. We spent the last couple of days packing up the boat before leaving for the airport to catch up with family and friends for Xmas.


So there – for the first time in a long time my blog is completely up to date!!!

See you in 2016 for more adventures 🙂


For photos of North Cyprus click here


Our Home for Winter

Having given up on Famagusta, we decided to do an overnighter and end up in our final wintering spot being Karpaz Gate Marina. After a night of very little wind, we got there at about 8am in the morning and tied up waiting for the marina to open at 8.30am, which they duly did.


The Marina staff were excellent as they got us checked into the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, a country only recognised by Turkey and nobody else. Hopefully the talks that are going on at the moment will see Cyprus reunited as one Country, with the Turks and Greeks who live there coexisting peacefully together like they did in the past. This will be a great and beautiful country when it finally happens.

We ended up on “E” jetty, tied up between two floating finger jetties – luxury! The Marina is probably about a quarter full, and is really cheap, especially considering the facilities and their quality. The downside is it is miles from nowhere. That’s okay for us as we used some money we saved in marina fees for a hire car; and at the end of the day we will not be spending a lot of time here, planning to do trips to Perth and California, then Jordan and Israel and then skiing in Europe before leaving and heading down to the Red Sea in late February.


The Red Sea idea came from a fellow marina resident, Walter, who has been down several times and was looking to go this year as well – until his daughter decided to make other plans. Hopefully, we will convince Walter to do the journey down with us (as well as some other sailors who have boats in Karpaz). Walter has kindly provided us with cruising and diving guides as well as lots of advice as we poured over his charts. Safety wise, I think we are fine as the Suez Canal is well protected and Hurghada, where we end up, is not on the Sinai. It looks too good an opportunity to pass up given we are so close to some of the best diving in the world.


Anyway, I digress.

Back to the Marina, which has got to be a well-kept secret. There’s only a few cruisers that are staying over in the marina for Winter and we are starting to get to know them with Happy Hour drinks on Saturday nights at the Hemingway Bar, and free Tuesday night movies (Mad Max and The Kingsmen so far – in English with Turkish subtitles).We are also starting to meet a few of the expat locals who have holiday homes here as well and we have settled into life at the marina quite well.

Hemingway’s Bar

Our berth is right next door to an Electric Catamaran from African Cats, which belongs to Gideon (both the boat and the Company belongs to him). All carbon fibre, extremely light and fast with two retractable electric motors underneath, that can also generate electricity whilst sailing. Very interesting guy to talk to and it’s a pity that he and his wife flew off before we had much of a chance to pick their brains a bit more.


The marina itself has a bar, small minimarket, a gym, a chanderly, a great laundry and a dive shop and that’s about it. And a huge boat lift, which is evidently quite cheap also. In summer, it also has a pretty funky beach club with a beautiful pool, bar and Jacuzzi, but unfortunately it was closed when we got there.

What it doesn’t have is good Technical Services or the ability to source boat parts at a reasonable price, so forget about getting any work done here. However getting parts sent here was reasonably easy, got them VAT exempt out of Europe and we took delivery at the marina with no additional fees.

And finally, very importantly it has a marina dog!

Marina Dog

Down the road, 4kms away is the nearest village. There is a free bus from the Marina every day at 9am. It gets a good workout on Monday when we all pile in and go to the Monday markets (great fruit and veggies), followed by tea and a chitchat at the village café afterwards. The village appeared pretty scant to start with, but after a while you discover all sorts of shops and bits and pieces. A Turkish haircut and shave was once again a highlight. This one came with a face pack and a massage.

As we got into December, the weather started to deteriorate and we got some great Mediterranean storms with sea spray hitting the high walls and covering the whole marina in salt. It was good to be tucked inside nice and safe (and warm). But now, that weather has passed and its tee-shirt and shorts weather during the day (but still cold at night).

Computer Error Sinks Ship

No …Not our Ship…..

We’d tried a few times to organize a berth in Larnaca without luck. Once the word “Catamaran” is mentioned, the “Too Hard” sign goes up and the Answer “No” comes back. However, whilst in Limassol, we did a bit of a reconnoiter by car and saw there was a few potential spots in the oldish marina that we could fit into.


So we hatched up a cunning plan to just roll up and see what happened. We left Limassol earlyish and got to Larnaca about 2pm. After radioing in and getting no reply, we managed to get them on the phone. The marina was government owned and a bit run down, with no laid lines – just pylons that you back in between and tie off to. They directed us to one spot, which looked too tight and as much as we tried to fit, we just couldn’t. That was fun in 20-30kts of wind! We were then redirected to a much better spot amongst the tour boats, which was great, if a little noisy. The marina guy was really helpful (as are all Cypriots) and made sure we were tied up well on the pylons with water and electricity.

The other good news was it was incredibly cheap, being government owned and we found ourselves spending a few more nights than planned in Larnaca because of this.

The bikes quickly made another appearance and off we rode on the good bike paths to find a dive shop. We finally settled on Viking Divers, with Marco 1 and Marco 2 as our Italian dive masters.


Since we hadn’t dived for a while, we decided to do a couple of shore dives before doing the Zenobia Wreck, the day after. The shore dives did the job, the second dive was really cool with some cave swim throughs and an exit through a little blow hole, which you enter through a cave underneath a rock ledge.

The Zenobia capsized and sank in Larnaca Bay in 1980, sitting on the bottom at 42 meters. It sunk due to a software error – bloody computers!!! …, which caused her computerised pumping system to pump excess water into her side ballast tanks. Down went its cargo of 100 or so trucks worth $400 million, which makes for an interesting dive. The Zenobia regularly appears in various world’s top ten dive sites and world’s best wreck dives so we just had to don wetsuits and see what all the fuss was about.

We went out on Viking’s dive boat, only a 10 minute ride to the wreck which is only a mile or so off the town.

They take all certified divers on the wreck, which is a bit unusual given its depth but you can get a couple of good 25m dives on the wreck, including some swim throughs. Advanced certificates allow you to go down to 30m and see a bit more. It was my first nitrox dive, which allowed me to stay down longer without getting bent. Unfortunately it didn’t stop me being a air hog and I ended up having to buddy breath with Marco so I could stay down for the planned duration. Daughter Claire had a good laugh on this one. I also had some ear problems due to a head cold that was just starting up so I had to miss the second dive. But the first one was great and definitely worth doing when in Larnaca. It was pretty good but not sure its in my top 10 dive sites, given all the diving I’ve done elsewhere.

Zenobia Wreck Dive from Steve Tull on Vimeo.

In between diving, we had a nice wander around the town. There’s the obligatory castle right on the waterfront and some nice sandy beaches out the front of the town. Behind the beachfront there is some walking streets with shops, bars and restaurants that come alive at night, which at this time of the year is 4.30pm in the afternoon.

With diving done, it was time to leave Larnaca. We wanted to head to Famagusta on the occupied side of the island. We’d heard you could go from south (unoccupied) to north (occupied) in a boat but not from north to south, as the Republic of Cyprus (the south) will claim you did not enter the country at a legal port of entry and then proceed to impound your boat and deport you (there is a boat on the hard in Larnaca that has been impounded).

So we went and saw the Marine Police and enquired about going to Famagusta. He was not very happy about it and pointed out the fact that we could never come back, which we could live with. However the Customs guy said he couldn’t give us a clearance out of Larnaca if we were going to Famagusta. He also said we could be picked up at sea with some nasty consequences.

A quick conference back at the boat determined that we would tell everyone we were now going to Turkey. Back at the Marine Police and Customs, they were most relieved with my change of plans and gave me the necessary clearances.