I was born and raised in Kathikas, one of the Laona villages in the Paphos district.
Even though my village is a distance of three kilometers from the Avakas gorge, I only
recently had the opportunity to visit it. I have to confess that the experience
left me so enchanted and proud of this jewel of Cypriot landscape, that
I felt I should relate it.
It was then that I realized how true were the words of
Ruskin, the English visionary, when he wrote: " Whoever has not experienced
weeping with joy at the perfect beauty of nature, has no idea of the beauties
of the world." Exploring nature is a way of reaching out to God, it is
an insatiable quest for the eternal and indestructible, it is the love
of life. All of us should, therefore, get to know our country better and
marvel at its beauties, and learn to love them with passion. This land
truly deserves our love!
When the object of love is a human being, then inevitably,
one should also expect some disappointment. Nature, however, never disappoints.
At the western-most edge of Cyprus, between the coastal
zone and the main road from Paphos to Polis, the Laona plateau is
found (photo 1).
Map of the area.
Laona is part of the Greater Akamas area and includes
the villages of Kathikas, Pano (Upper) and Kato (Lower) Arodes, Inia, Droushia
and Kritou-Terra. Almost all of these villages are built at the crest of
the plateau. The highest point is Kathikas, at 683 meters above sea level.
The villages are majestically situated on the mountain
crest facing the Troodos mountains to the East and the endless blue
of the sea to the Northwest. Exposed, as they are, to every weather condition
from all four points of the compass, they have moulded their inhabitants
into becoming rugged and obstinate, stubborn and proud, but also industrious
The Laona plateau, extending to 16,500 hectares
is crossed by streams and rivers which spring from the mountain crest.
On the east side, they lead to the Chrysohou valley and on the west side,
to the coastal area, creating large precipices and deep gullies.
The climate of the area is dry and cool in the summer
and cold in the winter. Laona receives a relatively high average
annual rainfall of about 600 to 700 millimeters.
The agricultural produce of the area are cereals, legumes,
almonds, carob beans, fruit etc. The main product though, is grapes - mostly
black, white and sultana grapes. There are other varieties as well, but
in smaller quantities. In the old days all the villages were equipped with
grape-presses and the villagers produced some quite good wines.
Today, however, the majority of grapes are taken to the
big wineries or to the Cypriot market for consumption. Recently though,
some small family wineries have been established in the area.
Experts regard Laona as a paradise that has not
been adequately studied, from the point of view of soil, rock formations,
geology and vegetation. The large variety of soil and rock formations,
coupled with relatively high rainfall contribute to the growth of extensive
and rich, but mainly low-level, natural vegetation.
GEOLOGY OF THE AREA
From a geological point of view, according to surveys
by the Department of Geological Surveys of the Ministry of Agriculture,
the area is characterized by outcrops of calvaneous rocks consisting of
chalks, marls and reefal limestone, which rest on a sequence of 'foreign'
allochtonous geological formations referred to as the Mamonia Formation.
These rock formations vary and it is believed that
they represent parts of the African continent which reached the Cypriot
geographical region as a result of the collision of the African and European
continents millions of years ago.
In the Kathikas-Arodes area specifically, what the inhabitants
refer to as "laona" are the rocks of the Mamonia Formation which consist
of a mixture of fragments of quartzitic sandstone, lavas, serpentinite
etc, embedded in a reddish clayed mortrix.
The mixture is referred to in the bibliography as Kathikas
Melange. Mamonia Formations are barren areas, prone to landslides, creating
the characteristic mixture of rocks known as laona. On the eastern foot
of the Lipati mountain and the Akamas river-bed as far as
the Koufon river, one can find a bentonitic clay formation.
On the western side of the plateau great precipices and
deep gullies are found, like Koronia, Akoni, Avakas, Erini and Dipotamos.
The gorge is blessed with a very rich flora consisting
of pine trees, Mediterranean cypresses, plane trees, junipers, lentisk
trees, oleanders, tamarisks, thorny brooms, wild fig trees, oak trees,
styrax trees, virgin's bowers, brambles, wild carob and olive trees, terebinths,
fern trees and many others. An abundance of wild flowers are also found.
An important element of the flora of the gorge is the existence of Centauria
akamantis, which is found on the precipitous slopes of the gorge.
The impressive blossom of Centauria acamantis
Centauria akamandis is an endemic plant, found exclusively
in the gorge, growing only in Cyprus and nowhere else in the world! According
to the Forestry Department only about 300 plants have been traced, all
on the slopes of the gorge. Efforts to transplant them to Loutra tis
Afroditis in the Akamas area have so far been unsuccessful.
The Centauria akamandis blossoms in the spring and its flowers have a purple
colour.Another rare wildflower found in the gorge is the Euphorbia thomsonii.
The fauna of the gorge are foxes, hares (photo), partridges,
falcons, crows, wild doves, night-owls and a multitude of native and migratory
small birds. A large number of reptiles are also found.
Years ago vultures were found on the highest points of
the precipitous rocks. However, the presence of man and lack of food have
forced them to leave the gorge.
A wild hare. (Louis Kourtellarides)
A considerable number of semi-wild goats can still be seen.
An important element of the fauna encountered in the upper
part of the gorge is the presence of thousands of butterflies. These butterflies
appear in autumn among the fems and brambles. The Forestry Department has
established that these butterflies are of the same variety as those found
in Rhodes, and that their scientific name is Callimorpha quadripunctata.
WAYS TO REACH THE GORGE
In order to see the main gorge, you should enter via the
coastal road, that is from the river bed. If, however, you wish to see
the gorge to its full extent (about three kilometres), you should start
from the upper section, from the villages of Pano and Kato Arodes, where
the River Avakas springs.
For the first route, your car can be left about 15 minutes
walk away and after seeing the main gorge you can return via the same route.
The whole walk, from leaving your car to returning to it, will take about
two and a half hours.
For the second route, you will have to travel by car to
the area Koloni of Arodes, where the gorge begins, and be picked
up at the exit towards the sea. In this instance, the cars you use need
to have four wheel drive in order to tackle the difficult roads. This route
will take about three and a half hours.
Necessities for both routes are boots, (Wellington boots
if it is either winter or spring), a walking stick and water. The boots
provide protection from the water and the rocks, and the walking stick
provides support and security.
Confrontation of the giants
The play of light and shadow on the rocks and
water. The discrdant pipe can also be seen.
The sculptured creation of nature.
Hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of years,
have patiently shaped and left their mark on this glorious gorge, so that
we can today admire and enjoy it.
We, the present but nonetheless transient inhabitants
of this land, have no right to disturb or interfere with these wonderful
creations. We have no right to upset the actions and wisdom of nature.
The community of Arodes, the District Administration,
the Forestry Department and the Cyprus Tourist Organization whose policy
is the protection of the natural environment, should place the Avakas
Gorge under their protection and preserve it as a national treasure
- as is the case of the Samaria Gorge in Crete. It should be declared
a protected national monument.
The laws of nature should not be violated in any way and
there should be a continuous effort to maintain the balance and harmony
of the landscape.
The Avakas Gorge is a natural monument into which
light, water and colours are allowed to run free. It is an impressive monument
of wild and majestic beauty; it is a primeval smile of nature.
I would like to conclude this journey with the following
verses of our national poet Costis Palamas taken from his poem, "My Greatest
'At the supreme moment when the light of my life
is slowly-slowly extinguished by death,
one thing will be for me my greatest longing.
It will not be the empty thoughts, the lost years,
the worry of poverty, the relentless
yearning for loving, a thirst in my blood
an ancestral curse,
not even my empty life always dragged
by the magnet of the Muse,
not even you, my precious home.
My greatest longing will be that
I was never able to live near you
oh green nature,
in the mountains, in the seas, in the forests;
it will be that I didn't enjoy you
immersed as I was in books,
OH NATURE, TRUE LIFE AND TRUE WISDOM'
You nature worshippers who walk along the gorge:
Your visit to the gorge is a communication with God.
Please leave the gorge intact and unspoiled.
When leaving, take back only your impressions and experience.
Dr. George Taramides,
5 Crete Str., P.O.Box 2011, Nicosia, CYPRUS
Tel: 357-22-476516, Fax: 357-22-361120 ISBN 9963-7752-2-5