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Amsterdam to Larnaca

As I left the immigration desk I checked the board. Flight still there, no red writing anywhere and no panicked last calls to late passengers on the PA.

I’m not getting it. It’s 2.50 pm. Plane should have taken off.

Then I get it. My watch has been Cyprus time all along and somehow, perhaps with all that’s been going on – or is it just perception overload – forgot to do the math and deduct an hour.

The time now it 1.50 and I have at least 30 minutes to spare.

Gate D7 is 11 minutes walk away. I could do that it in 5 – OK so 25 minutes for beer.

There’s a Heineken bar along along the way and near the smokers room and you’re allowed to take your beer into the smoking room, and the smoking room looks out airside to the planes and I like planes. Civilised Amsterdam.

AT the bar I ask the girl with the glasses, defined jaw, slight eye-make-up, and pretty eyes for a beer and a coffee. She leans over to hear again. I said yes both, I need both.

Irish guy strikes up conversation. He’s a sailor out of Alicante. We talk Spain, I bum cigarettes (fed up of rolling) and order another beer.

I ask her, so are you from Amsterdam? Smiles says no. She’s from a village north, its very quiet and peaceful, surrounded by farms but she can be in Amsterdam in 15 minutes day or night.

I tell her it must be very pretty.

She knows I’m not talking about the village. She laughs in acceptance.

Irish tells me there’s only five minutes left. I say it’s five minutes to boarding, 20 minutes to closing. He thinks I’m crazy.

I’m just stretching. Stretching Amsterdam and my experience of being in it – even the airport has its charms like no other.

Boarding is straight forward. I’m in 11c, Steward with big red beard greeting passengers at door says is it could be better and it it could be worse. Could have a beer? That could make it better he answers with Dutch cheer..

I’ll post a letter to Transavia which has quickly become my favorite airline. I get the tapas plate and the guy gives me a free beer and chocolate for desert. I sleep and wake the 4.5 hour trip.

They carry the Amsterdam cool with them on board these people. I remember the minute I walked on board about five weeks ago on Cyprus to Amsterdam flight. I saw the Amsterdam cool immediately.

Cyprus immigration is a breeze, two young and very nicely made up lady agents in attendace.

A guy uses his plastic key chain to release a trolley for me without a two euro coin. Good trick that.

Through customs someone motions me to the desk asks what’s in the box. I gather they’re looking for a description but it’s not me. After all, this flight originated Amsterdam.

The box has been partially opened along one side by a sharp instrument. Everyone assumes airport security has taken a peek inside. The customs agent tells me please sir, go right ahead – Sir, no need to stop.

I’m getting called sir from more unusual places these days. Must be my age. Or maybe the bicycle.

There’s something very authentic, very truthful, about travelling with/on a on a bicycle.

Everywhere you go people treat you with just a little more attention and courtesy. Your fed, given things people think you might need, asked if there’s anything you need. Even the occasional asshole at a bar capitulates as soon as they hear you’ve come by bicycle.

You first, Sir. There you go, Sir. Do you know where you’re going, Sir? Do you need anything else, Sir.

Even the aloof guys working in coffee shops have been doing it.

Coffee shops. There’s a piece of business that I let slip by. Yesterday I didn’t know the guys working the shift at Central café and today because I didn’t have the time to visit. I’ll see if my antics remain alive in their memories for next time I visit. They were good, the antics, I’m confident they’ll remember me. I’ll pick up where I left off with that.

Agent Orange bugs me. It’s shown a resiliency that I did not see. It still seems to be a go.

I arrive outside Larnaca airport at about 8.50 pm, bus departing to Limassol in 30.

AN epic battle ensues as I try get the massive box into the baggage compartment of the bus. The box, on its wide side, is an acre wide and I can’t get it to go in more than six inches. I try a spot of brute force but nothing works. Meantime, because it had been cut, the box starts to fall apart. I yank the bike frame and wheels out and put them in the hold – along with panniers, mattress, tent, and sleeping bag (?) without the box.

Still five minutes to go. I haven’t eaten anything except that half eaten sandwich I left on the pavement in order to get the bike it. I use the five minutes to take the empty box and dispose of it as neatly as possible.

The bus driver, who was watching my epic struggle in his rear view mirror came out and ignored the empty box as if to say just leave it here, it’s not yours, I never seen that box before in my life – I’ve been watching you, you’ve done enough.

Still, I move it away, put it under an olive tree, and jump on the bus as it’s about to start the hour long trip to Limassol.

I’ll have to go to the last stop because my gear is on the side of the bus that opens to the road. I can only open it at the station, not the stops he makes along the way.

The last couple of nights catch with me on the bus, perhaps as I started to settle down, or maybe the perspective of motion that I’m getting from outside. I trip all the way.

We arrive the last stop of the Airport bus in Limassol about 10.15 pm.

I’ve now been in constant motion under time pressure and handling variables for 12 hours.

Gear out of bus, no hurry here. I’m home. I decide to spend 30 minutes around bus station catching up on water and coffee and putting the bike together. No less than 30 minutes to slow down and avoid a crash landing and rebuild reserves.

And for the first time today I can set my pace.

By eleven I’m ready to roll down the gentle slope of a lazy eastern Mediterranean city all the way to the old town centre that I like so much and cycle gently to one hotel or the other.

Peaceful, breezy, and familiar.

There’s live Greek music in the center and my little bar looks packed. I park outside, go in for a beer or three. Can’t charge my camera because I lost the adapter.

Few beers and a souflaki later I ride towards the hotel district.

I pass the eucalyptus forest in which I’d told someone I’d slept when I hadn’t (but it fit nicely into the narrative).

I sleep in the forest in order to set that straight.