The engine whines, alarmingly. Somewhere in the hills strewn around Paphos, Cyprus, four sunburnt girls are trying to coax a reluctant Nissan Micra up a rock-strewn, near-vertical incline.
Reluctantly, the car creeps forward, lurching alarmingly to the left. At the edge of the road, a sharp drop reveals a cacophony of Cypriot charm; rolling hills, white villas peeking through the greenery like snowdrops. At every other twist in the road Orthodox churches appear. Some are simple, unoccupied, a plaster-white bunker with a prominent cross but no visible door. Others are imposing, beautiful detailed, their soft brown colours making them looking like gigantic sandcastles, perched precariously on cliffs with their back to the sea.
The sea itself remains almost always in vison, a slash of bright, brilliant blue cleaving land and sky. Leaning out the car windows we can see the luscious curves of the beach below. Somewhere in the sand, baby turtles burrow into sleepy hollows. Later, we will climb down to find them, bare feet moving quickly over sand which still burns from the midday sun.
Our present destination, however, is a clandestine rock pool hidden somewhere in the folds of these hills. Our car was never built for the roads we’re driving along and we have become lost; wonderful, deliriously, excitingly lost, rolling through pretty village after pretty village, buying halloumi bread from a roadside stall, gliding around corners with the view -that marvellous view!- spread out below us.
Eventually we see a signpost. And then another, and another. We’re heading downhill now, careful to control the car’s speed, shielding our eyes against the glare of the sun. Slowly – slowly. Sloping terraces, the glint of the ocean. And then, at last – arrival.
We find our waterfall, winding its way into a silent pool shrouded in sleepy tree branches. The water is unexpectedly, unbearably cold, and yet we persist, striking out from the shore, white shoulders ducked under, shrieks suppressed by the quiet beauty of the place itself. Someone has strung a rope swing above the tranquil pool and we grasp for it, pulling ourselves up and out, an uncomfortable perch from which to admire this place of the Gods.
Leaving the water, we crawl onto sun-drenched rocks to warm ourselves like lizards. Like children, we clamber up the waterfall itself, launching ourselves through the air and into the murky greenness. For a moment, before we emerge, everything is silent, as though time itself has stopped.
We leave to find our poor car – dust-encrusted, but still determinedly chugging onwards – and head back up the winding, endless hill. At the top we pause, share a look. To the left or to the right? Our phones cut out long ago and the only map we have isn’t detailed enough to depict these tiny roads. With no idea where we’re going, we edge forward and swing out into the road. After all, either way could hold an adventure. Such is the beauty of off-roading in a Nissan Micra.