The Mystery of the Cyprus Coconut

I emerge from the path in a grove of orange trees and quickly make my way out to the road. The temperature is much lower in the valley and it reminds me that it is, in fact, October even though the sky is a deeper blue and there is a warm sun hanging over the hills (and I have had to get out of bed much earlier than I would have wanted to, just to avoid its heat). I run up the road, quickly leaving the cold pocket of air behind, and turn off along a concrete track that continues to rise up out of the valley.

The countryside in this part of Cyprus is a mix of farmland and fields, and the track takes me past both: a handful of scattered holiday villas then it opens out into fields of small trees and bushes. It is mainly citrus, oranges and limes, but fig trees and walnuts also grow in the dry, dusty fields. There are long, black hoses criss-crossing the ground, bringing the only water that a lot of these crops will see for months on end. The track has levelled out now (thankfully), allowing me to catch my breath and stretch my legs out. I haven’t managed much running in the last few weeks so I’m a bit slower and rustier than I would like; these early morning runs are a welcome reintroduction to the world of running. I haven’t quite managed every other morning, but I’m not doing too badly. And I am on holiday after all.

Other than the ever increasing heat, the other big thing that tells me that I’m not running in Devon is the heady scent in the air. It’s not always pleasant (the valley I have just left is home to a sulphur spring spa) but on this track I’m getting an overwhelming scent of fresh oranges. Oranges hang in the trees and are scattered on the ground beneath as well, and all of them are giving off a great smell.

Orange trees

As I turn a corner, entering a slightly shady stretch between banked earth walls, another smell hits me: a musty coconut aroma. The earthy mustiness may well be from the leaves and slightly damp earth here in the shade, but why can I smell coconuts?

I am now on the edge of a settlement and I run (slowly) up into the village, past a small church and graveyard. I pass a group of elderly Cypriot men sitting outside a cafe. They are smoking and talking and drinking coffee, and they look at me (in my white sports top, shorts that are on the side of being just a little too short and with a chunky black watch strapped my wrist) and they don’t return my smiles. They probably think I’m mad. They may be right. I slow to a walk in the centre of the village and I pause to gawp at the large white church with its terracotta tiled domed roof. The air conditioning unit on the side doesn’t add anything aesthetically, but I’m guessing it is probably needed. Cypriot women are out in the streets, dressed in traditional long skirts and tops, with scarves around their heads. I wait until I have passed them before I break into a trot again, heading back out to the village towards the fields.

Cypriot church

I retrace my steps and, sure enough, there is the same strong smell of coconut as I make my way out through the fields. I have googled it since and coconuts are definitely not grown in Cyprus, so where was the smell coming from? Leaving the fields I run back down into the valley and pick one of the many routes back towards our villa. Whichever I choose, they all have one defining characteristic: up. This one defeats me about a third of the way up the hill and I pant the rest of the way up the sun drenched track at walking pace.

Cyprus

It has only been a few kilometres, but it has been an energising start to my morning and it has also left me with an enduring puzzle: why could I smell coconuts as I ran? You might say that the big blob of sun cream I discovered on the end of my nose when I got back had something to do with it. You might say that I was imagining it. You might be right. But if you are ever in Cyprus please keep an eye out, and a nostril open, for a sign of the elusive Cyprus coconut.

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