A Paradise Lost: House sitting in north Cyprus, Part 1

IMG_9365(Notes from my house sitting experience back in late 2011 through spring 2012)

Karpaz is one of those places that many people have never heard of and will never see in its current pristine state. Even its geographical distance from the western world only underscores how distant our understanding is of truly untouched wildlife, of isolated and unspoilt nature. But it exists, here among the ancient Greek ruins, intentionally unpreserved (by local Turkish Cypriots), and like the rest of the world, its purity and unpeopled state will not last much longer.

Located in the Karpaz peninsula of north Cyprus, the village of Dipkarpaz stands as the last point of civilization before the island ends. Dipkarpaz is a farming village of about 2,000 people—mostly Turkish Cypriots, with a mix of immigrated Turks and a community of Greeks who decided to stay after the border was created in the aftermath of the Cyprus war of 1974.


With my partner, I am house sitting for a few months here and looking after about 100 free-range chickens/turkeys/guinea fowl, 2 cows, and a few dogs and cats. When I try to describe this place that I claim as my temporary home, I sound like I am making it up: wild donkeys roam through ancient olive groves, chameleons disappear below the boughs of candy orange mandarin trees and blossoming almond trees, beaches are secluded, endless and waiting with clean, well-tempered waters of the sunniest Mediterranean country in the world. It is purely a place of magic. And while it is not yet an overdeveloped resort complex like most of Greek-controlled south Cyprus, steady progress (nudged by government incentives) is being made to convert the north region into a more tourist-friendly place, complete with yacht marinas, waterparks and gaudy hotel structures. My decision to come to Karpaz was largely influence by this–all the signs pointed to now as the time to visit north Cyprus and its crown jewel, the Karpaz peninsula, to enjoy the last moments of isolated greenery and fantastic wild life before the bulldozers arrive.

I send pictures of my village life in north Cyprus to friends, and they say it looks like I am the only person on the island. On the eastern most part of north Cyprus, isolation is part, or most, of the beauty, and I am a little surprised but relieved to find no one else on the beaches—despite the bits and pieces of trash (a yellow Shell oil drum, syringes, a graveyard of shoes) washed up from Syria or Turkey across the sea. I feel some days as if I shouldn’t even be here, as if it is a mistake that I have landed here and can feel this soft white sand under my feet and stumble upon such impossible shades of blue in a sea, as if I have entered a mirage. These beaches, these water, these sunsets–they are almost fictional, they are the stuff of mythology. I see a pool of water in between the eroded rock formations where foam collects, the descendent of the foam from which Aphrodite was born. I’ve never been so close to nothingness, a nothingness that can only derive from such a complicated history, of ancient occurrences that my mind can hardly bear to imagine, to put in order, to relate to this bump of sand I stand upon.

IMG_0394The days here are serene, occasionally windy, especially in January, as the peninsula opens itself distant airs of affection and irritability, to whatever mood colors the unmarred sea each day. When viewed from the house where I stay in the village, the water stands on its toes, stretching to the sky, pure and untouched by cruise ships or fishing boats or oil rigs. Nothing but a flat, vast strip of inconsistent reflection.

If you squint, tiny pops of white, like hundreds of champagne corks exploding from their bottles, are visible further down along the bottom, away from the sky. Toward the sky, the sea blurs, can’t be seen properly without an aid to the eye, but you know that there, along that distant curve, that is where the world starts to change–and you are so close.

To Be Continued….

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