Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 Print E-mail
Written by Ray Critchell   
Sunday, 05 July 2009 23:37
Article Index
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
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After leaving Africa rather abruptly in mid 1974, homeless, jobless, and with a few fairly traumatic months behind us, I promised to write a sequel to the article I had written as a semi-autobiographical history of the development of the Airport Rescue Fire Service, hopefully to explain the rather cryptic closing remarks in chapter three. These included the rhetorical question, 'could things get any worse?'

Since that far off day, several people have asked 'What did happen then?' 'Where did you end up?' 'What did you do for a living?' 'How did you all settle into a different life?' etc, etc.

This may not be of interest to all, but for people who have to suddenly pack up and go to live somewhere else in the world, and make a complete change of career when in middle age, as so many of us were forced to do, this tale may be of some comfort. Things can turn out well. Also, in keeping with the philosophy of the GNR, I would like to complete the story, as far as it goes, for my great grand children who will never be able to hear it from me direct.

After an uneventful night flight from Lusaka, apart from the fact that we could not buy any refreshments as our Zambian currency was not acceptable on the aircraft, we landed in Cyprus early in the morning of Saturday the 13th of July, 1974. This was going to be the start of a welcome relaxing holiday on the beach, away from all the stresses and strains of Africa. Although it was just after dawn, the temperature difference between the Central African savannah plateau at 4000 feet in July, or mid winter, and sea level in the eastern Mediterranean at the height of their summer was causing us to visibly melt. By mid day it would reach 40° C +.

Apart from a small crate that was on the way by air freight to our new home, wherever that was going to be, all our worldly possessions were in the strictly rationed one suitcase each and a brief case with our travel documents etc. We collected these after customs clearance, which was markedly relaxed and civil compared to the Zambian people, although we did wonder a bit at the large number of soldiers and armed police standing around in the airport. I had hired a new Austin car that would hold all five of us and after a comparatively short drive to the north side of the island we reached the ancient and historic seaside town of Kyrenia. Our hotel, the Dorana, was a short distance up from the beach, and was practically brand new. As we came to learn, It had been built by two Greek Cypriot brothers who had spent several years in the Congo making their fortune and planning this, their dream.

It was fully and very efficiently air conditioned, and with the wooden shutters closed over the windows it was cool and dark inside compared to the hot, brilliant sunshine outside. We had three large rooms and planned to relax and recharge the emotional batteries before we began our next negotiations with the fates. I know that for most of that first day and night I slept soundly. Something I had not done for a while.

On the Sunday we set off to explore and drove up into the nearby Trudos Mountains, visiting the famous Bellapaise Monastery, and in general, being the average tourist. The scenery was out of this world and our new car ran like a dream. However, on some of the mountain roads we would come across a check point, with several stern looking, bearded men standing guard. These men were all heavily armed, with ammunition bandoliers slung across their shoulders. They seemed to recognise us as harmless tourists and waved us through. The hotel staff did not / would not say anything about them when we asked who they were.