Julia Buckley follows in the footsteps of Aphrodite
“It’s just a pond,” she’d said at reception. Perhaps something got lost in translation, because from where I’m standing, this ‘pond’ looks more like a grotto, fed by its own mini waterfall — so simple and perfect that it’s worthy of its place in Greek mythology.
I’d come to Cyprus on a yoga retreat, knowing little about it other than the scrap of trivia I’d retained from a lesson in primary school — that the island is, according to legend, the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. I was here to find myself, I’d told myself, ignoring the guidebooks at the airport. I didn’t want to leave Zening Elia Village — the retreat in Latchi, on the northwest coast — so I didn’t want to know what I was missing out on.
But then, at reception, I’d happened to notice a bus timetable listing the ‘Baths of Aphrodite’. Supposedly, I was told, it was the rock-pool where Aphrodite had bathed, and where her lover, Adonis, stumbled upon her mid-wash.
Although the girl at reception insisted that a boat trip around the nearby Akamas Peninsula would be more appropriate than the pond (and she should know — she was actually called Aphrodite), my interest was piqued. On my last day, I woke up at dawn and hopped on the bus.
The path leads through a herb garden and skirts the side of a lush canyon — enormous eucalyptus trees springing up from the depths below and gnarled olive trees clinging to the side. As it heads downhill, I hear the sound of running water.
This is no mere pond, it turns out, but a grotto sized perfectly for two, filled with crystal-clear water and fed by the spring that spills from the rocks above and over a mossy branch, splitting into a line of jets like a fancy rainfall shower head.
It’s set deep in the cliff face, framed by giant dolmens and shaded by the leaves of the fig trees, weaving a lattice of branches across the top. There’s even a soundtrack — the gentle cooing of birds nesting overhead, and the muffled clunks of bells worn by mountain goats scuttling round olive groves on the spectacular headland above. I can’t imagine a more appropriate bathtub for the goddess of love.
Legend has it that any woman who drinks or bathes in the water here will enjoy eternal beauty, but there’s a strict no-swimming rule (when I kneel down, a resident pigeon fixes me with a steely glare, ensuring I comply), and the water’s marked as not drinkable — not that that stops me gulping down a handful.
It tastes as sweet as I’d expect Aphrodite’s private supply to be, although the eternal beauty part could prove more of a challenge. Having said that, when I fly home, my friends are convinced I’ve never looked better, and although I’m sure it’s all the meditation at Zening, a tiny part of me hopes it’s the magic water. I hedge my bets and plan a return trip to both.