By Melissa Hekkers
We drove through the winding roads heading towards Simou village in the Paphos area in anticipation to spend some time within one of the three Mongolian yurts nested aside the Paphos Forest and the Evretou Dam.
And although the sudden appearance of a smokey sky above Polis rang alarm bells as we made our way closer, it’s perhaps the very fact that we were to spend the next couple of days alongside Mother Nature that somehow soothed me.
Nature was suffering and as we settled in our yurt, smelling and looking out for the chain of smoke that hovered above us, the overwhelming silence surrounding us instilled even more respect for nature’s abundance, and in this case, dignity.
Looking back, Pawel Sikorski’s words still echo in my mind: “It was a little boy’s dream; I had this idea of creating a sanctuary; for people to go somewhere and reconnect with themselves and nature.” The coincidence of us arriving on a weekend when one of the biggest fires in Cyprus’ history was in full force, reconnecting with nature was certainly implored, yet in truth, the Yurts of Cyprus awake nuances that merely remind us of nature’s standing and how much it has to offer.
Finding a home
Sikorski opened his premises in February 2014, after having exhausted his career working in hotel management at the Hilton Hotels in the UK.
As an avid rock climber, it was the climbing routes in Inia that initially led him to the area, but the land he eventually chose to materialise his dream was the result of various trials and errors throughout his exploration of the island.
His first attempt at establishing his ‘sanctuary’ took place in the village of Annadiou based on the idea that this could be done by restoring houses in abandoned Turkish Cypriot villages or potentially by creating mud houses, tree houses or even by using existing caves.
“The yurts were somewhere along my thoughts, but I found them very expensive,” admits Sikorski, and it was only when he sold a sailing boat he had restored that he managed to attain the basic financial support to begin materialising his vision.
From then on, everything happened naturally explains Sikorski.
“One boy’s dream led to another,” he smiles, “I would have never imagined myself doing this a couple of years back when I was wearing a suit and tie in England and had a clean haircut, was clean-shaven and wore polished shoes every day!”
“But there was this yearning inside me; I wanted to be out in nature. I always felt more comfortable in nature than in the city and living in Cyprus and its rural areas, this connection became stronger, I felt more connected to nature, and I began making use of whatever resources I had,” reveals Sikorski.
Today what one will encounter is a vast multi-layered piece of land that houses three yurts, a mud dwelling which provides a common living space for visitors, a bell tent and a deck which has recently began to host live events and workshops.
With the prime focus set on the ‘Yurt experience,’ each yurt bears its own name, but also potentially provides an individual experience. Personally, I was homed in Qadan, the lowest yurt on the premises which in Mongolian means cliff, as it stands overlooking a gorge that makes its way down the valley, while behind it, Nasu, meaning good health and Engke meaning peaceful are, very much like Qadan equipped with their own little terrace and individual décor once inside.
Lasting anything from 20 to 25 years depending on how much maintenance is carried outon the yurts themselves, the realms of the circular, wooden floored and meticulously decorated interiors provide the ultimate experience of a type of luxurious camping, if you like.
Yet Sikorski took it a step further.
“I wanted to make sure that people are confortable when they come to stay; there is electricity, there is Wi-Fi, you have a choice not to use it of course, and then there’s hot water, each yurt has its individual shower and composting toilet,” he explains.
“I wanted to make sure that basic things are in place and that people wouldn’t get themselves completely out of their comfort zone; to come and stay and not lack the basic stuff. But I also wanted it to be a luxurious experience,” he adds.
To this end, sustainability became the natural path to follow, even if it’s not always the cheapest path.
Producing its own electricity through solar power and being provided water from a borehole enables the premises to function off the grid, but Sikorski seems very much conscientious about how far to take this.
“I wanted to be as far away as possible but not too far, so I tried to balance the distance between civilisation and nature.” His choice of mountain view as opposed to sea view was also a conscious one.
“I feel it attracts a lot of great energy and a lot of great people, it could have been anywhere… but sea view usually incorporates coastal areas and that usually means that it’s busier with more light pollution and traffic.
“So you’re out in the valley, not too far away from civilisation, but also close to the sea, there’s nothing else if you go east from here, just a couple of houses, abandoned villages and the forest,” says Sikorski.
“I always had this awareness that it’s got to be sustainable and that I have to utilise resources in the best possible way… and think about things like how to generate electricity or if I’m actually going to have electricity… but you don’t want to start going backwards (not having the basics) because it’s not fair on people and not fair on yourself unless you really choose to do that, but in my opinion it’s not necessary.”
In all certainty, the ultimate experience of staying in the yurts has been materialised in such a way that each individual person walks away with alternating, personal understanding of the place, and undeniably cultivates memorable moments provided through nature, the hospitality, the yurts themselves, the surrounding areas and the choice of activities one decides to do when on location.
Currently, Sikorski is trying to take this a step further by providing an alternative experience to those who perhaps don’t have the opportunity to stay over.
“We want to make it available to other people because I do realise that it’s not a very cheap way to spend your time,” admits Sikorski.
“I have this desire to go more towards events and workshops, the accommodation people that we keep attracting with this place is ongoing, it’s like an avalanche, it keeps happening, so we keep maintaining this and make sure it stays on a certain level….we have some projects to beautify some parts of the land, of the yurts, by adding awnings or adding some benches, or planting more trees…”
But judging from the recent live music events and workshops that have already started taking shape, there is more to the place than merely an unforgettable living experience.