So much fun was had by all loading the 15 dogs into the van! Cats were unimpressed, but dogs were definitely on an adventure! Alfie kept walking up and down inspecting the cages, “maybe this one will nice, no, perhaps this one…”

The Fowler family

Having finished we went towards Kyrenia to meet up with Bingo, a really sedate gentle dog, and the lovely kennel owners who’ve been looking after him. Poor chap, travelling with this noisy lot! We reached the port and checked in. At this point, the day went downhill. We discovered that we needed an additional export document.

Gentle Bingo

This entailed a 45-minute dash to a Government office in Nicosia where we found the official we were looking for in only the third building we were directed to. A formidable, yet friendly and efficient lady, told us she could provide the documentation but we would need 23 documents photocopied, and she was about to go to lunch. She kindly arranged a special discount at a photocopy-come-copy booth and promptly disappeared.

She reappeared exactly one hour later and very quickly her minions whipped up the necessary paperwork. Knowing that bureaucracy in this part of the world is a fickle and unpredictable thing we retraced our steps to the port to check that our document was in order. Lo and behold the official we had dealt with, and who was still on duty, was a stand-in, who quickly shrugged his shoulders and told us to talk to his superior.

We were ushered into the presence of the superior who was presiding over a meeting of other worthies and fellow tea-drinkers. Fortunately another of Turkish Cyprus’ under-valued and under-represented female civil servants took us in hand, very quickly comprehended the matter and interceded on our behalf with the office nabob. He and his companions had a short, heated discussion and then completely ignored us. Their decision, however, was that the document was satisfactory, but that we now had to go to a freight agent and obtain a manifest for our cargo.

Fate was smiling on us as a representative of this organisation happened to pass the door. Our friendly lady official cuffed him verbally about the ear and he escorted us a short distance to a tiny office filled with two large desks and two plastic chairs. Here we met the third of our formidable Turkish Cypriot ladies who told us that there was no problem, but that she could not do the document until the following morning when we checked in.

Her astute questioning made her realise that the animals did not belong to the people — us — actually transporting them. So we found ourselves setting forth once more in search of another document. This involved a short distance to a notary, who would witness an authorisation letter from the owner giving Animalcouriers permission to transport his animals.

The office was a tiny cell under a staircase in a Victorian building. Every surface was covered in piles of books, yellowing paper and dust. A truly Dickensian picture. Seated on the plastic garden chairs inside and standing on the pavement outside was a diverse collection of Turkish Cypriots and ex-pats stoically awaiting the return of the notary who was already an hour and a half late. He soon arrived and with a flourish of his pen, a bang of his rubber stamp, a smile and a lot of jolly banter, he dismissed the awaiting supplicants.

In short order we had our final piece of paper (we hope) and dashed back to the port to double-check it was acceptable. So glad to report that it was.

It was at this final point that we discovered the ferry we been forced to miss had in fact been cancelled due to inclement weather. Will the ferry run tomorrow I quizzed? With a broad and beautiful smile our new-found bureaucratic heroine replied: “Inshallah.”