Wednesday, 30 March 2011

46 Sicily

Thursday 24th March
Today was washing day and prepare for takeoff. Whilst all this was going on, Ray and I met up with two couples from New Zealand.  They in turn had met up with another couple from England, so it became a bit of a Commonwealth meeting.  The two couples from NZ, Ross and Yvonne, have been travelling for 7 months and have a smaller motor home than ours, which they bought in the UK and the other couple are Chris and Mel, and they have been travelling for several years and are in a Land Rover with a tent on top.  The six of us decided to all travel down towards Sicily together, whilst the other two Steve and his girlfriend stayed in Pompei for a bit longer. 

Friday 25th
We all took different routes, according to our vehicles, with the main aim of meeting up at a little sea side town called Praia a mare.  Ray and I were invited into the world of wild camping, which basically meant we live off of all the resources we have in the van, with none of the services like electric hook up and showers that you would get on a site, however it is free and not to be scoffed at.  We were right on the beach, the weather was glorious and I have to say, it doesn’t get much better than this.  We fired up the BBQ and all sat down to a mish mash of food that we all had in stock and lots of vino and good chit chat, had a lovely evening. 
Clockwise from front. Yvonne, Ross, Karen, Chris and Mel. Wild camped on the beach. Nice.

Saturday 26th
I apologise to those of you that work, but being retired has been rather stressful, certainly with driving Lizzie through the streets of Italy.  So true to form, we all decided to take a day off and had a great day on the beach, for us girls, it was hilarious watching Ray and Chris try to fly the kite that we bought back in Cornwall, it had never been out of its bag, (Ray ended up on his backside, the kite never left the ground, where is that camera when you need it).  Frisbie was next and the Patong, it is a bit like bowls with a jack ball that you all aim at, Ray and I were rubbish, and the bloody kiwi’s won. More BBQ, vino and getting to know one another..........

Sunday 27th
All vehicles were made ready for the off and onto the next stop.  We had planned to stay in a proper site for the night before we hit the port for Sicily the next morning.  The roads were terrible, Ray did the difficult bits, I did the motor way but in some respects that was just as bad.  You really need eyes in every part of your anatomy to drive in Italy, we are all really sick of it and our nerves are frazzled.
Unfortunately, that was just the start of a bad day.  Ray and I were the first to arrive at the campsite.  On the surface, it was in beautiful surroundings, top of a hillside, views overlooking the bay, trees, sound of the sea rolling in.  

 Ray and I found this big clearing so that the three musketeers could all set up camp, and Yvonne and Ross turned up next.  Ray and I were busy settling everything up, and I have to admit, I saw Yvonne disappear up the pathway to the loos and other facilities, but didn’t see her come back, I was dealing with my own crisis, I’ll explain in a minute, but the next thing we knew was Ross came over to our van and said, “We’re leaving Yvonne doesn’t like it here, so we are going to wild camp down on the beach over there.”  We thought well I can understand that, we hadn’t checked out the facilities, but had no reason to doubt Yvonne, but we still had to wait for Mel and Chris who were on way.  Anyway, we left too after a few minutes thought and an omelette, and it was quite embarrassing, because we’d driven into this site, disturbed them at dinner, told them there was two more vehicles coming in, their little Italian faces lit up, and then two out of three drove out.  We joined Ross and Yvonne and then got the phone call from Mel to say she was at the campsite, after letting them know what had happened, they left the site as well, so having thought the lady that owned the site, could pay for several meals and especially in low season, this poor Italian family, had nothing.
I just hope they didn’t send out any curses.
My egg problem, well we had stopped at a Supermarket and I bought a dozen eggs, Fantastic I can hear you say, good grief, are we now subjected to egg stories, well you are and if you don’t like it, read another blog.  Thankfully I had used some of them up, but on today’s journey down, whilst Ray had stopped to contemplate some more computer jargon, I opened the fridge and the whole box of 8 eggs left fell on the floor, I was lucky in that only one splayed itself all over the carpet, the others decided to crack and stay in the box, hence lunch was decided for us, scrambled, it was.
I did feel a little bit strange, because where we wild camped. We could physically look up the rock face at the campsite we had just abandoned. 
The tree line at he top is where we were paked initially, right on the edge.

It is a  shame, it was only 11 euro’s to stay there, but the whole point of us being in the site was so that we could all do the showering thing and washing thing.  What it amounts to, is we all stunk for another night and missed showering......... I’m convincing you all, that this is the life for you!!!!!!!!
We actually had another good night, took over the car park, and just enjoyed.
Wild camped in the car park by the beach

Unfortunately, the beach was minging with litter everywhere. Not a bin in sight.

Monday 28th
Having survived another night, (baby wipes rule OK).  Ray and I decided to go via the Toll routes to the port to get the boat over to Sicily, unfortunately everyone followed us, (don’t believe everything you hear about kiwi’s they are just as daft as us, they might win at rugby, but that’s it !)
We got on the boat, ours being the most expensive vehicle, and some helpful, ( I will call him knob end, who after we’d paid our fair, spotted the trailer, and charged us 20 euro’s more, wanted a tip, so we told him, don’t eat yellow snow), landed in Sicily.  
We are now on vallium, it has been even more traumatic driving here.  Tomtom, did his thing.  Yvonne and Ross call theirs Eva, short for eventually we will get there.  We were directed down the narrowest streets, they in themselves are reasonably wide, but, you park where you like, you leave enough room for single traffic, who would expect two bloody mobile homes and a rather large jeep to be travelling in your little town, which is in fact the main highway.......
Unfortunately, having done Rome, the rest of Italy, we are all gobsmacked about the driving. 
We followed a mountain pass, okay slightly large hill, with well serious U bends, and our Lizzie, struggled the whole way.  Ray is fraught, I am fraught, but we will survive.
This was a road marked red on the map. I was scraping the tow bar on half of the hairpins. We eventually abandoned this and found the toll motorway for the last hour of the journey to the campsite. In all honesty, if we wanted to drive on motorways all our retirement, we could have done that on the UK as you do not get to see the places you are travelling past. Even exiting the port, I scraped one wing mirror and a bumper. That will teach the berks to park properly. It is only when you see how inconsiderate these people are that you appreciate the relative order in the UK.
On arrival, again all together, we shunted around and found a suitable spot and set up camp. It was in a pleasant wooded area next to the beach. We were beaten to the washing machines by the Kiwi’s but we forgave them as they outnumbered us. More wine, beer and one of Karen’s awesome spaghetti bolognaise’ and we retired for a quiet night.
Tuesday 29th March 2011
 Washing day again, and a day of serious decisions. We decided that Lizzie is just too big to drive on the sort of roads that we intend to use and have decided to sell her on for something smallerl. One of the problems that we have is that she is left hand drive and a rather plush and exclusive model. This (we think at this time) will limit our choices for a trade in and may limit us to taking it back to the frigging useless dealer we bought it off. We will have to look into that. It is going to cost us dearly, I am sure, but we cannot go on as we are. On top of that we are carrying far too much junk which we also need to make some serious decisions about. We are of a mindset that we will start to make our way, slowly back to the UK to begin some sort of sale/purchase in a couple of days. We intend to do Mount Etna and then get off this crowded rock.
Wednesday 30th March 2011
An early start, relatively, we were out by 9:30 am. Ross and Yvonne left at the same time as us and ventured clockwise further around Sicily intending to approach Etna from the South the following day. Our plans, and that of Chris and Mel, were to go straight up Etna from the North. As such we parted company with Ross + Yvonne and will have fond memories of our time with them.
Chris, Mel and the Landrover set off behind us on Wallace. We filled up with fuel and aimed Wallace roughly south in the direction of Mount Etna.
Etna is under that cloud - otherwise, very picturesque.

The straight distance was 28km and we had an 82km drive of hairpins and meandering roads ahead of us. The journey up was spectacular and had the drizzle kept off it would have been fantastic. There were some long dry stretches where I could play on the mountain roads but as we neared the top, the weather closed in. 
Me, Karen, Mel and Chris, posing in front of Etna.
The fort at Castiglione di Sicilia

Recengt lave flows and heat have killed off a lot of trees without burning them. Spooky.

Starting to get cold. The road up the mountain.

A recent lava flow and Karen

Oops, just missed the fall - damn.

We found a new ski area at the top that was in it’s first year and not fully completed but operational. The temperature had dropped from a warm 22ish to a very cold and wet 7ish. It was cold enough for sleet but the skiers did not seem to be put off. We found a small ski restaurant and drank coffee while the rain hammered down. When we came out it was steaming all over the place and looked very eerie.

After coffee, the rain has stopped and the sun and mist is making the place eerie.

Having had enough of the cold and damp we set off in the direction of Taormina, about 30 km to the East. 
OK, this is getting serious......

At this point we parted company with Chris and Mel and they set off to look for somewhere quiet to hide for the night. We arranged to meet them at the ferry the next day at noon. A 1001 hairpin bends later we eventually arrived in Taormina. The place was beautiful. A small  town clinging to the side of a rocky hillside. 
The bay beside Taormina. See how clear the water is.

We stopped for a coffee and a bite of pizza in a small cafe by the sea and got talking to the proprietor who was normally a diving instructor in the tourist season.  He told us that the area was often used for filming in films that involve underwater scenes due to the clarity of the water. I have to say, it was crystal clear. He showed us where a film called “Deep Blue was shot, across the bay. It was a science fiction film about genetically modified sharks that grew oversize and clever, eventually taking over the research facility.
The film setting for "Deep Blue Sea"

The proprietor gave us some of his home made “lemoncello”, a lemon based drink containing 95% (yes 95%) alcohol. It was lovely. We then fired up Wallace and opted for the long way home via the motorway. When we got home it was pack up time and we eventually finished all our chores and dinner by 9pm. We were knackered.   

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