12.09.2008 - 15.09.2008
6 Hours of driving later.... we hit Reggio Di Calabria and queued up for the ferry to Sicily. We had no idea what we were doing, which ferry to catch, or anything really. How hard could it be? it's only a 2 minute ferry. We just followed TomTom's instructions and it did the job perfectly.
We grabbed a ticket (29 Euros) and sat in the queue. A queue that never moved..... Didn't take long for everyone to start honking their horns. Bear in mind the sun is scorching, fire-fighting planes are flying over us and skimming the sea, refilling from the sea to put out mountain fires... it was that hot. That, and I'd been driving since 7am. I had to stop at 10.30 and have a 15 minute kip in a service station. I knew I had to stop - I'd started day-dreaming of warm comfy beds, duvets, fluffy pillows. It's amazing how 15 mins of shut eye (not sleeping mind you, just shut eye) can totally revive you. Coffee didn't work, but 15 mins with my feet on the door, eyes closed, and I was 100% ok. Amazing really. Never tried it before.
The queue didn't move for an hour and a half. The Italians amuse me. We are all stuck and they beep their horns, get out of their cars, wave their arms, have small meetings to discuss what could possibly be holding them up. All drama.
Then we started moving. It seems there were two queues. One, our one, where we'd bought tickets on the day, and another that we assumed had prebooked. They were getting priority, and there was a police car and a police man there controlling everything. Each time we inched forwards it was a mad race to see who could accelerate as hard as possible to move into the fastest lane of the three. We were winning! :-)
At one stage a lorry driver cut me up (well, I cut him up , and he won the fight.. almost) and I had two choices. Sit in a siding, stuck, OR - if I could zoom around the police car, which no one else was doing. I chose the latter. Bingo! miles ahead of the lorry! At which stage the copper blew his whistle and put his hand up to me to stop :-( - "what?" I gesticulated - and pointed at my ticket looking confused..., "not go round car!!" , "ahhh - so sorry - English", "ok, go on". YAY! zoomed off and just got ahead of the lorry. Looking back, we got the last spot hahaha.
The thing we've noticed about Italian driving (and much the same as they are on foot - i.e. queuing, or the lack of) - is that it's a clear case of "if there is a short cut, an opportunity to get ahead, a chance, anything, TAKE IT!". If you don't you can guarantee there will be 5 cars behind you honking their horns. None of this, "after you sir" malarky - you see an opportunity - you go, and you go fast. The funny thing is, no one seems to make much of a deal of it - it's like they all share the understanding - "if you don't, I will", and "if you do, fair play, respect, and Oh, I'm right behind you so MOVE IT BUDDY!"
I like it. It's a good laugh. Survival of the fittest. If your are a timid driver don't come here, you'll fill your pants.
Sooo. we finally got on the boat....
Another hour South in Sicily and we found our B&B we'd been recommended by someone on the Thorntree travel forum. What a find! - we were greeted by the owner who showed us round, told us to pick any apartment as it was empty, and he'd charge us "dorm" rates. He would rather we were happy and have an apartment - no point being in an empty dorm. We have a GREAT place, above the pool and overlooking the mountains. Breakfast is included, as is pretty much everything, all for 60 Euros a night. Plus I found Wi-Fi :-)
Very happy here.
They don't do any food so we drove into the local village to grab beers wine and pizza - at which stage the heavens opened! - not rain, but hail. Not normal hail. Hail stones were hitting the ground and splitting into three pieces, each piece the size of a gold ball!! I'm not kidding. I instantly realised that if one hit us on the head we'd be in serious trouble - i.e. dead. We ran under cover and cowered.
It made the papers the next day. They've never seen hail like it (neither have we). 6cm diameter hail stones! I'm not sure they've even seen hail before down here.
I watched a couple slam into the car with massive bangs. Sure enough. We have a few dents..... Here is one of a few...
The storm carried on that night...
And the next day.....
Great fun to watch - I got the shots using the video mode on my camera. I missed the real biggies - 3 or 4 forks hitting the mountain right in front of us.
The weather has mainly settled now and we went up to Mount Etna (Eric - your travel site doesn't know about Mount Etna in Italy! ). We's read lots of excited reports of laval flows, eruptions etc, but we were not so lucky. A thick cloud base was over the peak so most of our time was spent in near zero visibility. We paid the full 50 Euros each for the cable car up, then a 4x4 truck up further, then a walk with a guide.
- As a side note - I got to use the Italian word I 1st learnt - Nebbia!! - there are a million road signs "In Casa Di Nebbia - 50Km/h" - i.e. in case of fog, slow down. - I was so chuffed - "Nebbia! Nebbia! " I exclaimed to the guide!, "yes, fog" he said. YAY! - p..s. I've got my Italian numbers down to a tee now - I always count my money in Italian, and more often than not, the people in the shops then reply in English to check they have got their English right too. I have lost count of how many times I've heard, "you practice your Italian, I practice my English, ok?". I like that attitude. A lot. Besides which, Nebbia! - what a word. "Doctor, I've got a sore Nebbia", or "can you see my nebbia through these trousers?" Truly great word.
We saw craters steaming, and some great views, but not a whole lot of volcanic activity. Fun, but dissapointing to be honest. No probs - we have volcanoes to see in South America - Mark Hiley, a good friend, was there recently, and told me of his experience jumping over lava flows! Still, this was fun, albeit very expensive.
(I'd done my homework and we went with jeans, trainers and jackets. Many had not - it was bloody freezing up there - don't forget it's a skit resort too!)
(At last! a steaming crater!)
(A burried building from a few years ago)
(all I want to be is a Space Man, Space Man!)
We are back at the apartment now. We finally managed to grab some groceries. In mainland Italy the shops close from around 12.30 to 3pm, sometimes 3.30pm. Here, however, they close at 12, and open at 5pm. It's mighty tricky! Our local pizza place sells ice cream in large polystyrene boxes. You choose your flavours and they fill it up, and chuck in some cones and other bits.
It's funny, at home we treat ice cream like a kids thing. Here it's like buying wine. And so it should be!- Stracciatella!!! maybe spelt wrong - but my favourite, followed by Kinder Egg ice cream.
We had a chat this evening and agreed that we are seeing places for the sake of ticking boxes, and it's costing us an arm and a leg, so we are cutting short our Sicily trip. We had planned to go to Sardinia and then Corsica, but to be honest, they would be "beach" resorts, and we can do that better in places like Thailand, for a LOT less money, so we tonight booked a car ferry back to the North of Italy for the 19th. SO many sites quoted us anywhere from 400 Euros to 1000 Euros for the 20 hour car ferry. I went to the Italian site direct. 200 Euros. Sailing from Palermo so will check that out in a couple of days...
Got lots of food and booze in-house, a good pool, great views, time for some r&r (like we haven't had any yet lol)