Day four: Rain? Not a chance. High probability of water, however — in the form of a briny dip in the clear, gentle sea at San Vito lo Capo. Afterwards, a steady grind this morning; up was the word, all the way through the wide, sun bleached streets of Castelluzzo. In Castelluzzo, a large-ish brown dog joined the team. Sicily, as I’ve touched on before, is plagued by territorial canine mongrels that burst growling from gravel driveways at pairs of unobtrusive bike tourists. We experienced it already the day before around Chiesa Nuova and so this particular animal had us on edge.
But, docile as a panting lamb, he followed through town and up the highway, and we began to call him Mascot. As in, “Mascot, what the hell are you doing?” “Mascot, get the hell out of the road.” And so on. Mascot followed us all the way to the top of an abandoned road that turned to dirt and spit us out above the picturesque seaside town of Scopello. Tyler lobbed a rock in his general direction — the customary way to greet a typically aggressive Sicilian dog, but with force — and he ran away, presumably all the way (way, way) back to Castelluzzo. Go Mascot, go.
And then a quest for water… sometimes, finding water in Sicily is like finding a Democrat in Florida. Fountains do exist, as they do elsewhere in Italy, but it’s unclear whether or not the water is good; even in hotels “acqua non potabile” (non-potable water) signs grace the walls. Back in Trapani, Claudia (the receptionist at the hotel), said it wouldn’t kill us — it just tastes horrid (truest story ever written). So one of the highlights today — on our last, parched leg after accidental mountain biking part one — was finding a spring nestled in a bed of bamboo (and, as always, trash).
Then, a magical, winding descent on a narrow road hanging above neat fields and below rocky escarpments where cactus sprung forth fully with great curiosity about the world. A dip at Calabianca and an almond chocolate ice cream bar broke up the afternoon. And in the evening light, we paused to admire, from high above, the intriguing beehive that is Castellammare del Golfo, our home for the night…
Day five: Exodus through the lively streets of Castellammare del Golfo, pausing only to imagine getting sunburned (Tyler) and more tan (Sylva) on the tantalizing beach nestled far below the fortified medieval wall on the port.
A long ride have we — through largely deserted roads that climb from fertile riverbed fields to hilltops (and back again). And we’ll get to see who’s better at hitting a moving target as small packs of territorial, highly excited dogs run at us throughout the day. This ride also takes us from 2013 all the way back to Greek times, when togas were in and so was killing all your fellow Greeks at the ruins of Segesta and throwing them in the ravine behind what remains a very impressive temple (just a note — there is now a swimming hole in that same ravine, visible from the hill… anyone fancy a dip?). For the bargain price of 12 euro, we can walk up to the magical ruin of the temple; we deign to pay 3 euro more each to ride a bus to the teatro.
Just past the Arabic influenced town of Calatafimi, we’ll decide pavement is so five minutes ago and trade it for dirt: accidental mountain biking part two! It’s a true interior Sicily experience — barking dogs (luckily too far away watching sheep or keeping their flabbergasted owners company as they pick olives), steep cultivated hillsides and steep, rutted 4-wheel drive roads. Eventually, we’ll reach a remarkably well signed intersection and pavement, which will be so glorious that we’ll think we’ve died, gone to heaven, found touring bikes (and mosquitos — there are mosquitos in heaven?) and gone for a sweaty Sunday cruise.
A lengthy descent past wind turbines and into a wide valley. Here we’ll encounter the bizarre town of Gibellina Nuova, ravaged quite successfully by an earthquake in 1968 — and to this day, still continues to be rebuilt. Of course, Gibellina Nuova is too flat to be true, so we must climb at length to San Ninfa and then Partanna before we descend exhausted all the way down a long, confusing dirt road to our agriturismo, Baglio Vecchio. Is this really the road, we think as we continue downhill in the fading light… there is a strange water treatment facility, which is not what one would expect in a country whose water is largely non potable… and no signs for an agriturismo… and barking dogs, oh goody…
In the last rays of the sun, we make it to Baglio Vecchio (a baglio is a traditional Spanish farmhouse, fortified with large walls around a central courtyard — many abandoned throughout Sicily, and others, like this one, remodeled and reused). Showers are in order (for the good of all mankind) and then we refuel (and refuel and refuel) on several courses of food — from freshly brined olives, salted hard ricotta cheese, dried sausage and sun dried tomatoes to handmade pasta with ragu and a chunk of roasted beef rib, salad, dark, intense Nero D’Avola wine, limoncello and of course, cannolo!
As they say (and they are certainly well acquainted with the back-to-reality blues) all good things must come to an end. Although I will dabble a bit more in recounting this adventure, our time in Italia has come to a halt, like a party once the booze dries up. Tomorrow, rows of vineyards whose leaves change from green to orange give way to rows of airplane seats. After the longest Tuesday ever pondered, we shall arrive in Colorado jet lagged, already dreaming of artisan gelato and homemade pasta, crying all the way up to the (snowy?) Eisenhower tunnel…
Until next time, buon viaggio (safe travels)!