Muddy Sicily…

Posted by on 19, Feb 2023 in 2023 - Sicily and Italy, Italy, Tilly the Tandem

Muddy Sicily…

When the Greeks colonised Sicily they obviously has us in mind when planning the locations of their towns. They always seem to be about 40km apart which is a nice cycle, means you don’t have to get up ealry and gets you to your destination mid afternoon so you can have a brief look around. It’s also great for getting our fitness back and protecting Linda’s knee early on.

So we’ve town hopped nicely down the coast. We’ve avoided the main roads as far as possible, cycled on a few dedicated cycle paths which in true Italian style, were new a few years ago and have had absolutely no maintenance what so ever so are now cracked over grown and full of plants and pot holes. Even the cycle signs have faded!

Again in true Italian style the signposts only signpost the direction when’s it’s patently obvious where you need to go. If there’s any doubt, then there’s not a sign to be seen, but our trustee cycle navigator has seen us through many countries successfully so we rely on that.

It may have found its match here though. as closed roads are a daily problem for us and often there’s no way through for bikes. And we’ve had quite a few annoying turn rounds to find a way around the closure.

Selinunte was one more of these instances, as we ended up at a river with no bridge with spitting distance of our town and had to push Tilly back over rough tracks for a kilometer then cycle on the road for another 11km to get to our destination.

We arrived cold and tired and a tad annoyed. Tilly was covered in mud and the Airbnb had said we could store her in the spare bedroom, but she was way to filthy to bring in so I had to clean her first, which really is the last thing you want to do at the end of the day! But a clean Tilly hopped into her bed for a well earned rest and we shivered in the Airbnb.

Heating here is very hit and miss. This Airbnb was an old house and in the summer would be fabulous. In the winter with one air con unit high up on the wall in the lounge and very high ceilings and tiled floors it was freezing. We turned the oven on and gas rings and sat in our coats. We walked up to the supermarket to stock up and by the time we came back the room was not too bad. We needed a blanket to keep warm on the sofa, so had an early tea and went to bed leaving the air con on heating mode and the bedroom door open. By morning the house was fine, presumably it had been unoccupied for a while since the last guests so took ages to heat up.

We came here to visit the largest Archeological site in Europe – Selinunte. It’s so big you can hire a golf cart to take you round or walk the 1.5km between temples and the acropolis and 2.5km to the Area Malophoros….. Of course it was Golf cart for us thank you very much!

The site is mainly ruins, but one temple has been re-erected and part of the acropolis. They stand beside piles of ruins of blocks of stone that you can’t imagine anyone moving without modern machinery. Its a fabulous contrast between the standing temple and the adjacent temple still in ruins and largely all there. Often temples have gone completely as people have carried off the stone for other projects, but not here.

The site also had some really good information boards showing you how they built the temples and had even recreated some cranes and wagons. An excellent day.

Leaving Selinunte it was raining, windy and 7C. We opted for the main road rather than trying to follow the coastal path as we couldn’t face another day of a muddy Tilly…. Little did we know what lay ahead.!

We had the pleasure of a rails to cycle path conversion planned for most of the day and picked it up about 2km after it started. The reasons for this is that the only way to get to the start is by cycling on the cycle path back to the start which is in the middle of nowhere!

It was pretty well maintained by Italian standards. Obviously most of the hand rails beside the path had fallen over or had completely broken, they looked like they’d been bought as a job lot in Poundland so it wasn’t a great shock. The track itself though was in good nick. Well, for the start at least.

At the town of Menfi the cycle path continued through a winery that had decided that it didn’t want cyclists on its land so had erected gates across the path. So off into the town and around the factory we went picking it up again on the other side.

It was very overgrown and really that should have sounded an alarm bell for us. But a guy was treating the weeds and there was a sign saying he’d been doing this since December… Perhaps he was cultivating them, because they didn’t seem like they were dying to us. But he said it was fine to carry on so we did. Right into the ankle deep sheep shit that covered the path. When we encountered the first one of these sections we thought, it’s just water running off the fields and carrying the spill and poo onto he path at the lowest point. So we walked Tilly through and continued.

The 2nd and 3rd ones we thought it can’t be like this all the way, and to be fair you went a kilometer with it being fine then came to another sheep shit alley.

There comes a point where you’ve invested so much time and effort getting that far you’re loathe to turn round. That and the alternative road was miles away and very hilly whereas old railway paths have lovely gradients. We managed to get through to a junction in the end and stood looking at the continuing path. It didn’t look like there was any more poo and the path avoided a hill and detour so we ploughed on. Literally into more, this time landslides of soil. We tackled the first and then saw more and more with the cycle. path now not even visible underneath it…so finally gave up and u turned. Tilly wouldn’t move in the mud as it stuck to her wheels and jammed up under the mudguards and fork. Our shoes had 3 or 4 inches of mud/poo stuck to the bottoms and our clothes were splatted up to our armpits.. it was like you would imagine the Somme. As we finally got back to the junction we stopped in the rain to try to clean Tilly, and being in Italy only had to walk about 30cm to find a bottle of water disregarded by the road. I made a hole in the cap and we carefully washed the worst of the soil off Tilly and carried on toward Sciacca.

Closed roads are our other nightmare here. There’s rarely any warning until you can see the digger and the diversions are normally ‘Go to Palermo and try again’. So when we rolled up at our 2nd closed road trying to get into Sciacca town centre and the guy said we had to go back up the side of the mountain, turn left at Paris and come via Rome, Linda gave him the ‘ I’m about to burst into tears here and it’s all your fault’ look and he then decided he could actually walk us through the road works, instructing the cement lorry to get the hell out of the way and let us through. Brilliantly played by Linda I thought. Good job too, because the main road was also closed…3 closed roads into the town!

By the time we finally got into the town it was chucking it down with rain but we found a garage with a tap and stopped and completely washed Tilly down (this is becoming a habit!) together with our panniers and our own waterproof clothing, while 3 elderly men in the cafe opposite looked on in bewilderment..

Eventually we arrived looking bedraggled at our hotel – we had booked a sea view room with balcony as being the winter their rates were ridiculously low and we love sea was pure luxury!

The room and hotel was one of the best we’ve ever stayed in and cheaper than a premier Inn. We both spent ages in the shower warming up and scrubbing clean and then decided to eat in the restaurant as we couldn’t face going out again. Nothing vegetarian on the menu, of course.

But the waiter was brilliant and the chef cooked us both individual dishes which were excellent. It was one of those restaurants where they keep bring you tiny bits of food compliments of the Chef on very large plates that they spilt something colourful all over. Linda says that’s fine dining! These minisucle morsels were excellent though and we had a fabulous evening destressing after another challenging day in Sicily.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.