A rural drive to Agrigento

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April 9th 2013
Published: April 10th 2013
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Todays Gelato flavours - GMB- a double header of Liqorice and Pistachio GLB- a double header of Pistachio and Chocolate

Another solid 8 hours sleep and we almost ready to start what was one of the longer days drives we have had so far from Siracusa to Villaggio Mose about 6km from Agrigento.

The day dawned beautifully fine again and we should have gone outside the hotel earlier before breakfast for a chance to catch a last uninterrupted view of Mt Etna before a small amount of cloud rolled over the peak.It was the only cloud that was in the sky but such is the height of the mountain it catches whatever is in the atmosphere.Never mind we already had some great pictures and video for the archives.

Breakfast was again substantial and we partook in all that we had yesterday as well as some slices of cake and a small serving of a Sicilian specialty that was a slightly firm cream with nuts o the top.Very sweet and best had before the scrambled egg and bacon.

There was no 'mafia tax',as described by our host in Rome, or city bed tax to pay so we were on our way by 9.30 with over 250km to travel.

That distance was subject to the main roads we had planned to take, not taking us through the middle of the numerous towns on the way and the directional signs for the roads we wanted being where we needed them if there had to be a change in direction.As we discovered none of the towns,and some were of reasonable size,had ring roads and our actual mileage travelled was greater than the GPS indicated it would be at the start of our journey as we weaved our way through narrow streets when the directional signs weren't where we were looking for them.

We found the SS115 reasonably easily and it was just as well we did because had we not turned off the main A18 when we did the BBA V2 would have been up for some motorway tolls.

The rural area we were passing through at first had many fields of potatoes all ploughed/dug up ready to be taken to market.We have seen potatoes in great volumes in markets in the towns we have stopped and walked in so there is no truth to the story that Italy is all and only about pasta.

To our left was the southern coastline and to our right was a low line of rather barren hills with what appeared to be limestone rock.

We had only travelled a short distance and came across a large bunch of cyclists taking up most of our side of the road.What they were doing out cycling and not at work we won't know but these large groups of cyclists we have encountered often can be a pain to get by when traffic is anything more than light in volume.They do cycle reasonably fast but not as fast as cars can travel.We shall have to continue to put up with them as we know that cycling is one of the main activities in this country and many people are into it.

Approaching the town of Rossolini we came upon another trial arriving into towns can present and that is the person on the 50cc motor scooter riding down the middle of the road,often in a roundabout, heading for whatever these people get up to in the town.This guy also had a crate loosley tied to the back of the scooter and it looked like he was off to the market to stock up on vegetables.Thankfully he pulled off into another street before our impatience got the better of us and Gretchen had to try a tricky overtaking manoeuvre.

beyond Rossalini the road ventured closer to the coast although the ever present farm land was still on our right hand side with citrus and olive orchards being in abundance,some well tendered,others not so much.

The roadside here too had wildflowers growing and we guess we are seeing these at their spring best before the heat of summer kicks in in the next month ot two.Today the reading from the car said it was 23C just before midday and made the decision to get into shorts for Grahame and threequarters for Gretchen a good move.

We stopped for a boot lunch of fruit at the beach at Scoglitti.The main street of town was busy enough before the afternoon siesta began but down on the beachfront there was almost no activity with most of the houses lining the beachfront road shuttered up giving the appearance many were owned by out of towners who probably only came here for the summer period.

As with so many places we have stopped, the rubbish surrounding where we stopped soon became apparent as we took in our surroundings.How a country with such a long history of civilisation has not been able to work out how to control its rubbish disposal is disappointing to us as tourists and would not be tolerated in NZ.

The sea was calm and we dipped out feet in the Mediterrean for the first time on the BBA V2.Although you couldn't see anything on the horizon we had worked out that North Africa was only about 160km away.

Onwards after we finished lunch and the rural land we were passing through changed from orchards to plastic tunnel houses growing in the main tomatoes and as this is a country where tomatoes are a staple in the locals diets the tunnel houses were so numerous that every where you looked there they were.Around every corner in the road,on the flat and on the hillsides all in neat order.

At Gela we noticed what appeared to be a large oil rig offshore.Just before the town there was an ugly blot on the landscape in the shape of a refinery which also had some of those small oil wells with arms going up and down,dotted here and there close to the refinery.

Out of the town we passed a battered van with umbrellas tied to the roof chugging along in our direction.We had seen other vans similar on our way south on the mainland and decided they were being driven by gypsies who sold their wares in markets and the umbrellas were to provide shade or keep the rain off while they were doing their selling.Often there had been vans in convoy although this one was on its own and as we passed it we caught glimpse of the driver and front seat passenger and they did look a bit different to the locals.

Past Licata and there was a hillside of glass solar panels along with wind turbines.We have seen these in other place also as we have driven south so alternate energy making is something the Italians are trying which in a way is quite a contrast to the rubbish left lying around on the streets and roadsides.

Our hotel,the Costazzurro,is at Villaggio Mose about 6km from Argigento on the coast.For an address we had a street name and number but Vicky(GPS) didn't recognise the street name so we had programmed in what should have been an adjacent street and Gretchen had also done the BBA V1 exercise of writing down the arrival instructions from Google maps.That worked out to be a bonus as although Vicky took us off the main road where we needed to she couldn't find the hotel.

Then,Eureka!,we spotted a sign for the hotel.So we parked and walked up and down the area where the sign sort of pointed but with no luck.

Gretchen then suggested we drive on a little further because we were on the street that her written instructions said we should be and hey presto there was the hotel.

In our delight of finding the place we followed the arrow down a narrow driveway that led to the entrance to the lobby which was effectively below road level thinking that that was where the car park would be.

Wrong move!There was no car park and no where to turn around either with two other cars in the way for going forward.Reversing was going to be the only way out and that meant back up the narrow drive to the street.

We checked in and brought the suitcases in from the car to save transporting them from the hotel carpark across the street.

We had been given a room on the third floor and there was a lift.Yah,you might say no carrying of suitcases up three flights of steps.

The lift was small but after Gretchen got in with her suitcase there appeared to be enough room for me and my suitcase and the notice on the inside wall of the lift said max 350kg and we were about 160kg plus another 50kg for our cases well within the max amount.

It was a tight squeeze but upon pressing level 3 the doors,inner and outer,close and there was a small movement upwards.......and than a sharp STOP!

Immediately we noticed there was no air circulating and despite pressing buttons for other floors the lift stayed still.

We opened the inner doors as mild panic began to set in and squeezed open the outer door about an inch and we could see we were about 3 or 4 feet above the lobby floor where we had started.At least we had some air coming in and the panic eased.Gretchen pushed a button that alerted the man on the front desk and he said for us to push the button for the lobby and close the inner door and we came back down to the lobby again.

That was it for Gretchen she was only going to use the steps and I must say I wasn't too keen in getting back in the lift again either.The man on the front desk said not to worry that perhaps some part of our clothing was covering a sensor on the door and had stopped the lift.He assured us the lift was safe but we decided to walk.He wouldn't have us carrying the cases up the steps and put hem into the lift and set off to meet us as we climbed the steps.

With the drama of the lift fresh in our memories we went back downstairs to tackle the next problem and that was to get the car out of the driveway and across the road to the car park.Gretchen climbed back in the drivers seat and with me and two other men directing she carefully reversed back up the driveway which was about 30 metres long.One of the things we haven't got to grips yet with Cindy is her handbrake which is sort of like a switch which you flick to release.The only thing to tell you the handbrake is off is a message that flashes on the GPS screen and when you are busying reversing your attention is not on the GPS.

As Gretchen reversed up the driveway with two Italian men in front waving their arms and me behind waving mine and the sensor in the car beeping away as the walls both side were so close,there was a smell of hot brake linings and a small amount of smoke starting to emit from the underneath of Cindy.

Thankfully she performed the reverse quite quickly and in one smooth trip and she soon had Cindy on the road and turned around to drive across the road to the hotel car park.

Another lesson learned and retained in the necktop computer for the rest of the BBA V2,we will not enter narrow driveways to hotels in case there is no where to turn around and to save having to reverse Cindy in that situation again.

The actual layout for the hotel looked nothing like the website we booked it on.It is amazing how one can take a photo of a swimming pool and have the hotel building in the background and make it look like it is altogether when in reality the pool was across the road!!

We took a wander down to the beach and joined the locals in the gelateria.This place was as busy as a McDonalds with a woman taking payment for the gelato and giving receipts for one to line up and choose your flavour from about 45 on display with cones being filled by three guys working frenetically behind the counter.

We did what all the locals did and sat outside the shop in the sunshine and watched other locals walk and drive by.

Life is so just much more relaxed and casual when you can enjoy your gelato in this manner.And this in spite of the lift and reversing the car problems.

The beach here is average at best and there is only a small area 'free' for the locals.Perhaps the beaches are better further up the coast.

We still had lettuce,tomatoes,red pepper and cheese to finish from yesterday so rather then bring the microwave in and climb the three floors with it we opted for slices of pancetta from a nearby Conad store and make another tasty salad dinner.

The drive to Agrigento had been an enjoyable one with interesting and changing scenery and the day had finished with the drama of the lift and the reversing of Cindy in the narrow driveway.

We hoped that there would be no nightmares in our sleep.

Distance travelled today : 278km

Distance travelled since Tauranga : 20,022km


10th April 2013

Exciting times
Exciting day then huh? Funny how lifts in Europe can be so different from those at home! I remember one in Greece where it was just the floor that moved up and down the lift shaft, as the walls of each floor passed by on all four sides! Ma really doesn't look that happy with that gelato.....or maybe it's just the stress of the travel adventures written on her face.... :-)

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