Iggy the Hymer is back in his favourite position – nose to the sea – at Marina di Palma in Sicily. ( N37.1672 E13.7299 ) We’re back to the surf I love so much, and it’s a great spot to contemplate the New Year and catch up on the blog, and our journey to Syracuse. It’s blown up quite a wind since we arrived here yesterday afternoon, and the waves are twice the size they were then. It’s hard to concentrate on writing with the endless lines of white horses, flinging themselves apart in clouds of foaming spray, on the breakwater just outside my window.
If all goes well and our money holds out we don’t have to be back in the UK until April. I know that’s a long time away. I am endlessly reminded of how lucky I am, and I’m eternally grateful for these moments I’m being gifted. And it will be so good to see my family and friends back home again…
You can hear the but coming can’t you? Okay, yeah, BUT!! I’ve got a funny kind of ache in my chest that really, really, doesn’t want to go back. Not in April anyway. I’d like to be able to take more time. Have my only deadline be getting Iggy back for his MOT in September. Our first long trip is only 6 weeks old and already I’m wanting more! Our plan for 6 months working, 6 months away was/is a good one. Especially for this trip as we find our feet some more in this world of travelling and motorhomes. But… the thought of having to go back for 6 months, to the world of walls, and working hours that are set by someone else, is a hard one. I’m not sure how I’m going to cope.
But that, thankfully, is a problem for another day. There’s a lot of travelling between here and there and a lot I’ve not written about yet. I’m a very naughty blogger!
We left Giardini Naxos a lifetime and a week ago to carry on our journey around Sicily. You grow attached to people quickly on the road, and it was with a definite pang we said goodbye to everyone at Eden Parking. David, Fran, Paul, Yvonne, Rolf. Hope the road brings us back together again someday my friends. Travel well.
For us, the ancient city of Syracuse – or Siracusa as it’s called in Italian – seemed like a good post Christmas destination. Jay was still finding the driving a bit daunting – and the passengering was a bit daunting too if I’m honest! – so I set Satnav for a carpark a good walk from the city centre to keep our traffic traumas to a minimum. David had told us the Autostrada was pretty reasonable here, so we decided to treat ourselves and take the easy road.
It was a good decision and we both relaxed and enjoyed the drive. There were still crazy Sicillian drivers whizzing around, but the traffic was light. We were on a dual carriageway and there was plenty of space for everyone. No stress. As we passed Etna the terrain levelled out, but there still seemed to be tunnels and stilt roads every time there was a bump in the landscape. Jay and I joked that the Italian engineers were so used to building tunnels and stilts they’d forgotten that roads could actually run uphill. Another tunnel mouth opened up before us and in we went laughing hysterically. Ah it’s good to laugh. But sometimes it doesn’t last as long as you might like.
When David was telling us about the Autostrada he’d mentioned the tunnels could be a bit hairy sometimes. They’d been in a couple where the lights were out, and it was very dark. We’d also hit a tunnel on the mainland, south of Salerno, with no working lights. It had been pretty dark and gloomy, but was a short one thankfully and a bit of light leaked in from the tunnel mouths.
There were no big worries in our laughing heads then as we sailed blissfully into this tunnel north of Syracuse. The lights were on and we only had a short distance left to go to our destination. When we saw the sign warning us the lights were out ahead we tightened our awareness up a bit – David’s warnings ringing in our ears – and Jay slowed down a little. Thank goodness he did!
This was a long tunnel. The entry mouth was long lost in the curves behind us, the exit a leap of faith, somewhere unseen in the twists and turns ahead. Half the lights went out. Okay that wasn’t so bad. Pretty darned gloomy, but we could still see. Until the other half followed. For a few seconds there was still a little light from the tunnel roof behind us, but in the time it took for me to turn my head to Jay to say “I see what David meant!”, that too was gone. Our dipped beams were on but the tunnel seemed to eat the light. I could just make out the white line between us and the tunnel wall. Jay, unfortunately couldn’t.
Oh how time plays with us. Rushing through our moments of joy. Dragging out our terrors into eternity. But there’s a very good reason for that elongation. A few seconds, stretched out to feel like minutes, allow us to pack more action into that time. To see, think, move. To save our lives.
We very rarely drive at night and Jay turned the switch the wrong way trying to get the headlights on. The white line that I could barely see was completely invisible to him without those headlights. He flicked the switch back the other way, turning the steering wheel at the same time in response to my screams that we were going to hit the wall. The main beams came flooding on. Thank God! Illuminating the wall racing towards us as Jay turned us back out into the safety of the lane. Time came rushing back. Bringing with it a different wall, of shock and adrenaline. Normal breathing resumed once we were back out in the daylight. Thank you David for the heads up!
My legs were still feeling a mite wobbly when we parked up in Syracuse twenty minutes later. But I didn’t think sitting in the van thinking about it was a good recipe for feeling better. A bit of exercise to work the remnants of adrenaline out of our muscles seemed like a good idea and so we locked up Iggy and set off for the walk to the old town.
Maybe it was the leftover emotion from the tunnel, or the length of the walk to the centre and back. Being back out on the road after the lovely lazy Christmas at Eden Parking or crossing the month away from home mark. Or maybe it was just Syracuse itself, but I didn’t take to the city as much as I thought I would. And probably it was the expectation that I would that let me down more than anything.
Don’t get me wrong, the old city, clustered romantically on the island of Ortygia, is a lovely spot. It must have been, because we spent two days wandering it’s nooks and crannies. And we thoroughly enjoyed it as well. It’s definitely worth a visit. The giant trees just before the castle were worth the walk in themselves, and it’s a charming and lively place to while away a day or three.
I’m glad we went, but I think it would have been better if we’d stayed somewhere closer to the centre. Even then I don’t know if we’d have visited the archaeological parks and highlighted sites. Everything seemed a little too spread out – a bit too far apart – scattered throughout the modern city. I liked the old town, but the sense of history just wasn’t there for me. As a pretty, vibrant, Sicilian town it’s a nice place to spend a day or two. But as the site of an ancient Greek city founded nearly 3,000 years ago…I just wasn’t feeling it.
If we were just on a two week trip to Sicily I’d have jumped in buses and taxis to visit the many sights that Syracuse has to offer. And happily coughed up whatever entry fees they had a mind to charge me. But Rome and Pompeii were not yet too far behind us. And Greece not so far in front. We knew we would want to visit sites when we get to Greece and sadly we don’t have the money or the time for everything. For this visit, Ortygia was enough.
We were still tempted to spend a third day and visit some of the ruins or the Archimedes museum. But New Year was approaching and I didn’t want to spend it in Syracuse. So on the 29th, renewed and eager, we set off once more. Out along the South coast in search of a place to bring in 2018.