My Oldies Club Just Giving page is still open. If you’d like to make a small donation, even just £2/$2 to help the Club find homes and provide veterinary care for abandoned/homeless senior dogs, please follow the link below- we’re only £108 short of £1000!
Yes, it was quite a stretch between blog posts. Gird your loins, therefore, for a very long read
Here we are at Camping Scarabeo, still in a kind of post-mega-adventure dream-state. It’s been two weeks since we rolled into our old friend’s beachfront campsite in southeastern Sicily. It really is the end of the five-month, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink European bicycle epic. I stopped keeping close track of the stats once in Italy, but here is an approximation of the biggies:
- five months, almost to the day, of cycling
- nine European countries visited, most of those from top to bottom
- 7500 – 8000 kms pedalled, including cycle to Calgary airport from Wabamun
- 55,000-60,000 vertical metres climbed
- temperatures ranging from -3c to +42c
- one pinch flat (amazing tyres, these Marathon Plusses!!!)
- no major mechanical failures – Surly Shirley!!
- no major camping equipment failures – Big Agnes Copper Spur HVUL2 tent, Rab Ascent 700 sleeping bag, Sea to Summit Ultralight sleeping mat, my beloved Trangia alcohol stove, old Ortlieb panniers – the sturdy, reliable equipment-dream-team was equal to the task
- only one short illness (me)
- Murph, 100% healthy throughout the trip, including a very good appetite!
- approximate average spend, minus purchase of replacement electronics and flights = 30€ per day, including very occasional stays in cabins, hotels and pensions
- the major fail – my Macbook Air bit the damp dust, but it was knocking on a bit anyway and can probably be repaired
- tech winners! OSM app (with subscription for offline mapping) got me from the top of Europe to the very bottom with gpx tracks. Great tool! Strava GPS was useful for keeping track of daily mileage and elevation profiling, along with a little written diary capability. It can be a battery sucker though, and I almost always forgot to turn it on when I started my day, but overall, a positive tool to use. Nice to share progress as I went along with my fellow Strava family and friends. Google maps was indispensable for finding services and alternative accommodation. Downloaded offline maps saved me on a number of occasions as well. My Anker 20100mah powerbank and 21 watt solar panel were indispensable, keeping my phone, camera, gopro and headlamp charged up, thus keeping me independent when wild camping.
- times I was a hair’s breadth away from quitting; two. The first was shortly after I arrived in Germany. I started to feel like the cycling was becoming a job. I stopped enjoying myself, wasn’t able to muster any enthusiasm and the feeling of adventure had evaporated. After a break in France with family though, I was revived and soon got into a different gear. The second time was when I became ill in northern Italy. It was a reality check but I stuck to my contingency plan, found a beautiful and peaceful place to recover and pushed through.
I’ll try to keep the rest of this as painless as possible for both of us – it really should have been three separate posts, so I hope you have some time on your hands!
Since the last blog entry, the many roads travelled, plus one long ferry to get us to Sicily…
Having spent much time in the campervan here over the years, Italy has been quite familiar to me. A blessing and a curse. On another big bike tour with Murph, I crossed the north from the Slovenian border to the French Alps, mostly following the Po River. I knew the further south I got, the more treacherous the road cycling would be. I was following Eurovelo 7 gpx tracks the whole way, but there was precious little info on the internet about the route after Verona. I would need to muster all available sang froid!
Over the mountains to Florence
What? No photos from Florence to Rome???
Well, only a couple. Too busy trying to stay alive on the roads and finding safe places to sleep. From Arezzo towards Orvieto, the Eurovelo 7 route was surprisingly flat. It followed an agricultural canal system, but consequently it was a bit dull scenery-wise. Swathes of the path were washed away, left unmaintained for years, flooded – and at several points, overgrown to the point it was impassable. Thank goodness for OSM – it got us out of the jungle via several footpaths. All good fun!
Arezzo was a stunning, ancient place and I decided to take a couple of days off there to look around. We were lucky to arrive during an antiques fair with hundreds of stall-holders crowding the campo and tiny streets of the old town.
To be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened between Arezzo and Rome. I do remember hardening my resolve to skip the last part of mainland Italy, and getting on that ferry to Sicily from Naples!
Rome to Naples
Here’s a little video of our arrival in Roma; Murph has some competition! Please note that my video editing skills are completely amateur – working on it!
I was glad I stopped in Rome, but really couldn’t leave fast enough. I enjoyed meeting Llyr, a fellow peripatetic soul (and friend of a friend) who was participating in local amateur cycling competitions. We had a merry evening discussing Brexit (urgh) and the merits of eternal nomad-ism. He was at a large campsite within the city limits, but it was too noisy and chaotic for my delicate sensibilities.
After one night, I threaded my way through the manic suburbs and towards our first encounter with the Mediterranean coast – we made the MED!!!!
Murph’s first Med beach in a good few years. She was not displeased!!
From here, we would follow the coast all the way to Naples. This is where the cycling became quite gruelling and unpleasant – potholed, busy and narrow roads with no shoulders, endless rubbish dumped everywhere and very few places to just hide and rest. For a good many kilometres, this stretch was one run-down beach town after another. There was, however, a quite lovely bit in the middle which included one of Mussolini’s ‘new towns’, Sabaudia. I had come across a couple of these interesting Italian Modernist towns on previous trips in the north. More on Sabaudia here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabaudia
After picking our way through some terribly impoverished towns on the outskirts of Naples, I was thrilled and relieved to arrive on the seafront road that would take us to the ferry terminal.
Come for a little ride with us:
Palermo, Sicily to Punta Braccetto and … The End
We had a peaceful overnight sail from Naples and arrived fresh and ready to ride. Mercifully, it was very early on Sunday morning and the streets of Palermo were almost deserted. I planned our route counter clock-wise, following the coast towards Trapani, where we would join Sicily’s one and only long-distance bike route, the SIBIT. Some very useful information about this route here: https://italy-cycling-guide.info/cycle-routes/coastal-rides/southern-sicilian-coast/
Like the rest of the south of Italy, cycle touring Sicily is not for the feint of heart. I dabbled in it during a four month winter stay here; it can be hugely challenging but also incredibly interesting. I plan on writing a separate blog about it in the future, so we’ll just post the highlights here and let you get on with your day.
The first lovely day in Sicily and feeling elated. Such a lively place!
A few of our scenic stops
La Scala dei Turchi
Wonderful and characterful couple of nights in Licata. We stayed in a stonkingly interesting pensione where we were lovingly cared for, fed and guided – all for the humble rate of 35€ a night. http://www.dimorasangirolamo.it/
Only 25kms from THE END OF OUR TOUR!!!!!! How can it be???
Arrival at Camping Scarabeo
Murph’s new front yard. You earned it babe!!
Camping Scarabeo, Punta Braccetto, Sicily
Murph and I are now ensconced in a comfy little ‘bungalow’ here with our old friends and we will stay put for the next two months. The plan is to plan! Re-entry to the UK is a bit complicated at the moment, but we have the luxury of a mini-paradise from which we can launch the invading armada. Will there be a narrowboat on the canals of Great Britain in our future??
Many thanks to you all who have followed, supported, cheered us on, made donations to the Oldies Club – and generally made me feel safer and cared about!
Cycle people out there (or anyone else) – if you have any questions about any part of this tour, feel free to ask in the comments section. I’ll do my best to answer promptly.
Here’s to the next one!!!!
PS – My Oldies Club Just Giving page is still open. If you’d like to make a small donation to help the Club find homes for abandoned/homeless senior dogs, please follow this link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/dogandsnailbiketravels
I’d love to get us to £1000!!!