Mt. Etna days 9, 10 & 11, journey’s end

Day 9: We headed up from Bronte, on the map it looked like a short jaunt over the hill, planned to camp one more night in nature up on the mountain, then down to catania in the morning. At first it was beautifully sunny, shiny…

then it started to snow and we probably should have turned back. Up to the end of the road, pass the fence, then it was pushing. Hard, deep snow, again, we had a chance to bail but decided to push on. It was cold, blizzard whiteout, then sunny beautiful. As we looked, only 2 or 3 km we would have to drag the bikes through the snow.

Greta writes, “Max is cooking close to the closed rifugio. We set up the tent. Today was a pushing day. Starting from Bronte to Etna and Monte Lepre.
The snow is deep, the bikes are heavy to carry, our feet are cold.
The day was adventurous but maybe a little bit tired, and hungry.
I am in the tent to warm up. We tested our limits and capabilities. Hilleberg is a very protective tent for the colder and windy night.
Together with hot chocolate everything is better. Me and Max”

The rifugio, it was boarded up and closed, a big disappointment. We quickly pitched the tent, and greta inside in the sleeping bag start to warm up. I made hot chocolate, then a hot water bottle. My feet were never cold or wet, my hands a bit challenged, but i was cooking and it was ok.
In the night it snowed more more, maybe 20 cm, and inside the tent was very warm, but i had concerns about the move in the morning.

Day 10: Going through 30, or maybe more cm of snow, Max carried my heavy things. He had to carry his bike, his bags, and my front bag and we pushed half day till we found the road. Some guys in cars pressed the snowy road for us!
After 600m, it was downhill on the snow, so fun and refreshing!
Arrived in Andrano we ate two arancini and one big calzone. So Good.

From our camp, it was in theory less than 2 km to the road. But the trail was lost in knee deep drifts, winding up and around. I took greta’s front bag off the bike ( i had expected at one point the hike a bike would be extreme, so i designed the bag as a shoulderbag as well). then it was a little bit easier to push the bikes.
We had to help eachother, lifting the bikes up some drifts, and over a couple of fences, and in the end we pushed about 5 km, because it was easier to go down than across the hills!

Eventually we made it to the road, and two superjeeps drove by, i think the logo on their van said crazy-tourism or something extreme like that. The jeeps compressed the snow and made it easier to push, and then ride out.

We made it off the mountain, and had the first full riding day, 58km all the way to Catania and the coast.
Fly on the main high speed road. Not a lot of traffic, we were fast.
One wierd thing was the number of dead dogs on the side of the road.
In the evening we ate at a fun restaurant, Gambero Pazzo.
Connolicchi, cozze, polpo, caponata, sarde, gamberetti and good wine, everything!
Catania, Campsite in front of the sea and cats.
We slept soooo good.

Because we were in contact with a mountain guide we had met, and he was in contact with the rangers…because we had enough food for three days…because we had the hilleberg tent, and dry socks and clothes in the bags…our safety was never really challenged. But for a moment there, we were really at the limit, and maybe farther from where we wanted to be. I was thinking, ‘Next vacation ride maybe to the Negev desert.’ Greta was thinking, ‘I want those fancy shoes.’ funny how the mind wanders, close to the edge =)

Day 11: Waking and out of bed at sunrise to take photos, have a coffee, then fooling around on the rocks the next morning in brilliant sunshine, really felt good to be there.

Slowly we packed our things, then headed to the air bnb, where the bike shop guy met us with our boxes! really wonderful help, we broke down the bikes then wandered out for some crappy pizza and fancy pastries. Giuseppe our airbnb host took us to the airport in the morning, asking about our trip and our bikes. We encouraged him, yeah, touring can be all kinds of fun, we tend to take it easy. mostly that’s true.