Etna 2018/19

  • Mt. Etna days 1, 2 & 3 (1/19/2019)

    For 10 days around New Year 2019, Greta and I rode up and around Mt. Etna, in Sicily. Here are a few photos, and our journal entries from those days. we rode 249 Km

    Day 1: arrived in Catania, no problems. Bike assembly at zeronove (cool bike shop and cycling community center in Catania) took a lot longer because of the new rack. Biked through town, found street food, seafood, grilled shrimps and breaded fish fillet.

    Beautiful tent spot, sleeping listen to the waves, direct by the sea. Mountain smoking in the morning.

    Day 2: long traffic uphill after scoring some gas (for the stove). Fabulous lunch of fresh bread, roasted pepper, grilled melanzane, fresh sheep ricotta, and FRESH RIPE tomatoes. Elitist pastry shop, the cops told us about it, after a tiny coffee form an obese woman. More uphill, less traffic, to Nicolosi. Camp at empty campsite.



    Day 3: we’re so lazy. tried to sleep separate in two mummy bags, but that was boring and not so warm. zipped together in the early morning, and slept so nicenice. woke at 9:00. Yum pastries in town, bought cheese and veg from two carts in the market, longtime for shopping, and we moved so late…

    evening became night soon and we continued to ride for a while in order to find a nice spot to sleep (and eat :). We found an abandoned farmhouse and a nice wide, flat spot and pitched our tent, set the gear and cooked lentils, meat, potatoes, broccoli with curry, paprika and garlic. so tasty and warm. in the night was cold, but we held eachother as we like. a dog came around in the night to bother us, with a loud bark. it was scared, and perhaps we were a little bit too. =)


  • Mt. Etna days 4 & 5 (1/20/2019)

    Day 4: Search for water. Strong uphill, and friendly MTB advice on the way to Rifugio Ariel. Coffee for max, red wine for greta, ate arancini and the last of the grilled melanzane, bought an onion, filled up 8litres of water.
    fabulous ride up the hill to the second rifugio. firewood collection, the hut was cozy until the EARTHQUAKE!! greta ran out the hut, cut her finger. i ran outside but it was over before i realized…earthquake.
    slept in the tent outside mmmmm felt more safe. big snow in the night (no more earthquakes)

    up into the forest

    black volcanic soils!

    nearing sunset

    sunset at 2000m

    1000m below the eruption, it’s safe!??

    cozy before the earthquake

    Day 5: Blue dawn then brilliant sunshine! in the morning, the mountain was smoking strong. breakfast, and a second coffee…then STORM APPROACHING! quick pack up then, hardcore, beautiful, snow till whiteout conditions.
    passed a tipi hut, down down down snow, snow, goats…
    then killer babyhead rocky downhill, sunshine and hail
    got a bed n breakfast in Randazzo, bought a bottle of wine and a tray of arancini, bag of pastries and a bottle of red wine for the onward journey. hot shower nice nice

    slept outside in the tent, warmer, safer

    sunny enough to charge the batteries!

    into brightness

    snow ride!

    downhill so much easier!!

    lava tube cave!

    sketchy slippery

    next time we’ll bring a rope and harnesses to go down inside

    nearing the park gate

    finally down below the snowline

  • Mt. Etna Days 6, 7 & 8 (1/22/2019)

    Day 6: We woke in a warm bed in the BnB. Packed our stuff, and the dry clothes tent and sleeping bag. Said bye-bye to Matteo, the nice owner of Ai tre Parchi Bed n Bike in Randazzo.
    A nice sunny and cactussy road awaited us. Rode for some kilometers to the entrance of Nebrodi Park, a beautiful nature with two cows and one black horse, trees, and wild iris on the way up.

    After we went up up up up and down to the river.
    It was wet everywhere, we tried one path but the road was like a lake (or a river).
    then bushwacking through the forest. a lot of vegetation and SPINES!
    The ground got better but still very muddy. Our shoes got wet.
    One cow freaked out when it saw max slip in the mud.

    We rode (and pushed) up, up the hill to find Floresta (a name we liked a lot)
    We asked a man (turned out to be the local drunk) who walked us to the hotel, where we found no food, but WINE.
    -in fact i thought, if i gave the metal water flask and asked them to fill it up from a bottle…they would think, “what brutes, these cyclists!” but in the end, they only would sell us 1.5 litres of wine, filled up in a plastic water bottle.
    Bought some baked ricotta from the cheese shop on the way to the campsite.
    The man at the campsite was gentile and let us sleep in a little room with the heater to dry our shoes.
    Cooked a tasty dinner with THREE kinds of cheese!

    Day 7: Sun shining in the morning, the volcano still smoking but a bit further in the distance. We filled up the remainder of the wine in the metal flask, and charged our batteries again. from the sun. Sunshine makes all the difference!

    Packed and into town for a cappuccino in the local bar, then off 3 km one way, following the track. It looked a bit muddy, so we turned back, and went another way. Finally finding the shortcut, it looked a bit muddy too.
    Then we ate chips and discussed our tactics…go further into the muddy bush, a trail we know is at least three days out of civilization? it would be beautiful, but surely we would have to stress it to make it back for our flights afterwards. OR, zoom down the hill and eat pastries, and go back up over Etna, which was awesome the first time around.

    we decided for downhill and pastries, and rode rode rode the longest day so far, 25km! Drinking wine on the way, drunkcyclists!!

    Stopped in Randazzo for a coffee treat, then into the countryside. happy to find a place to camp up in the olive trees with no dogs, no people. cooked a lovely dinner, so nice to have the boiling pot AND the fry pan!
    fancy country wine after dinner.

    Day 8: snowfall in the night, melting snow for coffee and fill up our waterbottles. during packup it blizzarded a bit, so we hunkered down in the tent, wine for second breakfast! Out of the trees and onto the snowy road. Not a lot of traffic, and made our way to Bronte, where we had heard about the pistachios! we asked about one bnb, and ended up renting a oneroom apartment with attached garage to lock up the bikes. fine dinner in an actual restaurant! dry the sleeping bags and tent, and ate strange cookies in the night. warmmmmmm

  • Mt. Etna days 9, 10 & 11, journey’s end (1/24/2019)

    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.