We always enjoy seeing wildlife during passages. Shearwaters often accompany us as we sail, and porpoises at the bow never fail to delight. But being accompanied by droves of giant bumblebees on the way from Brindisi to Bari wasn't exactly the kind of nature experience we'd hoped for! We really don't know why Aisling suddenly became irresistible to dozens of bees. Perhaps we unknowingly had a queen on board, or perhaps we simply sailed through a swarm and they decided to "draft" along with us. For whatever reason, shortly after crossing the 41st parallel, we suddenly started noticing bees on board. Lots of them. Really big ones. Some were over an inch long. I'm not making this up.
There were bees on the lines, bees on the binnacle, bees on the shrouds and bees on top of the dodger. When we shooed them away, they just tucked in at our stern, drafted in the breeze for a while, then landed again. Normally, I prefer not to kill bees, but what choice did we have? We got out the fly swatters and swatted away. Rick launched an attack on the foredeck and Martha hummed "Flight of the Bumblebee" as she whacked away with a rolled up copy of "Psychology Today". By the end of the massacre, we'd thrown the corpses of dozens of bees (and nearly as many nasty biting houseflies) overboard. Thankfully, no one got stung in the process.
And you thought we were having fun!
|Italy (Mainland) 2012||
Katherine needed some cheering up. Her visit to Siracusa had had some rough spots, including a bout of nasty stomach flu and the loss of an SD card containing precious pictures of Rome, Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. A tour of the Valley of the Temples, the site of the former Greek colony of Agragas, would be just the right medicine. This Unesco World Heritage site in Agrigento, which Rick and I had visited with our friend Janet Cooper four years ago, rates high on the list of "must dos" for Sicily. We would drive to Agrigento to show Katherine and Leah the temples, then drop them off at the station in Agrigento to catch their bus to Palermo. Google maps showed the trip to Agrigento as nearly a three hour drive from Marina di Ragusa, but at only 126 km, surely it wouldn't really take that long?
In reality, the drive actually did take nearly three hours. Without access to the multi-lane highways that we take for granted in Canada, driving in Sicily can take on the feel of a road-rally. Impatient drivers overtake large trucks and slow-moving farm equipment, missing oncoming traffic with just inches to spare, only to encounter yet another slow moving vehicle around the next corner. Just getting as far as Gela, a mere 50 km down the coast, took nearly an hour and a half. We made one pit stop at a gas station, where we combined the culture shock of paying over 1.70 euros a litre for gasoline with the cultural experience of watching a group of men and young boys clustered around a tiny screen behind the cash, fists pumping as they cheered on the Italian team in a football match. It was after noon when we arrived at the western entrance of the Valley of the Temples site.
On the path leading to the site, we identified our first almond tree. Lovely!
Under ominous-looking skies, we viewed the Temple of the Dioscuri, which was partially reassembled in the 19th century using materials from other temples.
A glimpse at the angry skies prompted us to make a dash for a café near the gate to the eastern part of the site. With superb timing, we found a seat out of the rain and had cappuccinos, paninis and aracini (traditional Sicilian risotto balls) and waited for the skies to clear. Then, onward to the Temple of Heracles....
....and the Temple of Concord, which has survived relatively intact thanks to having been temporarily converted to a Christian Basilica in the 6th century AD. The statue out front was a recent addition since our last visit. If this guy had been there, I'm sure we would have remembered!
As we walked toward the Temple of Hera, we took the photos that would be our favourites of the trip. I call this one "SuperLeah!"
Love this one of Katherine too!
We had time to walk through the western site at a more leisurely pace as we returned to the car. The Temple of Olympian Zeus, would have been the largest Doric temple ever built had it ever been completed. Construction came to an abrupt halt with the Carthaginian sack of Agragas, and later, an earthquake destroyed the remains.
This huge telamon was intended to support the temple.
It was nice that our day wrapped up with a little sunshine!
Now we had to brave the streets of downtown Agrigento, but it was surprisingly easy to find the bus station and we had plenty of time for snacks and one final cappuccino in a nearby café. Our waiter was happy to hear that we are from Canada. He wondered whether we might know his cousin Francesco, who lives in Toronto? We don't, but we've met a surprising number of Sicilians who have told us that they have family members working in Toronto.
It was hard to believe that our time with Leah was over. We had enjoyed every minute of her visit and hated to see her go. She would fly home from Palermo two days later, while Katherine would return to Marina di Ragusa by bus to spend a few more days touring Sicily. Still to come, Caltagirone, Ragusa and a return to Siracusa!
It's probably fairly obvious that we're still having trouble staying on top of our blog postings. I'm determined to capture the details of Katherine and Leah's visit, since this was a very special time for us. So for the next little while, we'll gradually intersperse postings from our current locations with catch-up postings.
We've been in Brindisi marina for the past three nights. On Sunday, Fred and Nancy Voegeli and their friend Bill sailed in on "Frisco" and tied up next to us. We've been trying to arrange this rendezvous for over three years and had finally managed it! Unfortunately, our time together was too short. We had dinner onboard Aisling that evening, but by early yesterday morning Frisco's bow was pointed toward Otranto. We watched with great envy as Fred turned on the bow thruster and reversed smoothly out of their slip. We should be so lucky!
Well actually, we are very lucky. Wally and Martha arrived yesterday, a day earlier than we'd initially expected; how lucky is that? After getting caught up on the each other's news over sundowners in the cockpit, we had a lovely evening exploring Brindisi. Standing at the foot of a flight of steep marble stairs, staring up at one of the pillars that marked the end of ancient Rome's Appian Way, was a special moment. After visiting the beautiful cathedral, we had a delicious but far too abundant dinner at "La Locanda del Porto", then turned in early in anticipation of a 6 a.m. wake-up call from the skipper.
At the moment, we're underway to Bari. For about an hour, we were actually sailing, but then the wind died, as usual. Rick and Wally are on deck together, happily discussing the pros and cons of various items of boat gear. As usual, I know exactly what Rick is thinking. Life is good.
Cruiser's Notes by Rick:
We stayed in the Marina Di Bridisi for 29 euros per night including water and electric for our 12.4 meter boat. The staff speak little English and it may be difficult to reach them on the VHF but they did respond to a phone call. There was a bread store and small grocery within a 10 minute walk. The bus to take you into the city comes every 30 minutes and the stop is at the marina gate. We wanted to anchor downtown or tie along side but were unable to when we were there because the Brindisi to Corfu sailing regatta was on and all spots were reserved. The fishing fleet was also in town so all the spaces below the monument were taken. There is a great chandlery called Limongelli on Via San Francesco and I was able to buy inexpensive electrical connectors for shore power at the Electrical shop called Lomax(?) on Via Christoforo Columbo and near Corso Umberto, by the train station. We enjoyed our meal at a restaurant called La Locanda Del Porto on Via Montenegro just up the hill and near the gas dock, downtown. On one excursion Bonnie and I took the ferry from the the gas dock over to the other side of the harbour near the monument and walked from the monument to the marina in about 30 minutes. Another time we took the bus to Via Cagni ( and Via 15 November 1918) and then walked down the steps to the Ferry stop and crossed over to the old city for supper at the restaurant and an evening stroll through town. The taxi back to the marina cost 20 euros. The bus stops running to the marina at 10:00pm.
06/12/2012, On the way to Bari
We could happily have hung at anchor in Otranto for a week or more. The water in the anchorage was crystal-clear and turquoise. The town was pleasant, interesting and large enough to provide all the amenities. As an added bonus, a quiet country lane on the outskirts of the town was a perfect place for a morning run. Otranto is definitely on our list for a return visit.
This time, we could only stay for two nights. Deciding to make the most of our time there, we headed for shore immediately after we got the anchor set. In the square, a wedding party was having photographs taken and releasing small hot-air balloons that hovered over the town in an array of colours. As we surreptitiously snapped a few photos, the official photographer spotted us and called our bluff. Pulling us toward the wedding party, he instructed us to act like paparazzi. I must admit, the bride seemed a bit unimpressed with this charade, but the groom and guests seemed to have a good laugh at our expense!
After a leisurely lunch at a restaurant overlooking the water, we headed back to the boat to catch up on some work.
When we set off in our running gear early the next morning, I did not have high expectations. Finding good running routes in this part of the world can be a real challenge. The tripping hazards inherent in the old, cobblestoned streets make it difficult to work up a decent speed, and the traffic coupled with the frenetic Italian driving style can be daunting. By pure fluke, we ended up on a seaside road that passed by two "agriturismi" (hotels that are located in farms and typically have restaurants that allow the guest to sample the freshest produce possible). We ran at a fast pace for over six kilometers, stopping occasionally to take photos of the olive groves, wheat fields and newly-planted vegetables. What a great feeling!
After a quick trip to the grocery store and a cappuccino break at a bar beside the town square, we returned to the dinghy, headed for the town dock and filled up four five-gallon jugs with water. With those four jugs dumped into our tanks, and not knowing where we would next find water, we decided to go back and fill up six more jugs. That's when we noticed the bits of algae floating in the water. Oh oh. With a bit of maneuvering, we managed to filter the algae out of that batch, but what about the water that was already in our tanks? We felt pretty dumb, especially since we generally have a firm policy of filtering any water that goes into our tanks. At that point, there was nothing much we could do, other than add a bit of chlorine bleach to the tank. At least we use a Seagull filter for our drinking and cooking water, so we are reasonably confident that we aren't endangering our lives.
Later that afternoon, as we are preparing to go ashore to see the cathedral, we hear the theme from "Rocky" blasting from the piazza above us. Curious, we pick up the pace and go ashore to see what is happening. It is a mini-Olympic event, with the cutest mini-athletes you could ever imagine. We join the crowd of cheering spectators and laugh with delight as the tiny competitors make their way along the course. The "bianco" team wins by a mile. The poor yellow team is doomed from the beginning, with a slow start and a sad ending where the final competitor falls off the low balance beam and trips on one of the obstacles. In spite of that, everyone seems to retain their good humour.
We delay so long at the mini-olympics that we almost miss seeing Otranto's main attraction, the 11th century cathedral with its amazing mosaic floor depicting the tree of life.
A chapel inside the cathedral holds the bones of the martyrs of Otranto, 800 Christians who were beheaded by the Turks in 1480 when they refused to convert to Islam. Sad, and also gruesome.
It is time for a more cheerful activity. We head for a bar beside the town square, sampling a cup of panna cotta gelato as we walk. (Wait a minute, maybe this is the best gelato in the world!) As we sit sipping wine in the bar, we watch a young couple sitting patiently on a bench with a falcon, beside a sign that says 2 euros/photo. The street dogs are unimpressed, and two of them position themselves across from the falcon and bark repeatedly. A man behind us loses his patience. "Basta!"" he yells. (Enough!). Rick is delighted, and basta becomes his Italian "word of the week". We toy with the idea of a second glass of wine, but good sense prevails. The next day, we will set sail for Brindisi at 6 a.m. There, good things await!
Crotone (last stop before Otranto)
Cruiser's Notes by Rick:
Not much to add here as we did not go ashore. However we were able to anchor in the new harbour for free. As you motor in you will see the 2 Cement plant silos and the wrecks in the shallow water. Anchor just before these wrecks opposite the tall grass lined beach in about 13'. The holding is excellent in mud. Well protected from all points except perhaps the North where some swell may make it in.
Cruiser's Notes by Rick:
A lovely town and a beautiful setting. We anchored off the small fishing harbour mole and off the swim beach, in about 14' over hard packed sand. There was a bit of a roll one night from swell entering the harbour from the NE. No protection from the NE or North. Tie your dinghy up in the fisherman's harbour. Water is available off the quays in the SE of the harbour. We filled water jugs here, though when we got back to the boat we discovered there had been algae growing in the water pipe and this made it was into our jugs and our tanks.We killed it with bleach. Large grocery (Maxi Siddis) store up the hill to the North of the anchorage. There is a lovely road along the coast North of the grocery store where we went for a run through a beautiful pastoral scene of market gardens and orchards.
|Italy (Mainland) 2012||