So let’s see, where were we?
Ignatius blogged about Palermo so I’ll cover what we’ve done since then. I quite liked Palermo when I was on foot in the pedestrianised parts but I found the cycling in and out from our camping spot (actually a car park behind a motorhome dealer on the edge of town) totally terrifying. Perhaps I’m a wimp but passing double-parked cars with scooters and cars coming at you from all directions is very scary. Well, we survived and I worked out in the end the answer is to be as assertive as the drivers are – catch their eye, signal, pull out – OWN the road. And then have a glass of wine to get the heartbeat back to normal when you’ve stopped…
From Palermo we drove along the north of Sicily and up a peninsula in the north west, to a large campsite near San Vito Lo Capo. We’d promised ourselves a couple of days just relaxing, not sight-seeing, just sitting around a good campsite. We ended up with a few more days there than planned as you’ll see! On the day we arrived there had been a wind from the Sahara bringing sand, and the weather was very murky with all the choking dust in the air. There’d been a bit of rain the previous night, so poor Gertie was filthy as the rain had rinsed some of the sand out of the air.
Much clearer weather so we went for a walk from the campsite, to the small town of San Vito Lo Capo for lunch and back via the rocky beach where there are many caves. Tested the campsite swimming pool when we got back.
Cleaned Gertie, washing all that Saharan dust off, then I think I spent the entire day sitting in the sunshine reading. Felt so relaxed at the end of the day, ready to be back on the road again…
We were all ready to set off, but when Ignatius tried to start the engine nothing happened. The engine battery had catastrophically failed. And a fast loud clicking sound was coming from the mass of electrics that is under the driver’s seat (where all wires come into the leisure battery). We investigated and realised the clicking was related to the solar panel – it has some sort of relay thingie so that it can charge both leisure and engine battery, and seemed to be flicking between the two… Yuk.
We went to the campsite office to ask for help. The girl in the office (Niki) sent us a lovely bloke called Giorgio (who turned out to be her father) who was the campsite technician/odd-job man. He spoke no English and we spoke next-to-no Italian but we managed to communicate by way of Gertie’s clicking and not-starting… Anyway after some points and grunts and using Niki to translate we found out that as it was a bank holiday we could not get much done that day. We used our AA callout who sent someone who jump-started the van, but we did not want to drive it anywhere as we suspected it would not start again and we also had this problem with the solar. So anyway Giorgio covered the solar panel on the roof with our beach rug to stop the infernal clicking, took out our battery to take it home to try to get some charge into it, and left us till the next day. That night in the campsite bar we met a fellow called John who’d just arrived to work for Eurocamp in the campsite for the summer.
Giorgio arrived early in the morning with the news that the battery would not take any charge, and with the offer to drive us to a nearby garage to buy a new battery. Meanwhile we had discovered our gas had also failed – basically the on/off switch (which is electric) was not working. We assumed it was all part of the same problem. So we went with Giorgio, came back 140 euro lighter with a new battery, and lovely Giorgio then fitted it for us. But we were not out of the woods yet – solar still clicking and gas still not turning on. There followed head scratching, phone calls to the chaps in UK who’d fitted the solar and LPG gas, additional head-scratching by John who came to see if he could help, decision it must be a fuse that had failed. Ignatius checked all the fuses by eye but could not see one that had failed. Then our hero Giorgio returned with a fuse-tester, tested them all and found the one that had failed – which had both solar and gas switch wired through it. We have a bag full of spare fuses so easily replaced it.
By this time I was totally in love with Giorgio, and we were too stressed to move on that day so we decided to stay put again. When I have finished this blog I must go on to TripAdvisor and Google and leave glowing reviews of the campsite because (a) it’s lovely and (b) they could not have been more helpful. We were not charged for Giorgio’s time at all.
We moved on, after 5 nights at El Bahira. Drove to Trapani from where there is a ski-type gondola lift up to the medieval hilltop town of Erice. We’d been to a couple of towns of this type in France, and this one although beautiful seemed a bit of a tourist trap so we did not spend long. Drove down the coast a little to Marsala where we found a car park where you can stay overnight. It’s supposed to be free but some mafiosa-type chap required 3 euro from us and issued us with a post-it note as a ticket.
Marsala is an adorable little town, full of marble-cobbled streets, 17th century architecture, a very interesting church, some impressive gateways and lots of lovely spots to sit for a coffee or a beer or a meal. We enjoyed our time there.
Loads of sight-seeing today. Drove on down the coast to Mazaro del Vallo which is another lovely little town. This one has an old Arab kasbah, an impressive Baroque church, more marble-cobbled streets and a little museum dedicated to an original Greek bronze statue of a dancing satyr which was dredged up by fishermen in 1998. We paid the mafiosa here just 50c to park!
Drove on to Agrimento and the Valley of the Temples. There are a string of Greek temples here, mostly in ruins. Sicily has had all sorts of people controlling it over the years – Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Carthaginians, Normans. We spent a very hot afternoon going round the temple ruins. It’s been cool lately so I wore jeans and totally regretted it.
We are camped for the night beside a marina in San Leone which is 3km down the road from Agrimento. No one has asked for any money yet.