Thursday, April 29, 2010


It seems like I’ve spent more time trying to get home this year than actually travelling. First the race in Mexico turned into an epic that lacked the actual race, then our trip to Todd’s wedding was extended, but without us able to attend the event we were travelling for. All in all, however, both experiences have ended most excellently.

our hosts, chris and giusi at our "wedding" dinner, and with phil and lena toasting to todd and patty. "here's to absent friends..."

In the film Mediterraneo a group of soldiers invade a small island off the coast of Greece in order to occupy it during WWII. Their imperialist pursuits go almost unnoticed by the natives, who didn’t know a war was going on. The soldiers settle in to the lifestyle on the island and soon have forgotten themselves. The war is over for years before anyone learns about it.

old fashioned p90x, working on chris' vineyards; and a bad climbing area with a view so good it's hard to care.

This was pretty much our vacation: the abridged version. We’d popped down to Sicily to visit friends en route to London when an Icelandic volcano put the entire world on hold. We joked as it was happening; saying that if you’d been given a list of things that might interrupt your travel volcano would have been picked last, but then found ourselves just a few days into our trip frantically worrying about how we were going to get home. Mainly we were trying to get to London for the wedding. Our attempts at finding planes, trains, or automobiles to reach Albion were getting thwarted by the hour (still trying to get a lot of money back), leaving us feeling rather stranded.

trying to get us home. but looking at my view, probably wondering why.

chris working on his 8c project and me being dwarfed by one of many excellent caves.

Not to be deterred, Phil and Lena flew to Spain, trained to Barcelona, then booked a flight to Bogata, Columbia. They had to lie to get on the flight because it was only available to citizens. As they put it, “we nearly didn’t make it. It came down to a call they made where nobody answered.” From South America they were able to get back home a few days later. Luckily they made the right choice as those attempting to head east found themselves in a quagmire as the Cairo airport shut down, stranding hundreds.

shots from ortigia: our home away from home.

right and on top: the amazing piazza duomo, which was around the corner from our apartment

We decided on the opposite approach. We were in about the most idyllic setting possible. We were staying with friends, so it was free, on the island of Ortigia in the ancient city of Siracusa, one of the most beautiful places in the world. The architecture in the town goes back thousands of years, there are more Grecian ruins in Sicily than in Greece, and the climbing is the best in the world. We decided to stay put and ride it out, even though they were predicting that the volcano might continue to erupt for a year.

"there is no place in the world more beautiful than sicily". looking at taeormina, it's hard to argue with enzo's quote from the big blue.

At first things were a little tense. As Americans, we had work to do. Sure, we were in contact. In this ever-shrinking world you can do almost anything from anywhere and, in fact, my phone worked better from Sicily than it does down the block from our office in Santa Monica. Still, it just seemed wrong, to be stuck without a time table and in a situation where there was nothing we could do about it. The American corporate machine had finally met its match: Eyjafjallajökull.

the road up mt etna has to be one of the best bikes rides on the planet. you go from the sea through a city, then towns, then vineyards, apple orchards, forests, and finally lava flows leading to the ski station at 6,000' on the world's most active volcano.

lowering off of the 2nd ascent of what chris and i both agreed was one of the best routes we'd ever done. it ascended a massive cave through two man made dwellings that were somehow constructed in an overhanging cliffs thousands of years ago. the base of this cliff is littered with ancient artifacts. at another climbing area in the region there's a necropolis with 5,000 tombs carved into the rock. the history on this island is ridiculously overwhelming.

sizing up the competition lest we get stranded forever.

Acquiescing into the Mediterranean lifestyle didn’t take long. By day two we were fully acclimated. Café in the Piazza Duomo, or overlooking the sea, a little work, sightseeing or climbing, Panini, siesta. We’d usually work once our offices opened in America (I work virtually so not quite as vital for me) and then get enough done to go to dinner with Chris and Giusi, which happens very late in Italy and coincides with lunch in the States. And by the time the airspace re-opened we’d found ourselves rooting for the Eyjafjallajökull to keep working her magic.

trying to keep up with the very fashionable italians.


Anonymous said...

OK, it doesn't look like such a bad place.


Reed said...

Nice photos. I'm booking my next trip...

Steve Edwards said...

we should do our next riding trip there. in san vito there are cliffs right up to the beaches so it's perfect for families, and amber's italian, no? NG says you can ride hippie bikes in the mountains above there and it's super good. he even thinks there are trails that come all the way to the beach, which would be about 4,000' of descent.

Reed said...

Isn't NormalGuy the person who hung out in the middle of the Nevada desert building the future of sport climbing? I don't think I'm taking his advice on mountain bike trails. If I'm taking a destination hippy bike trip it's going to be Whistler. Provided, you know, I'm rehabilitated and can get in the country.

Dick Delauze said...

Dicky knows that tune. You sing it from a soap box and you finish it from a coffin.

I believe you are referring to Crankenstein's Corral; the place that was three hours from everywhere. That's right. A night at Major's Station and it was the future of sportclimbing. Having not ridden these yet I'm sure your skepticism is valid. But they'll let you in, and they'll let you build any sort of shit you want. And if it brings tourists in the off season they'll probably pay you, too. Whattaya say, partners?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't NG also writing sitcoms in his head whilst putting up said sport climbs? I seem to remember . . .

Anyway, I'm in. Italy, Utah, it don't matter to jesus. It's just a plane ride. Whistler? That's in Canada. They have death panels. I'm not going.