Monday, September 21, 2009

The southernmost point of Sicily

For the third time aficionados sea kayakers from Malta come to paddle along the coasts of Sicily. The first time they paddled along the volcanic black coast of Catania, than was the time of the Ragusa province and this year the choice was the south tip of Sicily, into the Siracuse province.
Using as a base a campsite in Portopalo, we had two day trips paddling in the two directions.
First day toward East, reaching first the village of Marzamemi and than the beautiful and protected site of Vendicari, with its ancient Swabian tower and the old tuna fish farms. On our way back we have a stop in Portopalo for a coffee or an ice cream, coming back in the same place in the evening by car for a beer and a pizza.

The second day the destination is west of the Portopalo harbour, after the Correnti Island, in a place called Punta Formiche, in the Amber Coast. A very small passage is feasible with kayaks between the island and the mainland, than we pass over a 6 meter deep ship wreck and head for a small cave, after which we meet another group of paddlers that come with us to have a lunch break at the Correnti Island.
The increased wind from East slow down our way back but we land in time for a final swimming before load the kayaks on the trailer and packing everything to go home.

More pictures from Frans Debono at:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From the sea level to the top of Sicily

A 3 Star BCU Sea Kayak British fellow and his Irish girlfriend had come to Sicily for having some adventure and fun in the outdoor. Andy and Aoife are very well trained and I easily teach them some sea kayaking tricks like the wet exit and the T rescue, just in case of capsizing. The very warm water helps a lot and encourage in playing with the boat down under...

We start to paddle along the coast north of Catania, towards the protected area of Lachea Island and the stacks of Acitrezza, where we meet Gianfranco that happily join to our paddling. The weather is nice, a bit windy, but when Aoife ask for a refreshing swim I suggest that we can wait for a shower. I’ve never experienced such a strong rain in a kayak! Was barely possible to see but very easy to drink a lot of water.

The rain last few minutes, after which the sun soon return, finding us protected under the porch of a Bar... in time for lunch.

The day 2 is dedicated to the volcano Etna. We leave from Catania at 6 in the morning and we start to climb at 7. Aoife is very fast and any drop of sweat will be on her for all the 6 hours walking, covering a distance of about 10 km and an ascent of about 1.540 meters. Andrea, who joined us at the last minute, stops at 2.800 meters. Me and Andy run after Aoife, reaching the rim of the NE crater, at 3.300 meters above sea level.

The three hours walking down is mainly done into a thick fog, without the help of any compass, useless into the metal rich lava terrains.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

River and Sea Kayaking

Sarah and Tim, from UK, have booked a sea kayaking trip but the day is windy and they are not jet highly skilled paddlers. So we drive around the big gulf of Siracuse to the mouth of the rivers Anapo and Ciane.

Here we live my campervan and unload the kayaks on the grass, ready to enter the flat waters of the river. While it is possible to hear the roaring of the surf on the beach, we gently paddle along the banks of the rivers, watching herons, ducks and water turtles escaping from the trees or hiding into the reeds. Very relaxing the little channel that leads to a papyrus plantation used since the times of the Greek colonization.

The second day the wind is still blowing from NE, and we change our plan and Sarah and Tim reach the south coast of Sicily. Here we launch from the beach of Bruca, into the municipality of Scicli. The sea is flat, a light wind from land and plenty of sun. We follow the rocky coast and land on a small sandy beach for a break.

A light head wind on the way back and a restoration snorkelling, under the worried watch of a grebe, before the last leg of the – finally – sea kayaking trip.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sea Kayak and Volcano Trekking

In three intense days me and Charlie paddled along the lava cliffs of the Catania coast and climbed on the top of the highest active volcano of Europe: Mount Etna.
The first day, paddling 15 km of black cliffs, from Catania to the protected area of Acitrezza's archipelago, was relatively easy despite the 35° Celsius and the high humidity, close to 90%.
Than, the meeting was at 5:00 am, and we started to walk with our backpack and mountain boots at 7:00 am from 1741 meters a.s.l.. Following the 1928 lava flow, the landscape change from the birch woods to the grasslands and than to the volcanic desert. Except us, only few ladybugs are here.

With surprise the smoking summit craters were sprayed with snow and we reached the top (3300 meters a.s.l.) after five hours of hard trekking. On the crater rim we finally hear some loud explosions and we can sense the depth of the pit.
Before we reached the summit the clouds started to pile over the south flank and on our way down hail and lightning started to fall. Reached the old rim of the Ellittico Caldera we started to run down into a canyon with a sandy bottom, the lightning touching the rocky ridges...

The third day we have 20 km to paddle but despite the heavy humidity it is like playing after the effort of the climb. We just start the day with an almond granita with brioche, a sicilian classic breakfast, and we finish with eating in the same place some salty food. In the middle there is paddling, swimming in a sea spring cold water, more paddling and a lovely break with a plunge in the past in the fisherman village of Santa Maria La Scala.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two friends comes from Malta by kayak

Albert and Dorian call me in the evening to say “Ehi, Francesco, we will leave tomorrow morning to paddle to Sicily, can you pick us up in the evening at the Punta Secca lighthouse?”. After all the normal safety equipment they carry with them a SPOT (personal satellite tracker) and I will be able to follow their progress into the Sicily Channel crossing. It is a 54 mile distance but they already done that in group and with safety boats, for charity. Now they are alone into their beautiful double kayak.

At the sunset I am on the wharf of Punta Secca, the village that was used for the set of the Montalbano TV series, between Santa Croce Camerina and Marina di Ragusa. I’m a bit warried because I know that they had some drifting in the second half of the crossing. Now is dark, the lighthouse will guide them into the little harbour. After one hour waiting I spot a flashing light on my right and I’m sure they are, but... coming from West instead South!

A cold beer to welcome them is the minimum I can offer! Phone calls to friends and families. They are tired but happy and they tell me all the best moments of the crossing after we loaded the kayak on the roofrack of my Land Rover and we drive home. A shower, a pizza and a deep sleep.

The next day we have more relax, washing equipment and an interview to the local television. The ferry to Malta in the evening is the end of this beautiful adventure...
The next should be a crossing to Tunisia and I’m invited to go with them!