The (blue) gold miner

Day 350, Syracuse, 22.453 km

If you haven’t yet read Le Clézio’s book (« Le chercheur d’or ») that I had the good fortune (or bad fortune? I can’t say, but I don’t have any lasting memories of it) to read during my first year of prep school, please do so (unless you really don’t have the time or the inclination to do so), as this article has nothing to do with the original work… Just to give you a little context, imagine that I am constantly thirsty. From the morning when I wake up to the evening when I go to sleep. All the time thirsty. Probably related to the rather high temperatures on this beautiful Sicilian island. Probably. In any case I consume a lot of water, between 6 and 8 liters per day I would say, and so I am constantly looking for a fountain or a cemetery to fill my water bottles. Well, you should know that since a few days, it has become much less easy than it seems (and that it was until now). It seems that in the south of Sicily, in addition to greenhouses, vineyards and beaches, we are also specialists in water points… without water… « points » in short: a nice fountain on the edge of the bike path, no tap. A tub at the bend in the road, no water coming out of the hose. A fountain in a park in a small village, nothing comes out when you turn on the tap. They even go so far as to taunt me: two fountains in a cemetery, with the little puddle of water that implies recent use. CLOSED CEMETERY. So I have to be more inventive: climbing the gates of a stadium to go and drink out of a shower. Asking people (but not 8 liters in one go, I still feel like I’m disturbing sometimes). Buying water (but considering the quantity of empty bottles that litter the roadside, I hesitate to contribute to it)… In short, water is a stake of our future, and I can measure how much a simple and direct access to drinking water is essential… When will the bike with hydraulic assistance be invented??

Since I didn’t have my watch for the last few days (you surely remember this stolen cable story), I feel like it was only a long day between Palermo and Syracuse, with a few outstanding events that stand out. First, the heat. It’s always over 35°, but you get used to it. And then the proximity with the sea, the relative wind that I create by moving, the wind that comes from the sea, all that makes the heat bearable in general. But several times, the road makes a detour inland. This is noticeable in the landscape, which is immediately drier, even if the green vines seem to be happy in these conditions. Then the wind gets warmer. So much so that I feel like I’m standing in front of the open door of a working oven. Like when you check if your cake or quiche is well done. For 30 minutes. Non-stop. The feeling that all the water in my body is evaporating. The thermometer goes up and up. 45 degrees. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced temperatures like that… 

The furnace
Hotter and hotter

I also have the pleasure to meet a bicycle path! A real one, not on the road, with small shelters to make shade from time to time, « points » (but no water), and even if the road was probably in better condition, it’s quite a nice ride! At the beginning I am wary, I do not know if it goes in the good direction, nor if it is not going to finish abruptly in the middle of nowhere… Then when I see that it follows the same road as me, a little aside, I decide to try. And it’s love at first sight: a gentle slope, uphill or downhill, a pleasant road, in the hills at the beginning and then by the sea, for a good ten kilometers, only water is missing for the idyll to be perfect… I feel that I could follow this track to the end of Sicily. But unfortunately it’s not reciprocal, and I get abandoned just after Maragani. Bad…

The hills
The sea
The end

The sea is there too, almost without interruption. Sometimes kilometers of beach where umbrellas, deckchairs, showers and bars grow. And the people who bathe from morning to evening, at noon too (if I did such a thing, it would be instantaneous skin cancer for me), it must be said that it exceeds 30° from 9 o’clock in the morning. Sometimes grey sand and garbage. Sometimes also cliffs, especially the impressive Scala dei Turchi, a kind of giant staircase that goes down into the sea… And I dare to swim in the evening too, a little freshness break that is often great!

La Scala dei Turchi
Swimming break

Crops too, vines, which apparently like the heat, olive trees, a mixture of both (which I decided to call olivines), and greenhouses. Hectares covered with plastic: I heard that there is a region in the south of Spain (which I avoided by going to the Sierra Nevada) that is nicknamed the sea of plastic (the satellite photos are quite impressive), so I had to go through its Sicilian equivalent. At least I stay at the edge of the « sea »…

The olivines
The two seas

I also have time to walk around Syracuse, as I arrive quite early after a short stop, to meet an Aida liner (based in Hamburg, it’s a small world…), to get lost in the alleys of the island of Ortigia trying to find some shade and freshness, to eat of course, and to enjoy an afternoon without biking…

The cathedral
The fountain of Diana
… and its alleys

To finish, a little as they come, some pictures of these 4 days…

Un avis sur « The (blue) gold miner »

  1. Dear Pierre,
    Your short stories, and sometimes not so  » short » are very thrilling to read. Have you considered to write a book?;) You will definitely have success on that. Weiter so!


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