Saturday, 27 February 2016

Cefalu, the scenic route.

After the traumatic experience of arriving at the campsite at Sferracavalo, we needed to come up with a less stressful exit strategy. Having observed the differing traffic densities over the day we concluded that 11:00 am. was the optimum moment of departure to minimise frayed nerves. For once one of our half-baked theories seemed to have worked. The streets of Sferracavalo were quiet, and even the tricky 90 degree turn by the post office proved a doddle. Soon we were trundling through Palermo on the dual carriageway in light traffic without even one Italian hatchback driver or motorcyclist attempting to end it all under Maisy's front wheels. Our plan was to exit the motorway a little beyond Finale and double back to our destination at Rais Gerbi. It would have worked had the low fuel warning not lit up. I pulled into a service area, but balked at the 1.46 euro price. 

Our Tom Tom has a 'find fuel nearby' feature. Somewhere hidden in the algorithm must be a function that cunningly factors-in steep hills, narrow lanes, hairpin bends and areas of multiple deprivation, because it always seems to route us to the most remote, godforsaken petrol station in the vicinity with a sinister, half-witted attendant who is probably under surveillance as the prime suspect for most of the locality's unsolved felonies. In truth, it only hits all of these criteria in certain outlandish areas of South Wales. But today in Northern Sicily it hit most, except the chap at the pumps was stylish and handsome, and actually, Cefalu is quite swanky. 

The road - the S113 - proved both circuitous and vertiginous; there should really be portmanteau term for this, other than hair-raising, cirtiginous, perhaps. Anyway, after Cefalu, the S113 became bored with whizzing up and down the headlands and contented itself by snaking along the shore playing dodge with the railway, which every so often would appear from a tunnel, switch to the other side of the road via a level crossing, switch back again, then vanish again into some lump of rock by the sea. All the while, though the bends were tricky and the overtaking suicidal, as the driver I could still appreciate that we were running alongside a gorgeous pristine shoreline. Occasionally we rounded a headland and could see the mountainous coast stretching into the misty distance, to the east towards Milazzo; it was magnificent, reminding me of the Cilento. Verdant valleys running inland were bridged by a series of tall white viaducts carrying the Messina to Palermo motorway, the one we should have been on had we not made a detour to refuel.

Sea on one side, railway on the other..
We arrived at Camping Rais Gerbi a little before 1:00pm, which was fortunate as the owner was just about to go for lunch. He saw us to our pitch, explained the rather complicated relationship between the ASCI discount rate and the EHU metering system, then headed off to eat, his wife having phoned to tell him it was 1:20, and now he was running late, well past Sicily's sacrosanct moment mangiere.

This is now our third day here, and it's a lovely spot, and here's why...

A couple of weeks ago Gill posed the question, what makes the perfect campsite, and where have we been that comes closest to perfection? This question kept us entertained for a while and provided a welcome distraction from the daft shenanigans surrounding the now pending 'in-out referendum'. The latter question is easy,- IN dumbo! the former, trickier. We decided, that every site we have ever camped in has had some bloody annoying feature that disqualified it from even coming close to the ideal.

However, Rais Gerbi hits a good few positive buttons. Its setting is spectacular on the edge of a rocky promontory and many pitches havi a sea view across to the distant Aeolian Islands. The site is situated in pines, enough to offer shade, but not forming a dense canopy that makes it gloomy, nor so closely planted as to make parking a hazard. Indeed the layout of the upper part of the site with generous level pitches on concrete aprons means that the pines are planted well apart. I do wonder if the concrete predates the pines.Our neighbour John,. a fellow British winter escapee, has a theory that this part of the site may have been converted from an old industrial or military facility. This makes it sound as if the place is a bit utilitarian, and I suppose it is, there is a lot of raw concrete on show and the single large sanitary block looks more basic than it actually is. There are other negative features too, but most prove less annoying in reality than you might at first anticipate. For example, the main Messina to Palermo railway line splits the site. Luckily it is secreted in a deep, wooded cutting, so you can't see the line, and barely hear the trains which quietly rumble past infrequently anyway.

Against all of the negatives you get a stunning view of the Med, you are able to wend your way through the steeply terraced area set aside for tents, down a shady path to a little pebbly cove that looks great for snorkeling. At night, if you walk a few yards out of the lights, then it becomes very starry indeed, and it's quiet, at least out of season; no busy Italian site is ever going to be less than voluble once you fill it with natives in a holiday mood. Finally, the village of Finale is a ten minute walk. It's a pleasant, modern seaside town, unpretentious, and architecturally unexciting, but the shops are good. I can see why John and Deb, the British couple two vans down, opted to over-winter here. There is very little not to like about it.

Finale's shops are only 500m from the site

Lovely pine covered pitches

great views

The Aeolian Is on the horizon.

View towards Finale, and beyond

Small cove by the campsite

dark skies - great for star (or moon) gazing
So is Rais Gerbi a contender in the near perfect motorhome camping spot? Perhaps, but does the little problem that arose yesterday afternoon preclude it? I was filling the washing-up bowl with hot water at the washing-up sinks next to the shower block when a man behind me shouted urgently, "Hi, Hi!" Turning around I was somewhat taken aback to find a semi-naked figure leaning out of the shower block door. "How long you bowl fill?" He enquired. Adding, "None pressure hot!" then throwing in a short, but theatrical re-enactment of shivering to death.

"Sorry, I'll be quick." I assured him. If one person washing-up is enough to freeze another having a shower, can you imagine what it must be like in high season? Internecine shower wars I presume. 

The search for the perfect camping spot continues...

Prima di pranzo,

 durante il pranzo, 

 dopo pranzo

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