Sunday, 7 February 2016

Long-term mysteries.

Sunday, 7th February, 2016

A couple of days ago as we wandered along the local beach a woman hailed us. "How's the leg?" she enquired from her sunny spot beneath the campsite wall. We wandered across to where she was sitting on the sand resting against the warm, sunlit wall and casually flicking a small blue rubber ball towards the waves; each time it was dutifully retrieved by her manic looking, but amiable collie. We immediately recognised the friendly stranger as someone we had camped beside when we stayed here previously a couple of months ago. In the ensuing conversation Gill assured her that the sprained knee was on the mend, sympathy was suitably forthcoming regarding our latest mishap, and the topic moved on to swapping travel plans. Whereas we would be moving-on in a day or two, the woman explained that as she was partly funding her travels by renting out her house, she would not be heading home until May or June. Given that when we arrived originally in late November she already appeared well established as a long term resident, it seems that she must have been nested here in Punta Braccetto for eight or nine months.

To some extent I can see why you might decide migrate here for the season. The site is impeccably managed, and because it is spread across two adjacent beach-side plots, although it has all the advantages of a large site, it feels quite intimate. The facilities are excellent, each pitch having its own toilet cubicle, the wifi is reliable, hot water for the showers and washing-up plentiful, and the 'parcelos' big enough even for cruise-ship sized Concordes, and their attendant Smart cars. Add to this the hibiscus hedged paths, the sunset facing beach, and regular visits from the baker's butcher's and greengrocer's vans, then the attraction of Camping Scarabeo as a long term haven for escapees from the northern winter becomes perfectly understandable.

spacious pitches

hibiscus hedged paths

great individual facilities and direct beach access.
The question remains however, if you stayed here for months, what exactly would you do? To some extent the activities of our temporary neighbours answer the question, at least partially. Most have a mini-Jodrell Bank perched on the van roof, so evenings can be whiled away watching telly. The place is quite famous in on-line forums as a centre for on-going boules matches, so a bit of friendly inter-pitch rivalry might fill the afternoons. Somewhat amusingly, Angela, the site manager mentioned that she had encouraged the development of mixed nationality teams to avoid the development of tribal conflict! If the sporting life is not your thing, reception has book-swap shelf, so you will never be short of reading matter. The site itself organises regular excursions to local towns and events such as the famous Sciacca carnival. As well all this the beach provides a half-kilometre exercise track used frequently by wiry, brown sixty-somethings taking heed of the medical profession's advice that a regular, twenty minute brisk walk is enough to keep your heart healthy. Friendly morning banter while queueing by the bread van proves that the winter residents of Camping Scarabeo have developed a temporary sense of belonging and a short-lived, but vibrant community has evolved.

Punta Braccetto beach
complete with aged jogger
boules is not merely a past-time - honour is at stake!

8.30am. - morning rituals - beep! beep! PANE!
So, can I imagine us as a member of this ex-pat enclave? Well, not yet, we still have too many places to see and new roads to travel. Next year we plan to explore Galicia, Portugal and spend some more time in Andalucia. I do fancy travelling through the Balkans to Greece, visiting Croatia, Montenegro and Albania en-route. Then I have imagined a future journey back to Sicily, but travelling south in the autumn through Corsica and Sardinia. What about our desire to go long-haul to New Zealand with stop-overs in Singapore or Malaysia? That takes us to the end of the decade at least! 

By then will we have out-grown our desire to wander? If so, then I can think of few places better placed than Punta Braccetta to spend three or four months over-wintering by the Mediterranean. The only other places we have found that come close have been Camping Gythio in the Peloponnese and the lovely pine-shaded site at Isla Christina near the border between Spain and Portugal. Many of the other long stay sites we came across last year in Spain were not to our taste, ranging from the depressingly bungaloid to 'lively' sites packed-full of wrinkled party animals drinking themselves toward oblivion with 'grey abandon'.

So for the moment I think we are likely to remain inveterate wanderers, happy to observe and move on. We have spent this morning thinking about where next - the mosaics at Villa Casale, the temples at Agrigento, maybe a lunch-stop at a quayside restaurant in Sciacca or Secca Grande, it's almost a plan! The tyre pressures and oil has been checked, windscreen wash topped-up, white water tank filled and grey water emptied. Tomorrow we are heading off. There is no tonic quite as good as the blue yonder.

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