Dave the motorhome has left Etna, thankfully, and is facing his nemesis from afar in a car park in the small coastal town of Santa Tecla (N37.63845 E15.17637).
First off, thanks to you guys who got in touch to check we were OK after managing to post an abruptly-ending sentence to our blog yesterday. Nope, Etna didn’t erupt, nor gush forth from a side-channel, nor jetison a pyroclastic flow onto our unsuspecting noggins. Nah, we just cocked it up. Such calamities are feasible on an active volcano, but as far as we can tell, the locals get a fair bit of notice of the coming, relentless destruction of the road/the cable car/the tat shops/the circumetnea train line. All of these, along with an ill-fated if daftly-sited village, get periodically destroyed, perhaps explaining why the cable car tickets are wincingly expensive.
Nah, the worst we had to content with was a dusting of snow and rather nasty wind. Thinking we’d escaped it by dropping down a few kilometers through the lava field, the flipping howling train-like wollops of air found us and assumed a 4 hour assault. We lay listening. A rumbling gushing noise would gradually get louder, uneasing us like night-time steps on wooden stairs, before battering Dave, lifting him a little on his suspension so once it had passed he’d crack and creak his way back to Earth. After an hour or so we took the decision to risk losing the door completely in order to retrieve our about-to-be-ripped off silver screens. Military precision in timing of door opening meant we saved both and eventually fell asleep through exhaustion.
This morning, the sun beamed. So much so it melted all the snow robbing me of the chance to photograph it, and make us out as some kind of Ranulph Fiennes hard-nut expedition. Once we’d had chance to fashion a makeshift hinge from the metal wire sheet we bought in France an age ago, we plotted in a parking place in Zafferana Etnea and crunched off the black crushed lava car park.
Cruising into the car parking spot from our German guide book (with just a tiny bit of reversing out of a too-narrow road), we found the sign it referred to unbolted from the post and rusting on the floor, under a new ‘reserved for clients’ one. No worries, it was right up against a busy road anyway and sleep is needed tonight, so we picked another (the one we’re at).
At this point, fate intervened. In the small town of Santa Venerina, as our SatNav grinned manically at the lava-stone leaning inwards, funnel-shaped streets she was directing us down, we spotted Padre Pio. He pops up everywhere. The first time we came across him was on Vesuvius. This time he was fashioned in metal, a man-sized sculpture stood outside a workshop. Ping! A lightbulb. Maybe he can make the door hinge? With a bit of driving up the wrong way up a one way street (Ju say’s I’m going native) we parked up fifty meters or so away.
The workshop was a deep narrow affair, it smelled of work. I could see someone moving about in the back but no obvious sign of a reception or office, just heaps of raw metal, part-finished and completed works. Spying all the equipment I decided that (a) this was our place and (b) I’d need some back up. Forming rank with Ju back at the van, we took off one of the good hinges and headed back in, to find a man walking towards us with two metal spears. A quick discourse in almost non-existent Italian (including Ju explaining were from Nottingham – Robin Hood, Nottingham Forest), and an inspection at the van, and we were instructed to drive around the block and park up outside the workshop.
Driving around the block in Sicily should be designated a form of trial-by-torture under a human rights act or other. On the second turn the road predictably narrowed to the point the right wing mirror hang pinged off a drainpipe and was now merrily scraping along the wall. Dave’s left side was within inches of a car. Cue horn honking from behind. I joined in, maybe I am going native? As Ju jumped out to see if we could get through (the answer was no), a local chap joined in to help, and through the left window I could see a waiter donning rubber gloves and gesticulating at me. The honking stopped once it became obvious we were wedged in tight. The waiter was, with massive relief, the car owner and jumped in to shift it. That’s driving a motorhome in Sicily for you!
Pulling up outside the workshop, the huge hulk of a blacksmith was already a good way through making the part, a couple of other guys with him asking where we’d been. Ju mimed a response as I asked for a price for the work: cue a shrug. As the chap heated and hammered the metal we looked around. Alongside the soft-porn calendar, a faded photo of a pope and various drawings of the Virgin Mary lay about the place, just cast onto the side, not pinned up like the semi-naked December lady. With a finale of unseen but smelled grinding and drilling, the part appeared, to be dunked in water and presented to us. Outside we fitted it to the door, and it worked perfectly, no amendments.
€20 later, we shook the big man’s hand as he wished us a happy new year and drove off (this price we regarded as a bargain as the real ones cost €25.60 plus postage, plus not having a reliable door for two weeks, plus hoping it arrives and is the right part).
Through prolonged satnav ignoring and trying to ‘feel’ which roads might not squash us like ants, we finally found this place, after just a single encounter with an orange traffic light. I though it was orange and stopped. It was orange. However, it was the green light, with the green filter plastic fallen off. As Ju spotted this and I moved off to turn left, the car behind undertook me, various indications of my idiotry being played out with scrunched up angry faces and hand gestures from the occupants. Outside a car, the folks here are wonderfully friendly and helpful people!
We’ve checked out the tiny town here and its lava beach, and it is just perfect for us. Quiet, no wind, calm and safe. We’re going to sleep tonight.