12-Oct-2011 -- "Give Blood - Go Confluence Hunting"
A tale of two confluences - and they could not be more different. In the morning it was 37N15E, in the evening it was 38N15E.
For 37N15E there is a nice parking spot on the side of the road and a gap in the stone wall that perfectly aligns with the confluence point. 10 minutes out and back including photos and confluence dance.
At '38' it was climbing, crawling, brambles and rose thorns, nettles, sharp slippy rocks and foot-trapping bogs. This was all to get to the confluence point - the woods around the point are quite nice and open.
Google Earth shows a track going to within 150m of the confluence. This is technically true most of the way, with the last section of track being an over-grown terrace/footpath but the final 150m "across terrain" is a nightmare.
Driving anywhere in Sicily takes longer than you expect (except if there is a convenient autostrada going your way). My lunch stop was on the southern slopes of Mt. Etna - just 30km direct line from N38E15 - but it took me two and a half hours to drive - there is a big mountain in the way and then the final 20km of road is narrow, steep and twisty. Well worth the drive as I just caught the evening light at the perfect time for photos.
I left my car on the main road as the dirt road toward the confluence was blocked with a wired shut gate. All around I could hear the sound of sheep and their bells - and the distant drone of, what turned out to be, motorbike trials riders (part of my route intersected with a laid out course).
The first 1.5km is all down hill and on good tracks - it took me 20 minutes. The path is then blocked by a fence - and over this is completely choked with a mixture of broom, wild rose and brambles - go-able but I was getting very badly scratched - legs, arms and torso. The path ends at a large boulder on the edge of woodland. It was now getting dark and it had taken me 10 minutes to travel 200m. Even so off-path would have been slower and so it was vital that I find the track on my return so I recorded my position in my GPS - a wise move.
Now only 150m to the confluence - a falling traverse across some steep but quite pleasant woodland and then I hit "the thick stuff" - small vertical rock faces and between these bog, streams, lethally slippy boulders, dense forest (crawling necessary) and lots more sharp-thorny-plants. As I was on my own and absolutely nobody was going to be coming looking for me I took exceptional care and it took me another 20 minutes to reach the confluence. By now I was covered in sweat, blood and flies and with almost no light and a very weak satellite lock I did not attempt to get my GPS reading below 20m (accuracy also 20m).
The return trip was just as painful - but at least was able to re-trace my route - so it was a bit quicker.
(I suspect that with more time I could have found an easier way to the confluence - certainly there was a good animal track descending from the west from what looked like open woodland).
And I was rewarded with one of the most wonderful views in Sicily - the Aeolian Islands...
By the time I got to my car it was full night - lit only by the just risen moon and my, fortuitously carried, Petzl headlamp.
It was then another hour to my hotel - interesting conversation with the receptionist - how did I come to be so badly scratched and bleeding and my clothes all torn...