Its 1:30 in the morning.
Our flight doesn’t leave till 6am, but we have to be there 3 hours early, and it is a good hour bus ride to get to the airport, and a half hour walk to get to the bus.
Throw in a little time to be a buffer to hiccups, and we have to be awake at 1:30am.
We’re a little zombie-like, but we make do.
I dicked around a little packing my bag, which set us behind, and we thought that we might have missed the bus. But, as the tree huggers would have it, we arrived and the bus was still there. We rushed to get our tickets and quickly boarded the bus.
…only to sit there for the next 15 minutes.
The bus finally leaves, and we are in and our of sleep, until we decide that all the seats are just that little bit to awkward, and we bail on entertaining the idea of sleep for now. We get to the airport and track back and forth all over the place, trying to find out when the check in opens. We have to wait another few minutes, so we try to watch more Brooklyn 99.
This bloke comes over to us, and starts talking greek to us. We tell him that we are Australian, and he starts talking with us, asking if we know how to check in. He’s a really nice looking bloke who is rocking this old leather jacket and has got wild long stringy white hair. He looks like the rejected member of the rolling stones. He is crazy wide-eyed and impossible to not love.
He’s a proper lad.
We check him in and assume our seat waiting for the check in desks to kick off. We finally get to check in, and the check starts telling us that our bags are too big to check in. We have our sleeping bags strapped to the front of them, which might have given her the illusion that they were too big, but the 5 other flights we’d taken with them like that already would say otherwise.
We had already had to pay an extra 80 euro to add luggage to our booking (which I was sure I did already), so this time I was firm. Her manager was standing right beside her, and we’d met her every demand. This time, we weren’t budging and we needed to get those bags on the flight, and thank God she caved in. I was not looking forward to having to really try nut this one out.
We board our plane, and I sleep most of the way to Rome.
We are headed to Palermo, in Sicily, but Rome is our first stop. We have about an hour’s layover, so we figure that we should just get a coffee, a real Italian coffee, and wait for our flight to Palermo. Bec is already losing her mind. She has been waiting to get to Italy for so long and now it is everything she has been hoping it would be. There are little shops where you can buy meat and cheeses at the airports.
This is the highlight for her, and I know this because she tells me about 4 times in the space of 10 minutes.
We order our drinks. I stick to the cappuccino because I know it is a safe option. Bec orders a latte, but it turns out that Italian lattes is just warmed milk with a drop of coffee.
That is all she got.
Turns out that a latte in Italy is vastly different to a latte in Australia. Not like this dampened her mood though. She’s still buzzing about the fact that she can get specialty meats at the airport. We drink our coffees and play some cards till its time to board the plane.
I didn’t sleep the first time, and now it’s Bec’s turn to sleep. I just take photos throughout the duration of the flight. You can see land from the plane most of the time during the flight. You can even see some snot capped mountains right in the distance. I am pretty excited to see Italy and all it is worth. We begin to land, and we have a quick flick through the magazines. To Bec’s delight, the airline is giving free lipstick samples.
We rock up in Palermo, and this is our first time doing a HelpX, so we don’t really know what to expect. We get our gear and walk out the doors, not sure if we should be looking for a couple waving at us, holding a sign, or just giving us really odd looks until we ask them if they are Anne & Doug. It only dawned on me as we were getting off the flight that I actually had no idea what these guys looked like. We’re gonna just have to freestyle it.
We stand there more awkwardly than we had imagined, and then slowly realise that the guys who are meant to pick us up aren’t there yet. I go to crank out my laptop to send a message to Anne & Doug, and then Bec starts walking toward this bloke with a beard, walking straight to us.
There is this chick just behind him, and we are thinking “Oh perfect. Here they are”
“I’m Paul! Doug and Anne have just called us to ask to pick you up. They have just had a break down on their way to the airport”
“Oh. Right! Ok. Well, thank you then!”
We grab our stuff and head to the car.
The guys tell us that we all have to pile into the one car. There are 6 of us, that have to climb into a hatchback. We recognise this chick in the car already, who was actually on the flight with us. Just by sheer coincidence, Doug & David were on their way into to pick up their friend, Lisa, when Anne & Doug called.
Well, that worked out pretty well!
We load our stuff into the boot and take up literally every single spare centimetre of space they have. We pile into the back, and Lisa, instead of cramming in the back with us, just decides that she will sit in the front with the guys. Never seen that before, but I’m cool with it. I feel kinda bad though David has got Lisa sprawled all over him on the front seat.
There isn’t much more room in the back seat, but I am sure we can make something work. The guys aren’t even fussed about the cops having a dig either. They’re riding loud and proud with an extra person spread across the front seat. Turns out that the cops don’t care anyway.
This place is getting better and better by the minute.
We keep cruising through the countryside until we reach Anne & Doug. They’re pulled over on the side of the road in their cute little red hatchback. We pile out and do the formalities and begin to check out the issue with the car. Pretty much all the lads try their hand at pretending to know what is going on, and turns out that we couldn’t bluff our way through this one. We all kinda just hang around and chat for about half an hour while Paul does a runner to find a mechanic. We find out that Lisa is an avid bird watcher, and man, she has got some epic stories. She has literally travelled the world finding the most exotic birds known to man.
Its really friggin cool to chat with her about her experiences.
Paul & David are US expats who have made Sicily their home for the past 10 years. David is an A-grade painter who pretty much retired to the outer most parts of the United States to live a really chilled out and simple lifestyle. Paul’s family was originally from Italy, and he is the first generation of American-born citizens in his family. Despite being born in the US, he was saying that it just didn’t quite gel. It wasn’t until he visited Sicily that he’d felt like he found his way home, and so Paul & David decided to up & move and buy a place in Sicily. Kat is visiting & from what I can gather, she is on the edge of committing to moving to Sicily. She’s a painter, and a pretty damn good one at that.
They’ve got this whole awesome community happening over here. Anne & Doug have done the same thing. They weren’t overly happy with their lifestyle in the UK, so they sold everything they had 7 years ago and moved to Sicily. I don’t think anyone is younger than their late 30s, but its so cool to see people who have just decided what they really want, and have decided to actually act on it.
That, I have a lot of respect for.
We end up sending the car to a mechanic and Paul tasks Bec with getting everyone to the bar so that we can wait for the car to get fixed. Even Paul admits that he isn’t sure why he is tell her this, but they both roll with it.
We walk around the corner to reach the bar, and we all order our drinks and something to nibble. Everybody is laughing, chatting and just generally having a great time. It feels like we have just slipped into someone else’s circle of friends. There are jokes being thrown around, jovial accusations being made, uncouth stories being shared and apologies soon to follow. Its a really awesome community already, and we cant stop smiling. Its so much fun.
We pile into the cars and go our respective ways.
Paul takes Doug, Anne, Bec and I to Anne & Doug’s place, but not before heading to Paul & David’s place for a pit stop. I can’t remember why, but I do remember the view that they had on their front balcony. It is utterly unreal. There are absurdly grand sweeping views of the valley directly in front of the property. How you could ever get sick of seeing that each morning, I would never know. Bec is in her element. Finally, in God’s kitchen, she is content.
We play a bit of ping pong, and finally, all those nights of getting my ass flogged by my father-in-law pay off. I can count on one hand the amount of times that I have beaten him at table tennis, and now its beginning to work in my favour. Paul and I play some table tennis while David checks on the dogs and we make our merry way to Anne & Doug’s place.
We get inside, and Anne is straight away onto the wines.
“Who wants a glass?”
The real question is “Who would be out of their minds enough to say no to a glass of wine?”. We all get stuck into a bit of gorgeous Sicilian wine, and it is as good as you think it should be. Anne & Doug’s view is directly toward the mountain that runs perpendicular to Paul & David’s place. It’s actually so amazing. Clouds often just hover over the tip of the mountain, just hiding the top from sight.
Doug & Paul head back into the town to pick up a mate’s, cousin’s, sister’s, dog’s, owner’s, nephew’s car or something. I honestly cant remember how it worked out. All I know is that the guy’s name was Luigi, which is the best thing I have ever heard. I thought names like Luigi and Mario were fictional. Didn’t realise that actual real humans had those names too.
Bec, Anne and I end up waiting for Doug to get back, but it’s taking too long, so we end up just tucking into some food instead. Anne is pretty good on the timing of things, so she knew when Doug was taking abnormally long. Turns out that the battery for the car was dead. Just to add something else to the order of the day.
We chat with them for a while, and get talking about Brexit. Its good to hear it from a british point of view. In Australia, so much happens overseas that doesn’t really affect us, that its good to actually hear about it from their point of view. We end up getting pretty tired, so go to have a nap.
An hour and a half long nap.
We are revitalised and are super glad that we have actually got some sleep back. I slept for a bit on the plane, but we didn’t have loads of sleep last night, and we were up at 1:30 in the morning, so we’re suffering a little. With a little more sanity, we get a look at the first few things for us to do. It’s a Wednesday today, so we have go till Saturday to do a big bloody tidy up of two sheds and clear out some of the gear in one of them. I say to Bec “We’ll nail this”. Its not gonna take us too long. We’re pros at this kinda thing.
We grab our stuff and pile into the car to make our way to Paul & David’s place. Actually, the place the we were headed wasn’t there place. It was a friend of theirs, who they were house sitting for. The guy is a millionaire, and you can tell. The place is big, and its pretty damn Italian. When we went back to Anne & Doug’s place, David and the girls went to the markets and picked up a heap of stuff for dinner. Kat is pretty handy in the kitchen, and has decided to make us all Thai for dinner.
The smells of dinner fill the atmosphere, as we get the wines underway. Everybody is deep into various conversations and laughs can be heard echoing throughout the house. Paul tried to impress us by researching our home town, which we briefly mentioned in the car ride to the broken down car. Turns out that he was actually researching Wiluna. Not quite Kalgoorlie, but Bec and I gave him points for effort. I don’t think anyone I have met has tried to educate themselves on our home town yet. We’re still impressed.
We sit down, and the wines are steadily flowing, and we’re all having a ball. Dinner gets served and Bec and it doesn’t take long for the topic of Australia’s unrelenting desire to have you murdered at the hands of it’s savage wildlife to come up. Pretty much Bec and I summed it up in two things:
1) If the animal really wants you to die, you wont know until it’s too late.
2) Of the people I have ever met in Australia, only one has actually had a close call with such an animal.
Naturally, the next thing on the topic of conversation to come up was the complexity of the situation with american politics. Needless to say. Anyone who is an American national, is glad they they aren’t in America right now. I know there are always two sides to the coin, but even things like how Trump is getting rid of the EPA is a really really poor move. There are so many moves that he is making which are so questionable its not even funny. To be honest, I almost feel like I am watching something evolve which will go down in the history books as a pivotal time in history.
With the things like the EPA coming up in conversation, climate change came up too. One thing I have noticed since we have been travelling and speaking and living with locals is that the climate is actually changing. I’ve always been of the belief that everything is pretty much fine, and the planet has cycles that govern the cycles. We have the 4 seasons, but then the planet has seasons when it is warmer for a long period of time, and then cold for a long period of time. After talking with a friend of ours in Dublin who is studying such subjects, she’d said that yes the planet has cycles, but the issue is that the planet is meant to be cooling at the moment, and instead, it is actually heating up.
The question of cycles is irrelevant.
The timing of them is not.
Places that we have visited in the cold climates have been getting warmer, and even in Sicily, they’d had the heaviest snow that some locals had ever seen in their entire Sicilian lifetimes. Thats not normal, and the more I have traveled and spoken with people all around the world, the more common even the local people are noticing that things are abnormal.
Even back in Kalgoorlie and Western Australia, we have had some of the heaviest rain that anyone has ever seen in their lifetimes.
I just struggle to believe that this is now something that is an anomaly I’ve seen it too many times.
Anyways. We wrap the night up with Italian kissed and hugs and make our way back home.
We have had the most amazing introduction to Sicily, and the community of friends these guys have built here is nothing short of awesome. We’d felt more than welcome, and are super honoured to have the opportunity to meet the whole crew.
We get into bed and fall fast asleep, ready for a big day tomorrow.
Come back for the next story,