Work-Hike-Balance: Scheinbergspitze featuring Hector

Office Inside

Hector is happy again, and when Hector is happy, I am happy.

Together, we combine a working day at Augsburg, a camping stop-over at Lechbruck and a challenging tour around the Kenzenhütte. At least, that is the plan on Thursday. Even though I work for some hours when sitting on Hector’s couch, the overall situation feels like a micro-holiday.

Opening Hector’s Door: Stunning

Based on Hector’s feel-good qualities, I sleep like a baby and wake up around 5 a.m. on a beautiful Friday morning. Under an incredible sunrise-sky and over a cup of coffee, I check the weather apps, the tour description and the various variables of today’s schedule. Then I start to think: Isn’t it all about a good work-hike-balance?

Question of the day is, if I will I find the right paths without mistakes or doubts (meaning: loss of time). Will I successfully transcend two summits before the predicted, dramatic weather front strikes? Will I catch the rare hiking busses in time – and what about alternatives to the foreseen setting?

Today’s Choice of a Trail

The alternative turns out to be preferable, and an hour later, Hector rolls towards Linderhof, one of Ludwig II’s famous castles. Just a few kilometres next to it is a neat little trail up to the Scheinbergspitze. The altitude difference is fine (900Hm), the expected length (4 – 4,5 hours) smoothly fits into the weather development and the region (Ammergauer Alpen) is just fine.

…then on the way towards the peak…

The perfect preparation for another tour and another weekend is: failure. Near-miss, to be more precise. Two hours after the start of the ascent, I stagger towards the cross. Exhausted, out of breath and sweating like hell, it is embarrassing for a trail flagged blue = easy. Besides daily fitness, an exaggerated start and the aim to accelerate my uphill velocity almost disabled me reaching the top. I am stunned how hard this tour feels, and I lack the trekking poles that are stored in Hector’s bathroom (“A blue tour with less than 1.000 Hm? I will surely not need them!”). Yet, the harder achieved, the more rewarding is a challenge fulfilled.

Finally!

I spend quite some time on the Scheinbergspitze, soaking in the 360° view. Eventually I hop down, clenching my teeth when slipping and sliding on the steep gravel paths. At late noon-time, when Hector turns North towards home, I remark the darkened skies in the rear mirrors, confirming today’s choice. Given my disrupted speed performance and the witnessed weather change, the work-hike-balance is proved to be a clear match by the end of August. Even more as it might have built an almost ideal base for more challenging goals – but that is another story for another day…

The Surrounding: Ammergauer Alps
Great, after all
900m altit. difference6,5 km3:30hharmless

Cefalú II

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Back to where we belong

Three-and-a-half-days until the ferry will carry us back North. I could use the time and cross off my list all outstanding highlights: Trapani, hikes through national parks, Erice, rivers and ravines. Instead, I get back to my favourite spot with Hector’s rear tires almost getting wet and salty.

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Déjà vu? Wonderful Remake!

Lazy but sporty days are up: admire the golden morning light with a first coffee. Then find some place close to one of the campsite’s WiFi spots and lay down the yoga mat.

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After about 30 minutes online-yoga session, I add some handstand kick-ups as a direct consequence from the Scala dei Turchi, aiming to pimp future tourist pictures. The rest of the day is a mixture of meals (breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and a bit in between) and sun-vs-sea.

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Place to be: my Bay

With so much relaxation, I could do with some company. Lucky me that I am down at the “base level area” of camping Sanfilippo, with rough ground instead of neat gravel and with hippie travellers instead of RV campers. A chat here, a warm welcome there, motorbike talks with young tent campers and quiet evenings – so far, so good. The only thorn in my flesh is the driver of a white VW van who stays next to my Hector with two young sons. He is so much of a lookalike to “my bartender” (a dear friend for years) that I wonder what to do first: a) Order a cocktail or b) Give him a kiss? I try do play it decent and invite him over to a glass of wine for my last evening. It is around 11 PM when I realize that most probably he will not show up anymore. Anyway, at this point the wine bottle has not much left to offer…

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Then the next morning…

The next morning, I feel awkward. For about 30 minutes. Then I pick up my regular yoga routine, ending it on the beach today with some last handstand trials. Having exercised the kick-ups for a mere three days, it comes as a nice surprise (even for me) when I manage to get up easily and stand straight upside-down for 2-3 seconds before falling over light as a feather. How cool!! I jump around, all excited, find somebody to take a video from the sensation, and grin widely at the world.

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Tadaaah! That’s where I get after 3 Days of Training

Minutes later, I find a confirmation mail on my smartphone, telling me that I successfully applied for two reserved tables at the Wiesn (“Oktoberfest”). All out of a sudden it becomes obvious: That Karlsuhe-daddy-guy with his hilarious, brand-new VW car (ever heard of Diesel-Skandal, how dare you still drive that one?!), he will certainly rack his brain for days and years, wondering why he has let it slip away, that great opportunity of good wine in best company. A girl with 2 Wiesn-tables and the skills for a neat handstand – is there anything more you could ever ask for? Yeah, see!

All in a good mood now, I pack my belongings and get Hector ready to go, while every now and then people come by for last greetings, a warm good-bye or help with renitent marquee pegs . With a light sigh I leave my wonderful bay behind…

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So long and thanks for all the Fish

>> Next Destination

Scala dei Turchi

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Sometimes the way ahead does not lead anywhere. Departing from Villa Del Casale, the navi leads more or less straight towards Agrigento. Like the Princess of the Pea, I favour comfort and hence big roads with Hector, but today the first trial turns out dead end. Typical Sicilian, there is no detour nor early warning, just a blocked road. From 3 possible directions, this has been the best, but flexible as I am I switch to second best. Fifteen minutes later, another road barrier shows up. I study my detailed map of the island and the options are:

  • Main road towards Agrigento: blocked, no way of trespassing
  • A more indirect tour: blocked right in front
  • Go North, then East, then all South, then West. For hours. Honestly??
  • Go back to where I have started and stay there, possibly forever

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Hard to believe and yet: Today’s best Way towards my Destination

Finally, I go for the best option which is ignoring the blockade, circle Hector’s tires around the barrier, marvel at Sicilian’s biggest pothole and, later on, gently wave at the construction workers I pass by. Fortunately, most people accept the disabled road and leave the one and last existing lane to us with hardly any oncoming traffic.

Based on the recommendation of the French couple I met the other day, Hector heads on South. Leaving tiny little mosaic stones behind and approaching massive rocks: Our destination is known as the Scala dei Turchi, which is slightly misleading as it does not refer to Turks but rather to pirates, all named “turchi” in former times and demonstrating ancient preconceptions.

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Favourite Vanlife with an acceptable distance to the Sea

Around noon, Hector rolls on the ground of Punta Piccola Park, a simple and likeable sosta camper at the beach of Porto Empedocle / Realmonte. 2 toilets, 3 showers and space for some dozens of camper vans with sea view. I tend to like those simple but well-located places.

The restaurant right around the corner serves delicious fish, wine, espresso and whatever else you need for your comfort: get out of the sosta’s gateway, turn left, walk max. 50m, get into the restaurant and out to the terrace, ask for fish of the day, enjoy! This being set, I take off my shoes and promenade on the beach for relaxed two kilometres.

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Half-way in between Hector and the Scala dei Turchi

The more I turn West and thus away from industrial Porto Empedocle, the more beautiful is the shore. I give up looking back and continue my way along the coast line.

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View to Porto Empedocle – Wrong Direction

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…but then: Approaching the Scala dei Turchi

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Almost there

Soon enough I spot the white cliff made of soft limestone and a blinding white marl. These days, only the tough reach it, as recent rockfalls required to close a part of the beach. The only way leads through the water stirred up by hundreds of tourist legs and with invisible stones and rocks beneath the feet. A rope indicates the safest passageway where you will always find helping hands of elderly poeple along the queue (or the other way round).

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Once you are there, it is impossible not to pose for Instagram, friends and your own vanity. With the scenery as fantastic as it is, here come the inevitable “bella figura” pictures of the day:

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…and in the opposite direction

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Such a nice and peaceful spot – and then you end up surrounded by tourists!

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See? Without me, it looks entirely boring

I spend quite some time on one of the highest “steps” of the so-called stairway. There is so much to see from here! The changing colours of the sea, all kinds of people passing by and then there is a group of Dutchmen that is keen on showing off with their youth and their muscles. After an hour or two, I turn around and leave this wonderful place behind.

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Just one pity comes with todays excursion: my handstand skills do not match this place. Not yet. It would have been marvellous to pose in a free-floating handstand on top of that glistening white platform. One of the last thoughts before falling asleep that night is: “What if I exercise more focused?”. I wonder if this will get me somewhere someday…

>> Next Destination

 

 

Villa Romana del Casale

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50 Ways to Leave your Lover, much harder to Leave this Bay

It takes days to get me leave Cefalú. One day after the other, I decide to move ahead tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, it comes with yesterday’s repeating: tomorrow… Finally, with my Müsli storage being almost empty and being billed with five nights at Camping Sanfilippo, Hector turns inlands towards Piazza Armerina.

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Bye Bye, Cefalú

Along the way, Sicilia changes it’s appearance: prospering plants fade out and give space to hills coloured in all shades of green and brown. The frequency of villages goes down, leaving it all up to lonely roads and endless landscape.

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First stop of the day is Enna. I find a perfectly legal parking spot for Hector, switch on google maps and start walking towards the centre of this mountain village. Turning right, asking locals, moving on, turning left, checking my cell phone and finally: giving up. I learn that global internet companies fail when it comes to the very south of Europe. Not only that a lot of apps come with worn-out information (if any), the map shown on my little screen indicates that the centre of Enna was located on another hill in 14km of distance. Which, in fact, is not true. Truth is, that I cannot imagine Enna being that attractive and decide to move on towards further destinations.

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Enna. Sort of.

Today is superslim-Hector day. Would he be bigger with just some millimetres more, we might have been stuck in the narrow streets of Enna downtown, where I eventually find the churches, restaurants and cafés I had been looking for. However, it does not look that much exciting or inviting, and with a sigh of relief I continue my way. In the afternoon, we arrive at an overnight camper parking that is highlighted in one of my travel books.

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Sad, so Sad

The place “Agricasale” is strange. And empty. With the latter being true especially for the huge outdoor pool that looks so inviting in my book. With a cold and rainy May, the owners are not yet done with the ready-for-season works. At least, they have stable WiFi and reasonable prices, showers and toilets and electricity and, above all, a lot of nature.

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Dogs run around, making friends with Hector and proving the friendship by peeing in front of my main door. Horses come by, their heads covered in clouds of black flies. In the distance, some sheep hang around and at least they have no intention bothering me – sure enough the opposite is true for the mosquitoes… The place is beyond clear definitions. A hotel? Not really. A camper park? Only as a side business. But besides what? Does the conversation with the owner lead anywhere, circling around free love?? The situation gets a bit less absurd when the RV of a French couple arrives. We sit together with wine and soft drinks and exchange tips and experiences of our Sicilian travel.

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Next day is culture day! Villa Romana del Casale is the touristic hot spot in Sicily’s inland, like the Italian version of Neuschwanstein. Endless floors are covered with all kinds of artful mosaic tiles. Some are just decoration, some tell stories of heroes and glory, of hunters and cruises, beasts and beauties.

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Itty-bitty Tiles, Well-Sorted

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The area, consisting of several buildings (more true: their leftovers), is large. Even in 4th century it must have been a surreal experience to live here. Like inhabiting a temple of arts and craftmanship. Historically, it is a glance on ancient ideals: Fame and beauty were interpreted in a different manner than today’s selfies on Instagram.

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Mental Note for my next Visit: Dress in my best Bikini, Pose for a Selfie right in front!

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Big as an Elephant: Area of Villa Casale

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I manage to be through with all rooms and floors before thousands of tourists arrive. I get a cup of coffee and fancy about cheap mosaic specialists offering their works in the traditional German “Gelbe Seiten”  phone book… Probably I better move on, especially with all extras and unforeseen obstacles that lay in store for me on Sicilia’s roads.

>> Next Destination

 

Cefalú

…then you follow recommendations of people along the way and you end up in a picturesque bay with a dog. In fact, the dog belongs to the girl who takes the picture, but the rest is as it is: just wonderful.

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At, even: in! my wonderful bay close to Cefalú

Hector hops on the best spot of Camping Sanfilippo with only inches between his rear tires and the sea. If you prefer a big pool, hot showers and modern sanitary facilities, choose Camping Ponente which shares the bay with Sanfilippo. If you are more like me, looking for beauty in simplicity, this might be your spot. As long as your van is as slim as Hector, that is.

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I spend hours in front of my super van, doing nothing but watching the sun dive into the ocean.

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Hector, being romantic with gorgeous sunsets

When I wake up the next morning, it still looks like this:

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I leave it up to Hector to take care of the beach today and get on the public bus, offering comfortable connections from the campsite to Cefalú downtown. I like places like this, with touristic life embedded in the historic centre, inviting enough for a coffee between palm trees and a cathedral from 13th century.

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Norman Cathedral, opened quite a while ago (back in 1240)

A rock with a view, deep blue sea, sandy beaches, historic architecture, all kinds of gelato and food – Cefalú has it all. It is a bunch of holiday facets, tempting to spend hours or days or even weeks here.

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It is not only the beach with its beach towel merchants, with sunbeds and enough free space in between. It is not even the cathedral, ordered by Sicilia’s first Norman King and linked to Monreale (= built by the very last Norman King – same same, but different). Even the choice of restaurants, wine bars and ice cream is far from being solely responsible for the attraction of Cefalú.

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How to spend the Afternoon here

It is the combination of it all, situated between rocks and mountains and the splendid sea.

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If you are keen on instagrammable spots, you will find them spread along the coast line. Here, you do not even have to fight foreign tourist groups with their selfie-sticks – among all positive facets, one of the best is the relaxed atmosphere, at least in the first days of June.

Personally, the charm of my days in Cefalú is the ideal spot for  perfect van-life. Even though the city is close enough, I love spending time at “my” little beach, starting with some yoga into the days and reduce sightseeing to a mere staring-at-the-sea.

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>> Next Destination