Wind, fog and sunshine…

April 16, 2019 3:00 pm

At the end of March, our Events & Activities Group organised another successful weekend trip to Sicily. Our Office Coordinator Janet Borg formed part of the group and in this blog she shares the wonderful experience with our readers!

Sicily trip group
Sicily trip group (Photo by Carmen Micallef)

The inclement weather did nothing to tarnish our enthusiasm as we landed at Catania airport for a long weekend in Sicily organised by BirdLife Malta’s Events and Activities Group. To the contrary, we ate hot croissants and downed good coffee while we waited to be picked up. The strong wind and looming showers did, however, change our itinerary for the day. Our guide, Salvatore, informed us that we would not be able to walk in the valley of Cava Carosello as the river would be higher due to the recent rainfall and it was also very slippery to walk. Instead, we went on a tour of the ancient town of Noto, the original city that was destroyed by the earthquake of 1693. The city is set on high ground and the scenery around it was spectacular despite the fog that characterised the day. Later on, we visited the grotto of San Corrado, named after the Franciscan who spent a stint of his life living a most austere and penitential life of solitude. The church is still well frequented by devout Christians particularly around the time of the feast of its patron saint.

By now we were all quite tired and eager to get to our accommodation, Borgo degli Ulivi which would be our home for the next three days. We settled in and met for dinner, ending the first of our four days with some good wine. 

Endemic orchid of Cava Grande del Cassibile
Endemic orchid of Cava Grande del Cassibile (Photo by Janet Borg)

Friday’s weather was more of the same…but colder! Once again we were told that the valley of Cava Grande del Cassibile would be closed for trekking due to the danger of landslides following the heavy rain of the previous night. We therefore trekked the area but on higher grounds. Our guide for the day, Paolino Uccello, was a specialist in botany and pointed out numerous plant species to us: from poisonous to healing plants, from endemic orchids to wild asparagus. There is such an abundance of plants in this area! We also managed to see some birds on this windy morning; Hooded Crows were the most common sightings but we also saw a flock of ducks, kestrels and Marsh Harriers, and could hear the more elusive birds singing as we walked along the paths. 

With some time still on our hands, we proceeded to Palazzolo Acreide where we toured this town with its many unusual balconies, and also found the time for some good sweet treats.

Following the evening meal, it was quiz night time for the team with trivia related to BirdLife Malta and this proved to be good fun with the winner getting a book donated by BirdLife.  

Cows on the way to Valle del’Anapo
Cows on the way to Valle dell’Anapo (Photo by Janet Borg)

We could not have asked for better weather than we got on Saturday! The day proceeded as planned and we headed for Valle dell’Anapo. A Grey Heron flew overhead in this beautiful valley boasting majestic trees and a flowing river that disappeared underground in some places only to reappear again further downstream (Anapos means vanishing in ancient Greek). We crossed an abandoned hydro-plant and crossed paths with grazing cows a few times, we stumbled onto a deserted Citrus orchard and enjoyed the sweet fruit still on the trees. We walked through the tunnels, once built and frequented by a train that crossed this valley, came across freshwater springs and tried hard to find some Trout which is protected in this river due to its reducing numbers. When we reached the disused train station we stopped for a rest, then headed back. The trek was close to 16km long and by the end of it everyone had discarded jackets and we were even brandishing a bit of a tan!  

By the time we got back to Borgo degli Ulivi the weather was still clear and beautiful and we spent the next hour or so enjoying our surroundings on the terrace while drinking some cold Italian beer (or a nice cuppa!)

On Sunday morning we checked out and headed to Ortigia in Siracusa. The day was free to roam the city and enjoy the culture of the surroundings. Some people followed the organising team but we decided to make our own way and after a couple of hours of sightseeing we dedicated our time to sipping cocktails, followed by a good lunch. For those who could still take some more, ice cream followed.

The trip had come to an end. It was a beautiful experience in every way. Starting with the organisation (hats off to the event organisers) and ending with the people who formed the group, we couldn’t have been a better bunch! I’m already looking forward to the next one!

By Janet Borg, BirdLife Malta Office Coordinator