Hell, hail and miracles to Modica
After I left Ragusa this morning, my lovely sunny day turned stormy. Really, seriously stormy. It turned so bad, in fact, that I can say without a doubt that this was the worst day of my trip in Sicily so far — weather-wise or anything-else-wise. The road between the two Baroque, south-eastern Sicilian towns of Ragusa and Modica is not very long — a mere 10km's at most — but it may as well have been 1,000 this morning. When I began tackling the road at around 10:15am, the sky was partly cloudy, but didn't seem to be all that ominous. Boy, was that a wrong forecast — ten minutes out of Ragusa, not only was it suddenly freezing cold and pouring with rain; it was also intermittently hailing! If it weren't for the miracle of two Sicilian angels rescuing me from my plight, I may well have soaked, frozen and sorrowed myself to death on this road; fortunately, an unexpected act of kindness prevented at least that.
Like I said: when I departed from Ragusa, the temperature was mildly cool, the sky was partially overcast, and some light rain had just finished falling. Ten minutes later, the temperature was bloody freezing, the sky was a tempest, and rain was coming down by the bucketload. When the rain started getting stronger, I decided that it was time to stop — the roadside offered very little in the way of protection, and the best I could find was an overhanging tree under which to take shelter. The tree managed to keep the rain off me for a few minutes; but then the hail started, and nothing short of a proper roof was going to prevent that from reaching me. Sadly, no proper roof was in sight. The small, hard balls of ice started ripping through the light foliage of the tree overhang, and ricocheting off my helmet (which I've been wearing throughout this trip, and which I fortunately had on today as well). My clothes, my bike, and my saddlebags started getting wet, and nothing was available to protect them.
The hail didn't last very long: and when it cleared, the rain eased off as well. I came out from the tree overhang, and continued along the road. At this point, I still had some hope — maybe the weather would clear up after all? Hail usually indicates a furious but fast 'ol storm... doesn't it?
I continued riding; and soon enough, the rain resumed falling. It was on and off, but the "on" far outweighed the "off". I attempted to take shelter again, several times — under some very small rock overhangs and trees — but to little avail. Before long, I was really cold (especially my hands — using the brakes was a challenge), and both myself and most of my belongings were utterly soaked. This was the first time that my el cheapo saddlebags were exposed to some serious wet weather: they didn't live up to the test at all. Plus, my sleeping bag wasn't in the saddlebags at all — it was just sitting in the bucket on top, virtually begging to get rained on.
I felt utterly defeated by the weather — but what could I do, except ride on? It wasn't much further to Modica, so going back to Ragusa seemed rather stupid. Plus, there really was nowhere on the side of this road where I could stop. So I gritted my teeth, kept riding, and hoped that I'd make it to Modica before I turned into an iceberg. Fortunately, the story gets better from there on — which is quite logical, really, since it sure as hell couldn't have gotten much worse.