Today was the third and final instalment in my three-day climbing course, and it was one hell of a daunting conclusion. The main topic of the day was multipitching: that is, learning to ascend walls that are too high to climb with a single rope (such walls are more than 50m), and/or that consist of multiple sections, each of which has a different "pitch" or angle. Multipitch climbing is an extremely complex procedure, as it involves a pair of partners taking turns at belaying each other up and down (multiple times, depending on the number of sections that the wall has), switching yourself between various ropes, securing ropes in such a way that they can be switched, and learning a whole heap of new knots and rope configurations. It is, in my opinion, far too complicated to learn in one day; and it's also quite unnecessary to learn, unless you're already a strong and experienced enough climber to actually tackle multi-pitch walls. I barely remembered a quarter of the details of what I was taught today; but nevertheless, it was worthwhile being exposed to some of the more advanced techniques in rock-climbing, and it was interesting to learn how the pros do it.
Courtesy of Ban's, I now proudly possess a PADI Open Water certification. The goodies that come with this include: a diver's handbook (which, being certified, I ostensibly know from cover-to-cover); a diver's logbook; and a temporary PADI membership card. My permanent membership card, which needs to be processed by the PADI head office in the States, will be mailed to me within the next few months. Plus, one other very useful perk: I'm now listed in the PADI global online database, which means that should I ever go diving again, my certification can be checked online by any dive shop in the world.
I did my third and fourth dives this morning, and they're the final dives that I need to do as part of my Open Water course. Today's drill was pretty similar to that of the diving yesterday morning: on the boat by 7:30am; one dive at The Twins, then over to White Rock; and completion of the remaining handful of PADI-required underwater exercises. My group had Ber as our instructor today, instead of Flav, and we descended a bit deeper than we've done previously: we made it to 18m, which is the maximum depth permitted for an Open Water certified diver.
As my mate Dave would say: very saaad news, folks. This was it — today was the last day of the Great Sicilian Ride, all around Sicily and back again. And it wasn't a particularly long or memorable day either: just a quick, flat, straight 50km's or so of easy coastal road, from Giardini Naxos back up to Messina. Most of the way, all that I rode through was an uninspiring sprawl of beach towns and beach resorts — less beautiful than most here in Sicily, although not the worst I've seen or heard of. The landscape on this final morning's ride was dominated by the Monti Peloritani, an extremely rugged range of mountains that's virtually uninhabited, and that leaves naught but a very narrow strip of coastal land for most of the way: the result of this is that between Taormina and Messina, you can see towns, highways, autostrade and railways, all crammed in between the mountains and the sea. I managed the ride in around 3 hours, which meant that by midday today, the loop was complete. 20 days straight on a bike — and now I'm back to square one!
Talk about contrasting experiences: following yesterday's stormy ride to Modica, today's riding was nothing short of divine. This morning — after an amazing B&B breakfast — I rode out of Modica, and ended the mountain detouring of the past few days, by returning to Sicily's ever-gorgeous coast. The morning weather couldn't have been better, or more different to yesterday's: all those evil storms and winds were gone; and were instead replaced with clear blue skies, and with warm and soothing sunshine. First destination of the day: the southernmost tip of Sicily, and indeed of all Italy — Isola Delle Correnti.
Just finished reading El Principito, and it's the first book that I've read in Spanish! Only took about 2 months — and it's a children's book, of about 130 (small) pages (some of which are illustrations) — but I persisted, and I got through it in the end. Obviously, I had the 'ol dictionary by my side the entire time, and I used it prolifically. After having read the book, I feel a lot more confident in my Spanish grammar, and my vocabulary has increased a fair bit. But I think it's time for a break from Spanish books: El Principito was very hard work; now I need a few nice, rubbishy, no-thinking-required, English-language paperbacks to breeze through.