The mosaics at Villa Romana were the highlight of today's voyaging — and I'm very glad that I managed to fit them in this afternoon. However, by the time I was done with exploring the Roman mansion, and was back on my bike, it was the very late hour of 4:40pm; and the cold, dark onset of night was approaching rapidly. As I rode on towards the town of Piazza Armerina, I sought reassurance from a little brown ferret, who was promoting a nearby campground called "Agricasale" (so-called because it was an "Agriturismo" or "farm holiday" facility, and because of Villa Romana's full name being "Villa Imperiale del Casale"). The Agricasale ferret smiled at me from bright yellow signs (placed everywhere along the road); and under him was painted the instruction: "Follow me!" Pity that the little bugger never cared to mention just how much more following I needed to do, before I found the place.
It was already getting dark by the time I was done with Capo di Milazzo this afternoon — so I knew I didn't have much time — but my map had a campsite marked along the coast towards Tindari, and I was determined to reach it for the night. As it turned out, I really didn't have enough time: it was quite thoroughly dark by about 5:15pm; and I was still on the highway (with nothing but my little headlamp to light up myself and the road ahead) at 6pm! Riding in the dark was no fun at all: but as I saw it, I really had no choice. Anyway, I finally saw a turnoff with some "camping" signs marked on it (thank G-d the "tent" symbol is universal); and at around 6:15pm, I reached "Camping Bazia". Only to find that the site was shut — only open in peak season, it seems.
I only just met Yuri this afternoon, but it didn't take long for me to discover what a crazy bugger this guy is. At about 6:30pm this evening, Yuri comes up to us and says: "hey guys, let's go on a hike to Palmas, the next beach down on the island". It was getting a bit dark by then; but nevertheless, we thought: "yeah, what the hell, whatever, let's do it". So Yuri, Kerry, Larissa, Tom and myself set off for Palmas — as darkness encroached on the island — armed with little more than our boardies and our flip-flops (and, fortunately, a few flashlights). We had a few adventures on the trip, but it was all good, because we made it there and back in the end. Most of us, anyway.
After three weeks in this country, this evening I left Ecuador, from Quito's Mariscal Sucre Intl Airport. I flew with TACA from Quito to Lima, and then connected straight on from Lima to Santiago, in Chile. All went well, and the flights were comfortable and uneventful. Unfortunately, after today's incident, I wasn't in the best of moods, and I didn't fly out with the happiest memories of Ecuador floating in my head. Paying the $40.80 departure tax at Quito Intl was an unwelcome surprise, as well (I thought all taxes were included in my ticket price?). Anyway, now I'm outta here.
Today, I went on the famous tour of the mines of Potosí: the No. 1 thing to do here in Potosí, and the main reason why tourists come to this town at all. The tour was very dark, very cramped, very asphyxiating, and very disturbing. The mountain of Cerro Rico currently has 15,000 miners working in 400 mines, in positively hellish conditions. The mountain has been constantly mined for over 400 years. Experts predicted about 10 years ago that the mountain had about 7 years left, before the whole thing came crashing down, due to its foundations being literally "undermined". And it's still going.
If you want to face death on the side of a forested cliff in the middle of the night (and possible live to tell the tale), then catch the night bus from Pilcopata to Cusco. It was the same incredibly bad road that we took to get to Pilcopata on Monday; but it was wet, it was uphill, and it was pitch-black. Massive unsealed pot-holes, in the dark. Hairpin cliff-side bends, in the dark. Passing oncoming vehicles on a road thinner than Kylie's waist, in the dark. Next time, I think I'll walk back.