Last night I had a solid and luxurious night's sleep in Sant' Stéfano, and this morning I had an amazing B&B breakfast (my first ever B&B experience, if I'm not mistaken — and it was great). But even all that couldn't prepare me for this morning's ride: from Sant' Stéfano, I decided to take the road south into the Monti Nebrodi; and boy, was it one excruciatingly hard slog! The road began on the coast, just outside the town — and until it got well past the mountain village of Mistrella, it was no less than 4 hours of constant, uphill cycling. It damn near killed me. Plus, it was quite a hot day, and the sun was pouring down on me the entire time. Fortunately, it was a very good road (if rather winding), and the scenery was gorgeous; nevertheless, it was hard to appreciate all that, when my entire body and soul was screaming for relief.
Reitano, first town on the way up into the Nebrodi.
Coast at my back the whole time.
The road that just keeps winding up.
After about an hour of the gruelling uphill slog, I passed through Reitano — the first of several towns that welcome you into the Nebrodi mountains, one of the most scenic and pristine areas in all of Sicily. I didn't stop for long in Reitano — there ain't much there to stop for, anyway — but thankfully, there was a water fountain on the road just near it, and I was able to fill up my (rapidly depleting) bottle there.
By the time I reached Mistrella — after about three hours — I was utterly exhausted, and I could go no further without a rest. My entrance into the town was spectacularly, and classically, desperate. The first "bar" that I saw on the main drag, (in Italy, a casual cafe/deli is called a bar — basically a coffee bar), I screeched to a halt in front of: and the moment I stopped, my supply of raw mushrooms (which I'd planned to cook for tonight's dinner) broke free from being wedged into the plastic bucket on the back of my bike, and exploded onto the street! So there I was, dripping with sweat, all my worldly possessions stuck precariously onto my flimsy bicycle, save for a bag of mushrooms that was sprawled all over the street (and rapidly getting run over and squashed). Oy.
Anyway, it was all good. I parked the bike. I picked up the mushrooms, and threw them in the nearest bin. I stumbled into the bar. I ordered a hot chocolate and a "cornetto" (i.e. a croissant). And I collapsed into a chair. The locals thought it was hilarious. I was the event of their day. Personally, I was too buggered to notice, or to care.