Lercara is a small town, located amidst the endless farmlands of the hilly countryside, just inland from the north coast of Sicily. I spent one night camping in a field not far from Lercara, and passed through the town on my bike the next day.
There's one thing that stands out in my mind, more than anything else, about today: it was really bloody windy! Today's riding was plagued by the worst, the strongest, and the most unpleasant head wind imaginable; and it stayed with me all day long. As I rode west from Lercara to Prizzi, through the Sicilian Mafia highlands with my semi-flat tyre; as I continued north to the infamous town of Corleone; and as I set up camp in an empty field for the night. Always, the wind was there: it was utterly relentless; and it battered not only my body and my bike, but also my spirit. Bad wind is the worst thing I've come across so far on this trip, and all I wish for is that it will end soon. It feels like every metre forward is a struggle against the forces of nature, which are impelling me to just give up and go home. Arghhh!
I woke up in my little field near Lercara this morning, only to discover that my bicycle's back tyre was completely flat. Eek! No idea how this happened: but since the tyre was fine all day yesterday, I can only assume that it got punctured by some sharp plant or rock, as I was wheeling it through the field yesterday evening. Worse still: when I attempted to change the tyre before setting off, I realised that I was unable to do so — despite having a pump and a spare inner tube, I had no tyre levers, and no spanner that was the correct size for undoing the back bolts (and yes, unfortunately the back tyre is bolts, not quick-release). Talk about a horrible start to the day — flat tyre in the hills of Mafialand, and no means of fixing it. What was I to do?
From the town of Roccapalumba, this afternoon I kept cycling through the highlands for as long as I could, until it was getting dark and I simply had to camp somewhere. I managed to make it just short of the town of Lercara, where I found a field that was between several properties (houses, workshops, and such), and that didn't seem to be claimed or used by any of its neighbours. I guess it was vacant — anyway, the neighbours saw me camped there, and they didn't try to kick me off, or to hassle me in any way; so stay there the night is what I did. The field was a little bit close to the highway (traffic noise), and there were leeches crawling around in the grass; but otherwise, it was a good spot to squat for the night; and I had a nice view of the countryside all around, and of the city of Lercara lit up ahead of me.
This afternoon I continued riding south, from Caccamo, into the hilly region that is the traditional Mafia heartland of Sicily. One town in particular — a place called Roccapalumba — gave me very bad vibes when I rode through it. Normally, the locals here in Sicily are quite friendly: but not around here. Everyone in Roccapalumba was giving me harsh, unfriendly, suspicious stares as I whizzed through their town; made me feel very creepy indeed. Lots of funny old men with dirty faces and beady eyes; young dudes on motorbikes with big tattoos on their shoulders; and signs for strange nearby attractions, such as "planetarium observatory". Glad I'm not spending the night here; I only wish it weren't so late in the day, as I'm inevitably not going to make it too far for my evening's rough camping.
Call me a silly cyclist if you will, but it seems that I just can't get enough of these Sicilian mountains: after a (rather aggravating) morning coastal ride, today I'm headed inland again, into the mountains. From Términi Imerese, I rode south up a gruelling mountain road, until I reached the town of Caccamo. This is a quaint little place, which is most famous for its imposing Norman castle, of at least 1,000 years' antiquity. It was a hard slog: but I had a good rest and a big drink when I reached Caccamo; and the castle (although I didn't explore it) is worth at least passing by.