By the time I was done visiting Segesta this afternoon, I had very little daylight left, and thus precious little time for stopping and finding a campsite. Thankfully, however, I didn't need to go very far, or to look very hard: all around Segesta was rolling farmed countryside, much of it perfect for rough camping, and packed with little dirt trails and often-unfenced fields. So I only rode for about 20 minutes more — crossing under the nearby autostrada and train line in the process — before I found a spot that was just right for me. Nothing grand: just a little vineyard, with a long road leading into the heart of the fields, and with a fence that was missing in many places; and with plenty of nice, green space amongst the vines for pitching my tent, and far enough away from the farmhouses to afford some privacy as well.
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.
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.
My uncle David took me to a camping store this evening, called EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports), where I got myself a lovely new tent. I purchased the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1, a compact 1-person dome tent that's suitable for backpacking trips. It's quite light, and it's also meant to be durable and waterproof. Also got myself one of those funky self-inflating sleeping mats; and a new compass and flashlight (as I lost my old ones). To find out why I bought a tent, and what I'm going to be doing with it, stay tuned for my upcoming adventures in Europe :P.
The fourth day of the Santa Cruz hike was a short but interesting one, as well as being very scenic. Spent all morning continuing to hike down through the Huaripampa river valley; then I reached the teeny mountain town of Vaqueria, and from there caught a combi over to Llanganuco. I've reached the road, now: so I could have just gone back to Huaraz tonight, thus resulting in my skipping the fifth day of the hike; but why would I wanna do that? Still way too much fun to be had.
After getting back down from Punta Union, the rest of the hiking in day 3 of the Santa Cruz hike was very pleasant. From lunchtime onwards, it was all downhill, through the Huaripampa river valley, to the camp of Paria. Beautiful scenery, much-improved weather, and a steady pace all the way. Plus, I bumped into my friend Angel.
Big surprise, this being a hike and all: but funnily enough, today consisted of a lot more walking. Extremely flat all morning, then up and down after lunch. Today's walk finished off the first part of this hike, which consists of following the Santa Cruz river valley upstream, from west to east. Also had some amazing views of snow-capped mountains in the afternoon, when I ascended to the Alpamayo lookout area: the mountains around here are just something else.
Apart from the fun of getting there, and the donkey thing in the morning, day 1 of the Santa Cruz hike was basically just a lot of walking. Most of it gentle uphill, through the Santa Cruz river valley. Most of it alone — although I had company here and there. And most of it very scenic, and very beautiful indeed (fine weather was a blessing as well).