I couldn't help but notice the trees on the side of the highway, during this morning's ride east from Sciacca. Call me a delusional Aussie drongo if you want, but I could have sworn they were gum trees. Or at least — if they weren't — they were some kind of Sicilian tree that sure as hell looks an awful lot like a gum tree. I suspect that the latter is the case. How could they have gum trees in Sicily? I know they've exported them to California, to the UK — even to the highlands of Peru — but surely not to Sicily. Anyway, some of them looked to be going brown for the autumn as well — and since Aussie gum trees are evergreen, that would conclusively indicate that they're something else. Anyway, what do you think — gum or gunk?
If there's one thing I believe I deserved after this morning's hellish ascent into the Nebrodi mountains, it's a little relief and relaxation. And — once I was another hour or so past the town of Mistretta — relief and relaxation is exactly what I received. For the rest of today's journey into the Nebrodi, I was cruising all the way! For the remainder of the road to Nicosia (the town that marked "as far in" the Nebrodi as I went), it was virtually all downhill, the weather remained gorgeous, and a sumptuous tail wind pushed me always forward. Perfect opportunity to recover from the morning slog, to cool down a bit, and to enjoy the fabulous scenery of some of Sicily's most striking wilderness area.
The Itaipu dam, built on the Paraná River (which forms the border between Brazil and Paraguay), is the biggest dam and the biggest hydroelectric power plant in the world. It's also one of the "seven wonders of the modern world". With 20 turbine generators, and a dam wall almost 8km long, the plant supplies a whopping 90% of Paraguay's electricity, as well as 25% of Brazil's. Thus, most ironically, Paraguay — otherwise one of the most backward s$%#-holes in South America — has virtually the greenest energy in the entire world. This afternoon, Annemie, Hendrik and I went on a tour of the dam, and we saw this monster feat of modern engineering in action.
Got up at 6am this morning, in order to catch a bus, then a train, then a light-rail, to the OSCMS Summit 2007 down in Sunnyvale. The train was the biggest part of the trip (1 hour). the Bay Area's Caltrain is a pretty cool service: high-speed and cheap trains that go everywhere between San Francisco and San José, plus they have bike racks on the trains. The other two legs of my journey — the Muni cable-car bus in San Francisco, and the VTA Light Rail in Sunnyvale — were good fun as well.
Today, I followed Shay (the juggling Israeli) and his girlfriend to a mystical waterfall and rock pool, hidden deep in the jungle, and yet only about a half-hour walk from our base of El Panchán. Every day, this place is frequented by a small number of serenity-seeking hippies, who come to swim in the pool, to climb the waterfall, and to meditate.
The first thing I noticed about this city, when I started exploring it, is that the air is much cleaner than I thought it would be. I've always heard that the air pollution is among the worst in the world here, and so I was expecting the worst. But it's really not that bad.