This evening was the most blatantly public free-camp we've ever attempted, easily trumping our most daring nighttime caper so far: sleeping in the middle of a highway. After a breezy fifty kilometers of rolling hills south of Messina, we found ourselves smack in the middle of what seemed to be an unending stretch of touristy coastal towns.
We'd hoped to escape civilization most of the day, foolishly thinking that the trend of quiet deteriorating villages we found in the deep south of Italy would continue in Sicily. Though we did pass a few run down communities in the morning, the Sicilian coast may as well have been another riviera!
We were eager to chip away at our daily budget with another string of good free-camps but the wall-to-wall throng of humanity surrounding us seemed to have other things in mind. Or so I thought. Ever since we started stealth camping I've been trying to calm Tara's jittery middle-of-the-night-nerves by asserting something I believe to be true: no one cares. I have recited this mantra more times than I can count from well hidden free-camps. This evening, in the middle of a busy coastal town, Tara took it to heart.
When we came across a ramp leading down to the beach Tara suggested we camp there, ignoring signs that clearly prohibited it. Her rationalization: the signs also prohibited walking dogs and we saw people everywhere doing that!
Like our highway sleeping adventure, I wasn't too sure about it, but if Tara was willing, so was I. With no other viable solutions in sight, we pushed our bikes down and set up our walkstools to watch the sunset, snickering as we waited for the "coast to be clear". At the criminally early hour of 5:30PM the sun slipped below the horizon and we sprung into action.
After we'd erected our secret base, pleased with the fact that our rain fly matched the sand, we dove in and took a nap. When we woke up an hour or so later we realized that it was Friday evening. The street above was lined with bars, restaurants and plenty of patrons. No matter, our spot was so well hidden that the people out for a stroll on the sidewalk above couldn't see us. Several groups even congregated on the balcony directly overhead and, to our knowledge, never learned of our existence.
Things really got exciting when a bunch of men came clomping down the rusting stairs we'd pitched our tent under. When that happened, Tara shushed me with a pair of big eyes that reminded me of my little sister Esther (4 years old) when she talks about breaking a rule. This isn't the look I am talking about but I couldn't help but include the picture anyway, thanks for helping me find it Amanda! (my older sister):
When the men arrived, I quickly realized we had a major breach in security: we'd left the rain fly flaps rolled up on the beach facing side of the tent! As I stealthily opened our door to rectify the problem, Tara hid under the sleeping bag, stifling laughter. With a few faint zings of zippers closing in the night, we remained undetected.
After a furtive peek under the now closed rain fly, we observed that the men were involved in what we would henceforth refer to as "boat related activities." It wasn't until they started climbing back up the stairs that they paused for a moment and talked to each other in bemused voices, mentioning "due biciclette."
When they were gone, and the Friday night crowds went for moonlit walks by the sea, we spent the evening watching the Sopranos on our laptop under the covers. I felt like a younger version of myself, reading with a flashlight past my bedtime in the middle of the night.