(it's not a hybrid of Pantera and Metallica)
I’m pooped. I’m dog-tired. I’m wiped out. And I’m full of pizza. I had a strange kind tonight, with radicchio lettuce on it. But it was buonissimo!
Today I hiked for five hours. Yes, five hours at the hottest time of the day under a sky without a single cloud in any direction. I was under the impression that it would be a leisurely walk for maybe two hours. At 10 am on the bus, one of the professors guiding us said, “…and by my calculations, we should be back in Ortigia by 5 pm.” I turned to Holly and we looked at each other with a bit of surprise and regret. 5 pm?? At least I wasn’t the hung-over guy who wore flip flops and had no possessions other than a cell phone, wallet and water bottle.
The terrain was rocky but there were lots of shrubs and little trees scattered. And occasionally we’d have to weave through thorny stems that jetted out into our path. It reminded me a lot of the Golan Heights of Israel. Lots of rolling hills and grass that looked dead-yellow covered the region. We ate blackberries and one professor showed us oregano and sassafras plants and pistachio and fig trees.
We found out why gold is measured in karats; there is a tree that produces green bean-like pods. The beans inside the pods are called karats and they were used as a system of measuring weight. So 24-karat gold would be whatever amount of gold that was equal in weight to 24 individual karat seeds. How interesting.
About a third of the way through the hike, we reached a sweet-water spring. It was so cold that it took our breath away when we first got in it. The hung-over guy had forgotten to remove his cell phone and wallet before getting in and found his cell phone completely full of water. And some of his money may have dissolved too. It was kind of funny. But also bad because now he owes $150 for the phone. (Trust me, these 1998-looking Nokia phones are not worth $150 either.)
At some point, the ecosystems professor was speaking about something to do with plants and I was a little preoccupied with my 2-liter bottle of water. I drank some and attempted to put it back in my bag but somehow the bag swung around and the bottle fell out. We were nearly at the edge of a cliff and that was my only bottle of water so I spazzed out. It was right at a moment when he took a pause from talking and I yelled out, “No, no, no, my water!!” as it rolled towards the edge of the cliff. And I continued to yell, ‘Ahhhhhh no!! Water!” Meanwhile the bottle cap managed to be yanked off from the fall (even though I know I screwed it on) and when it landed just shy of the edge of the cliff, the water poured out onto the ground. I quickly grabbed it and apologized to the professor. But I wanted to laugh a whole lot. Besides your body, a water bottle is the last thing you want rolling off a cliff!
For the last couple of miles, my legs were like sand bags. They were fatigued and I really felt the arthritis in my knees. (I might be feeling that for a few days.) But it was a pretty day and really interesting and fun. We visited tombs dug out of the rocky hillside and I saw frescos painted by people in the Byzantine period dated from about the 10th century. We also saw the ruins of a house built about 3000 years ago. Pretty amazing stuff, probably you should look at the pictures here: http://picasaweb.google.com/skbaumgarten.