Valletta to Medjugorje by Bicycle after Skin Cancer – Ride across Sicily

Last day in Sicily – 5 am Sunrise over  Calabria, as I ride from Acicastello to Villa San Giovanni before the day’s heat and sun start to kick in.  David Bugeja (c) 2018

July 9, 2017, Sunday, 11.35 am  I  push on down the street and force a heavy step forward and grasp the slipping string handles of two recycled grocery bags (one in each hand) tight and sweaty, as I  trudge back along Via Scalia to Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele in the forty centigrade heatwave gripping Pachino.

The heat has settled in and is here to stay till summer’s out.

Drained and dejected and worried about the sun. Should I be doing this after melanoma?

Only my second day on the road and I already feel that I should turn back and give up my hope of cycling all the way to Medjugorje.

My predicament kicked in yesterday after I cycled into Pachino at 10 am – my first ride and what should have been an easy 28 kilometres on the flat from Pozzallo port.

But I never rode easy in the Italian summer heat ever since I pulled back and started recovering from skin cancer:  forced to cover up with high SPF factor long sleeved shirts and pants all of the time when out in the sun, cycling or not, and forced to slop sun block on exposed skin, and forced to scurry for scanty shade whenever caught out on the road and with too many kilometres still to cycle (in spite of my meticulous route planning) each time I overstepped my early morning cycling time window.

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Still chipping away at the kilometres after my early stage debacle in Sicily – Cycling the Croatian coast  en route to Broce and Medjugorje in full SPF armour.  David Bugeja(c) 2018

Perhaps I shouldn’t have cycled out to Portopalo and Marzamemi yesterday afternoon, less than seven hours after having checked into bed and breakfast Tasca Pachino.

That’s were the trouble really began:

Noisy crowds crammed and thronged Marzamemi’s village centre, transforming what should have been a  quaint maze of spotless winding streets (a delight to explore in the dead quiet off season) into a cluttered and littered holiday fairground with gangs of catcalling, macho, young men fooling around – booze happy, sun bronzed and incorrigible, strewing crushed beer cans and left over chunks of ketchup burger and chips in oil stained wrapping plus half nibbled ice cream cones for dessert onto the cobbles.

I never believed I’d manage to pull through and keep on cycling – no matter how challenging my circumstances – that evening in Marzamemi.

How to go on? Turn back? Stop here in Sicily even though I should be going on to Calabria, Basilicata, Croatia and Bosnia for another ten weeks?

Fear.

Exasperation.

What of the expenses and preparation for my journey? Wasted and unravelled and all for nothing?

The heat had unnerved me.

My shoulders and back stung and burned hot for being covered up all of the time.

Was I getting sunburned even through all off the protective layers I was wearing to protect my skin from the sun?

Such thoughts, fears and doubts came rushing through my head all in a tangle and all at once as I got back into the saddle and cleared out of Marzamemi, cycling back at sunset to Pachino via the Portopalo road.

I struggled to nail my focus on the road ahead but I was exhausted, afraid and confused.

Only one a half hours of snatched nervous sleep before embarking yesterday’s 5 am high speed catamaran, Jean de La Vallette,  from  Valletta to Pozzallo

My outbound journey fatigue and this new paralysing fear of what I might be letting myself into struck hard as I took stock of my situation and what felt like a very slim chance indeed of cycling on forward rather than turning back home.

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But I pushed on and shot this sunrise over Acicastello only five days later – I never once more considered turning back after that.  David Bugeja (c) 2018

I could have gone back but I didn’t.

It was the priest’s words this morning at 8.30 am Holy Mass service that started to change things. How I needed to hear his words!

“Il signore sostiene quelli che vacillano e con il signore si scopra e si supera i propri limiti, scoprendoli perche uno sia umilo come Lui ha detto di se stesso – Io sono mite e umile di cuore e il mio peso e leggero.”

Right then as I heard those words I felt that I too by being humble and trusting in God could go on beyond this hard present moment in time, and by keeping my goal of cycling all of the way to Medjugorje clearly fixed in my mind I could yet make it there soon.

Very soon.

 All Text and Photographs Copyright (c) David Bugeja 2018

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