Sagittarius and Centaurus

This time and latitude Sagittarius constellation is serving the sky at its best. Depicting Crotus, son of Pan, can be found aiming his bow at a Scorpius. Crotus invented the applause to show appreciation to the muses, and they ask to Zeus to create a constellation to thank him.

The centre of the Milky Way, our galaxy, lies in the same direction of this constellation, that is why the sky in this area looks so dense of stars and clusters. In the northern latitudes can be visible at this time of the year (August) looking south.

At Southern latitudes an other centaurus can be seen: Chiron.

According to the greek mythology Zeus gave this portion of the sky the shape of a Centaurs after Chiron death, which it happened only because Chirone wanted to exchange his immortality with Prometeo. Chirone was a special centaurus skilled in many arts like astronomy, music, medical science and weapons use. He was mentor to the offsprings of gods like Castor and Polluce, Eracle, Dioniso, Nestore.

El Nido, some reasons why I wouldn’t go back there

To everybody out there going to El Nido, and going for a tour: just let you know that there are some scams you would jump into. One I had is the shrine scam. They tell you tours are all included together with taxes and fees for the reserve.
Once you land there they tell it is private and you need to pay 100 pesos cash to land. If you are wondering if you can skip this stop the answer is “no”. Lunch, which is included in what they promise it is going to be “served” in this island.
What we did is when we came back from the tour we asked to pay 100 pesos less since they didn’t mention about this other cost.
Now, I’m not writing just to warn people, but also to express a little thought on this. I very often don’t take tours myself because I like to take time to explore slowly discover things. Unfortunately some places you’re forced to do that, and some are even super fun, useful and enjoyable. But either you like it or not this doesn’t justify operators to make a crazy orribile job.
This is my experience of el Nido, all I did it was beautiful but always with this bitter taste of getting ripped off.

Tour in El Nido was the worse I did in Philippines. I mean, the worse of the ones you are forced into. They give you appointment in the main beach where there are little table around with an operator signign you. Than, it doesn’t matter if your appointment was at 8 am or 9am or 10am, you are all going to leave at around 10:30. And this is the part I found useless: it is already discouraging staying in a crowded beach early at the beginning of the morning with one thousand people around not enjoying a concert in the night but just waiting hopefully, but what is more annoying is that this part is totally useless when you think that they all leave together and you are going to end up all together in every single spot. On the end waters are going to be foggy, and the snorkeling impossible. Walking around the rocky spots of some islands are just a procession in which you queue with hundreds of other people. I wonder why in El Nido they have at least thirty boats, they give you different appointments at different time but on the end nothing changes, and they decide in which boat are you just on the end, at the beach.

Sabang

A perfect day to disappear in the nature, merge, and feel what the perpetual movement of waters has got to wisper to your ears…
This was my hiding spot in Sabang as I was seeking for a shelter. I found a home where to write in peace, I found this nature ready to hug me.

Hopping throughout the rocks after Sabang main beach I found this “almost” hidden place. A river is passing by, dropping its waters on the sea. Waters are mixing in lakes and other little ponds, giving spectacular and natural roundabouts of wet sand. It was my favourite waterpark in Palawan together with the one of San Vicente.

Philippines offered to my eyes a playful ground where to chill, invent stories and colour my imagination.

Marae in Huahine

Do you know what is a church? A municipal building? Well, for Maori people, the Marae is that place where the community can have a spot for religious, political, social meetings. Also, it offers a reference to each tribe as each human group sooner or later would seek for a membership and a landmark that is common to others sharing same ideology. And that is how, for good or bad it could be, the concept of identity is graven throughout the time.
The Marae in the picture is located in the north of Huahine-Nui, one of the Society Island in French Polynesia that impressed me the most.
This beautiful complex rises in front of the Fa’una Nui lake, which is not exactly a lake when you consider that Huahine is still an atoll, although, as it happens very often, the motus are  not perfectly scattered around the mainland.
It was originally dedicated to Tane, god of fishing and war. His reflection on the sea is believed to be the sea turtle and that is why on his Ava’a, a stone placed as the bed of the God, a turtle is curved.
Huahine has got at least 1000 thousand year history on his back and its actual eight districts division derives from the legend of Hotu Hiva and her eight sons.
Everything in Huahine has this special scent of magic, historical and precious stories. Its shaped seen from above looked to me like a broken heart, as well as the heart of Hotu Hiva when she was brought very young to Ra’iatea, away from her lover.
The sunk part dividing Huahine-Iti and Huahine-Nui is connected by a bridge and the island can be traveled all around by car. Hitchhicking is the best!
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North of Palawan: rivers, villages and many many pesos

And that is how I decided to come back in San Vicente after I left it just for having a look in El Nido for few days. The experience was so frustrating that I had to run away. The crowd and the sadness of mass tourism has killed my joy for exploring new places.

Enjoy this little paradise before somebody realize its beauty and start to build shameless pieces of concrete everywhere to improvise facilities.

There is a river long enough to be paddled for a good hour or more. I just explored it from my cottage to the sea and once taking an other road in a certain split. The first would take towards the fishing village, the second is a narrow passage onto some water palms labirinth.

I stayed in Farmbelle cottages which it wasn’t cheap compared to what happend in the little town of San Vicente. There you can find double room with fan for 500pesos or 600 or 1000 if with airco. In Farmbelle we are around 1200pesos. This was a good deal for us to stay closer to the long beach and renting a motorbike in town for 500pesos per day the distance was easy to manage. In town, which is around 3km away from the main access to the long beach you can find shops, restaurants and bar. There is a public market with fresh fishes and veggies, there are a couple of second end clothing shops and a very cute food court with 7 eating spots. I liked the local food served in a sort of buffet with many different choises (if looking for more veggies better to go for lunch than dinner). Good food is served also at Mango bar and the restaurant besides it. The local buffet set ups are of course the cheapest option to eat in town. Don’t look for wine or western food here. It would be a very disappointing choice. Go for fruit shakes at Mango bar that are amazing or the Tanduay local rum with kalamansi juice always available.

There are massive plans to make San Vicente become a new El nido. For sure it has the potential, and it has much more space and options to grow faster and better than the packed and cahotic El Nido. The harbour area is massive, the long beach is 14 kilometers of pure beauty. The surrounding area is luxuriant. Waterfalls and rivers are other chilling spots and very often you can see buffalo chilling as well in the middle of the rivers or rice fields.

My favourite swimming spot was where the river ends on the long beach. The Bighao waterfall are alse reachable by motorbike and a good refreshing spot although they are little and if unlucky you get there where other 10 people come with a tour from Port Barton. It’s one hour and a half drive in a very dusty sometimes sandy road beacuse is under construction and it will connect San Vicente to Port Barton.

Bighao waterfalls are closer to Port Barton than San Vicente. Infact we chosed to keep on going on the same coastal road till Port Barton to get back to San Vicente form the main road/highway.

Hospitality in San Vicente is now modest and cheap and when I compare the service I got in Port Barton and El Nido, I wish this place will not follow the same path. Port Barton and El Nido had been growing in a savage way and they claim importance as well as lot of money for a service that is far from being decent.

From clay to decoration. Ceramic in Caltagirone

Caltagirone is a town in the district of Catania, in between Iblei and Erei mountains. I arrived there through Ss 124 coming from the innerland. I had a wish: to visit the Varsallona family factory.
I had the pleasure to be guest of the Varsallona family for a day and, thanks to that, I’ve got to know one of the most colourful tradition in Sicily.
The laboratory and the shop owed by the family are one of the most important thing happening in Caltagirone.
Riccardo is the creator of this reality and he started to be a student of artisanal art when he was a teenager.
Caltagirone itself is one of the best place to be when you want to admire and buy fine ceramics from Sicily.
The city of Caltagirone has become iconic for his beautiful and long stair going up to the Santa Maria del Monte church with his 152 steps decorated with polychrome majolicas. This stair represents how affectionate the people are to artisanal handycraft.

When I start the tour with Giuseppe Varsallona I didn’t know how pottery was made and everything was looking weird and cahotic to me and this feeling became the opposite after his relevant and punctual explanations.
Clay is a rock that mixed with water becomes malleable. First step to use this malleability is put it in a mold while is wet. It can stay wet a couple of days depending on the humidity and temperature of the place where it is.

When it dries it’s time to add some details and decorations that would make the piece unique together with the painting process. After details are added it’s time for the Bisque firing (or Biscuit because after this process the clay becomes brown).

After this process the glaze will be applied in a way that pottery can be colourproof and so painted. This is where Andrea Varsallona excells, Apart from his own genuine and “futuristic” project: ceramic sculptures fired on high temperature without oxygen reaction. Andrea talent helped by this special process made a stunning result: iridenscent figures, unique pieces of pure art that has to perform necessarly while there is an active audience. All those beautiful colours can be appreciated only when you move around Andrea’s sculptures.

Pietraperzia

Sicily by car has been an amazing experience so far.
Even thoug I was far from any beach I had to admit again there is not a single chance you can’t enjoy this region.

A week ago the sicily weather map was quite clear: I was actually heading the bad weather (if by chance “bad” weather exists).
Everything I experience here is extremely joyful no matter what. There were actually some damages around and flooded other cities in the area. But I didn’t give up and I got to visit this beautiful site, a tan walls city in the middle of sicily.
Pietraperzia is a little village in the district of Enna.

I was coming from the south east throughout ss 115 and ss 640 (now closed due to the flooding of the most recent days).
The sky was leaden on top of the hills around Enna and the swooping roads, but this didn’t affect the beauty of being in such a remote place in this big island ind the middle of the mediterranean sea.

Pietraperzia has a privileged point of vew above the Himera meridionale river. That is why was prescious to Sicani people at first and Siculi later on.

Things to see

I highly suggest a walk around the ancient town that is on top of the hill. If you are rushing up like I was I would pay attention to this three spots:

Gouvernor’s palace:

Historiscians couldn’t date this palace, but we know it was built by locals with sandstones and the finest details tha we still can see under the balconies, stairs, colums and the inner courtyard.

Barresi Castle

On the very top of the hill the Barresi castle ruins dominate the town giving to those who walk around it a panoramic point of vew. It is believed this castle was way bigger than how it appears. Its perimeter was probably containing around thirteen thousand squared meters area.

Santa Maria Maggiore Mother church

This church lays mighty on the main square. It dates the XVI century and never got finished.
The church is free to access and it has gorgeous barrel vault naves, parietal decorations and coffered ceilings.

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It might be useful to know that Pietraperzia hosts the tradition of “Lu signuri di li fasci” (literally: the christ of bands).
During the holy Friday the community reminds the passion of christ with a 5 hours procession where people bring around a big and heavy simulacrum with a cross on top. The Simulacrum is meters 8,51, a size that stays for 33 sicilian inches. The linen bands have to be 33 meters as well, like the age of Jesus Christ.

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I got fascinated by this town totally built on sandstone. Walking around its little roads, among very old buildings made me have a perception of being steady over time, a time like a thousand years ago.

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Road to Eraclea Minoa

Eraclea is an ancient greek city located in the district of Agrigento in Sicily. This area is packed of beautiful greek ruins and stunning landscapes.

When the Scirocco wind blows here everything changes.

Strong events and tan sandy sky take over and the landscape is affected considerably. Like almost everywhere in Sicily the weather shapes the territory as well as the mood of the people living or travelling here. Who is not ready to face big changings is not ready to embrace the beauty of this rough land as well as its most fine secrets.

Eraclea Minoa has a wonderful easy -to- access beach surrounded by a maritime pine tree forest growing onto a white marlstone cliff which rises nude soometimes, especially on the west part of the beach to admit its majestic nature. When the tide allows that, you can walk along side the cliff and reach the mouth of Platani river that flows in the Platani river natural reserve, an other perl of the Agrigento province.

The condition of this shore is, like unfortunately happens very often in Sicily, quite polluted. Even if waters are clear and nice, they carry, especially after a Scirocco storm, a certain amount of rubbish. On a quick vew, it is visible that Agrigento province itself has suffered a lot for illegal building over the years. Driving around this amazingly beautiful area, among cliffs and hills it is a shame to spot huge palaces among greek temples and theatre dating more than 2000 years. I love Agrigento province bytheway, and I will be always happy to pay a visit to this enchanted lands.

I strongly believe that ignoring history or nature would let this sad goal of modern human being take over and win his hugly battle against the beauty. And that’s why it is necessary to claim it, writing about it, travelling around it, being into it.

Cous cous

Cous cous is a traditional dish in sicily that heads back the arab colonization. Making cous cous.
1 Incucciare (making from row flour)
2 making a soup (I chosed vegetarian even if our traditional cous cous from Trapani is with fish soup) and prepare the cuddrura, a line that you would use to attach the two pots together
3 Cook and wait

Cous cous in sicilia
1 Incucciatura e frisculiatura
2 Preparazione della cuddrura e della zuppa
3 Cottura

Reduce food waste while eating what you actually need / 5 rules

Today is 21st of August and I threw in the garbage the first potato after 3 months of been in charge of the kitchen while managing a hostel. I feel proud that my methods worked and I want to share some (maybe well known) tricks but not really followed by the most of the people. That happends beacuse we need to live fast on the end and some advises for washing up or preserve something imply efforts or time. We don’t want to put an effort on the food cause when we come back home we want just to relax and eat something quickly. We don’t take “time” for food cause the last thing we want to do after work is standing up in front of the stove, unless you have a serious passion about it. We can cook for lovers, we can cook for friends but on the end we don’t put this effort for ourselves and even the best intention ends up with lots of side effects such as waste of money, food or time.

Since I hate to spend time cooking I applied some tricks to reduce it while I committed to eat things that are good for my own mental and fisical health.

Rule number one : Don’t buy compulsively.

Some of us, once in a market or super market get the fever of stocking up. This is dangerous for our wallet and for our time. Going in a supermarket to watch around and buy chips or drinks with friends has nothing to do with a proper shopping. I love to do both and I love to go shopping with a plan. I observe myself or those who I’m cooking for and I have a clear idea of what I want every time I’m shopping. Maybe you can get wrong once, but twice is hard if you just do yourself the favour of having a “quite” specific diet. Doing this mistake is intolerable especially when you end up in a supermarket and you spend 3hours there, watching the emptyness most of the time. As I said, it’s fun, when you step into it just for fun. Leave the stocking up issue for stuff on sale and that can’t expire, soaps or shampoos but not for food. Observe what you need in one week and go at the market with a clear vew once per week. If you do so, It takes no more than 15 minutes to check out.

Rule number two: being aware.

As long as it might seem boring, tidying up makes yourself aware of what is going on in your fridge and when you do it frequently you will notice it is not that hard. Put the new stuff at the end and the old ones ready to be used as first. In This way you won’t deal with stinky, sticky, messy crap. By the time your going to have the next shopping you’ll realize things have been shifting in the fridge with a meaning and this organization is clear in your mind and you won’t feel the panic of not knowing what’s going on behind.

Rule number three: Don’t cook following recipes

This is a tough one, because it touches our feelings or perhaps our wickenesses.

Following a recipe is the first step through a organic bag full of waste and the impossibility of learning the properties and the behavior of some foods. If your mind, eyes and hands stick always at the plan, soon or later your dishes will become boring and static and you will never see the beauty and risk of acting “outlow”. Some food just need to be handled differently by different people. I’ve eaten more creepy things coming out from recipe then from creativity.

I stopped to follow recipe when I started to understand the food better and how I like it, but, most important, I always found recipes something you can afford to follow when you can afford to buy all the ingredients from the scratch. I Never really got the chance to afford it, while other kind of food is dying in the fridge. It turned up that this was an essential skill, travelling and especially sailing wild. I still love sometimes to make some beautiful cake or tiramisú especially when I’m cooking with my friends.

Rool number four: Cook on forehand.

One thing I hate doing while I’m starving is cooking. When I’m hungry I want to eat, not to cook. I guess this is one of the main reasons why we end up eating junk food. Well, I admit I love junk food too but I try to keep it for fun not to feed myself with it. So, instead of feeling guilty because I put rubbish on my body I’ll feel good because I did my job and I fullfilled that need of crashing it sometimes. And here is how I fullfill my duties: I cook when I have time to do it and when I’m not hungry yet. I noticed that when I do this I’m focused on what I need/want to put on my dish. I also multitask instead of praying in front of the pan, because I can’t wait to eat. We have a proverb for this in Sicily : “pignata taliata un vugghi mae” that means “pan is never going to boil if you watch it”, so make sure you get busy with some other stuff while you cook. Cooking is also multistasking and being patient. I love to have the food ready when I’m hungry, I don’t like that feeling of not being hungry anymore when I cook for a long time and somehow I feel full just by the smell. I love instead to prepare several dishes to share or save for the next meal. I even love more when I take care of the leftover because I know that next meal, than, is going to be various.

Rule number five: make a choice

Don’t go out for dinner if your salad is going to die in the fridge. Or don’t buy the salad if you are lucky enough to know when it’s going to be a busy week. If it is totally unexpected and I can’t help with it, I prefer to leave the food cooked so I can give it an other chance the day after (boiling eggs up to expire, using the yogurt for cakes or desserts, cutting fruits and turn them in a salad, baking veggies)

The clown senza frontiere Austria at the Timbuktu hostel

So we did: organize a beautiful afternoon for the kids of all the villag e in Sanvito Lo capo, to have fun, talk about this beautiful group of clowns and their activity, to laugh togheter.

Finally we had some real “young” guests at the hostel thanks to the clown senza frontiere.

The Show was playful, the girls are fantastic.

Check their facebook page for more info and updates.