Wednesday, June 28, 2006

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28: - DAY THIRTEEN - Lucca to Altopascio - 19km

Kathy reporting on the walking surfaces: I have now realised that we were thoroughly spoiled in Switzerland as we could use their most functional bicycle paths that seemed to link the centres we needed to get. The bicycle paths were generally well signposted, scenic and relatively safe - we just had tohave eyes in the back of our heads tocater for cyclists approaching from behind. They didn't seem to have bells! Otherwise, we have walked on lovely forest paths, mountain tracks, narrow 30cm paths with a 90 degree perpendicular drop to the right, and a chain fixed to the rock face on the left. We have braved metal walkways in the mountains, steel steps and rickety wooden bridges over raging torrents. Some mountain paths were boulder strewn, filled with (past) avalanche screed, leaf matter orjust plain grassy. We have also used what are called mule tracks. Through many of thetowns we have walked on paved walkways, some dating from +/- 50 BC! We could only imagine who else had walked there before us. On the trip from St Vincent to Pont St Martin we walked on an ancient Gallic road that bears the scars ofmany wagon wheels - there are distinct furrows in the rock! On the way to Great St Bernard pass we also walked on the remains of an old Roman road to the hostel. In addition we have often been forced to use main roads, not a very pleasant experiernce. Roads are often not the shortest route from point A to B, go thru grotty parts of the towns and are busy . Today on our way to Altopascio we walked on a mian road with heavy trucks hurtling towards us, crazy drivers trying to get totheir destinations, cyclists etc. They drive on the other side of the road here, which has taken some getting used to and we still haven't worked out where cars come from and go to at intersections and traffic circles - as it is so different!

Rayna : We left Lucca early today - 7.40am. It was hot, very hot at about 8.30 we past an outside temeprature sign that said 39 degrees! Who knows if it was that hot, but if certainly felt like it. The breeze from the passing trucks was almost welcome. The air conditioning in the supermarket certainly was, as is the aircon in our bedroom.

Val: We are walking to a farm today which will be out of town so we need to buy lunch, dinner and breakfast enroute. This is a priority! We come to the first real supermarket we have seen on our travels. We enter through automatic doors and all gasp - we haven't seen so much food on display in weeks - the locals guess as much, they eye us up as if we are out on a field trip.First thing I set my eyes on are whole "hams" of Parma and Proscuitto - the proscuitto costs Euro 35 (R300) that is so cheap compared to what we pay at home. I just reckon if I was to throw a few more things away and the little black number I bought for Roma one just might fit. Ok, Marion (guide for the day, sweeper and boss) ok!.Next, Mortadella. I've never been over keen on this Italian cold meat, it reminds me too much of spam. But according to our hosts and our Italian Menu guide it is Wild Boar? On a table next to the deli counter was a Mortadella to end all Mortadella's. It was 1 metre long with a circumference of 35cm. it looked like the body of a Wild Boar which of course it couldn't be because it is pressed meat. We bought insalata di mare (seafood salad) risotto, grilled and marinated vegetables, tuna, hams cheeses, really good bread, breadsticks, olives, soup, fruit chocolate and of course wine - last night we had a lovely Chianti from the "odd bins" for Euro 2, today a traditional vino frizzante (red) like Lambrusco ( neither Rayna or I were too keen on this). I didn't want to leave. I imagined being the winner of one of those competitions where you have a trolley and must load it with as much as you can in a given time - or like a child who hopes they can hide in a toy store and come out once everyone has gone home and have the whole store to themselves. I would start at the fish counter and end with the wine. After working for many years, one always has a title which usually becomes more grand as we become older - "tea maker" "shop Steward" "she who knows everything", "The Boss" - when I no longer have an official title what will I say when someone asks "what do you do?" I thnk perhaps "Professional Shopper, eater of Good Food with a Doctorate in Drinking". (NB - forgive our spelling mistakes - spell check is in Italian and we have to finish before the money runs out!)

Marion: We decided to leave early today as it gets so very hot. We were all out of bed by 5.30am. We left at 6.45am and it was already hot. I thought we would be having an easy 15km walk - "a walk in the park". Unfortunately not quite a walk in the park for me. it was easy but very flat along such a busy, noisy road that was dusty and full of litter. Mostly an industrial area. Also very hot - was I pleased to see the farm that we are staying in tonight. Our 15km ended up 19.5 but it felt like 30km.

Syl: Today we saw our first fields of sunflowers and Cyprus trees. Walking through village after village on a busy road (something like Old Main Road through Pinetown) I was struck by how almost every available piece of land is used for planting - sunflowers, maize, vines, even gladioli - squashed between panel beaters, brickyards, cash and carry stores and old churches. Very little is wasted. We saw our first VF sign. Altopascio was the home of Knights of the Tau and boasts a few historically important churches and monuments. We were just too hot to make detours and instead headed straight for the Sibolla Agriturismo Farm outside of town. It is a beautiful place with olive groves, vineyards and a stud farm. After settling in I showered and had a swim in the pool - bliss. Then walked to the paddocks to visit the horses and baby foal. Because this place is about 5km away from the exit to San Miniato - and we now have 25km "in the bank" we will get a taxi to fetch us at 7am and take us to the exit point where we'll start our walk tomorrow.

Addendum to Tuesday by Kathy:"The pilgrims are revolting - all but one that is!" Sylvia had a revolt on her hands at bedtime. Four revolting pilgrims refused to wash their clothes (as it is such a pain!) and went off to bed after dinner and a toothbrushing. All that got washed were "our smalls" and these - as you have read - were left to dry on the chandelair. Kathy had already worn her red shirt for 24 hours (yeuch!) Poor Sylvia - she dutifully washed hers, crept quietly into our sharedroom and hung her washing up to dry. By this time the other revolters were sound asleep. In the morning when we woke up we put on our slightly used clothing and Sylvia made us stand in line like cormorants in a row, while she sprayed Joy perfume under our arms. Sylvia is still complaining that she now knows why she didn't sleep so well last night.

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