Friday, July 14, 2006

Day 27: Wed 12th July: Campagnano di Roma to La Storta: +36km

A long, hot day to day but all in all we all did really well. Chatting to Sylvia this morning and I thought that I should share some of our enormous pride in ourselves. Five English speaking women with only 'mpo Italiano' walking across Italy with obtuse cryptic lues, we have done really well! Perusing a range of maps daily, reading roadside markers, asking poor, unsuspecting Italians for 'what place is this?' "Where is ..X, Y, Z?" "How far to....?" etc. etc. and generally using gut feelings to keep us on the right track.ò Val and I have had our pepper sprays handy (haven't used it yet except for Val's attempt to kill a fly with hers in Aosta) but have generally felt very safe. We were told twice today that what we are doing takes courage (or we are wished courage) as what we are doing was viewed as quite something by -Italian horsewoman as well as a South Africa-Italian bar owner in La Storta. Are we smart - or what?! Apparently we had to be non-Italian women to be tackling such a challenge.
Talking about challenges.. our day started with walking 4km back into Campagnano up a 4km long Fields Hill, tackling some serious hill climbs and then getting "lost" (following the VF signs mind you) near a river crossing with no bridge and a landslide. We went to the river ... thought "Nah.. they can't expect us to cross here..." turned back and walked about 2km to a horsefarm only to be told that we had to cross the river to get to La Storta. So back we trekked to the river, sat down and took off our boots, boulder and log hopped to the opposite, muddy side and sat down to put socks and boots back on before marching forward to La Storta. Rayna and I worked out today that alone we went through 5lts of liquid in various forms.
We woke this morning to a pink sky and a 'Berg wind. For the non-South African's reading this Blog, a 'Berg wind refers to a hot, dry wind that blows up the east coast of South Africa from the south, pushing hot air before it over the Drakensberg mountain range. It is usakkly a precursor of coooler or wet weather but this 'Berg wind brought neither. It just got hotter and more humid as the day went on. I actually started the day with a bit of a downer as soon after leaving our grand old hotel we had to walk past an abbatoir and I could hear pigs squealing as we walked by. As a vegetarian it was a horrific sound and I couldn't even bear to think of the barbaric things that were going behind those high walls. I can't even bear to look at the 'road kill' that we pass daily. On this walk we have seen dead hedgehogs, porcupines, all sorts of furry creatures, domestic pets, frogs, lizards, birds - even an owl.When you are speeding by in a car it is easy to avert your eyes but when you are walking, you can see the form on the road long before you reach it and it is almost mesmerising and difficult not to look at the little body on the road.
On a more cheerful note, I have had the most wonderful interaction with animals on this walk. Today was really special as on two separate occasions I was given a hot breathy kiss by to horses. I go up to the fence and make dry rasberyy noises with my mouth. They nearly always come over to investigate. If I stand very still, they smell my arm, my shoulder, neck and hair. If I turn my head slightly I can make kissing noises on their muzzles and they then kiss me back! It is such magic and worth the horse spit on your cheek or in your hair! Only once have horses shied from coming too close and I found out why when I put my arm over their fence and got a sharp shock from the electrified tape. I also say "Moooo" to the cows we pass and you'd be amazed at how often they reply. I even had a young calf suck my whole hand with a tongue like a pot scourer. I say "baaaa" or "maaaaa" to the sheep and they also bleat back at me. The dogs we pass usually come out growling and barking, protecting their territory but some have allowed me to pat or stroke them. I will miss the animals and the countryside when we walk into Rome-proper tomorrow. But, I have taken out my large SA flag and will attach it to the back of my pack so that it can fly rpoudly when we walk into St Peters tomorrow. By then we will have walked over 650 kms - 866,666 steps towars our goal which I have no doubt our stalwart group of pilgrims will achieve before we leave Rome on Sunday.
Today ended up a real challeng for all of us as we walked 36.23kms and were on our feet of 10 1/2 hours. At time it was quite difficult and there were lots of hills. I think we can all be so proud of ourselves as no one complained, we all just got on with it. Again I say "How many people are there in the world like us?" Too damn few!

Today when we were wandering up and down the country roads, Val and I got a real scare. We were well behind the other girls when Val suddenly shouted 'snake!'. I stopped immediately. There, whizzing past Val ont he side of the road was a green snake about 3 feet long, intently chasing a little mouse. As it came towards me it caught up with the mouse and curled up. Next moment the mouse escaped, running diagonally across the road towards me. In that moment I couldn't see the snake (I was expecting it to chase the mouse) so I ran up the hill towards Val. The snake disappeared and we got the extra adrenaline we needed to zoot up the hill!

Val: Well you've heard about the kind of day we've had. Try putting your socks and boots on when your foot has sunk to the ankles in thick mud! Kathy and I are a little weird because we loved it...we decided that we started with a challenge and ended with one. It felt really good to clock up those Km's over a challenging terrain. I also have to agree, for a team of 5 women who have had to live so closely together (and share one bathroom on many occasions) to get "lost" without knowing if and when we might get water, walking the same path 3 times in 40 degrees and not one complaint is pretty special. We democratically stood on the crossroads where we had been before and all agreed to tackle the river rather than walk back several hours to where we knew we could retrace our steps. The moment this decision was taken, Kathy lead and got us all across the river - we all have different length legs you know so what is a step across boulders for one is a leap of faith for another and I am very prone to falling in! But I didn't thanks to Kathy.

Well without getting to lengthy I must just tell you about the occasion we were asking directions as always. Syl went into the police station and out came a really good looking young Italian in all his uniform and of course the boots for Kathy(!). He was so kind and stuck out his right hand to indicate the way whilst saying " Sinistera,(which is left) " Right or Left" says Syl, "Destra (right) or Sinistera?" "Non, Sinistera" with his right hand sticking out. So finally Syl grabs "the arm of the law" and shook his right arm and said "Destra!" He looked so surprised and grinned. I'm sure it finally became clear to him why he was never assigned traffic control duties!

"We feel Good
We knew that we Would
But before we go home
We have to walk to Rome"

We finally arrive in La Storta, my stick has lost another 5cm, broken off along the way, my boots have lost most of the tred so I slip more than walk, I've lost my sunglasses BUT no blisters, but I'll talk about that tomorrow rather than tempt fate before I get to Rome. We are staying in a Convent tonight and must say, not exactly working up an appetite given the experience in the St Bernard Hospice. I decide I must buy some milk and yoghurt so I can eat my own breakfast in the morning. I walk into this bar and as I go to the fridge, the lady says are you South African? I say yes and she is so excited. After a couple of minutes she says but you sound Australian. I explain I'm not a pukker South African but there are 4 "real ones" outside. So I call them in and she just wants them to talk!! She is from South Africa, born and bred but half Italian and married to an Italian. She is from Melville and ran an Italian Restaurant there. She offers us all free coffee's and ice creams and was so genuinely pleased to meet us. Marion and I ask about the cuppaccino's. Oh yes, she knows all about South Africa they made the cuppaccino's the way we like them, hot with foam on top and the obligatory biscuits. The Italians would never drink a Cuppaccino if it were served that way. Here she serves it warm, never hot and it must be creamy all the way through, no biscuit and no newspaper there you have it from the horses mouth. We should have asked her about the Tirimasu.....

I'm guide tomorrow, it is our last day and we walk to Rome...not sure it's a wise idea to give me the last day, the girls look a little concerned but I assure them "the Roman's built straight roads and all roads lead to Rome".

We arrive at the Convent. We were very kindly greeted and lead to our rooms. We were expecting a dorm with anything up to 50 beds but we were given two rooms with private bathrooms. Spotlessly clean and quite modern. We went down for supper and what a pleasant surprise. Wine on the table....thank goodness! How civilised these people are. A lovely platter of pasta, beef olives and probably the best salad we've had. Without question the best bread we've had. A big bowl of fruit for desert. The Monks from St Bernard's would do well to come and take a few cookery lessons from the Nun's that's for sure. Breakfast was equally top notch. As much coffee and hot milk as we could possibly want, gorgeous bread rolls with butter (yes butter), cheese, honey, jams, juice - not a melba toast or croissant with a 6 month shelf life in sight. Then as we were finishing, we were invited to fill our water bottles from this nifty little machine which served iced water, natural, with gas or room temperature. We went on our way feeling good.

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