Friday, July 14, 2006

Day 28: La Storta to Rome 23kms

YEE-HAAA!!!! WE MADE IT!! WE ARE IN ROMA!! 28 days and ± 650kms after setting off from Vevey we arrived today!! Unfortunately, our first sighting of the Holy See was shrouded in a foggy haze of thick smog. It was 37oC at 8:45am and by the time we wound our way past the massive walls and long queues of tourists outside the Vatican museum, it was over 40oC. We walked all morning through the outskirts of Rome with the morning traffic. Like most large cities, the outskirts include rubbish tips, graffiti, railway yards, panelbeating shops, and heavy morning traffic. But nothing could dampen our spirits as we marched purposfully down the hills into Rome. People stared - five tanned old women with heavy packs and long pilgrim staffs - marching into Rome. Some took photographs of us.
So, what was it like arriving in St Peter's Square after our Groot Trek? For most of us an anti-climax. Excitement and anticipation evaporated after one after the other the officials, security guards, police and Swiss Guards shunted us from one place to the next and ignoredor were dismissive of our please to meet with Don Bruno. After two hours in the broiling sun we gave up and left the vatican to find lunch. E5 for a coke. E8 for an ice-cream. Total rip-off!
Our apartment is clean and comfortable and Maria came to see that we settled in. It was a joy to take all our belongings out of the plastic bags they have been in for over a month and pack them into a couple of drawers. We made dinner and ate in our little kitchen and were all ready for bed by 8:30pm. Before we went to bed I gave each girl the little medallions I had found near the Vatican with a St Christopher on one side and the heads of the two Popes on the other. I thanked them for the friendship, kindness and support we have shared on this walk. We have all shared something really special, always considerate of each other's needs and supportive if one felt a little flat. Maria said that we were an example to other women and I agree with her.
Tomorrow we will go back to the Vatican and try again to visit Don Bruno and get our Testimoniums. Then we will travel on the Hop-onHop-Off bus. Roma here we come!

Marion: We are in Rome! When we left the convent I was feeling excited about arriving in Rome but at the same tiime a bit sad that our journey was coming to an end. Although we did not have a great distance to cover, our cryptic clues said 14km, we did 20 into the centre of Rome and it seemed a lot further. It was very hot, humid and dusty. When we arrived at St Peters square it felt very strange tht our journey had eneded. It was a bit of a let down that we could not find the correct place to go to recieve our testimoniums, We will go back tomorrow morning and try again, Syl, Val, Kathy and Rayna were very special walking mates on this journey and I thank you all for the special time we had together. WE DID IT!

Rayna: Walking in to Rome, for me, was the culmination of almost two years of planning and organiing. Of probably driving friends and family insane with the incessant talk about 'When I/we go to Italy.' The past 4 weeks have been an eye-opener to me, having to push lyself beyond my normal limit of physical endurance, or else I wouldn't get to sleep in a bed that night!! The friendship, laughter and encouragement from/with the other 'girls' was fantastic. So now I promise when I get home, I won't spend the next two years saying 'when I was in Italy....!'

Kathy (now a cleaner mountail goat!) On our way into Romw on the Via Trionfale, I reflected back over the last 30 days. What am I going to miss?
* the comaraderie of a group of unique, talented special women who were brave enough to tackel this epic journey on foot. We have learnt much about ourselves, each other and working as a group. WE have laughed our way throught many tricky trials and situations that could otherwise have proved quite difficult!
* the daily routine (or lack thereof?) of getting up, brushing teeth, having a cup of tea/coffee and then setting off for the days walk to our next spot. and... once there, showering, washing the days clothes, finding a meal and going off to bed.
* the beauty that is all around us - God's creation - and that so much of what we see in terms of buildings, roads etc, have been aroud for over two thousand years!
* the thrill and exhileration of reaching the hospice at Great St Bernards after 11 and a half hours wlaking, with no water later in the day except that provided in cool mountain streams and one doorstop sandwich. 28km, 1600m up and 11,5 hours over the steepest roughest terrian we would encounter - we did it girls!
* our terrible vpoices (all need help gere) but our very smart appropriate song writing abilities. 'We feel good ... like good pilgrims should, We feel vrot ... because its too dam hot. We feel good ... cause Sylvia says that we should!..' etc These sing alongs kept us focussed and going on realy tough days.
* the hospitality of so many of our hosts who were so willing to go that extra mile for us.
* the lady who invited us in for coffee in an abandoned village (total of 5 inhabitants), the man who left his home in Bard to show us the way out over a rocky outcrop, our B and B owner who, despite our rather rude brush off, kept on coming back to tell us that he was expecting us and that he could take us to the accommodation!, the other countless people who gave us directions and told us where they thought we were ......
* the excitement at finding honey, sugar, jams etc on a breakfast table and quickly hiding one or two for later us. The apples picked off a branch growing over our path. The mulberries we all enjoyed along the route, Finding a red onion on the side of the freeway and carrying it for two days in case we could use it!!. Fruit stalls in town squares where we would buy fruit and eat it straight away. Finding water fountains were we could cool our heads and even better if the sign said potable becasue then we could fill our water bottles.
* restaurant meals in family run establishments like Mama Norina who specially prepared typical local fare like it should be. And seing her the next morning on our way out of Pontremoli - and her huge smile when she recognized us.
* not having to decide what to wear. Is it black shorts? or black shorts today?

What am I not going to miss?.....
* the treatment of dogs in Northern Italy - mostly chaied away from the house or kept in fowl run type places. Lucy (one spoilt sausage dog) and Wussy Kat, you don't know how lucky you are.....
* the morning breakfast croissans, standard fare, that are packaged in plastic with a use-by-date 6 months from now! Roll on morning oats and yoghurt back home.
* Rome. Busy, expensive and over-the-top. Feel like a country bumpkin come to town for the first time.
*having to hand wash clothes every day and going to sleep every night with washing drapped all over our room, beds ....
* very little actually ......

The journey has been amazing. It defies description at the moment. Thank you to my fellow travellers Rayna, Val, Marion and Sylvia ... and to my family and TJ for making do without me for the past month (hope you all missed me!). Also to everyone at work for taking up the slack while I walked the Via Roma. It is much appreciated.

The road to Rome was noisy, busy and dirty. We could only reflect that in the days of the original pilgrims it would have been a beautiful ending to their journey but it was not so for us. However, it marked the finalisation of an incredible achievement and when we walked into St Peter's square we were speechless. For those of you who have been following this blog you will know that we wanted to try and raise funds for children back in South Africa via the Homenet Real Estate Group. I have personnally carried the large SA Flag and the Homenet Flag for nearly 700 kms at this stage, it has been through a lot, caught on trees, stuck in bus doors and luggage racks and when Syl carried it for me one day (because I was carrying my curtains on the back of my rucksack) she got it caught in the circular doors of the bank. But it made it and we had our photograph taken with it. Afterwards, I put it on the railing outside St Peters - Homenet's most expensive piece of Real Estate. I wasn't arrested and it was still there hours later when we were on our way to our accommodation. For those of you following from Homenet, I have seen absolutely nothing special to report on Real Estate offices - even here in Rome, their window displays and interiors are really quite ordinary. I did see one display for developments which looked good and will investigate that on my return. So once we arrived we needed to celebrate so we broke all the rules (Coe you did warn us) and we ate not far from the square, we were so excited. Here it goes, Coke E5, Fanta E5, half litre of their cheapest wine E12 (I've been paying E4), a pizza E12 - the topping if you can call it that...anchovy - one cut into two pieces and placed on a pizza base with minimal cheese, I had salmon, take a tail of salmon (left over from another dish) cut it into 5 and lay over a pizza. Syl had an ice cream E8!! Covercharge was E10. The final bill came to E100.......we have arrived in Rome.
We left the restaurant and as we were walking we heard someone shouting at us, we heard "pap and Wors" they were two sisters from Nelspruit!!

My curtains didn't arrive...out of all the things I'm carrying or have bought, it was the curtains I most valued as a memory of my trip...they were very special indeed.

I can now safely tell you about my trick for no blisters. Ask any serious runner, and they will give you their secret for not getting blisters. Mine began when I walked across England some years ago. We were a group of 10 girls that time and we had been training for fell walking with leather hiking boots, ready for the shocking English weather of the Lake District in particular. However, just before our trip, they suffered an serious outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease and we were forced to walk the roads, mostly country roads so it wasn't too bad. However, leather hiking boots do not like road walking and day one saw many of us with sore feet. One of our mates in particular was really suffering and a lady slowed down when she saw our SA flags. She took our mate to our accommodation and told her that she would return with some sheep's wool before we left in the morning. Sure enough, she arrived with bags of freshly shorn sheeps wool, still warm and rich in lanolin. We put it inside our socks and wound it between our toes and padded our soles of our feet against the road. (By the way, roads in England are harder than SA because they have to withstand low temperatures). The Lanolin literally "waterproofed" our feet and not one blister more, plus it protected our feet from the constant assult of the road. On the way through villages, farmers gladly gave us more as they had to sheer their sheep but were not allowed to sell the wool and were just burning it.
Thanks to my friend Annie, I had fresh Lanolin.

So, its goodbye to you all from us, thank you for your support and for those of you who have given so generously to our charity, a huge thank you from the bottom of our hearts, to those of you who gave before we had even taken a step (thank you Charles) for the vote of confidence! (The little red numbers were well received!)

It took a lot of discipline to keep our website going, to walk for 7 to 11 hours in 40 degrees and to write up our notes every night and spend anything between 1 to 3 hours updating whenever we could, on pay machines, machines which didn't have enough space for the mouse to move, to Italian and Chinese instructions but we are glad we have done it. It will be our memories when we get home and you have all encouraged us to keep it going.

So thank you to Kathy, no matter whether it was her shift she always took the maps and lead the way, she was our intrepid explorer and makes the most wonderful coffee! Kathy was the inventor of the Revolters!To those who work for her, you are very lucky - she is a great leader.
To Rayna, my partner in crime, my drinking buddy and my shopping buddy! Rayna had a "busman's holiday" she was our accountant and boosted the Italian Economy and was in charge of the redistribution of wealth within our group. She was a key player in the Revolters!!!

To Marion, she was first to wake up, leap out of bed and sing "on the road again", always cheerful and made me coffee every morning...thank you Marion (Kathy took over when we got to Rome). Marion, great humour, always enjoyed a giggle....she was an undercover Revolter!

To Syl, thank you for 2 years of work, of research and planning to make this dream come true. To putting together our maps, to keeping in touch with people walking the route by e mail, as they were walking it. To downloading 183 maps, to translating all the cryptic clues from Italian into English using the painful process of Babelfish and Google...we still haven't worked out how you can have a "newspaper stand" in the middle of a field! To guiding us on what to pack and for booking all of our accommodation in advance, every single one a joy to arrive at. Not once during this trip did we find ourselves saying, "I wish I had bought so and so....if only we was planned to perfection.

So finally...

We feel Proud
And were singing out loud
Cos we've walked to Rome
And now we're on our way home

We've walked the Road
And we've shared the load
So we feel good
Like we knew that we would!!!!!!

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