Tuesday, July 25, 2006

PPB - Post Pilgrimage Blues

19th July: Missing all of you........, the walking etc etc ...

20th July:
I feel flat (do..do..do..do..do..do..doo)
Tho' I'm pleased to be back (do..do..do..do..do..do..doo)
No boots, no backpack (do..do..do..do..do..do..doo)
I feel flat.
Nowhere to roam
I feel alone
I feel flat (do..do..do..do..do..do..doo)

21st July: Yes - I was also a bit flat and was uncharacteristically mizzie yesterday ..... but feeling better today.

21st: Thank you all for an amazing experience, I have to say, I have found being at home and surrounded by so much "stuff" really offputting, I think I am going to get rid of lots!

24th July: WEll girls, I was a little relieved to hear that you all are feeling odd...I have honestly felt so down that I couldn't bring myself to phone friends or even go onto my e mail. I looked around my home with all the trappings of life and could have picked up my backpack and just started walking...all I wanted to do was sit and read our blog which I could not print off on my useless computer at home. Back to work and feel trapped!

24th July: I'm at work and want to just pick up my backpack, collect all of you and start walking,,,missing you all - what have we done to ourselves?

24th July: Eish!! I can definitely not be at work. Think I can even do a 10hour walk today!! Think I need a coffee break together!

25th July: I think I am sick. I knew it was coming 'cos I just wanted to sleep all the time.
Now I have a hot face and coughed an snotted all night. How can you walk outdoors all day, get hotter than hot, walk in rain, eat bread, custard slices and coke for breakfast - and not get sick?
Then you come home, fruit for breakfast, salad lunch, veg curry for dinner, stay indoors, sleep until 7h30 - and get sick.

24th July: I have the worst stomach...it is gurgling and upset all the time, I have no energy.....I need Italy....sorry to hear you are not well.

25th July am: How are you feeling...I just cannot get into work...I fear I will never be any good...I can honestly say that if the circumstances were different I could happily get up and just walk out now...what has this holiday done to me?

25th July pm: I am sick. I am tired. I am listless. I am not a weepy wailer but feel almost constantly on the verge of wailing. I don't think I could walk 3kms if someone paid me to. And I don't care.

..... The cure for Post-Pilgrim-blues:

Fr Frank (speaking about the camino pilgrimage):
"Many people report feeling sad, alone and down after their Camino experience. The initial return to daily life brings a certain excitement and an eagerness to share the experience with others. When the pictures are developed there is another wave of outpouring of Camino excitement and for some, the opportunity to give a talk or write an article. But then slowly it begins to dawn that the Camino is over. That carefree existence, where one’s greatest pain was a foot blister and among one’s greatest delights was photographing a snail crossing the road, is over.
Now we have to deal with all the usual problems - and our loved ones soon tire of hearing our stories. Although we pilgrims console one another with the agreed-upon wisdom that the ‘Camino never ends - it continues in daily life’, deep down we know that something has ended. Feelings of loss, longing and emptiness begin to surface. Does this strike a chord with you? You could be suffering from the post-pilgrimage blues.
What then is the remedy for the post-Camino blues? What about seeing every new day as a pilgrimage? As we walk into each day we are walking as into a foreign land; we are going beyond our experience. Live as a pilgrim, in the present moment, carrying only what you really need, leaving behind excess baggage, expecting nothing and grateful for everything, open to new experiences, aware of all that is! Then every road will be a Camino and every stopping-place a refugio and those post-Camino blues will give way to greens and reds and yellows!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Post Script

Rome Airport: Check in time:
"We are sorry to advise you that your flight from Zurich to Johannesburg tonight has been cancelled. If you go to the Swiss Desk over there, they will help you with information about your accommodation tonight in a Swiss Hotel, and about your connecting flight from Johannesburg to Durban".
Bummer! We were all looking forward to getting home.
Swiss Desk:
"Yes, your flight to Johannesburg has been cancelled and we cannot get you on a flight to Durban until Tuesday. When you arrive in Zurich you must go to the Swiss Desk and they will give you a voucher for a night's stay in the Swiss Hotel as well as a voucher for a meal and a transfer back to the airport in the morning for your flight to Johannesburg."

We do some last minute shopping in the Duty Free "Taste of Italy" shop. When it comes time to board, Marion has her boarding pass but not her ticket. Did she leave it at passport control, or was it lost when she handed over her baording pass at the Duty Free shop?
"Sorry" says the Swiss staff, "No ticket, no boarding". They make Marion stand aside and call an official. It's the same man who spoke to us at the dest downstairs.
After a few tense moments he says.
"Give me E50 and I will sort out your lost ticket".
Marion gives him a E50 note and we are allowed to board.
Is this regular? We don't care. We just want to go home.
We land in Zurich an hour and a half later. After walking around the airport for half an hour we finally find the correct desk, are given vouchers and are transferred to the Swiss Hotel in a large tourist bus. It is now 11pm. Smart hotel, lots of brass and glass, up-market decor, little goodies in the bathroom that I am not tempted to take because I am no longer a pilgrim. Restless sleep. The bed is too big, too soft and I am alone. I miss the sounds of two other pilgrims in the room - the soft snoring from Val and Marion's heavy breathing. The pillows are down and the feathers rustle when I turn.

In the morning we are sitting in the lobby waiting for the bus to take us to the airport.
"Hello Mrs Nilsen" I hear a familiar voice.
It is John - Little John - John the perpetual pilgrim (Camino Frances, Camino Potuguese, Via de la Plata, Camino Norte, Le Puy to Santiago, Via Francigena) who is returning home after walking the old VF route from Naples to Rome with Joe Paterson and others. He has a red nose, watery eyes and is coughing fit to drop. We all board the bus and are soon rushing around the airport doing last minute duty-free shopping.
The day flight is long but not too uncomfortable. I sit next to Val who watches 3 movies in a row. I watch a programme on the Swiss Guards. When they say that Swiss Guards have to learn to be polite and friendly as they deal with lots of people, I think, "Humph! Bull-dust! They are rude and arrogant."
I also watch a documentary on the Montreux Jazz Festival. Wonderful - Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, BB King - groovy!."
We land in Johannesburg after 6pm. Everyone is friendly, smiling, polite and helpful. Our parcel with our sticks does not arrive. Off to the lost baggage desk. They are friendly and helpful. It is so good to be home. A visit to the help desk and we are on a shuttle bus to the Holiday Inn Garden Court. We have to spend another night away from home because they can't get us onto a connecting flight until the morning. Will we ever get home?

The hotel staff are welcoming. We have a meal in the SPUR Steak Ranch. Then bed. I sleep like the dead until 5am. There is something on the TV about bombs and Israel. We haven't watched television for nearly 5 weeks. We have been cut off from world events.
We are welcomed into the breakfast room by smiling staff. It is SO good to be back. South Africa is not considered to be a 1st world country but to us it is better for it. First world often appears arrogant, rude, bored and weary of tourists.
The shuttle takes us back to the airport and we board the 11:10 flight to Durban. It is SO good to see loved ones at the airport but Marion is sad - her mother has taken ill and is in intensive care in the hospital. We give Marion a lift to her place before coming home. Carling, my big, beautiful black Labbie whimpers and mouths me when I open the door. Jenna, our pavement special, whines and jumps trying to get a nose in.
My modest home seems over spacious. Why do we need so many rooms? I pack away my shoes and am bemused by the clothes hanging in my cupboard. Do I really need a dozen T-shirts, shorts, socks, tracksuits?
I sort out the souvenirs and chocolates bought for family and friends. I have got 7 large envelopes which I posted to myself along the way waiting to be opened.
"Tell me all about it," says my husband when we finally sit down to share a cup of coffee.
Where do I start? How can you share something like this journey? Perhaps over the next few weeks I will be able to share more than what has been posted on this blog - more of the personal journey and the private moments.
"I will tell you" I say. "Let me just sit here and enjoy being home. Then I will tell you."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

THE LAST POST - Sunday 16th July

So, what have the VF Five been doing since they arrived in Rome? WALKING - WALKING - WALKING!! From the Vatican to the Spanish Steps. From the station (close to our apartment) to the Trevi Fountains. From St Peter's to the Coloseum. We have walked the length of the Circus Maximus and around the Forum, Pantheon and Plazza Venezia. Syl and Marion did a two hour tour of the fabulous Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. Too much visual input to even try to describe it all. We have been literally tripping over antiquities and have Roman overload! Some went on a serious shopping expedition through kms of alleys, side streets, main roads and malls. Cash is depleted and Credit cards stretched. And, the Duty Free shops loom! By the time we board flight LX 1733 to Zurich this evening, we will all have exceeded the 700km target we set before we left Durban. WELL DONE THE VF FIVE!!
On this journey we have learned that the Italian people are basically kind, friendly and helpful. They were always encouraging and expressed admiration for what we were doing. Our accommodation was always good which was a very pleasant surprise. From the B&B's to the Youth Hostals, the little hotels, apartments, convents, hospice, monastery - all have been clean and comfortable and reasonably priced.
We have learned that Italy in summer is as hot - if not hotter than South Africa. This was a big surprise but because we come from Durban which has a hot humid climate, we all coped with the excessive heat and humidity.
We have learned that coffee is cheaper if you drink it inside the coffee shop than it is if you sit down and drink it outside - .90c inside and E2.50 outside - huge difference! Italians serve their vegetables cold unless you ask for them to be heated. Ditto Cupucino coffee which is always served luke warm unless you ask for caldo (hot).
We learned that five very different women could work as a team (we said at the start "There is no 'I' in the word team") support each other, help each other, compromise at times, go with the majority, and get each other through difficult days. What a team we are! We are all SO proud of each other and of how well we did on this journey.
So, we would like to thank you all for sharing this journey with us through reading our BLOG and we would like to thank the Designer Boyz for posting our photographs and for keeping our posts in date order.
From a hot and humid Rome, this is the VF FIVE - over and out!

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 knew....it 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!!!!!!

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 that...in 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 ....so 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.

Day 26: Capranica to Campagnano di Roma +23kms

I was very concious this morning of the fact that today was our 3rd to last day of walking. On the one hand it seems to have flown by so quickly but on the other it seems that walking across the Alps, snow-capped mountains and waterfalls was 100 years ago. When we walked through the 2nd gate of the medieval village of Capranica this morning at 6.45am the shutters were still closed and only a sleepy dog was witness to our passing through. We walked on a beautiful forest road until Sutrie where we stopped at a roadside cafe-bar for coffee. Just outside Sutri is a Roman Amphitheatre carved out of tufa stone and it is a weird feeling to stand in the outer tunnel knowing that many terrified wretches stood right there many hundreds of years ago before going to their deaths. The Etruscan necroplis that is carved out of tufa stone next to the amphitheatre is also a reminder of a civilisation that existed over 2000 years ago.
The next 10kms were also off road but with little shade and as the temperatures rose so did our prickly rashes and sweaty heads. When we reached a village fountain on the outskirts of Monterosi we couldn't resist putting our heads under the water gushing out of the tap - marvelous! Our Cryptic Clues guide from the Assoicazione VF warned against trying to walk the main highway to Campagnano from Monterosi so we had no option but to catch a bus. The hotel we'd booked into was 4km beyond the medieval village and on an old Cassia road to Rome. We had to walk 1/2 km to reach it along an almost deserted road and when we first saw it my thoiught was "Now our luck has run out - we'll be sleeping in a decaying old barn tonight" We rang the bell and it took for ever for the door to open - only a crack mind you - and an old woman peered at us suspicously. "5 pellegrinis dall SudAfrica" I told her. "Humph! Pass-a-porta" she demanded. Once she had confirmed that we were her five pellegrinis from South Africa she allowed us in. Our jaws just dropped! The interior leads directly into a 50m+ diningroom with arched ceilings dripping with wrought iron chandaliers and scrolls. There were two rows of 20 tables all set ready for dinner. The hotel is 400 years old and has had the same owners for the past 30 years. It has the feel of a grand old lady-like-wayside inn where horses and carriages would bring Kings, Lords and their Ladies and other gentry to spend the night before their 30km journey to Rome. The new super highway was built just 500m away and this means that they now have very little passing traffic. When old Senora Ida showed us to our rooms I felt like I was a part of that wonderful od movie clip "Dinner for One".
We started off early today and our hostess packed a picnic breakfast packet for each of us that we could munch along the way. It was easy walking, mostly on dirt roads - could not get over how quickly the kms passed and far too sonn we were at Monterosi where we found an internet point and were able to post the last few days on our blog. We sat on the pavement eating delicous icecream for lunch - it was so hot. I am looking forward to dinner in our gracious old hotel this evening. I'll wear my 'little black number' but unfortnately with my walking sandals. I'm sure everyone realises that we are pilgrims.
Kathy, Rayna and I walked and talked food this morning. We spoke about the food we would buy to cook when we get to our apartment in Rome. We even dreamed of having a braai - we could imagine the smell - mealies and wors - we decided that we would buy one of those 'ready to go' jobbies - we think we have a balcony - and Rayna will crack open a Castle!
Enjoying a meal is more than just the food, it is the whole eating experience. Tonight they could serve shoe leather and I somehow feel it would be the best experience ever - Syl has described the restaurant in this 400 year old hotel which seats over 300 in the central dinigroom. Every table is set and ready for service. I doubt that my photos will do it justice so want to share this experience with Martin - service starts at 8pm - I'm so excited to see what will come out of the kitchen. I managed to sneak a quick tour of the kitchen which has a 5m wide open wood burning stove and hearth.

Well, we've had supper and so I have to report back.....At 8pm sharp we were downstairs, Rayna our photographer was setting her camera up for pictures of the marvelous dining room and has done a great job of capturing the atmosphere. I sneaked another look at the kitchen and this time Mama invited me to take photos of the fireplace. She even posed in front of it, whilst the wood burner was roaring and pieces of Italian bread, rubbed with garlic and olive oil, toasted on top.

It remains family run although Mama's husband is no longer alive and the daughter and husband, son and daughter in law run the show together with extra waiters. The Son is the pastry chef and is clearly very talented. Mama is 79 years of age and still very much in charge. The Waiter, well not quite sure where they found him. The Adam's Family perhaps? He was a cross between Faustus and Manwell from Faulty Towers, most entertaining.

This is the first restaurant that we have seen fresh fish laid out on ice and boxes of field mushrooms on display. Campagnano is famous for Proscuitto ham and the kitchen produced platters of melon and hams, mushrooms and other delicacies. (one must remember that whilst this sounds like a grand restaurant, it is not - its almost humble). Marion and Syl had Linguine with mushrooms, an array of those fresh mushrooms we saw - wow, taste, texture and aroma, say no more....we all have to taste each others for the food report (remember - Kathy - don't mess with my food) so it is hard for some! Rayna had fresh grilled fish, we think it was a Seabass or similar - Manwell was unable to tell us. Kathy had her first steak, it was huge and tender and many of the locals were eating the steak so it was highly recommended. (Bi Stecca E10) I decided this could be my last chance to have Wild Boar cooked in a different way. So I chose the Cinghiale al pepe verde E8 - It doesn't taste like pork, it looks and tastes like the most tender, tasty beef - it was cubed and cooked in a very light cream sauce with peppercorns, very similar to a Steak au poivre (sorry spelling?) (by the way, you must know how mixed up we are, we have had to speak French, now Italian and we are staying in the Chinatown region of Rome so now our entire internet is in Chinese!) - I am sad that this may be the last time I will ever taste this dish. All vegetables are served cold, - not warm, cold straight from the fridge - so we had cold green beans (Fagiolini E3) and cold spinach - not good).

We all raved about our meals and all opted for desert...Fresh Strawberries, Lemon Tart, wow the pastry chef knows what he is doing, and the freshness of the lemon E3, only disappointment was the Tiramsu - but given the quality of the food, perhaps this is how it should be...it was very much a sponge.
Had some fun with the Italian bus companies again today. Thank you to Mary (Run/Walk for Life Pinetown) who told us about having to verify your tickets as we have been very careful about doing this. You can only buy a ticket before you go on a bus - from a Tabacci or a bar or shop - then you get on the bus and validate it in a machine that stamps or punches holes into it. Have yet to see an inspector though. The daily inter-town buses are also more like our long distance buses. Very comfortable with small seats. Only problem if you haven't got a ticket and you are based far from the town - how do you get into town to buy a ticket?? Our return bus ticket cost us E0.70c but going into town without a ticket cost us E5 from the driver.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Day 25 Viterbo to Capranica 36km

Marion: Today we had quite a distance to walk, we were not 100% sure if our distance was 31k or 3k. We started off early at 06.00am. It is so enjoyable to walk early as then it is cool. We walked mostly on dirt paths and through a couple of forests. We had a short spell on the Cassia which was awful as there was a lot of traffic, quite scary!!. When we stopped at Ventralla before lunch time approximately 11.00am on a temperature gauge I saw it was 34 degrees so I am sure the temperature today must have gone up to 40 degrees. I think we all did so well today!!

Syl: Last night Italy won the World Cup and we slept through the last half of the game. We were all just too tired to stay up watching. At 5.00am we turned the TV on to CNN and learned the score. BRAVO ITALIA!! Nearly every house and building had an Italian flag flying or draped over windows and balconies. Even the beautiful Roman style church that was built in 1417. The old oak tree, where the Virgin appeared, now forms part of the main altar. The ceiling is an amazing pilastered fresco covered in gold leaf paid for by donations from devotees. We entered the church and saw a white robed priest up near the altar preparing for mass. We walked up to him and told him that we were pilgrims nad asked for a stamp in our passports. He was so friendly and helpful taking us through to the sacristy and offering us a seat whilst stamping all 5 passports. Before we left he showed us the "blessed oak" and a side chapel - "Bellisimo?" We nodded, yes it was more than bellisimo. Then he said goodbye and good journey and Marion and I crept quitely down the side to the door. he called to us but we thought he was shooing us away so we scuttered to the door. He beckoned to us and showed us a view and sound box on the wall, put a E1 in the slot and Marion and I were able to hold our earphone and listed to the miraculous story about the apparitition, the miracles that ensued and the building of the church, etc, sculptures and artworks. We left just as mass was starting. We left the church energised and thrilled by his kindness and generosity. We went back to the hotel, had dinner and then went to bed at about 0900am. It was a lovely VF day again today (except for the 3km on the Cassia) through olive groves, hazelbut orchards, kiwi fruit vines, vineyards and sunflower fields. When you walk through acres of sunflowers and you are in the "Zone" - hot, tired and walking like a zombie, your eyes start playing tricks on you. Today I saw a tall sunflower plant with a huge flower standing above the rest. It didn't have a plain face but a large, dark eye, like a cyclops and as I approached, the eye was looking at me. Just like those optical illusion paintings, the cyclops followed me as I walked past and went on by. Then all the sunflowers seemed to be following me - it was very strange. We had at least 35km to walk today. We didn't know if our B & B was in or out of town. We were thrilled to discover that it was 5km on the road before Capranica. After walking 32km we saw the B & B sign - 250m - and were soon settling in our rooms in a lovely house on a Hazelnut farm. At 6.20pm we got a bus into town, had dinner in what we think was the only restaurant in the Old Town and got the 0845pm bus back to the farm. The lady of the house met us and took us on a historical tour of the area on foot. Under her driveway is an ancient Roman road. The pillars supporting the porch incorporated Roman columns found on the farm. About a km away we came to some ancient Estrucan ruins with Roman additions. It ws quite romantic and exotic to view these ruins in the moonlight and we didn't get to bed until after 10pm. La late night for pellegrini.

Val: We have tasted Cappuccino's from the Italian Alps to almost Rome, in back street bars, Mama's ristorantes, pizzeria, trattoria and a 4 Star hotel. So its official - A true Italian Cappuccino is a cup of luke warm froth, no chocolate or cocoa on top, not a biscuit on the side and not a newspaper in sight.
We are keen to know who sets the criteria for the Sunday Tribune's Great Cappuccino Competition - meanwhile the first thing we are going to do when we get to JHB airport is get a "real" Cappuccino!!

We are 5kms away from Town and supper - there are no taxis and we don't have tickets for the bus. You can only get a ticket for the bus from a Tobacco but the nearest is in Town! The Son of the B & B owner tells us that we can purchase a ticket on the bus but it will cost E5 each instead of E1. We decide that we need a good supper, we have not been able to purchase milk or anything for breakfast the last few days and we had a really grotty lunch break. So we wait at the end of the road and when the bus comes we request tickets. The bus driver is unpleasant and waves two tickets at us, this is all he has to sell. Syl does a really good job of convincing him we are starving pilgrims and he allows us to all get on the bus with just two tickets. We arrive in town. By no stretch of the imagination could Capranica be considered a tourist attraction. We see only one Ristorante with anything close to kerb appeal. It is closed. We wander around for ages just trying to find somewhere to eat. It is the kind of place that you suspect you are in the "downtown" area and any moment now you are going to turn the corner to see umbrellas and ristorante's. But it doesn't happen and we are close to resigning ourselves to catch the bus back and the thought of reconstituted melba toasts from the day before and the one packet soup that Syl has carried for 300kms. Then a local woman tells us to go down the road and turn right. We see a doorway with curtains, it doesn't look promising. But we push through and there are tables!
We are shown to a table by the owner. He has a picture of an African woman on the wall and says he knows about Johannesburg. He brings us water and wine. We see an extensive menu on the wall and are already deciding what we might have. He arrives without menu's - you can have pasta, pasta or pasta he says. He is quite sauve and confident. You can have pasta with tomato and basil or with mushrooms. The variations of pasta fall off his tongue but we can't quite catch the meaning. I ask if I can have olives - no olives he says (after all this is Italy). I ask if I can have Anchovies but my pronunciation of "acciughe" is obviously not too good and I have to show him the word in my Phrase book. He looks outraged "No!!" He then starts to recite the choices again and I pick up "sausage" and I say I do not understand the other word. He looks up the word in my phrase book and it is baby artichokes. Yes I say "Italian sausage and artichokes would be good". He raises his eyes to the ceiling, shrugs his shoulders and marches off to the kitchen.
Within moments the girls pasta's arrive, two with tomato and two with mushroom. A while later a plate arrives with 4 halves of artichokes. Oops! What have I ordered. Much later he comes to the table and says your order is coming. I have by now eaten my artichokes because I gather he would not lower his standards to include it in my dish of pasta. We then see him take a dish from the kitchen hatch. It is a plate, not a bowl - so no pasta for me. He sets before me a plate with two boiled sausages, Wild Boar me thinks! But also on the plate are delicious white butter beans which have been cooked in a flavourful sauce of herbs with just a hint of tomato. I really enjoy it. He arrives to clear the plates and looks disappointed that I have eaten it and even moped up the juices with the bread!
We ask for the bill - he gets up from the table where he is eating with a customer and shrugs and says E35.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Day 24 Sunday Bolsena to Viterbo 24kms

Val: I was guide today and we had signs for the first time on my shift so it went without any major hiccups except that we were in the sticks all day so no where for coffee breaks or lunch - so when we reached Verterbo we managed to get an ice-cream and pastries before the one remaining shop closed at 1400hours. For E3.50 you can have a large cone (like the real Cornetto cones) with 3 big scoops of any flavours. The Italians are King of Icecream. I decided I only wanted 2 flavours - chocolate - pure and dark, probably 90% cocoa butter! Together with "Rochel" - can you possibly imagine a box of Ferrero Roche chocolates mixed with ice cream? Huge chunks mixed with decandent ice cream. A genius invented that one. Other flavours chosen were Pistaschio, Tiramisu and almond.
We find the drivers very tolerant of us when we are walking or crossing the road. Regardless of whether there is an official crossing they stop so we can all get across safely. On dirt roads they slow right down to avoid covering us in a blanket of dust. They always hoot and wave and because we carry the SA Flag we have had several people stop us if they have been to SA. We had a picture taken with two men who told us all about their trip to SA and were so excited for us walking to Rome, they shook our hands and kept saying Bravo!
Tonight we are 2 kms away from Town so we are eating in the Hotel Restaurant. Italy Play France in the finals tonight so we are not expecting to get too much sleep. They have put a TV in the Dining Room and we also have one in the room. The Waiter looks and acts as if he is very fed up about having drawn the "short straw" and has to work tonight -he makes little attempt to communicate with us, which is fine as we can pretty much work out the menu's ourselves these days. Water and red and white wine appear on the table, open without having requested it. Wines are Fattoria Madonna Delle Macchie, Red - Renaro and White Fonte Vionica. We only drink the white, crisp and dry - really have not had a bad white since we've been here. Rayna and I are going to have a good Merlot when we get to Rome, safe in the knowledge that we don't have to walk the next morning. Therefore the Red remains untouched.
The menu has prices by each item and we order. Strozzapreti con crema di Carcifi - pasta twirls with italian spicy sausage and artichoke - E9 - excellent. Mezze Lune Burro e Salvia E8 - pasta ravioli of ricotta with sage butter, again not a brown butter. Arle cchino di Verdure E3.50 - vegetable selection moulded in a ring - beautifully presented. Sylvia is a vegetarian and has been pleased with the selection of vegetables and pastas available. The salads are on most occasions just lettuce and tomato. We were then presented with bowls of grapes and cherries and madarin sorbets. We were charged a set fee of E15 each so we imagine we could have ordered the whole lot!

Marion: Last night Syl and Val and myself did not get much sleep as our room faced an alley and just below was a restaurant full of people talking loudly until 1.00am plus there wa a light shining into our room from the street - it seemed to shine right into my face everytime I turned over.
I so enjoyed our walk today on dirt paths and on ancient Roman roads. It was very different from the hills in Tuscany. Today was quite flat - unfortunately no coffee stops but did enjoy stopping at the hot water thermal pools. Lovely to take off our botts and socks and sit at the edge of the pool with our feet in the water for a while. Wherever we are people stare at us - not sure if it is because we all have SA flags or we look peculiar or what!!

Kathy: Now Kathy and Rayna's room also faced the restaurant below but we were clever! We closed our shutters, which meant we found oureselves in an unusually, unexpected dark room (remember the sun only sets at our 9.30pm). We were in heaven! Darkness = shut eye time and we both slept well until being rudely awakened, befor eour alarm went off, by our walker chums...they had forgotten to reset their alarm clocks unfortunately.

Rayna: Has nothing much to say. The country walking is lekker and....the hills are easier. The eating is good too!!! Looking forward to Rome!

Syl: This morning, when we were leaving Bolsena an elderley man coming down a side road saw us and crossed himself. I'd like to think that he was praying for our safe journey to come. It was a beautiful day and after we got off the early morning bus at Monefiascone, we climbed up the steep, winding stairs to the gardens high above us with panaramic views of the Dome on one side and of Lake Bolsena on the other. Exiting the town via the Via della Rocca, we found a new VF sign with a stencil of a pilgrim and the word ROMA in red. The sign led us straight down a steep hill into a lovely shady forest. Today's walk was almost 100% on dirt roads, through fields of sunflowers and wheat, vineyards, olives, maize and hay-bales. These are machined "hay stacks" and we saw bale upon bale stacked on top each other under open sided barns- We also passed small flocks of sheep and a herd of dairy cows. The longest remaining section of a basalt stone Roman road runs for over a km through this stage and in some sections one could still see the ruts from cart and carriage wheels. This is a beautiful flat and safe "off road" stage but there is nowhere between Montefiascone and Viterbo to replenish water bottles, no towns or villages at all and only one farm water trough which we didn't dare try drinking. At about the 15km mark we arrived at the hot water,thermal pools crowded with locals. We took our boots off an sat with our feet in the surprisingly refreshing hot water. By the time we reached the Fiorentiana Gate at itero it was 28 degrees and most places were closing shop. We headed for an open 'Gelateria' and ordered the most delicious triple scoop ice cream in cones. That was lunch! After a short rest we walked 2km through a shady suburb to our hotel, the Domus la Quercia which used to be a convent and is now a 90 bed hotel with restaurant, extensive grounds and conference rooms for 20 to 300 people. Tonight is the World Cup Final and excitement is mounting. We will be watching in the hotel conference room and will definitely be supporting Italy.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Day 23 Saturday, Acquapendente to Bolsena.

Marion: Today I was the group leader. I had a very easy shift as we had excellent markers all the way to Bolsena. This morning we were all up bright and early, it was quite dark outside as there was a thick blanket of mist so we all put on our flashing lights and started walking at 6am. It was very pleasnat walking in the mist and we were fortunate as most ofthe wy was on quite sand (dirt) roads through forests. From San Lorenzo we had the most magnificent views of Lake Bolsena. WE took lots of photo breaks. It was a most enjoyable walk.

Syl: Pilgrims in the mist! WE walked through an eerily quite Acquapendente at 6am. After 3km of road the VF signs directed us off the Cassia and onto a graded raod that meandered through woods and fields for anothe 7km or so. we stopped at San Lorenzo Nuovo for coffee and the soon after leaving the town we were back onto a dirt raod. By ow the mist had lifted and we walked through the protected Monte Rufero forests and woods. The area extends from 210m to 780m so we has a few short sharp climbs and declines. A brochure which we read at our hotel told us that over 122 species of reptiles mammals and amphibians and over 1200 plant species have been documented in these woods. Bolsena lake is the largest volcanic lake in Europe and was formed in the collapsed crater of a volcano. Franca, our B and B hostess told us that they had an earthquake the day before we arrived - from an eruption under the lake which rocked Bolsena and everything in the apartment. Scary!. When we found the B and B there was no response to our ringing of the the doorbell, so we walked further down the road and found ourselves a lovely restuarant where we all had lunch. Then back up the narrow busy lane to the B and B. Franca said that she had been expecting us the day before! but she and her daughter who was visiting from Rome made us feel most welcome. What a lovely family. WE settled in, went back and found an internet cafe and then walked down to the lake whre we decided to have supperin an restuarant overloking the lake. We watched the sun setting over San Lorenzo Nuovo where we had walked this morning. Today was a perfect VF walking day. It was cooler after yesterdays storm and as we walked on gravel and dirt paths almost all the way it meant that we could talk to one another, laughing at funny things instead of marching in single file ever watchful of the oncoming traffic. Even though the distance was over 22km instead of the 19 on the Topo, we arrived at lunchtime and had time to relax and sightsee. Reading the crytic clues for tomorrow we found that our distance from here to Viterbo will be 39km and not the 30 as planned. Our hotel is about 2km out of Viterbo so it makes it a very lond day. We will get a bus down the road again and walk the plus minus 22km instead.

Kathy: It is now 19h30, and we are sitting ON the lake ata arestaurant perched on stilts. The sun is still high in the sky and it is quite warm (strappy tops and shorts). We have been trying out local fish specialities which Val, our food critic, will tell you about later!

Rayna: One medieval village is beginning to look like another. Grey narrow streets. Splashes of colour on window boxws and doorways so ... today was a fantastic change. walked through the country side and the beautiful view of the Bolsena lake. Yeah.... today was good.

Val: 'Robbie' and I walked to Bolsena today. It was one of our more enjoyable walks as I was rather lost in my music, so it was a pleasnat surprize when I realised we had arraived. I've lost about 5cm on my stick so it is not as comfortable as before. Bolsena marked the 500km mark so we had an official photo shoot with the SA and Homenet flags taken by an English couple on holiday from Yorkshire. Quite a co-incidence... she was originally from a tiny village in the South called Crowthorne where I was born! Despite having to take some unplanned trips on public transport, we are ahead of our planned distance of 472km as the distance in th eGuide is often underestimated. Today was indeed a food day. Bolsena lake has an abundance of fish. The local fish is called 'Coregore', a white fish, usually served fillitted and for you 'when-we's' - it is just like Kariba Lake bream.

The local and famous wine is called Est! Est! Est! - the the story is that a King travelling through Italy would send his wine-taster ahead to sample the winw and he would have to sen back the message Est if it was worth buying.On this occassion, the wine-taster considered it so good he wrote Est Est Est. We tried a 'locale' one - just E3.50 for a bottle - and we agreed witht he wine taster - it was Excellent! Other prices for the wine vary from E5 - 11.

we took full advantage of the fish on offer, and at lunch we had the COREGORE ARROSSo - grilled lakefish E6.50, which was very good. As it was Sunday we had pud - Tiramiso - very rich but good. The waiter had relations in JHB and he gave us free coffee and a shooter each - he called it Limone - Limone with alcohol definately! Hesaid he made the best Cappuccino in Italy - it was like warm froth so we guess that is how it should be?!We decided whereever we had the opportunity to eat lunch we would either go without supper or only have a light salad - we would hopefully loose more weight that way.... BUT, - by the evening we couldn't resist the restaurant built on stilts over the lakje, surrounded by the black sand. We had a table ont he deck, watched the dicks and boats and got eaten alive by midges. Tea tree oil worked really well. Bearing in mind the earth-tremors the day before we probably didn't choose the safest place to et! W all wanted to try some more fish so we had FILLETTO DI BACCALA PASTELLATO - battered slat cod E6.20. KAthy said it was moist and just like Kingklip. Rayna had FILLETTE DE PERSICO - fillets of perchE7.80 also in batter. I had FITTORA MISTA DI CALAMARI E GAMBER - E7. The translation was 'Cryfishes and squashfry' - it was calamari , squid and 3 prawns which had not had the veins removed. I aslo ordered FLORIDIZUCCA ALLA ROMANA - pumpkin flowers Roman style - awful- the batter was thick , the flowers soggy and the stuffing was scraps of fish. The menu was translated into German and english - ie Portchops and Beffsteack!!On the way home we passed a group of runners warming up for a 10km challenge which started at 9pm through the town. We watched for a ehile, the Italians didn't even clap, so we clapped and cheered and the runners were very appreciateive, we shouted Bravo! Bravo!. Kathy wore her new strappy number with Italia written on the front which attracted lots of attention- now we sing to her - 'she's to sexy for her boots, she's too sexy for her boots!'

we tried to sleep but the noise in the sttreete was so loud so I went to bed with my Ipod and Il Diva Boys ...

Typed by Kathy on a small mezzanine level corner with no space... and no reader to help with the typing. (Sorry for speling errors etc)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Day 22 Abbadia San Salvatore to Aquapendente 21kms

There were huge drops of rain when we left our hotel this morning at 6.15am. This is the first time we've had Italian rain. With our waistbags bulging from under our rain jackets we looked like a group of pregnany pilgrims as we wobbled up the road and into the still sleeping town. The bus arrived spot on at 7am and after a brief wait for another us at Piencastangnio we got a bus that dropped us off on the side of the Cassis near Val di Paglia. "Avante" said the drive pointing up the road, "Aquapendente dirrito". The rain started coming down harder than ever and we stopped to put on our little red flashing lights in order to more visible to oncoming traffic. When we reached the border bewteen Tuscany and Lazio (somewhere close to the Ponte Rigo) the thunder started crashing and Tuscany wept buckets as we left. The Lazio put on a stunning sound and light display with forked and sheet lightening and rolling, crashing thunder. Poor Marion shrieked with every strike of lightening and we all collapsed our telescopic walking poles and took Val's flag pole (metal) out of her backpack where it stuck up like an antenna. The rain came down in sheets and soon the road was awash with water that all collected on the small space between the white line and the verge forming running rivers down the road. We couldn't walk in the river but we also couldn't risk walking in the middle of the road so we ended up playing hop sctoch for a few kilometers, walking in the road until a car appeared and then hopping over the river to the verge until it had passed. One inconsiderate truck driver drove straight through a huge puddle sending a curtain of water over poor Rayna who shrieked and tried to jump out of the way. Our Regatta rain suits proved their worth by keeping us dry even in this deluge but our boots failed merably and we were squealching and swosshing water in our boots within minutes. Half an hour later the sun broke through, the thunder rolled over back towards Tuscany and we stopped to take off our rainpants and put away our flashing lights. Our hotel suddenly appeared on the road before us - about a km before town - and we were relieved to get into our rooms and out of our sweaty damp clothes. Then we walked into town to find a sprawling fleamarklet in progress. We had a good lunch took a walk to the Duomo and visited the famous 8th C crypt. The storm returned in the afternoon so we stayed in the hotel for dinner.

Marion: I found the rain quite refreshing to walk in BUT I did not like the thunder and lightening. I found it rather scary walking that especially when it was right overhead. Every time there was a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightening I screamed. When we bought our bioots the salesman told us that they were bullet proof - well, they might be bullet proof but they are not waterproof or even water restitant. I felt that my feet were swimming in water. Aquapendent is a delightful medieval village with lots of history and cobbled streets, arches and little alleyways intercrossing each other. I so enjoyed our walk around the town. It is wonderful to wander around and look at all the beautiful things but cannot buy as nothing else can fit into the backpack and even if it could, one does not want to carry anything extra.

KATHY: I thought I would tell you about our routine a little. The evening before, the next days leader tells us a little bout the place we are walking, route etc. We also all hand over our pages of the maps we are carrying (we shared these out equally). We then trek off to bed (still broad daylight!) and set Fifi (Val's phone alarm) and Rayna's alarm for our get up time - usually an hour before departure time. The alarm normally wakes us and Ratna and I start our day. We generally share a double room - read double bed - with Val, Syl anf Marion sharing a triple room. We then wash, brush teeth and get dressed. I'm normally 1/2 dressed anyway as sleep in my shorts and crop top (not carrying PJ's). I check my bioots for further disintergration and Rayna starts strapping her toes. This is quite a time consuming because we share her penknife's scissors and it is early morning. By now Marion delivers the immersion heater and I set about making our respective cups of tea. We are both carrying tea and I'm always on the scrounge for sugar. We generally buy yoghurt for breakfast and I eat this while we both repack the top half of our packs. I'm scared to explore the bottom half where non essentials like sleeping bag and long pants dwell as I'm not sure what else is hiding down there. We put on some sunblock, ensure that our money belts are rescued from the bottom of our beds and secured round our waists (very little money to keep safe as this is travel on the cheap.) We pack our daily fruit rations - apple, banana and zip the backpacks up. By now that hiour has passed - time sure does fly! We have one last check of the room before leaving. Also to say that apart from our beds generally have demarcate a little cor of the room for our 'stuff'. We work in this confined space doing all our morning chores.

Val: It rained today, sheet rain and thunder and lightening so we wore our rain suites - about time they earned their keep as we have carried them almost 500kms! The lightening was scary especially with my Homenet flag (which has a metal rod) poking out the back of my pack like an antenna. It was so dark it was like walking at night

As Kathy has told you about our morning routine, I thought I'd tell you about breakfast. We have given up with the B & B breakfast because they are too late (07.30pm) and too predictable (bread and jam). Lunch is always bread if we are eating on the run so try to make breakfast healthy. Take one metal mug which has been hanging on your backpack and is probably full of dust . Fill up with water from bath tap. Place immersion heater into water careful not to electocute yourself due to damaged plug socket. Add tea bag or coffee from jar (shared by Val and Marion). who take it in turns to carry) use spoon from yesterday's ice cream. Add sugar "pinched" the day before. Add milk from carton shared by val, Rayna and Kathy. Drinks as quickly as possible so you can begin with the next course.

Take packet of cereal (shared by Val, Rayna and Kathy) tip into mug (best to rinse first but a personal choice) add milk. Take one yoghurt brought day before add sachet of honey "pinched" day before from Cafe, stir and add to cereal. Eat banana. Now walk!

I lost my sandals that go with my little black number so I have to wear it with my hiking sandals - rather spoils the effect. Still, one thing about loosing things is that the back pack weighs less.

The most "useless" think I brought on my trip? Has to be the travel wash line. "No pegs required" it boasted. Not surprising since you can't hang anthing on it - it has suckers on the end and cannot even take the weight of one pair of socks, it is also only 1 m long! It made it to Sienna and then the bin. The most "useful"? Samples - you know those little sample giveaways. minature toothpaste, body lotion, soaps etc. We buy one shampoo and fill up all the empty sample bottles. I had a small sample of toothpaste but have now had to replace it - I only wanted a small tube so bought Kid's "SHREK 2" - it tastes wonderful - no wonder I go to bed hyped up with additives. The best samples-giveaways are from Virgin Active - they have a goodie bag usually every couple of months and the Toll road from JHB to DURBAN. Add to these the "Complimentary" toiletries from the best places, I highly recommend the likes of The Livingstone in Zambia and Zimbali Estate in KZN.

Lunch - we made the most wonderful discovery today. A little restaurant on a corner run by a young couple. Both the decor and the food had a fresh approach but still retained the authenticity of its origin. To start, we were given a Chef's complimentary tasting of crostini with the freshest tasting tomatoes, basil, marjoram and olive oil, black pepper. (The first peppermill we have seen). Followed by Kathy and Marion - Rigatoni con formaggio misto, pomodoro and basilico E6.50. Sylvia had Petti di tacchino all origano E7.00 (vegetarian dish of courgettes and potatoes with cheese.

Val: In the market today we saw "salt cod" "Bacaala" so I asked if they served it. It wsn't on the menu but the Chef had some prepared and made me a dish of salt cod, fresh tomatoes and herbs - delicious, light and served with a very light wine. We realised we had found a very special palce so we just had to try Dolci della cassa (deserts of the house) We shared:
Tortino Di coccolata cou Panna (chocolate mousse)
Mille Fogli con crema di Mascarpone (layers of the most amazing pastry, with a mascarpone cream with chocolate)
Mouse di Ricotta
Ricotta with chocolate sauce

Best ever deserts!
Speaking to the young check, he explained that he had not been professionally tained but had grown up in the kitchen. His style was to add a fresh twist to traditional dishes adn this he has most certainly achieved without copying the trends. The owner signed the handwritten menu and gave it to me to add to my collection. "Lacapracampa Trattoria" in Acquapendente, Lazio Province - worth a visit!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Day 21 San Quirico to Abbadia San Salvatore. Thursday. 9.5km

Syl: Well taday was good news and bad news - which turned out to be good news after all. Let me explain. First the bad news. we didn't walk today - only 9.5km around Abbadia. The reason for this was a comedy of errors. Yesterday we bought bus tickets for the 7.20am bus from San q to Gallina - ablout 10km. one has to purchase the tickets at a shops or bar, not on the bus. We were all up with the sparrows and waiting for the bus by 705am. By 0800am we were still cursing the retardo bus system and resigned ourselves to walking. But, the next bus would be at 0900am and would get us to Gallina earlier that we could walk there. So, we sat on the pavement to wait. At 0930am we gave up and went to the Tourism Office, to ask about alternative transport to Abbadia. By now it was 1030am, a very helpful girl told us, that we had been waiting at the wrong bus stop!! The next bus was only at 1730pm and as a few of our group ended up feeling nauseous, our decision to get a taxi all the way to Abbadia, turned out to be a good one. We timed the journey from Gallina to Abbadia, it was 18minutes, it would have taken us 5 hours walking. So the bad news turned out for the best afterall.

Now for the good news. We finally got rid of Val's parcel which we have been nursing since before Sienna. She decided to post her fleece jacket and bathroom curtains (yes she bought curtains!) Post Restante to Roma. If you read our earlier post about my experience about doing the same thing you will know that it is something easier said than done. Well the woman in Sienna, was rude, unhelpful and quite aggresive when we told her that we didn't know the address of the Post Office in Rome. We tried again in Lucignano where they were more helpful but still no success. Finally we decided to phone Maria (Landlady in Rome) in Rome to get her street address so we could post the parcel to her appartment in Rome. Allora!! Success at last! I was so pleased for Val that I decided to post my sleeping bag and tray (yes, I bought a small hand painted tray) to myself as well. So tonight I am 1.167kg lighter. About tomorrow. The receptionist told us that Abbadia to Acquapendente is 40km. The topo map says 24km, the Guida says 31.4km, the lady at the information office said 35km and a couple in the clothing shop said between 28 and 30kms. So we are back to facing uncertain mileage and time on the road. We decided to get a bus, better luck this time to Val di Paglia about 8kms away. If it is between 30 and 40km, the longest we will have to walk is 22km - 32kms. We'll wait and see. Watch this space.

Marion: We ended up having an easy day to day. It felt rather strange to leave our backpacks at the hotel and walk into town with sandals. Whenever we stopped I kept looking to where my backpack and sticks were. As it was a leisure day, I pigged out at lunch time, even had some wine! This afternoon we found an internet cafe - we could only use one computer but we did manage to more or less catch up putting our notes on the blog. It is much cooler today, a few drops of rain. I am hoping the sun will be shining tomorrow.

Kathy: A strange day today! Really quite hard to write about events, except to say that I felt "out of sorts" so was quite pleased that it worked out the way it did and we had to arrive at our destination by "hired car" with driver. Interesting that "hired car and driver" is probably cheaper than a taxi! Other out of sort events today included cooler weather, some rain and about 4 public phones that I tried not actually working for some or another reason...roll on Friday.

Val: Very frustating day, sometimes we are forced to take transport in or out of the main town or City to avoid the highways, and toll roads, but still have to walk on roads. As we didn't walk today most of us were definitely "out of sorts". I felt like I imagine a Comrades runner must when he has to reduce his training just before the big day.

We finally managed to post my curtains today! It has been quite a mission, Sylvia accosted a "Postie" getting out of his van, to ask for the address in Rome, he was only able to give a phone number - which when phoned was an Italian version of Press 1 for postie, 2 for enquiries etc. and we couldn't understand a word.

Several post offices later we arrive at Monteroni D'Arabi - a small village. Sylvia and I go to the Post Office while the others have coffee. It is pension day and we spend the first 10 minutes in the wrong queue. They have a machine where you obtain a ticket and wait your turn - no queue hopping here. However, there is a choice of 4 buttons, 4 different tickets and 4 different queues. No one could explain the difference between thems to us. So...finally our number was up and here we go again. "I want to post a parcel to myself please"!. They really tried to help - so much so, that all eyes were on as the queue got longer and longer, by now people were having to stand outside. FInally the man behind us started to shout loudly at the lady serving us, and then banged on the window - I thought "boy is he angry" but he had the right to be. Then we realised he was telling her to phone for an ambulance because an ederly lady had collapsed. The Medics arrived within minutes and she was in good hands. We tood advantage of the distraction and crept out - still with the curtains. Finally we got the address from Maria and posted them!

FOOD: Lunch was in the only place open! San Marco. It turned out to be a lovely, homely place with Mama making us feel very welcome indeed. She had laid out a buffet (Cadauno) which included Polenta cake and "Polpettone" Meat loaf E6.50 A few of us had a bug and as this affected the food writer, shock and horror - she went to bed without supper!!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

WEDNESDAY, JULY 05:-DAY 20 Lucignano d’Ariba to San Quirico d’Orcia. 31.5km.

Kathy: Kathy was boss today ! but needed no bossing as the route was very clear ..... nearly 80% on the main Cassia (road). We had an early sart at 6 am, arriving at our destination at 14h00 after a short stop at Torrenieri for linch. Once again typical Tuscan scenery ... what a priviledge. Just for fun we weighed our backpacks today. Mine weighed in at just iver 10kg! Heaviest was R at 10.6, V at 10.1, M at 9.1 and S at 8.8. Don't know if I was surprizd or relieved - I just had to carry on with it. Water is weighty as are the fruits we carry,,,, but we need both on these long hot days. V and K are now serious tanners, and we wore strappy tops today so as to avoid the inevitable sleeve tan lines and like Iv've already reported, the Arnica is proving to be fantasti tanning oil. S and M have cut the sleeves out of their shirts so are also tanning well. I'm thinking of shortening my shorts.... the crew all laughed because they say I'll be in a bikini soon.... Kathy in a bikinin????? i don't think so....

Marion: it was great starting at 6am this morning as we had a long wayto go and it meant we could walk in the cool of the morning. We started off walking between sunflowers. It amazing when we start in the mornings we always have shade - later in teh day when it is hot we seem to have any shade. the scenery again was magnificent, but boy oh boy did we have hills. have to say my legs are getting stronger and my brething better, so managing with the hills.

Syl: Just a few words on the various maps and guides available on the VF. We bought daily stage maps called Topofrancigena and we also downloaded maps and a daily guide from the AVF website. They have both been very useful. The Topo maps give you a picture of the whole stage but no details of where to turn L or R or distances between land marks. I don’t think anyone could actually walk the Via F with only those maps. The guide - which we call our 'cryptic clues' because of the 'google' translation from Italian to English, has been invaluable in getting us through towns and directing us in places such as fileds and pastures. In Siena the guide said ' start at the Via Citta above the Campo follow a small alley to the porta Roma. Turn sharp L into the Certosa Road ... etc' These directions got us safely out of Sienna and onto the right road where we picked up the Vf signs and stickers and followed both all the way to Lucignano. The big difference is in the MILAGES given. The Topo maps said it was 19km from Sienna to Lucignano, the Guide said 23.5 to Lucignano. BY the time we walked into the plaza at Monteroni we'd done 22km. We still had to walk 3km to Lucignano. Yesterday’s stage on the Topo map said 24km from Licignano to San Quirico. Our host at the B& B said that it was 30km. 90% of the route was on a tarred road and when we arrived in San Quirico we'd walked 30.5km. Today we will walk to Abbadia to San Salvatore. The Topo map says 27km. The man who owns the Tabachi shop accross the road, who lives in Abbadia, told us that it is 32km - not 27. So our advice to other pilgrims would be; add at least 5km to the distance on the Topo maps each day. If you don't want to walk 30 plus km plan your daily stage accordingly by stopping at a place before the one given on the Topo. The maps are not always to scale so use a good road map of Italy as well to plan your daily satges. It would be well worth the time and effort to download the AVF guides as well (or copy our Google translated edition from the Yahoo VF Group website.) Becuse we have walked alsmost 50 km more than intended over the past two weeks and because of the excessive heat, we will get a bus to plus minus 10km down the road today and walk the last 22km only.

Kathy: for fellow walkers. Early int eh morning (when it is cooler) and when walking walking on a tarred road or good (smooth) dirt path we can manage about 5km an hour. This might include some small ups and downs. The more uneven and demanding because of grass, or road rubble the slowetr we are. Here we only manage 3km per hour. so it really depends ... the heatis also catching us and we believe as Durbanits we are immune to heat! the climbing up and down is also very draining. Havinf ìg the correct lilage would really help with planning.

Val. We left extra early today at the first thiong we passsed were fileds of sunflowers - all the same height, all facing the same way- we shouted 'you are all individuals'!!!!!!! then we spotted a lone sunflower, who had grown heads above the rest and we sang, ' i want to break free' (courtesy of Queen).

Food reports - lunch yuk! lunch on the run means limited choice - we had ?calzone' - described as folded pizza with mozzorello cheeze and tomato. not as we know it - think 'VET KOEK' and you will get the idea. SUPPER. we are in another 'fortified town' called San Quirico. Oh, but this is so different - the only tourists are the VF5, we are ignored and I mean that as a compliment - we are treated the same as everyone else eating and drinking. They say'go where the locals go' - we go toa bar - old men in vets and parama hats - they drink, they play cards, theyread the newspaper. I go to the bar to order a drink to order a drink, they part so I can get to the bar - local young girl pushes to the front, they 'tell her off' they say 'respect for your elders' perhaps! we laughed and chat in y limited Italian - I but MArino and his mate a drink - I have two more 'best friends'. We have noted that the carabinieri are always hanging around the bars - are they collecting their protection money? whilst talking about carabinieri (police) there are certain members of our group who are rather partial to uniforms - especailly the boots and badges - add an italian male to the equation and it starts to look pretty good - thinkAntonia Banderos type but Italian, in uniform and you get the picture! (PS they also drive Alfa Romeos). Supper: anotehr side road restuarnat, very attractive inside, but few people. Alot of restaurants were closed until mid July but we couldn't find out why. Some had salds and potatoe chips, lasagne. R and V had ricotta and spinach ravioli with sage butter. Homemade large squares (3 to a dish) with really good flavour. I was expecting a burnt butter, brown and nutty with crisp sage, but it was more like an oil pired over with 2 plain sage leaves. so the dish although tasting great looked insiped. however, just becasue the chef on BBC food uses brown butter doesn't mean its authentic, I guess? I'm still carrying the curtains, we havenàt manmaged to post them but thats another story.

Read my M and typed by K. E&OE!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

TUESDAY, JULY 04: DAY 19 Sienna To Lucignano D'ariba 26.2km

Kathy: Some reflections on our walk. Leaving Sieena-s central square this morning at 8.15 realising that we didn't have time to really explore Sienna... will have to wait for another time. Having lunch at a bar on the way and causing much mirth with our strange looks and requests. Realising that many locals don't know where they live as we had three or four variations of where the bar was situated "che e quie" Val as group leader offered to reward Marion for spotting a VF sign on a tree. The reward? An extra bottle of "tap water" or a small bar of soap taken from our last B&B! Quite relieved that Marion didn't choose either as Val had neither to offer actually. Our fit of giiggles last night in Sienna when: Val asked "Where is Kathy"? Rayna answered "Watching TV - and where was Karthy? - memororised by the washing machine going round and round and sitting watching the washing. Running out of water at about 2pm, then going off our route intoi Monteronui D'Arbia, and buying a Fanta Orange the best tasting orange there is when one is tired and hot. Feeling a little desperate and making up a new song:
This is my pilgruimage,
and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to
You would cry too
if this happened to you!
(Walking 26km instead of 19km)

SYL: We got a bus to the centre of Sienna and found the Via Citta where we started walking. It was a 2km walk to the Porta Roman "Roman Gate". Then a very pleasant ± 6km walk on a quiet tarred road - Via Certosa - through the pretty suburbs of Sienna. We stopped for a drink and thereafter we were directed onto overgrown paths and through fields and a little settlement. We were very grateful for the yellow and white VF stickers that showed us which way to turn especially when confronted by an open field with no visible path. We trust every VF sign implicitly - even if it directs us straight into a corn field which it did today. The Associazione VF Guida warned us that a path over a rail line might not always be visible, depending on the season. So today we crossed the railway line and elbowed our way through head high corn plants, because the VF sign told us to! If anyone had been watching the cornfield, all they would have seen was a rustling and four SA flags bobbing across the top of the maize plants! After 4 hours of walking, we stopped at a busy roadside cafe and had something to eat and drink- then it was back to the dirt roads. A couple more fields and some tarred road led us into Monteroni D'Ariba. After walking 23kms we were still not in Lucignano. The Topo map told us that it was 19km to Lucignano D'ìArbia. The Assoociazione Guida said that it was 20.5 to Monteroni D'Aribia which is at least 3kms before Luicignano. We were so fed up at having to walk 7kms more than we had expected that we almost took a bus from Monteroni. It must have been 40C in the shade but we decided to shoulder on to Lucignano. We asked a group of men sitting outside a bar for directions to Lucignano and after some consultation, we were directed to the Provincial road. A short while later a man in a smart., blue convertible sports car with the top down cruised along side Val and Rayna and started talking to them. They called me over to the car and the guy said something about him going to Lucignano and indictaed his free back seat. I told him very firmly but politely "No - grazie Senore – siamo pellegrini - a piedie a Roma. No mechanica." He shrugged and drove off. Half an hour later he cruised alongside us again and said something about rooms in Lucignano. I tried to tell him that we already had rooms booked, thank you. He jabbered on about rooms and apartments but I said "No GRAZIE!! " When we trudged up the hill into Lucignana and turned a corner there he was again. By now I felt like really telling him where to get off but he walked with me down the road to where our apartment was, stopped outside the address on my reservation confirmation sheet, produced a key and then got his ID book out to show me that he was in fact Senore Gracio, the owner of the apartment where we were to stay. My so called friends were hiding behind the wall while I was being followed by our suave charmer and it took a lot of hand signals and beckoning to get them to come out and give me some back up. We all felt a bit guilty but also relieved that we hadn't told him to F-off. He got us settleed in and then arranged for his wife to collect Val and Kathy and take them back to Monteronni to do some shopping at 6pm. I’m sure he didn’t want to run in with us again. I asked his wife to please apologise to her husband on our behalf but she laughed and kept saying "No problemo." We think that he had told her about 5 very stubborn, but polite South African women who thought that he was tryng to pick them up along the road. Marrion said that he probably thought we had a bloody cheek to even think that he would hit upon 5 smelly, hot, sweaty old women! (His wife looked much younger than him.)

Marion: This afternoon while we were all walking it was so very hot with hardly any shade. We were quite short of water. We were walking up a tough hill and Kathy was ahead and I could see her waiting for us at the top. In her backpack she had an orange which she had peeled and divided into 2 segments for each of us. I cannot tell you just how welcome those segments of orange were, they tasted like nectar. I took tiny bites of mine and kept them in my mouth as long as I could. Never in my wildest dreams coukld I imagine enjoying orange as much as I did those two segments. Tonight we are staying in a lovely apartment so we can spread out, do our washing and hang it all out to dry. Some of us decided, that as it is so hot we would altar our shirts and we cut off sleeves and shortened them. Syl is quite good as she sewed hems on hers - Val and I left ragged edges.

Rayna: It was a tough day in office today! They told me 19kms and we did 26 kms. So by the time we got to Monteroni I had enough! Val had us running around the village looking for the Info centre. Enough is enough! So I had a tantrum and said I was catching a bus. Val said,m "Not on my shift you dont" So guess who dragged her feet for the last flipping 3kms? Reward - a lekker shower and dinner.

Val: We hadn't intended to eat last night but,,,, we found a restaurant with a real Pizza oven where they made the pizza bases in front of us- this was first! So, we decided "to support the locals" Boost the Italian economy. We walked into a restaurant full of men! Men in groups men in pairs - we were eyed with suspicion. I assured the girls that European men do this sort of thing. Eventually a male & female couple walked in and we all relaxed. We had fantastic pizzas - not paper thin, not double crust, just light as a feather dough, lovely friendly waiter - such a contrast to Sienna - even brought a plate of anchovies to Kathy and me. We had 1/2 a lt of wine for E3.50 We have been paying more for a glass in the tourist areas. We walked back to the hostel singing. "We feel good like fat pilgrims should - we feel fine after a bottle of wine" Marion and I krept into our room trying hard not to wake Syl.
I am group leader today! We rely on Cryptic Clues and 2 different organisations maps which do not agree! Every day our distance is +5kms more than our guides - we discovered today that they are sometimes based on the Road/highway distance and not always on the VF offroad distance. Reading our guides I learned that this is a day of few signs plus lots of getting lost! Did I choose the short straw or what!? Actually, given the guides, it was a case of "don't shoot the messenger" this is an example of the directions;
"Here we continue straight downhill towards the bottom of the Valley .- pass the pit of the mouth of dogs and salt on the opposite depositer"
I thought my song today should be:
"We're on the road to nowhere
But I'll get you there!"
We have lots of photo opportunites and lots of giggles today for some reason. Whenever you see a photo of all 5 of us it most likely due to our professional photographer who sets her camera on delay and then has to "leg it" to join the team before it "Takes". We started out saying "Formaggio" (Cheese in Italian) but we looked miserable so we now say "GRAzie"!
We arrived today and found that we had a fully equipped kitchen so decided to eat in. Kathy and I offered to shop for supper - we found a really good Minestrone . croutons, fresh shavings of grand Parmesan (so cheap) followed by huge Tuna, Feat salad with bread - the bread was once again weighed and not sold per loaf - wine of the vening was from Castelplanio - a crisp white Verdicchio.
Rayna and I are going to have a bottle of really good Merlot when we reach Roma. Safe in the knowledge we do not have to walk the next day!
By the way - Italy is playing Germany tonight so the IPOD is going to bed with me, sleep tight, we miss you all.

Monday, July 03, 2006

MONDAY, JULY 03: - DAY 18 Monteriggione To Sienna 18.9km

Sylvia: Monteriggione was sleeping and deserted when we walked out of the Romea Gate at 6.30am this morning. After a few KM's of walking through fields and a lovely shady forest we turned to look back at the imposing sight of the castle enclave perched on top of the hill behind us in the distance. Ahead of us was another forest and two medieval castles - the grand, crenalated towers of Castella della Chiacciola and the Villa Castella which also includes a few other medieval builds and walls. Once we were out of the fields and vineyards, it was on the provincial roads for about 2km. We stopped at a roadside cafe bar for something to eat and drink. Our Cryptic Clue guide told us to get a bus into Sienna - not to walk on the dangerously busy road into the city. I showed our map to a local and he told us that the Ostello Gioventu (youth hostel) was only 1km further along the road. It was actually 2km but we risked the busy road, arrived safely, checked in, left our backpacks and caught a bus into Sienna. We could see why the guide warned against walking into town and we bought tickets for tomorrow and will get a bus into town before finding our way out and onto Lucignano D'Ariba. The City of Sienna covers a number of hills, is a warren of alleys and steep, narrow roads. The main square is shaped like a scallop shell - divided into 9 sections (alluding to the Council of Nine who ruled the City in the 14th Century). According to the 'blurb' on my leaflet, the black death struck this city in 1348, and this together with political strife resulted in the city declining into little more than a market town. Because of this, much of the original architecture was preserved until today. We had lunch in the 'Campo' and did some sightseeing. Tried to post Val's parcel with no success. Got the bus back to the Hostel. Sienna Hostel is large - 46 rooms and 100 beds. Val, Marion and I are in a room with a bed and a double bunk. I took the matress down from the top bunk and put it on the floor - much more comfortable. The Ostello has laundry facilities, vending machines for hot and cold drinks, sweets etc. Breakfast E1.67, overnight stay E13.94 and lunch or dinner E9.48. A bus into town cost us E.90c.

Kathy: Have decided that in her previous life, Sylvia was a Homing Pigeon. She has an extraordinary innate ability to find our route, markets, accommodation etc. etc. We have great faith that she will guide us 'home' each evening. Val, on the other hand was the genteel, informed Lady of the Manor. She knows how and where to enjoy the good things in life. Marion was the faithfully, caring companion who accompanied her waurds everywhere and ensured their comfort and wellbeing. Rayna must have been a merchant. She is the money handler and sorter out of note! And currently our big spender (next to Val). Kathy on the other hand was furry and lived outdoors. I was a mountain goat (loved the terrain, the hillier the better) plus smelly, scratched and scruffy.

Sienna is famous for its horserace (El Palio) that is staged through the centre square (Il Campo). While many Italian towns host horse races, apparently Sienna's is the best known one. In Sienna centre, we saw a number of pictures of the race and there was the same track through the square so we wondered when the race had been. Well - we had missed it by one day. The race had been on Sunday 2 July. While it must be spectacular, I'm pleased I missed it, in some way, as it appears that it is dangerous and many of the pictures showed fallen horses (Don't Like!).

Rayna: Ok, seems like I am the 'money body' - so Dave you will appreciate this one. We all pay for things (food etc.) in turns and the other four people refund you. So it goes something like this. For example; one Internet split, Kathy pays E5, Val pays E5 and Syl E4. We then all pay Kathy E1 (including Val and Syl) then we all pay Val each E1 (including Kathy and Syl) then we all pay Syl E.80c (including Kathy and Val) is this making sense? Coz this is how we shuffle our change around all the time, countless times in a day - at the end of each day, all debts are settled and we sleep comfortably - it is called the Redistribution of Wealth.

Marion: This morning we left Monteriggioni bright and early - but without much breakfast, all of the shops were closed and we had to make do with an apple and not much more. My apple was flourery, (awful), offered some to Syl and wisely she declined. We began our walk by first walking down a tarred road for a short while and then went through a cool forest and through a couple of fields before coming back to the road. We also walked through an ancient Medieval village. We do so well with our cryptic clue, sometimes they are so funny like this one - 'in the forest we turn left on a road, a very unconnected one, to the crossroads in means to the straight forest, until arriving at a dirt road that we climb. Sienna is tremendous, so much to see, unfortunately don't have time to see it all.

Val: I walked to Sienna today with Pavarotti, Domingoe and pals also Il Diva boys, it was goosebump stuff. I felt like the only person around, as if they were singing just for me - I half expencted to look across the valley, this perfect Tuscany landscape and see them on the hill - filling the valley with their splendid tones.

Back to reality, we reach Sienna. Dump our backpacks and head to the centre. Sienna is architecurally imposing - unfortunately too busy to really enjoy - many stout tourists with even bigger vocal cords. Shopkeepers and restaurnat staff act as if they are at the end of their tether with the tourist season. They lump us in with the rest.

We cannot shop so we hit the restaurant - we probably won't eat out tonight as we are 6km from the Centre so....I had a glass of Sparkling and Carpaccio Bresaola, rucola e grana (cured meat with rocket salad and paremsan E7 - delicious 'Heaven'!

The girls had Tremazzinis - which were white (very dry) bread sandwiches - not toasted as we are uased to and Kathy and Rayna two really good salads for E5.50. Tomorrow we head back into the hills and look forward to it.