Yesterday we met Alina in the hostel. We had run into her mother in Siena where the two of them had met to celebrate the mom’s birthday. Since she was I’ll, we finally caught up. This morning Jesper, Alina and is make our way back onto the road. I’m loving it! Yes, indeed. I’m enjoying the walk so very much. It’s amazing. The views are spectacular since we are above the fog which covers the landscape like a mystery world.
The clouds were already suggesting what we didn’t want to admit… Rain! It starts slowly so we get the chance to put our rain gear on. I’m so very happy I got myself a new poncho without holes. It’s perfect. However, the rain increases and turns into such heavy rain that the water runs down my legs and into my shoes. We’re trying to find cover but there’s no place to hide. Therefore, after seven great kilometres, the next three I walk in puddles inside my own shoes. When reaching a bar, first I get changed. I’m cold. And the skies are too wet to walk on. Blister alert! We are told there is a bus from there to Acquapendente at a quarter to twelve, so we wait. At twenty past, it actually arrives.
“Acqua pendente” means “falling water” and refers to the many waterfalls in the area. I guess, for me, it has a different meaning from now on. It’s a nice little town though. With shelter for the night.
Due to all the rain and the paths through the woods being really muddy, we take the cycling path from Villafranca to Aulla. It’s like being in the rain forest. Including humid air, light rain and horse flies. We even encounter a wild hog. Very glad it stayed hidden in the trees after making some frightening noises…
The sky stays grey the whole time, but it doesn’t rain too badly. In the next village Barbarasco we even take off the rain gear. Through Terrarossa we make it to Aulla. We considered staying here but it’s only around eleven when we get there. So we get a stamp in the abbey which is also the pilgrims hostel and try to figure out what to do next. The very nice, very modern Italian priest gives me a coffee and biscuits and sits down with us. He advises us not to take the path through the woods because although it’s doable it would be very hard. The little road has been blocked by mud coming down the hills he says. So our only option is the national road. It’s not too bad as it only has two lanes and the cars aren’t going too fast. The sky has cleared up, the sun is shining. We have lunch and wait for traffic to slow down and on we march. It’s strenuous. And eight kilometres before our goal we give up. After buying some new things at Decathlon, we make our way to the train. It takes EIGHT MINUTES to get to Sarzana. We would have walked another two hours… Arriving, we run into the Italians again. Some of them took the hiking trail and jumped onto a bus eventually. Jesper and I have a look around tone and then a very nice dinner. Afterwards we have some beers with the five Italians in the backyard of the church we’re staying at. It’s a great evening and I can use my two Italian sentences I learned with my app so far. Then I mostly speak English…
Today it rained. That’s really all I have to say. The thing with rain on a pilgrimage/hike is that not only are you getting very wet (which s***s) but you also kind of constantly look down. I bought a rain poncho and I’m very happy about that decision. However, the quality isn’t great so it ripped in two places. But even without those wholes you’re wet. Your face, your legs, most of all your shoes. Rain is dripping down the hood…. It’s simply very enjoyable! As you can imagine.
When we left Pontremoli this morning, the Canadians were already gone and we were yet to make the decision if we wanted to do a 34 kilometre tour or not. Well, with all the water… Anyway. It was still ok when we started walking and we followed some beautiful paths and little villages (all extra kilometres but for once we didn’t mind). When it started raining the fun stopped. A group of Italian pilgrims we had bumped into a couple of days ago in Cassio and who had stayed at the same places every night since, walked past us. Apparently our detours slowed us down a lot. We saw that they were walking down the road now and made the choice to follow suit. It was wet and busy with cars. Unpleasant! But a little shorter. When we reached Villafranca we really only wanted to stay there. It took us over an hour to search for a place to sleep. Finally we found the “parrocchia” which turned out to be a hotel. The owner gave us a pilgrim’a discount which I’m sure is the normal price! We took the room anyway. After a nap and having put out the shoes for drying, we went for a tour around town since it stopped raining for a moment. Stocked up on food for tomorrow, we are now ready to have a pizza dinner (which we didn’t get yesterday. Everything seemed to be closed so we ended up having our own food on the convents roof terrace with a view over Pontremoli, which was quite cool.) We are gearing up for a long walk of 34 kilometres tomorrow. This part of the Via Francigena is a bit nasty since eventually we’ll have to do a long tour of over 30k. I personally think between 20 and 25 is enough. We decided it’s better to do this march without your skin being wet. So I’m holding my thumbs for tomorrow… Send out a prayer (or other note) for us, if you feel like it 🙂