Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back from Italy - Hiking trumps paddling

I have to make sure I remember how to do this blogging thing after two weeks. One Euro per half hour wireless access, a technical inability to figure out uploads on my Iphone, and just plain too much fun put blogging on the back burner. We did notice as we flew back that the sea ice on the south end of Greenland is breaking up, lots of ice bergs are floating around, and the inland lakes have thawed out somewhere north of Lake Ontario.

We tried to rent kayaks in Cinque Terra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the Ligurian Sea but apparently we preceded the season. The ocean was plenty warm to wade in and every one of the 4 cities we hiked to had kayaks stashed under bridges or along harbors, but no one around to rent them. After a couple of cryptic emails back and forth with a couple of outfitters we gave up and decided to hike the beautiful rugged trails. We were told that they were closed however, and that there was also a one day train strike so riding the local train was out. Apparently the wet winter had caused a few slides along the steep trails and they hadn't gotten them fixed yet. We decided to give them a try anyway and turn back when we hit the blockage. We had seen landslides from the ferry that we had taken to a couple southern villages in the group and were prepared for a little out and back hike.

Spectacular does not do justice to the views from the trails. Rather than wasting time babbling about them, you can just look at the images. Sea views, terraced hillsides, narrow and treacherous paths that would cause ADA proponents to lobby Congress, and the fresh sea breeze off the ocean made for a fine hike.

After a couple kilometers we hit the heavily labeled yet rickety closed gate. These are pay trails and the people at the ends of the trail must have been showing solidarity with the striking rail workers since not a soul was around. The trail crews apparently were one with the rail folks too, because we passed a number of untouched piles of construction materials. As we debated whether to squeeze through the gate or not, a very weak debate considering the usually practical VOR, former legal eagle GreenThumbChef, and a guy who would enforce gratuitous gate crashing violations, RangerMark, were all in favor of pressing on. Our decision was made easier when we saw people approaching from the other direction. We compared notes and determined that the trail was perfectly passable in both directions. It was kind of like the driving of the Golden Spike on the Vernazza to Monterosso trails. So we hiked on, over and around more piles of untouched construction material, and reached Monterosso just in time for a wonderful lunch and a couple liters of vino de casa, the ubiquitous house wine that all of the little cafes, osteria, and trattoria had.
There had been concern about how we would get back and I was prepared to bribe an Italian driver for a lift but the ferry workers were not showing solidarity with their railway brothers (this was a Friday strike by the way, kind of a long weekend without pay for the train folks) and we took the 30 minute boat ride back. There was a fellow selling birra on the ferry so I invested in a bottle and decided that Italian birra was OK as was our little slightly illicit adventure hike up the coast.

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