Day 59: Pontremoli

Number of kilometres today: 28.7

Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,506.7

Total steps since Canterbury:  2,128,131

Today I crossed the Cisa Pass, which at 1,000 metres is a minor achievement. However, I did it in the midst of a thunder storm. Twenty minutes before it started, I stopped at a bar for a coffee and one of the old timers told me as I was leaving that it was going to rain at the pass.  I shrugged my shoulders.  "Va bene," I told him. "Ho camminare."   I have to walk.

Five minutes before the rain started, a car pulled over.

"Vuoi passaggio?" the workman inside asked.

"Non, sonno un pelligrini.  Cammino.  Grazie." I replied.

He drove away and as I continued walking, 

I watched the clouds sweep in and over the road not more than fifty metres in front of me.

  I knew I might regret rejecting his offer within minutes.

The wind whipped kermit into a frenzy.  I was sure if I held my arms out beside me parallel to the ground and took a run up that I could launch myself into the sky like a stringless kite even with the weight of The Devil on my back.

The rain started lightly before pelting down. Thunder growled and rumbled to my right. I hoped it would pas around and behind me. 

A few minutes later, I made it to the Ostello for pilgrims located just before the pass and took shelter under the meagre structure at their front gate, waiting for the rain to pass.  It poured, then eased off, poured then eased off to a light shower.  I doubted it would stop completely so I decided to put my head down and march.

The rain eased off for a while.  I was even able to take a few photos.  Then it started pouring.  The lightning started flashing around me and the thunder rattled my bones.  

I put the Two Rodneys (aka hiking poles) away because I feared they would attract the lightning to me. I saw newspaper headlines here and back home reading 'Pellegrini hit by lightning; dies on side of road.'  I hid the Two Rodneys under Kermit but wondered if that was enough. I am sure lightning has an intelligence of its own and could still find them and zap us anyway. 

I clasped my hands together at my chest in prayer but also to hug my own body warmth. I chanted over and over, "Keep me safe. Keep me safe. Keep me safe," as the rain poured down over me and dripped off my nose. 

The fog came in and I could barely see in front of me. Shame I couldn't see the bar that was twenty metres in front of the building eave I took shelter under after reaching the Pass.

Drenched from the knees down. The wind glued my soggy pant legs to my shins.  They felt like strips of ice. My feet and knees went numb.

Somehow I found all of this hilariously funny. I laughed out loud often and wondered if maybe this was now the day I could officially be deemed crazy.

I am now in Pontremoli and have a room in the Cappuccini Convent. I was greeted by two Brothers who must be in their late 80's.  They were keen to tell me the history of the Convent and the Via Francigena in Italian.  I was happy to listen as I am always happy to listen and interact with these kind people who are helping me on my way but it had been a bad day for toilet stops.  I was busting to go to the bathroom and I was the receiving the long extended version of the welcome. 

Finally one of the brothers showed me to my room.  As we walked, very, very slowly, he explained how to get in and out of the convent.  He even walked me outside to the gate but I understood little of what he said. I hoped that I would figure it out later.  I also think he may have had a few wines.  I swear I could smell the sweet fermented scent of wine on his breath as he turned to ask me again, "Dove vieni?"  From where do I come. I answered him but felt confused. We already had that conversation downstairs when I was being registered.

Tomorrow's choice is to walk the flatter and therefore easier but also shorter path through the valley to Aulla instead of waking the mule paths through the hills. I've already put in some long hard days in the Appenines that have felt more challenging than the Alps but I suspect the rain might make the paths here even more difficult and even a little dangerous. Many of them look like they have been streams in the past.  They could be streams now.

I'm 2 days and around 41 kms away from a rest break. Cinque Terre on Thursday. I'm excited and counting down.  But who knows what adventures lie between now and then.

Early morning Berceto.  Its cobble-stoned streets were covered with moss.  

Pilgrim statue.

Via Roma, Berceto


A steep rocky path.

The clouds before the storm....

The photos before the storm...

What I could see of Cisa pass...

That is a lot of rain. I was sheltering under the eave of a building when I took this....

Descending towards Gravangna San Rocco

Autostrada bridge leading into the mountain tunnel near Gravagna San Rocco...

Cow on the side of the paddock for this one...

Looking back at Gravangna San lunchtime view.  I sat on the side of the road on a safety barrier...


First view of Pontermoli...

Entering the old town of Pontremoli