Day 61: Sarzana then a detour to Cinque Terre

Number of kilometres today: 16.6

Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,548.0

Total steps since Canterbury:  2,145,985

Number of kilometres to Rome: 507

Today I feel victorious. For me, this was probably the most challenging section of the trail so far or at least a tie with the section between Martigny and Orsieres.  The guidebook describes it as a "rugged segment over the final ridge."  At times it was rugged on steroids.  Narrow mule tracks. Broken surfaces.  Loose rocks. Covered in wet soggy leaves.  Slippery. Deep crevices from where water has streamed. Overgrown with blackberries that latched on to me at every opportunity.  Three hours of climbing up and up only occasionally flattening out.  Then two hours of climbing down a path that that sometimes threatened to sweep my feet from under me.

It took me just over 5.5 hours to walk the 16.6 kilometres.  That's an average of 3 kilometres per hour compared to the 4 kilometres per hour I normally average. It took me almost three hours to climb the first 8 kilometres up to the ridge.  I paused often to catch my breath.  I kept my head down.  I had to concentrate on where I put my feet because of all the loose rocks or risk loosing my footing. I almost did a few times.

But it was so worth it. Climbs are always rewarded with views.  The fog covered valley. Hilll top villages. The first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea. 

When I arrived in Sarzana, I walked straight to the train station and almost straight onto a train to La  Spezia and then to Manarola where I am staying for the next three nights. A little holiday from walking and the Via Francigena and using the opportunity to visit Cinque Terre which has long been on my to see list.

I have my own studio apartment with a view to the sea.  I have a kitchenette which means I can cook my own dinner.  I have sat by the sea listening to its waves lap against the rocky coast line.  I have watched it swallow the rosy sun whole.  Except for my throbbing heels, a reminder of all the kilometres they have supported me so far, II feel restored already.  I can live my life away from the sea but every time I come back to her, I realise just how much I have missed her and how healing she is in my life.  And I never want to leave.

I hope these next two days pass slowly.  I have no intention of hiking the trails around the Cinque Terre.  I may stroll some of the village paths.  Cath the ferry and see the shoreline from the sea.  I am here to rest and restore my energy not levels not to see it all. My favourite way to experience a place is to be in a place and that is exactly what I will do.

I have just over 500 kilometres left to walk to Rome.  I have walked three quarters of the Via Francigena.  I live and breath this path every day.  I wake. I walk. Over and over again..  It is only when I step back for a minute and look at what I am doing through the eyes of a stranger that I see how incredible it is and how incredible I am.  Every day I witness my own grit and determination whilst  surrendering to what I cannot control.  Strength and vulnerabilty.  The two swords of power.  I am just starting to really know my own.

View of Aulla from the bridge

Then it was straight into climbing hills above the fog

Climbing was rewarded with this view!

Here's some of the paths although they never seem to look quite as bad in photos...

This little guy was as curious about me as I was him...

I passed my first Olive grove! I'm in Tuscany now.

There were hilltop villages. This is Bibola.

I crossed the ridge and got my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea and almost started running down that hill ;)

I walked through this village. Ponzano Superiore.

And in Sarzana I didn't bother to stop and take any photos. I got straight on a train and came here to Manarola

And watched the sunset. Happy :)