Number of kilometres today: 19.5
Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,961.2
Total steps since Canterbury: 2,731,489
Number of kilometres to Rome: 65.5
Today we walked through more pretty autumn woodlands, hazel nut groves and through the beautiful old town of Capranica. The Via Francigena signs were a little obscure and sometimes non-existent through the hazel nut groves. We walked 500 metres in the wrong direction and had to turn around. Fortunately we had our maps to help us find our way and as today is a short walk day the extra distance didn't really matter.
It started off sunny. Then it rained with a little hail. Then the sun came back out again. And of course it started raining again within minutes of me taking The Kermit off. It always does. My face is glowing rosy red over my bronze tan. Part sunburn. Part red wine. Part gloriously full stomach from a three course lunch in a warm and cozy tavern and given pilgrim price.
We have now checked into our accommodation for the night courtesy of the Carmellite nuns at Monastereo di Santissima Concezione where contrary to other reports I have read we were warmly welcomed. The nun that tended to us stayed behind the wooden grill of her office and we passed our passports, pilgrim credentials and payment through a "lazy susan" type rotunda and she sent them back with the key to our accommodation next door to the church. She was bright, sweet and helpful.
Our rooms are clean and simple but have no heating. It's not that it's not turned on, there are no heaters in the rooms here. Fortunately the bathroom has a hot water unit although 90 minutes later I am still waiting for it to heat fully so I can shower. Winter is embracing Italy and snow is forecast at 400 metres. We are currently at an altitude of 310 metres. It is going to be a cold night. I am glad that I have carried my fold up spare water bottle in my "well-equipped" backpack. I have used it more often as a hot water bottle than for drinking water. I will sleep warmly tonight.
I have also opted to have a room to myelf again. Last night I reflected on why I have been feeling so wiped out and unable to walk more than 18 kilometres the last two days. There are a number of factors We have walked a few long distance days. My backpack is five kilos too heavy. I really did overpack. I have mixed emotions about the pending conclusion of this journey that is quickly approaching. I am fighting off a cold again as I have repeatedly over the last four weeks or so. But also because I am an introvert who has been in the company of others for 6 days with very little time alone. We walk together, separately but often in close proximity. We eat together. We sleep in the same dorm rooms. I have had no time or space to myself except when I shower or sleep. I love company but I need time to myself to regenerate and in the excitement of being around others after so long alone I forgot this about myself.
Last night I was able to retire to my own room at the monastery. It was compulsory that I had my own room as the nuns don't allow people of different genders to sleep in the same room unless married. I had time alone. I returned to my journal. I read a little. I hung out with me. This morning I returned to my meditation and journal practices that I stopped after meeting the guys. I am still tired but I am feeling more alive and revived.
We are three days from Rome. Tomorrow we walk 23 kilometres to Campagno di Roma. Saturday 25 kilometres to La Storta. Sunday the last 16 kilometres into Rome. (Assuming that we don't freeze to death over night.)
It feels so surreal that we are almost there. Simultaneously it feels like last week but also a lifetime ago that I set off from Canterbury. When I left, I thought I knew what to expect. In reality, I had very little idea. This journey has surpassed anything I could have dreamed of in terms of its wonders and its challenges. I have surpassed my own ideas of myself. I am so much more than who I thought I was.
I am feeling sad that the journey is ending but that is one of the things about me, always wanting to cling to what has been good in the past. I have had 76 days of moving from place to place, the path always taking me forward with only moments to touch down and be in one place. Those moments pass too. I have tried my best to be present in them all. Even the mud but honestly I am really happy to let the muddy moments go.
So although I am feeling a little sad, I am feeling victorious and accomplished and want to march into Rome radiating all the joy and gratitude I have in my heart for this pilgrimage experience and for my life. Blessed, blessed, blessed.
Beautiful morning light and some mud.
Paulius walking through woodlands
Sunlit woodlands are even prettier just this photo doesn't do it justice
A five minute rest break after an hours walk near a hazel nut grove
Hazel nut groves and woodlands
The vines are dying so beautifully
Door in Capranica
Another door in Capranica
Dog and cat in Capranica
Leaving Capranica, Paulius and Peter waiting for me like usual
Up the hill past stunning autumn trees
Capranica in the background
Capranica through rock cutting as we leave it behind
My room tonight