The purpose of this journal is to give a true and proper reflection of my progress along the St. Francis Trail, which means that I have responsibility to anyone reading this, to be as honest as I can be, good, bad or ugly. Yesterday was, for instance, not such a good day, at least not from a performance perspective.
I have to admit that I am a terrible packer and therein lies the rub. It is not that I don’t pack the items efficiently into whatever carrying device I have chosen for the journey in question – I just take too much stuff and often the wrong stuff as well. This time it has proved my undoing and I spent all of yesterday beating myself up over my stupidity in not taking enough time and care when packing my backpack and not heeding any of the lessons from previous walks. That is, when I wasn’t bent over in pain from the muscle in my left mid-back, which had been elected spokes-muscle for the rest of my constitution, tasked with delivering the message that, ITHO, we were carrying far too much weight and that we were going to go on strike unless significant steps were take to rectify the situation.
I probably managed to walk no more than 10-15 minutes at a stretch before having to sit and rest the muscle, taking almost every opportunity, be it a wall or a bank or a fallen tree (of which there many), to take the weight off my shoulders if only for a few seconds.
The consequence of all this was threefold: firstly, I didn’t really enjoy what was an almost perfect day’s walking in the sunshine through woods and along and through streams full from the last days of rain; secondly, my progress (19 km in just under 6 hours) was laughably slow (if I keep up this pace I wont even make it to Assisi in time) and thirdly, my head was completely occupato with either my pain or with lashing myself for my stupidity that I couldn’t concentrate on anything else or on nothing at all. Pain does that to you. In fact what I did do which was at least marginally productive was to go through my entire pack, item by item, and sort it into three categories of 1. Necessary, 2. Nice to have and 3. Stupid. I resolved to divest myself of all of 3. and most of 2. at the next stop in Stia. Which is what I am going to do in the morning when the post office opens and I have found a box suitable for sending my surplus stuff back home again.
Note to myself: You don’t need to schlepp your Macbook Air plus cable (1,5 kg) 500kms just to write your daily post. An iPad with keyboard or (as I am discovering as I write this) an iPhone 6+ will do the job just as well at a fraction of the pack-weight. Nor do you need a power pack (500g). Nor do you need a guide book (Kindle version will do) nor a moleskine notebook (250g each) or about half of the extra clothes and some of the generally sensible, but not really necessary kit in Italy in late spring (rain trousers, gloves, woolly hat), all which add bulk and weight and in aggregate, contribute about 4-5 kgs to overall pack-weight.
Today’s stage contains another 800 m of elevation in one almost vertical pull, so I will report at the end of the day, as to my success or otherwise in appeasing the demands of my striking muscles and restoring a modicum of my previous performance, whilst managing to enjoy the process as well.
A quick word on Stia, the small mountain town in which I find myself. It is charming, nestled as it is on what appears to be a conflux of the Arno river and a smaller tributary and was – as all Italian towns are wont to be – between 1230 and 1600 hours, entirely deserted. Also on Mondays all the restaurants were closed, bar one, which happened to be the bar/café where I had treated myself to an emergency ice-cream and tea on my arrival. I ate a delightful dinner of tagliatelle con ragu di cingale (two plates full, for which I was awarded ‘man of the match’ status by the proprietress) and then walked home, partially restored, to bed.
On my way back to the Albergo, I passed a pretty piazza, with an enormous statue of what appeared to be a gigantic prawn placed in its centre. That image and its sheer incongruity, here up in the hills, about as far from prawn habitat as it is possible to get, had my mind reeling, as I attempted to understand the possible processes and civic line of questioning, to which ‘a gigantic prawn’ was the inevitable answer.
I tried to imagine the council meeting at which the subject was first broached: “Item 6. Suggestions for a statue or art work to adorn the newly restored Piazza de G. Manzi” and the stony silence with which the young councillor’s suggestion of: “I know, let’s put up a giant prawn” might have been greeted. Or the unveiling ceremony at which the mayor was forced to explain to his eagerly attendant citizenry that after many months of deliberation and consultation with all groups in the town community it had been decided that this “langusto gigantico” would in future rise resplendent in the town’s central square. It doesn’t bear thinking about, lovely though the prawn is. If I manage to unearth any further details during the course of the next 24 hours, I will report back.