After yesterday’s travails, it had become imperative to divest myself of some of the surplus weight and unnecessary kit, that had made the previous first two days such heavy and painful going. So, as I wrote yesterday, my first task of the day was to lay out all my equipment, clothing and electronics and sort them into appropriate piles. Then having made the selection – the ‘no’ pile being embarassingly large – the hunt began for a suitable scatola or box, which I could make up into a pacchia di poste and then dispatch back off to Ireland, before resuming my trail.
My landlady was mildly helpful, although I suspect it was her workhorse daughter-in-law who actually went out and rummaged for a box that seemed fit for purpose and soon my package was packed and only required taping up and sending on its way. For anyone reading this, who is keen to experience a sense of timelessness, of a universal space in which time has no meaning, I can highly recommend a visit to an italian country post office with a task a little more complex that sending a letter.
The process of weighing, addressing, preparing, choosing the best form of dispatch, of registering and of paying was the work of at least an hour and evidently such an exciting task that it required the full attention of both (charming) women in the post office over a period that, given their meagre opening hours, consumed the best part of their working day and was evidently so challenging, that they had to send out for a supply of cappuccino to the local bar about half way through. Our greatest challenge came about 30 minutes into play, after the coffee had arrived and we were ready to enter the details of my registered express parcel into the computer system.
The concept of a non-italian wanting to send a parcel abroad seems not to have occurred to the architects of this system. Or at least, that a person not in possession of an italian ‘codice fiscale’, which I quickly learned is an italian tax ID number, would ever want to send a registered parcel abroad, was deemed to be out of the question. My suggestion that we just make one up, was greeted with interest and a certain admiration, but elicited the wry comment from one of the ladies on Team Pacchia Irlanda, that the system would know and that we would have to find another way. Several telephone calls – presumably to superiors in Rome – later and 20 minutes in which both ladies were inexplicably hacking my personal details into an app on their iphone, they cracked the enigma and generated a codice fiscale for me, or at least for my parcel, at which point they awarded themselves a round of applause and were joined by the two elderly customers in the queue behind me, for whom, self-evidently, this was the most exciting event of the yet young week.
The best part of the process was when Teresa (my primary carer) asked me to choose between two options, in case the parcel should prove to be undeliverable. Option one was ‘return the parcel to you at your own expense’ and Option 2 was ‘Destroy the parcel’. I chose Option one, of course, knowing that the only way of ‘returning’ the parcel to me was by delivering it the address that had previously proven undeliverable. The irony of this Catch 22 was entirely lost on Teresa, who, with the aid of a few judiciously placed arrows drawn in biro on the form, connected option one with my irish address, to make absolutely sure that even the most stupido postal employee, knew what was expected of him. I wonder whether I will ever see my parcel again?
5,25kg was the weight of the package when it finally left my hands, of which no more than 150gs was accounted for by the box itself. So that was 5,1kgs of stuff I could and ahould have left at home (idiot) and – more importantly – 5,1 kgs that I would not have to be schlepping over hill and dale for the next three weeks.
And so at 1000, on a perfect morning, having treated myself to a celebratory pannino and a tea, I shouldered my now featherweight pack and set off for the hills. My day’s walk was a long uphill pull over the top of the mountain directly behind Stia to the Eremo Camoldoldi, the first of the fransiscan Abbeys on the trail, and then on to the village of Camoldoldi below.
The stage profile showed an unrelenting climb from around 400 em to 1200 em befor dropping back somewhat on the descent to the village from the Eremo. Relieved of my extra weight, I almost flew up the hill, my back pains miraculously vanished, and enjoyed a fabulous, near-perfect day’s trail walking through poppy-filled filled fields, oak woods, grassy footpaths lined with needle furze, awash in yellow flower, past ruined miniature castles and huts, over rushing streams, full from the previous weeks rain. My tea break – with crostata from the village bakery, fresh that morning and still warm when I opened it – was taken sitting on a rock in a shady spot above a rushing waterfall, with the sound of a cuckoo calling in the woods below.
My garmin told me that this was the last point before the long steep climb up the hill began in earnest. Consequently my next break for lunch – fresh pecorino, parma, a tomato that bore no relation to the perfect rounded engineered dutch variety usually available at home, and a focaccia – was taken at the 1.000 em mark, at the last open space before the trail disappeared back in to the woods, affording me sensational and awe-inspiring views of the valley, into which I had emerged only yesterday with the town of Stia nestled below at the western most end directly below me.
And then on and up to the Sacro Eremo, finally warming my face in the sun, whilst sitting on a log bench in front of the Abbey and drinking a fresh tea from the little espresso bar, which no italian institution, be it never so small, is allowed operate without.
A charming hotel, I Tre Baroni, with an excellent little bar, providing me with the best ice-cream on the trail so far, provided my stopping point for the day and given the speed with which I had executed the walk today, afforded me an easy late afternoon in which to dry and clean my kit, catch up with some reading and not have to worry too much about the rest of the world as the only thing Camoldoldi does not have is mobile reception or a Wifi connection that works reliably.