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The Group


Day 15: August 11th 1999 (Cinque Terre, Italy).

Up at 6:30 to Join Bill in a 5-town hike.  No provided breakfast this morning – we’re on our own today.  Cats scurried across the rooftops in the morning light.  The sea, faithfully, was still crashing.

Bill and I took a train to Monterosso, the most northerly town, to start the hike.  There I had cappuccino, a croissant and a doughnut for breakfast.  I needed my caffeine and carbohydrates, but Bill only had an apple.  We were obviously in a tourist town, with hundreds of beach umbrellas up for the eventual crowds later that day.  The sun had yet to peek over the hills, but you could tell it was going to be a gorgeous day.  It was good we were beating the heat by starting early on the hardest part of the hike.

We started the hike to Vernazza at 8:30, up a very steep hill with lots of steps.  It turned out there would be 4 more such hills, and we were drenched in sweat in no time at all.  I complained to Bill in front of me that he was making the trail slippery he was dripping so much.  The path often dangerously narrowed to less than 2 feet in width with a prickly vine-entangled drop-off to the right.  We seemed to be following old vineyard trails over the hills, and we saw suspended rails where little grape harvesting trains would traverse like mini Disney monorails.  The views were beautiful, and we felt isolated from civilization as we trekked south, only meeting a couple of people on our way.  As we topped the last hill, Vernazza appeared before us like a jewel on the sea.

The trail from Vernazza to Corniglia was also hilly, but not as treacherous.  We passed a beach way below, and we later found out that this was a nude beach.  Not much to see from so far up, however.

Once we reached Corniglia we started preparing for the eclipse.  I poked a hole through the cover of my tour guide with a safety pin, thereby creating a pin hole camera to safely view the sun.  Bill had a pair of glasses made of aluminized mylar that he purchased in Florence so he could directly view the phenomena.  He let me look through them from time to time.

As we walked the path to Manarola (which was now becoming an easy trek) the sky became dimmer and the day became thankfully cooler.  It took an hour for the sun to be mostly covered up by the moon (85% total).  The shadows became fuzzy and pixelated in little crescent-shaped dots.  As we reached Manarola the eclipse peaked.  I took a picture through Bill’s glasses of the crescent.

The walk from Manarola to Riomaggiore was more of a stroll than a hike (but it did go through a tunnel of love).  We ran into the Mazzonis in Riomaggiore, and they informed us that they were hiking north.  We wished them good luck now that the day was heating up again, and ate lunch of panini with cheese and mushrooms.  We returned via train to Vernazza (I stuck my head out the window in the tunnels) and I did some wash and then took a siesta until dinner.

Dinner was at the castle in Vernazza.  It had a wonderful view into town and onto the outer rocks where people swam, relying on the swells to bring them up to shore.  Dinner was cheese lasagna, anchovies (not the pickled American kind), and chocolate cake for dessert.  We also got all the local wine we could drink, and I drank a lot.  It was good.

After dinner Jean and I talked while the servers cleared the tables.  The conversation lasted long and full of wine, and eventually we talked about the future.  Where do we go from here, and how do we define our lives?  Do I belong behind a desk, or should I instead be somewhere where there are always waves crashing and wine to drink?  Jean had almost convinced me to join the tour profession, but I was saved (or cursed, I think) by the restaurant closing.  I was so tipsy I forgot my camera – luckily Jean picked it up for me.  No driving for me tonight.  Did I tell you that the wine was very good?

I walked down to the bar again to join Don, Cindy and Carol Dike.  More alcohol (beer this time) and Don asked me if I wanted a cigarette.  What the hell, I said “sure.”  I explained to Carol and Cindy that I have one every year or so because sometimes giving in to enjoyment is more important than health.  Don retired two beers later than he had wanted to.

Cindy, carol, and I lay down on the rocks by the sea and watched the stars.  So many stars they could not be counted.  There were also many shooting stars that night (Perseid meteor showers, perhaps?).  I was happy to stay there forever, but it was getting late and we needed to get up very early tomorrow.  I think we retired at about 1 AM, but I’m not sure.  Moments after I arrived in my room, rain started pouring outside.  Thanks, Mother Nature, once again.

I slept well.


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Last updated 11/12/2005 .  Email me at bob@besttravelbarcelona.com.