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Hello and welcome to my blog formerly called Gypsy-K. Please note that I am only updating this blog while I am walking from Rome to Jerusalem from September 2015. My online home and permanent blog is at You can also sign up for pilgrim postcards and newsletters here. Thank you for being here and supporting my journey. With love and courage, Kym xx

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A Very Long Walk Under The Tuscan Sun – Part 3

Now that my tears are shed and dried, I accept the situation as it is. I have walked a long way away from the Via Francigena trail and I have to walk back to where I saw the last sign. This is at least 45 minutes back along a gravel, country road that has already seen the soles of my feet.  I am hot, tired and my swollen right toe is throbbing fiercely, begging me to stop and rest. But I ignore it. I need to become un-lost. Once I have found my way, I will stop for a while and eat the sun-warmed prosciutto and pecorino panini I packed in my bag before leaving Sienna. This is the third time I have been lost today of all days with 29 kilometres to walk. And not only have I been lost, three times, but I have narrowly escaped being bitten by a big white dog protecting its territory, an Agriturismo, that I was passing through on the trail. My pants weren’t so lucky, bearing the puncture marks intended for my calf.

I hear a car approaching from behind me. “Maybe I should flag it down and ask for directions or at least a lift back?” But as soon as I have the thought, I hear the voices of my elders telling little Kymmie, “Never accept a lift from strangers, you don’t know who you can trust.” And then my own voice kicks back in “Do you really want to give in just yet?” Instead, I let the car speed past me, covering me in yet another layer of dust and I continue to trudge along the road as the car disappears into the distance.

As the pain in my toe increases along with my fatigue, I finally accept my physical condition and decide to walk only to the nearest town and then get a taxi the rest of the way to Murlo. After all, this was the agreement with the agency who organised my trek for me when I discovered that Murlo was not officially on the Via Francigena and that my guide book did not provide directions to walk there. After days of walking alone, getting lost and finding my way, I thought that I could just do it and find my way there. I even bought a huge detailed map to show me all the roads in detail only to discover that a map is no use if you don’t know where on the map you are. I can still see a town to my left, the one that I think the Via Francigena passes through. I just need to find the road that leads there and then find a taxi.

I hear the rumble of a car engine approaching in the distance and brace myself for another coating of dust. The car, is actually a van, a white Volkswagen work van. As it approaches, it slows down and then comes to a complete stop next to me. Peering into the open window, I see two familiar faces, the two builders who helped me earlier in the day when I was lost for the second time.

“Ciao” I greet them cheerfully, happy to see their familiar faces in the middle of this country road. The probability of running into them again, yet alone here is so low it should be non-existent but here they are. I send up a grateful prayer for the divine grace that has sent them here.

“I’m lost again” I tell them shrugging with my palms facing upwards. “I am meant to be walking to Merlo.” I act out walking using my index and middle finger of my right hand, “but the Via Francigena doesn’t go there and I lost the signs back that way” I point in the direction that I am walking. “So I am walking back to find the signs again.” I try to speak slowly, hoping they can understand some of the many English words I am speaking.

The short bald headed man sitting in the drivers seat closest to me scratches his head and then gets out of the car. He takes my guidebook from me once again which we look at the together. I run my finger over the red line that marks the Via Francigena.
“Via Francigena?” he asks.
“Yes” I reply. “I think it is back this way.” I point in the direction I was walking. “Maybe 45 minutes walk. I need to turn but can’t find the road.” I point to my left showing the direction I believe I need to turn to stay on the trail. “But I really need to get to Merlo. That’s where my hotel is tonight. It’s not on the Via Francigena. I was going to walk to Quinciano but now I just want to get to any town where I can find a taxi.”
“Taxi, hmmm” the man says then turns and speaks Italian to his curly haired friend in the car. I don’t understand what is spoken but I get the idea that it might be hard to find a taxi. I may have to keep walking.

“Where does this road go?” I ask the man pointing in the direction I was originally walking.
“That way, Radi” he tells me and then points to it on the map.
“Wow, I really am a long way off the Via Francigena” I tell him. Radi is half the length of my index finger from the red Via Francigena trail.
He talks to his friend and then starts talking to me in Italian. I don’t understand what they are saying but I think he is saying that they can give me a ride.

“Wait, wait,” I tell him. “I call someone who speaks Italian.” I call Amore and explain the situation and hand my phone over to the bald-headed man. I don’t understand most of what he says to Amore. His Italian words spoken quickly, roll into each other but there is one exception. “Merlo?” he asks Amore as he tries to understand where I’m going. And then the penny drops. “Murlo!” he exclaims. The word purs out of his mouth, sounding like a cow’s ‘moo’ with a trilling ‘rrrr’ rolled together. I had been pronouncing the name of the town the Australian way. ‘Url’ as in curl or hurl. They talk some more and then he hands the phone back to me
“They can drive you to the next town” Amore tells me. “It’s up to you. Then maybe you can get a taxi.”

I hesitate. I really want to complete all of the walk, on foot but my toe throbs a little harder to convince me to accept the ride. I have no doubt that I could ignore the pain and continue walking but what is the point if I am in too much pain to enjoy the destination. I sigh in resignation.
“Ok,” I tell Amore. “I’ll accept the ride.” I hang up.

The bald-headed man looks at me. “Merlo,” he says and starts laughing. His friend joins in. “Murlo is that way” he points in the direction I was originally walking. Then he shows me on my map.
“So this road goes to Moo-rrrrr-lo?” I ask attempting to roll my ‘moo’ and ‘rrr’ together to pronounce the name correctly but it comes out sounding really awkward.
“Si,” he nods. He gestures to the van to confirm if I wanted a ride.
“Si, si, grazie” I nod and walk towards the passenger door of the car. They have already booted the young man who appears to be their apprentice, out of the main cabin and into the back of the van with the tools.

I climb into the cabin, seated between the two men, a little unsure of exactly where we are going but confident that it will be closer to where I want to be.
The bald-headed man starts chuckling again. “Merlo.” And they both start laughing.
“Moo-rrrrr-lo” I try and say it correctly again. It still sounds awkward. I laugh.

They ask me my name. “Kym,” I tell them. “Kym” they respond slowly as if to practice pronouncing my name. “Si, Kym,” I confirm.
“Ti chiamo?” I ask the bald headed man, wondering why I can never remember my basic Italian lessons when I need to.
“Luigi” he tells me.
“E te?” I ask the curly haired man.
“Angelo,” he responds.
“Where from?” they ask me.
“Ahhh, Bella Australiana,” I hear them say amongst other words I don’t understand. They laugh. I laugh.

The van bounces up and down along the gravel road to Murlo.
“You from Murlo?” I ask. Luigi tells me no and where they are from in Italian, gesturing to the distant left with a wave of his left hand. I don’t understand but I nod and smile.

We pass a road sign showing the names of towns. In the middle, it shows “Murlo 9.” I was close.
“Merlo,” Luigi points and laughs. We all laugh.

Luigi points at the small compass I have tied to my dive computer watch with a hair band. I bought it from a sailing shop in Greenwich, London when I realised my walk was more complicated than I expected. It wobbles around after he flicks it. Him and Angelo start laughing. I join in. “Lo so, lo so,” I tell them nodding my understanding of the joke. I know, it didn’t help me much today. “Ma ieri, si!” I tell them it helped me yesterday. They keep laughing.

We turn onto a bitumen road and stop bouncing around in the cabin. Within a few minutes, Luigi pulls the van over to the side of the road just before it splits in two different directions. Angelo opens the door and gets out to let me out.
“Bosca Della Spina, 50 metres” he points to our right. Within fifteen minutes of them finding me lost in the middle of an Italian country road, I am a very happy 50 metres from my hotel and it is still early in the day, just after 1.30pm.

“Grazie, grazie, grazie, grazie. Molto, molto grazie.” I place my hands together near my heart as I use the only Italian I can think of to convey how grateful I am that they have saved me from a further three hours or more of walking. They laugh and drive off calling out “Ciao, ciao, Bella Australiana.” Smiling, I wave at them and then put my backpack on one last time and start walking towards my hotel. Raising my eyes to the heavens, I pray. “Please, please let my room have a bath tub.”

Looking for a sign

Relaxing in Murlo, no bath tub but a beautiful view

My big toe, 2.5 weeks later

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