I celebrated my two month anniversary of this journey with a rest break in a beautiful part of the world. Manarola and my studio apartment here were the absolute right choices for me to stay and restore. Manarola is not as big as the other towns and my apartment is up the hill towards the back of the village so it is quiet but it still has a view of the sea. I tried the tourist thing yesterday and discovered again what I already knew, that it just isn't me. Vernazza and Monterosso were crowded with tourists and the trains and their delays were just frustrating. I didn't really enjoy it. Today I thought I would walk the Via della Amore path to Romiaggiore and discovered it was closed for restoration. I contemplated taking the train for all of minute and quickly canned that idea. What I really wanted after so two months of continuous movement was stillness. It means I haven"t seen all off the five towns but I don't care. I prefer to have a deep experience of one place than to rush to see it all on the surface.
I took myself out for a long slow lunch. Acciugghe fritte (fried anchovies). Spaghetti alle vongole (clams). A large glass of the local white wine. I sat by the see and dipped my feet in a little rock pool. I hung out in my apartment and finally did what I have been long to do. Write and write. Then I walked down to the seaside to/watch one last sunset.
I thought it was going to be a flop. It has been cloudy all day and there were thick clouds on the horizon. I went anyway and patiently weaved my way through the hordes of tourists that had just arrived by train. I walked down the boat ramp to the brick wall that was empty of people and I sat and watched. It was better than I expected with bursts of orange through broken cloud. It started to fade. I almost left but decided to see it through to the end and that is when it climaxed. It started with faint golden cream stripe and then the faded orange turned to bright pink highlighting the clouds hovering above the horizon. I stared at it until it became surreal, as if someone had picked up a paintbrush and painted it above the sea.
Although I still hobbled out of bed this morning, my feet are less painful and my toes look much better after two days of being free of the Red Beasts. The old blisters have never had the opportunity to heal fully.
I have a bag full of clean clothes. This is only the second time I have been able to wash them in a washing machine. Although I have hand-washed them when I knew I could get them dry in time (some places have been too cold and damp to even bother), we all know it doesn't really compare to a washing machine.
And maybe the best bit, I am now at 69% of my fundraising goal and dreaming that maybe I might be able to reach 100% of it! You can find out more about it and make a contribution here if you feel to... Just copy and paste the link into your browser.
I have eaten two stir-fries that I have cooked myself! The first proper meals I have cooked since I left London. Eating out loses its pleasure when you do it everyday and you don't have the option to eat foods that you would normally eat.
I was even able to buy a new pair of hiking socks to replace the one I lost. There are two trekking shops in Manarola alone thanks to all the hiking people do around Cinque Terre (and of which I did none.)
I even had the pleasure of blow drying my hair. It was a pleasure to feel a little groomed and less scruffy for a couple of days.
I am feeling restored and ready to walk the last 500 kilometres. And that's where there's even more good news. I have only 20 days of walking left. As I don't fly out of Rome until the 1st December, this means I can take some more frequent rest days. The first one will be in three days time when I arrive in Lucca. Of those 20 days, only 4 of them require that I walk more than 30 kilometres. The rest average 23.6 kilometres. For the next two days I have the choice of walking on busy roads and climbing back into the mountains or walking beside the Mediterranean Sea. Easy to guess which option I have chosen.
I know there will be more challenges to come but at the moment I feel like I am well and truly over the hardest part of this journey and from now on I am cruising along the home strait.
Bell tower in Manarola