28 Mar A Troubled 24 Hours Begin
5 September 2017, 14:10. We consult author Sandy Brown’s book on Trekking the Way of St Francis. A simple route description is contained in the last paragraph for Stage 13. All we need to do is look out for a fork in the road, turn right and look out for signs to Tenuta di Biscina.
We carry on up the asphalt road, but we see no fork, no signs. We stop and ask for directions. It’s a private residence. We get to a little village. Niels asks a man where Tenuta di Biscina is. He points up the hill. We continue. The view gets more spectacular.
I’m getting really tired. As a countermeasure, I use my gratitude chant.
The further we go, the more uneasy I grow. I had the same sense when I was lost on the road to Citerna. The only difference is that Niels and I have not separated. We reach a point where we must concede that we are lost. The decision is to go back. At least that means downhill all the way. The bad news is that Niels’ ankle is taking heavy strain.
Thirty minutes later we get back to the village. Lo and behold, there is a sign indicating the direction to the agriturismo. How could we miss it? Easy. We walked past it with our backs to it. We keep left according to the sign. Not much further we get to the fork mentioned in the book. How could we miss that? Simple. Who expects a fork to be a road joining yours from behind? The sign is clearly visible now but virtually hidden from where we came. Niels is as angry as I’ve never seen before. His ankle is giving him hell. I’m too exhausted to react. All I can think is that we must have lost the path, and got back onto it, going the opposite direction up the hill.
By the numbers, we were supposed to have a 22.7 km* walk, with ascents of 895m and descents totalling 688m. The distance alone totalled 31 km, courtesy of our little detour. The ascents and descents were surely over 900m and 700m. We ended up walking 90 minutes longer than necessary.
At Tenuta di Biscina
We get to Tenuta di Biscina and they have only reservations for one person. Niels fixes that. It also means that when we get to our chalet, only one room is prepared. The bedlinen arrives. I have to make my own bed. I am not impressed at all.
After we’ve settled in it’s clear that Niels is in considerable pain with his ankle injury. We argue about the route we have walked. The silliest issue is whether we reached the Eremo before or after Chiesa di Caprignoni. He is clearly wrong about the Chiesa being before the Eremo. I decide not to pursue the point. If it comes up again I’ll show him the map.
Strategy for Tomorrow
We discuss possibilities for tomorrow’s walk. I have my doubts as to whether or not he’ll be able to continue on foot. He assures me he will deal with it. Because his pain is better for movement, he doesn’t want to stop. He wants to walk the full distance of the next stage without resting. That means I’ll have to set out before him. He’ll catch up with me just before entering Valfabbrica.
The afternoon is beautiful, watching the sunset over Umbrian vineyards.
A Most Unpleasant Evening
Supper is very average. Two Italian pilgrims from Switzerland are the only other people in the dining room. We discover they’re walking to Assisi tomorrow. That is stages 14 and 15, just under 30km! Our walk will only take us to Valfabbrica, we tell them. I try to make conversation them, but Niels virtually bullies me out of it in a manner similar to the occasion in Citerna, only worse.
I decide to go to the room to get my phone, and try to update Facebook while watching a football match. As I return to the dining room the match is still on but the place is empty. Niels is just leaving. He makes it very clear that I should return to the chalet.
“The people want to go,” he tells me. “Learn to read the signs.”
At this I turn around and follow him out. That last remark angers me. To me, this is a serious insult. For many years of my professional life, I’ve been involved with psychological assessment and selection. Reading people was my business, and I had a reputation for being good at it.
“I’m going to talk to the moon,” I tell Niels halfway to the room. It’s a beautiful full moon night. I lie on the grass next to the pool. Somehow the turmoil doesn’t cease. The moongazing is not helping. The only thing making it worthwhile is a very unusual sight. An aircraft passes directly in line with the moon, long vapour trail illuminated.
Back in my room I study tomorrow’s route. Thank God, Niels and I are in separate rooms. I go to bed but have trouble falling asleep. A midnight meditation helps.
*Conversions from Metric to Imperial
22.7 km = ~14.1 miles
30km = ~18.6 miles
31km = ~19.3 miles
895m = ~2936.35’
688m = ~2257.22’
900m = ~2953’
700m = ~2297’