13 May Stage 18 Part 2: Deluge on the Road to Spoleto
10 September 2017. Today we are faced with most likely the easiest walk on the entire Way of St Francis – 12km and “flat as a cow’s how’s your father,” according to Niels.
We are in no hurry to get up. During the night there was a thunderstorm or two. When we get up we realise that we may well have a more complicated day ahead of us. It’s overcast, and we hear the odd clap of thunder in the distance. They begin to sound progressively louder. Yesterday we caught a glimpse of Spoleto in the distance (featured image). Not a chance of that now due to low overcast conditions.
Our First Taste of Walking in Rain
One of the things I remember from my research on this pilgrimage is that we’re walking at a time of year when the weather in Italy is best. We’re least likely to have rain. That does not mean there will be no rain at all on our walk.
Weather Stats for The 5 Major Centres on the Via Di San Francesco
The bars indicate average maximum temperature and the lines show average rainfall. The rectangular block is placed over the time of year we are trekking.
As we return from breakfast a few drops fall. Then it stops. It goes quiet. We prepare our backpacks for rain. I store the camera in the most watertight way in case the rain becomes a problem. I know my backpack is waterproof, but since I borrowed the Canon EOS 1200, I’m taking no chances.
It starts dripping as we set foot out of the inn at around 09:00. 200 metres further we have to put on raincoats, hoods up. By the time we get to where the Strada Statale Flaminia highway passes over the road and railway line, it is raining hard. The railway booms are down. Because the line is used by highspeed trains, we dare not cross.
We take cover under the overpass bridge and check our route. We double check using Niels’ GPS. The last thing we want is to get lost in this weather. The train whooshes past and we cross.
“A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall”
The bike path is less than 150 meters on the other side of the railway line. In that small distance, the rain becomes a torrential downpour. I wonder if the raincoat will actually help. After a short while on the bike path, the areas not covered by the raincoat are sodden. The rest is getting wet from my sweat. At times we are ankle deep in puddles. I can feel the water getting into my waterproof boots. It’s not coming through the boots themselves, but it’s seeping in through my socks.
Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” comes to mind. In no ways is there any singing in this rain. All I can say is thank God we’re on an easy path with decent hiking kit. I’d hate to cope with this deluge on a hill, going up or down. What amazes me is that I still see cyclists, even in this weather. I can but reason that they must be on their way home.
Niels slows down a bit to let me catch up with him. He’s worried about the lightning that is growing more intense, as is the thunder. It’s not a good idea to take cover under tall trees in these conditions. I doubt that would help anyway.
I’m keeping up with Niels. It feels as if we’re walking at an incredibly fast pace, yet progress is slow. All we can do is carry on.
Unfortunately, the conditions of my Schengen Visa were that I have a very specific itinerary. That means specific bookings on specific dates. We can’t simply stop and overnight or delay doing a stage, when and where we feel like it. That would’ve been the wise thing to do today. Oh, the joys of living in Africa where the Europeans fear that we’ll become refugees.
I can’t take a single picture. I could use my phone because the Sony Xperia XA Ultra is waterproof. However, the urgency to get out of the rain prevents me from doing so. Besides, it would be futile. The clouds have dropped so low, the hills are no longer visible.
The stage is only 12 km long, but since the railway crossing, the deluge has not let up. As I carry on walking the rain beats a kind of numbness into me. My mind is lucid and overrules my body’s basic instincts and reactions to the rain. There is a deep acceptance of this total feeling of almost divine baptismal wetness. A steady pounding walking rhythm drives me on.
Spoleto at Last!
At the edge of Spoleto, we take cover under a bridge where the cycle path ends. There is not a single stitch of dry clothing on our bodies. We check our bearings. Worst of all, the plastic bag containing my Sandy Brown book has leaked. The pages are saturated and sticking together. I have to be very careful to avoid tearing them. I have a few of the colourless flavourless energy crackers.
We step out under the bridge and notice the rain is getting lighter. It eases off to a steady soft drizzle as we enter Spoleto. It’s another 2 – 3 km approximately to our hotel. There is nothing to be seen of the reputed beautiful view of Spoleto as we come into the town.
Finally, we arrive at our hotel. We stop outside to dry the worst of the rain off. The owner sees us and insists that we come inside, no matter the water and dirt. We check in very quickly and go to our room. I’m so grateful for this because at the moment I am feeling wet, cold, and miserable. I’m totally surprised at how much and how suddenly I’ve cooled to a chill.
All I want to do is rest. I don’t know how I made it, but I’m here.
*Conversions from Metric to Imperial
2 km = ~1.2 miles
3 km = ~1.9 miles
12 km = ~7.5 miles