30 Nov Stage 9 Part 1: Lost on the Road to Citerna
30 August 2017. One of the advantages of improved fitness, plus a good night’s sleep is that it makes getting up in the morning so much easier. Throw into this the fact that we’re going to do one of the shortest distances on an easy day’s hiking on the Via Francigena di San Francesco. So, we’re in no urgent hurry to get going. We have breakfast – the best since leaving Camaldoli.
By the numbers* we have 12.5 km distance between Sansepolcro and Citerna, with ascents a mere 280m and descents 124m. However, we’ve learned not to trust these numbers. Even so, relative to all the other days, it seems a much easier task. I’m looking forward to today’s trek. We set off and make a detour to get some provisions for the road. After yesterday’s good walk, I’m looking forward to today.
A Good Start
I easily find my rhythm through my walking meditation. Each pace is a measured syllable aimed at absorbing Energy in various forms. It induces a state best described as being aware of everything while paying attention to nothing.
The air is clear, and all indications are for a hot, to very hot day. Our progress is good, going through the first landmark town of Gricignano. Settlements and farmhouses pass as we cross into Umbria from Tuscany. We stop by the roadside in Mancino for a drinks break.
There is a subtle change in the landscape. It’s still very agricultural but dominated by expansive tobacco fields. We hear the sound of harvesters at work. We greet the farmers and farm workers when we see them, and they return our friendliness. The occasional lone car and cyclist passes us. During my photo breaks, Niels pulls away from me, but I still keep him in line of sight. There are long parts of the road that are flat and straight. He is seldom more than a few minutes ahead of me.
Fighille is the next landmark we tick off. The hill is fairly steep but eased by the fact that we’re walking on an asphalt road. There are now more wooded areas. The road we’re on, is marked with Stations of the Cross. We follow the Stations as directed by the Sandy Brown’s book. There is an unusual wooden bell tower. It could presumably mark the building next to it as a church. There is no indication or information as to what it is.
We pass a shrine, and the path ends in a ploughed field – a mistake, yet easily corrected.
For a short while, I lose Niels from sight. He reappears in the distance. I assume we’re on the right path, and continue along it. I look down watching my step. When I look up, he has vanished again. I assume he’s up ahead, as the road goes through a forested area on a curving slope.
It doesn’t concern me too much that I haven’t seen waymarks for a while because there is no alternative but to walk along the shady country road. When I do find myself in sunlight I feel the steadily increasing heat, coupled with an ever-escalating thirst.
I come to a crossroad, and there is no sign of Niels. There are no waymarks to be seen. This is alarming. Niels would normally wait for me at such a point. This is what he has always done on previous occasions, allowing me to catch up with him. After a very strong initial sense of denial, the inevitable begins to dawn on me.
In the distance, I can see settlements and the outskirts of a fairly large town. Sounds from a very busy highway reach me. I search the book to see if I can find any indication of where I am. There is none. I have no internet access myself, so there is no chance of me checking GPS. This is the point where I realise I’ve probably made a big mistake in taking this route. Clearly, I’m on the wrong road. I am lost.
12.5 Km = ~7.8 miles.
280m = ~919’
124m = ~407’
30ᵒs Celsius = ~ in the 90ᵒs F.