“This is ridiculous,” I called down to Scott, thirty feet below me on a trail of our own making. “This is the kind of stuff you hear about on Dateline NBC.”
With that, he and I started to create the opening monologue of the program that would tell our tale and subsequent demise.
It was pouring rain when the three hikers decided to set out at 5pm to hike a steep, uneven trail overlooking Italy’s coastline. The two men were in the military and on leave. They wanted to make the most of their one day in Italy’s famed Cinque Terre region, so decided to set out despite the poor weather conditions. The woman with them had only met them that morning on the train and decided to join them. At their halfway point, unable to find the next trail marker, one of them forged ahead, down a rock path meant only for access to the water pipe that ran along it bringing water from one mountain town to the the town below it.
Scott and I laughed at our tale as Greg forged ahead of us, scoping out our descent. “This is why I only tell my mother what I’m doing after I’ve done it. And you know what? I left a note on my dresser as to where I’d be today in case I didn’t return, and we’re no where near that.” I know this all could have had a bad outcome but – as the Dateline story would explain – I figured I was safe with two US Military-trained men.
“Post here,” Scott said to me pointing to a rock wall. I figured out that “post” meant “put your hand here for support.” He graciously did that at all the tricky spots. Thanks to these two men, I made it down safe and sound, though soaking wet. And here I am able to tell you about it, so you won’t have to hear about it on Dateline.
Maybe hiking a steep stone trail in the rain wasn’t my best idea. But it was my first afternoon in the Cinque Terre, and I wanted to get out there. So off I went climbing up and up and up towards the Madonna di Montenero Sanctuary high above Riomaggiore.
The light rain didn’t faze me. I know there’s a chance I’ll have a wet day or two on the Camino, so I’ve gone out walking every day – rain or shine. In any other year of my life, rainy days would find me curled up indoors with a good book. I laughed to myself. I was impressed with how much I’d changed my habits and myself in preparation for the Camino. There was another change that needed to take place though. I needed some uphill practice. Miles of walking on flat paved surfaces are not going to help me hike through the Pyrenees (which I must do on my first two days of the Camino).
So after settling into my hostel, I started up at 4:45pm. I saw just two women coming down during my forty-five minute hike up. They each had a pair of walking sticks. That’s when it hit me. I turned around and looked at the slick stones I’d just ascended. That’s not going to be fun walking down, I thought, wishing I had some walking sticks. I looked around but grapevines weren’t going to cut it.
I plugged ahead, deciding the walk would be worth it, and I was right. If you think the views from the Cinque Terre are amazing, hike a little higher. I’d post pictures, but am having some technical difficulties.
I took dainty baby steps on the descent. Stairs were done one at time. Watching only my feet, I thought of a few things to be thankful for:
- The residents of Riomaggiore who put railings between their property and the trail – something to hold onto!
- The patches of grass growing between the stones – much better to step there than to slide down the slick stones.
- The two girls who passed me as I was walking down. At least if something happened to me, I knew there’d be two people coming back down the trail that I could call to.
When I reached the bottom, I walk also thankful to have all my parts intact. No sprained ankle, no broken leg, not even a scratch. It would be devastating to get injured on these trails. Not only because I’m alone and far from home, but because then I wouldn’t be able to do the Camino. I’ll be much more careful here on out.
For those of you worried about my safety:
- Before hiking, I leave a note in my room as to where I’m going and when I should be back.
- If I can go with others from the hostel, I’ll consider it. But I do like being on my own schedule.
- The trails I’m taking are not back woods types of things. They’re pretty commonly used by tourists.
- The two trails that had the mudslide in October are closed. I’m not a rule-breaker, so will not be climbing gates to get to them.
- If I’m meant to die falling off a cliff into the ocean on the Italian coast, so be it. It’s a hell of a way to go, no?