The Information Book Said It Is a Shorter and an Easier Climb
SATURDAY, August 17, 2013: Our backup team, Gabriel and Gaia went with us. He found this trail as well. So we were all excited to try a new walk, but thought the easier one would help our muscles, our joints and our ego. At least it would be a comparison of the one we walked from the Abby on Wednesday.
Gabriel and Gaia seemed impressed with our talk of the walk on Wednesday, so they wanted in on the on hands, or maybe "on feet and legs" experience. Today we drove to Monta. That's a little south of Torino. We couldn't leave too early, because I'm out of needles I'm using every other day for a while and the pharmacy is closing at noon and going on vacation, they are opening at 8:30 a.m.
Wednesdays walk was said to be one hour and forty-five minutes for trained walkers.. It would be up hill for a ways, then we'd begin to descend for a while and finally end after a prolonged ascent. You already know it took Lydia, Carys and me four hours and thirty minutes.
We understood the literature to say that today's walk would be relatively level and would be finished in about an hour and forty-five minutes. Wednesday we carried bottles of water, always an important necessity. At resting times along the way we each ate a rather large carrot, an apple and some peanuts, sunflower seeds and almonds. That was enough and other than never having done this kind of walk, we felt good and were exceedingly elated with our accomplishment.
I was anticipating Monta to be a smaller village, but it was larger than I thought and very beautiful on top of the rather high hills. Our parking place was good and safe, in the center of town by the police department. Our departure point was a half block away, across the street. The whole path is devoted to bee keeping and honey production. We read four or five sign posts along the way, describing very ancient methods of bee keeping through the centuries. Interestingly they used two-story brick built bee hives.
Having found our departure point, we almost immediately began to descend a steep bricked alleyway. Then very quickly we were crossing the last street around the edge of town. The path opened into a small mowed, somewhat, launching area. It had a kind of billboard to introduce the idea of apiaries and all things bees.
The trail led off to the side and down, as in not up, but down, going down a steep path which turned into something like stairs. A three by six board about three feet long, on edge, held in place by two wooden post about three inches across, driven into the ground held back the upright and the dirt behind it. In this case a hand rail built of the same three inch post follow some of the steps. That was a great help to hold onto as we went down the hill or were later climbing up again. We depend on walking sticks, as well.
At a small kind of level area was the first of those brick bee hives. It was more like a kids play house in the back yard, but both rooms were tall enough for adults. The "hive" did not appear to be in operation. The building was probably 8 X 10 feet and 18 to 20 feet high. There was a well dug beside that one. We did read several of the posters along the way, but as I had grown up with bees, we had not come on this walk to study bees. We were here to walk the trail.
So leaving the somewhat level area around the "bee hive," I expected pretty level going. But I was really surprised when I looked at the trail in its continuing journey. We kept going down. It was several more yards to the bottom. Earlier, even at the beginning, we had seen small evidence of previous rain, not that day. At the bottom of the hill we crossed some muddy ground and muddy grass.
At the top, down the first series of stairs, across the mud flats and beginning upward again we passed several patches of black berries. The first ones were ripe and ready to eat, so we did. Others will continue to ripen as the next days pass. It will be a blessing to those who take advantage of those wild berries of juicy sweetness.
Half that first descent was in partial shade, due to trees along the path. The muddy crossing brought us to an entire hill covered with beautiful old trees and quite a bit of undergrowth. Continuing on we had the good fortune of those wood and dirt stairs often with the side rail on one side. I didn't know how to measure the degrees of the climb, but I'm sure a lot of it was in the range of 45 degrees.
Finally we came out of the woods and were now climbing, without stairs or railing, in the turn row of a huge vineyard. At that point we all were ready to flop down and rest. Of course, I expected Lydia and Gabriel to make it, because they were in on the planning. But Gaia, 7 and Carys, 5 went because the adults were going and they in some ways, didn't have a choice. They didn't complain. After a short rest, we took a wagon path between vine rows to the top of the hill (not part of our path). There was another brick house, kinda where many rows meet. This one was a one room, two story. The door was open, it had a fireplace, a cook stove, a cubboard and a stair to the upper level. We concluded it to be for the benefit of workers in harvest. The vines were beautiful and full of fruit, still a little green.
Lydia brings a small floor rug for down times. The girls like to lie down at rest times. We reloaded our back packs and went back down the row. At the end of all those rows of vines in a vineyard, large or small, is some kind of access road. That's were we arrived when we came out of the woods, onto an access road. Now we were at the top and needed to go to the bottom. This particular road was newly dozed out of the hill. There were lumps and clods of dirt. The dried tractor wheel tracks made tough walking. It often is far more difficult to walk down hill than to walk up. That's what we now had to do and after an almost tortuous descent we came out onto a "county" black topped road. Sigh and relief!!! We moved to the not so muddy side of the flat land road, put down the rug, sat on our back packs, pulled out the water bottles, and the food. Gabriel had made ham and cheese sandwiches on brown bread. We had apple slices and walnut halves with more peanuts. We sat in the shade of some wonderful trees and feasted our bodies and souls on the glorious thought of rest. An occasional car went by. After about a half hour we rose up and looked toward the sky. Our road led out to the highway and at the top was the town with our car in the middle.
It was still a down hill walk to the highway, and there we discovered the trail crossed the highway, didn't follow it. But oh my, one look at that trail and you knew the tough part of the day had arrived. Those rugged tractor wheels don't leave "smooth roads nor flowery beds of ease." Get yourself a book or calender that has pictures of Italian vineyards. See how beautiful those long rows up the high sides of those beautiful mountains really are. Now get on your mountain climbing boots and come on over. I don't know if they can drive their tractors up an incline at more than 45 degrees. I am almost certain that some of what we climbed must have been very close to 50 degrees.
Midway of that trail was one of those little brick houses at the edge of the vineyard. It was level enough we could stand straight up for a few minutes. Then up toward the blue, blue sky once more. For a bit, there were those wood and dirt stairs completely overgrown with grass and weeds. Part of the stair had the hand rail. From there on it was just dig in your toes and climb. After several more rows of grapevines we were at the top of the field. There set another little brick house, Shade!! Some large posts had been left laying and we sat down and sucked in great long gulps of sweet Italian air.
I don't know if that was a mountain or only a hill, but at the top of it I could see a house. Our path seemed to be a two path road working it way around the side of a cliff. Gabriel had read that there were old Roman roads in the area. I didn't think we were on it, it was not made of stone, only dirt and weeds. Finally we were beside a brick wall and it kept getting higher and higher. The road turned to gravel. Being steep it was a little bit hard to keep going forward. We came to the end as we stepped onto good old blacktop.
Gabriel had gone ahead of us a little. Now he was back with our empty water bottles refilled and announced, "This is it. We're here." Another block of walking between houses on a brick street and we were in a little square with a water fountain, seat benches with backs and shade trees. We sat down after four hours and thirty minutes from our beginning.
It felt so good to be back, to the other end of the trail. We walked, after a very long sit, about a half block and dropped down into some chairs with tables on the sidewalk beside a coffee bar, with sandwiches, water and later ice cream. Another very good rest.
Finally up from the chairs, with packs on our back and in a block we were in the square by the police department were we left the car hours before. For me, I am learning that this kind of walking does something good for body, mind and spirit.