One week. We have been at this one week. In all honesty, it has been probably the toughest week of my life. The logistics of a trip like this are mind boggling and the limited access we have found to internet/power have been a huge hinderence. We have pedaled a few hundred miles at this point and covered still a few hundred more by train. We have yet to successfully cook a meal on our stove (lots of bread, cheese, and fruit and the occasional pizza is what we’re surviving on). Still, we are learning to pull together and stay safe and happy day in and day out. It is a bit scary not knowing every night exactly where we will be sleeping until evening or how long it will take us to get there. It is mentally straining to keep track of all our gear and ensure our physical needs are met and my legs are just as tired from pulling a weighted bike for so many miles, but as always, we have seen some beautiful things, and had some incredible time together. That alone would make every steep mile worthwhile.
Today we took a “rest day” which I am now renaming “alternate exertion days” based on the fact that we never seem to get any rest even when we are not going anywhere on the bikes. We left our campground and took the train to Montessoro al Mare, the northernmost village of the Cinque Terre. Already, tourist season is in full swing and there were lots of other people going the same place we were, but it was hard to care. The day was radiant and blue, and the water looked stunning.
Montessoro was a less photographic little town, but we were excited to be there and spent some time wandering around to find some bread for breakfast. We settled on some foccacia and pastries and settled in on a bench to people watch. We had arrived early enough to see the actual Italians conducting their business before the tourists descended on the place and I happily noted old women being escorted by hand by their daughters as they walked through town, and locals shouting “ciao” to their shop owning neighbors as they went by.
Once we had eaten, we hit the trail. We didn’t know a lot about where we were headed, only that we were walking over to the next town. I assumed we’d be in for 20 or so minutes of walking. Instead, we spent the next 90 minutes hiking and scrambling the trail to Vernaza through the incredible terraced gardens, beautiful trees, lemon tree groves, and vineyards all built into a very very steep hill. My legs, still not recovered from yesterday’s windy ride resented every single stair, and there were a LOT of them. Even with our inappropriate footwear, and having quickly become drenched with sweat, we were enjoying being real tourists with a beautiful view of the ocean. The decent down the other side of the mountain was just as steep and by the time we arrived in Vernaza, Ben’s flip flops were causing him some grief (not to mention our very weary legs). We decided that the train would be our resource for the rest of the day so that hopefully we will have some energy left to cycle before the week is out!
We spent the afternoon, walking the villages, taking pictures, people watching, and exploring narrow alleyways where real people actually live. These villages have been around since the 11th century and their homes and gardens were so very impressive. I wonder what must have inspired anyone to settle these rocky cliffs and to build such elaborate, beautiful places for growing so many things all before the car was ever invented. It makes my stresses and challenges seem more insignificant after all.
It was a nice change to know where our “home” was going to be tonight and where we are going to sleep. As we wandered, we talked about the pace we’ve been keeping and our plans to head into Tuscany in a few days. I commented that our “rest days” had become just as strenuous as our actual riding days, Ben decided that tomorrow will be a real rest day for us to get caught up on some things and hang out on the sea shore in Levanto to let our legs recover. From there, we can head south to Tuscany.
We returned by train to Levanto and then grabbed our bikes for a grocery run. We bought a whole tub of gelato today which we sat down and consumed all in one sitting. Amazing. I think we’ve lost a bit of weight this past week as we’ve adjusted to our new “routine” and the sugar rush was just what I needed!