13.09.2011 30 °C
Would the Kokoda trail walks and the 4-8 km daily walks pay off today? 9km and 5 hour estimated trekking time. Would Jenny be there at the end with a cup of tea and cream biscuits?
Monterosso to Vernazza Today was the day of my walk. The plan was to head out early, which I did. Smart move! Few people around and a cool but sunny morning. M would meet me in Riomaggiore at 11am. I left the hotel at 7.45am, and headed for Vernazza (from our base in Monterosso). The views were spectacular and a false sense of ease came over me. However, about 10 mins in to the walk, the steps started and seemed to continue forever. At this stage I was still very keen, so I got through them and wound my way past many backyard vegetable gardens and orchards. People were up early watering their plants. Vines, tomatoes, oranges, tamarillos, cauliflower, capsicums and more. It crossed my mind that my father must have some Italian in him because he says that all trees/plants in your garden should bear fruit! Here every square inch is used to grow something! Productive private plots! The path was very rocky and very narrow for most of the way. At this early hour I passed very few people and enjoyed the solitude. Up and around and down 3 mountains I went. The more level paths were easy, the steps up and down were hard. You do have to watch where you are stepping as everything is very uneven and for most part there are no barriers on the narrow paths to prevent falling off cliffs. I didn’t take a camera because I wanted to travel light so I really tried to absorb the views. They were spectacular. Looking back to each village you passed and out to the bright blue sea was amazing. The descent to Vernazza was very enjoyable and the view of the town on approach quite amazing. This looked the most picturesque town. I refuelled here with a bottle of water and tissues to mop up my sweat. Arrived at 8.45am
Vernazza to Corniglia 3km and an est. time of two hours between these towns. My legs were a bit tired and unfortunately I spoke to two Aussies along the way who said that there are some 750 steps to get out of this town. I didn’t really want to know this! Within minutes of leaving the town you go up and up and up. Will it ever end? I was less fresh and feeling the ascent, but again the views back to town and the sea are gorgeous. I passed handfuls of walkers going in the opposite direction. Now I know why!!! More and more steps to climb. Although the distance is one kilometre shorter, it felt longer to me. I also found downhill annoying because the steps are sort of paved with the rocks turned sideways and I don’t have sturdy runners on, rather soft flexible shoes which don’t give me enough padding. Corniglia is up in the mountains and the only one of the 5 towns not on the sea. On approach it looks quite big and as colourful as the last 2 towns. I refuel here as well. One peach and a bottle of water. I arrived at 10am. Unfortunately the Corniglia to Manarola track is closed and so everyone must catch a train to the next town. Pity I miss the steps down to the station. I am following the road and it adds about another 1 km.
Corniglia to Manarola By train. Distance- 1 km
Manarola to Riomaggorie On leaving the train in Riomaggiore to do the last 1 km of the track, I realised that there is no exciting trail, rather a tiled bridge skirting the sea linking the last 2 towns. Not only is it a civilised and boring 1 km link, it is full of older (than me) people walking slowly between the last 2 towns. It is really tacky with graffiti on walls, locks tied to gates and rails to promise unending love to your sweetheart and to top it all off a man playing love songs on his piano accordion. It is much worse than Jules Lund’s segment on Getaway!!!! I dash by the crowds and edge my way closer and closer to my end destination. I am meeting M at 11am at the station and arrive at 10.45am. Mission accomplished!!! M was on time!!!