I think in a past life I must have been an explorer of sorts, maybe I went with Henry the Navigator or Vasco da Gama when they made their expeditions to where ever it was. Names I remember from schooldays, places I’m not too sure about but the names do conjure up ‘romance’.
Whenever we are on holiday I love to explore the area by walking. I usually buy books beforehand and pore over them to find out the best walks. Not unusual, I can hear you say. My problem is that I am not a good walker, my ideal is a canal walk, flat! I am not fit and am slightly overweight, and my usual cry when out walking is, ‘I don’t do hills!’
Now isn’t it said that a sign of intelligence is that you learn from experience, well I must be extremely dim! If I had learned anything my holidays would be spent by the pool sipping cocktails, but no, day two arrives and I say, ‘I’ve found this really good walk, do you fancy it?’
My husband is reasonably fit and carries very little superfluous weight and is very sure footed. I have to my name two broken wrists and one broken ankle, with countless gashes and bruises from tripping up and walking into things. I do not have the attributes of a mountain goat.
A few years ago we went to Italy and stayed in a town called Ravello, which is on the Amalfi coast, about a eight hundred feet above sea level. Ravello is a beautiful town, full of day trippers in the day time but quiet and peaceful at night. Our hotel was lovely with views down to the sea.
Day two, ‘Do you fancy doing that walk? The book says it’s easy. Steps all the way down.’ Raised eyebrows and a just audible sigh, ‘If you like!’
The journey down was pleasant if a bit arduous and the lunch and cold drink in Minori was very welcome. We’d decided that we’d take the bus or a taxi back, a good idea as my thigh muscles had almost completely seized up when I stood up, and climbing uphill is much worse than down. Alas we were unable to find motorised transport! We had to walk back UP.
It was hot and I began to feel that I’d have to spend the night sleeping on the steps. The path wound up and up and round and round, going in a spiral up the hill. No cafés in which to recover. No respite, from the heat or from the aching legs. I imagine I looked quite a sight as we rounded a corner and encountered an Italian lady of whippet like proportions who was busily sweeping up outside her house, perched precariously beside the steep uphill path.
My knowledge of the Italian language is very poor but I recognise she’d said hello and was commenting on the heat. We indicated that we had walked up from Minori and she said, ‘You like a drink?’
Not wanting to offend her and being desperate for a drink we happily accepted.
She took us into her kitchen, made us a cold drink, presented us with aubergine parmigiana and a great chunk of parmesan. A glass of red wine was also offered. Then coffee came from a hissing, spitting espresso machine.
We did try hard to communicate but it was difficult.
She took us out onto the terrace, a fantastic view of the coast far below, and introduced us to the rest of her family, none of them speaking English. She managed to communicate that her daughter would come soon and that she could speak English. We did the best we could until the daughter arrived.
The daughter was eventually able to explain the reason for her mother’s fantastic hospitality.
Some years before her mother and father had come to England to visit relatives. Her father was taken very seriously ill. He ended up in hospital on a life support machine. He had Guillain-Barré syndrome and he was extremely ill. He was nursed back to health and eventually returned home to Ravello. His wife was convinced that if he had been at home at the time he would have died. She thanked the English Health service for his life.
Her way of showing thanks was to take in ‘needy’ English tourists and we happened to be the ones that day.
It was a fantastic experience and I’ve often wondered if it would happen in England. I rather suspect that we would all be very reluctant to invite strangers into our homes.
I’ve still not learnt my lesson. I still want to go on long hikes through unknown territories. The last arduous one was from Soller to Deia in Mallorca. After we had done it I read that it is better to do it the other way round.
We ended up at the best hotel (some film star had had their wedding there) having afternoon tea. We managed this time to get a taxi to our hotel.
I wonder what would have happened if we’d had to walk back!