Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Hiking the Cinque Terre
Once upon a time, if you lived in the Cinque Terre and you were a man searching for a wife you had three options. Marry one of the other 200 town residents, row your boat to the next town, or pack your bag and go hiking for one.
A trail was built between two of the towns (Riomaggiore & Manarola) in the 1920s but landslides kept it closed and persistent men with love to give would have to find their own way in search of a wife. After World War II the trails were reopened and it quickly became a lovers meeting point and was called "Lovers lane". Centuries of isolation no doubt resulted in a few post war babies one would imagine.
These days the hiking trails between all 5 towns have become tourist super highways for travelers and one could imagine a man could now find himself a wife from the hoards of tourists walking through the towns each day.
Those who know me personally, would know that I am not one to hike. In fact the last time I did was in year 8 camp to the Blue Mountains where we roughed it and slept in a dry creek bed which flooded in the middle of the night. I'm much more of the arty cafe type then the sensible hiking boots type.
But how could we travel to the Cinque Terre and not make that Tourist pilgrimage and visit each town. We opted for the more leisurely approach and walked the 11.2 kms of mountains between the 5 towns over the course of 2 days. Supposedly it can be done in 4 or 5 hours, but that doesn't sound like much of a holiday to me.
The first day we started at Riomaggiore and walked the lovers lane to Manarola, a 20 minute walk on footpaths. Easy, this hiking business was a breeze. Next town down to Corniglia, 45 minutes, most pleasant, although less romantic until you reach the 350 odd stairs up the hill into the town. Thank god for the clever chap who built park benches along the way. So we were three towns down, 2 more to go. Feeing most proud and fit we debated walking the following two towns, or just kicking back for a siesta. Sleep always wins, so we headed back home and called it a day.
Day 2, Hiking from Corniglia to Vernazza (2 hours) and then Vernazza to Monterosso (2 hours). Life suddenly got bloody hard! A billion steps, narrow cliff edges (did I mention I hate heights?), a significant lack of park benches and alot of up and down and then back up again.
Keeping me entertained the whole way was the amount of people who seemed less suited to hiking then us. We saw a lady in a dress with high heel boots, girls in thongs, strappy sandles and sparkly handbags. I do ever wonder how these crazy people hiked. No doubt they looked beautiful but I would have hated to have been in their shoes. Literally. They kept me feeling brave and tough and hell, damnit, we can do this hiking business.
By the third hour my legs were shaking like losers (surely that is from the asthma medication not from the lack of fitness) and I was quite ready to jump straight into the Mediterranean. We finally arrived in Monterosso, pleased as punch that we had made it, although somewhat not so impressed by my fitness or my hiking abilities, the legs which did not stop shaking for hours or our significant preplanning lack of enough water.
So we made it, we hiked the beautiful Cinque Terre. Despite the heat, thousands of steps, narrow cliff tops and a significant lack of fitness, we had conquered. Just!