Thursday, 9 August 2007

Pilgrimage from Castiglione Della Pescaia to Casa Di Forno 04/08/07

I knew I was in for a bit of adventure today as everyone I talked to had a different story about what I should expect…

I had a choice a couple of days ago whether to stay on the main road through Grosseto, or stick to the coast. The coast road looked much more pleasant, but there was a river which according to my map, you could only cross 15kms inland, and then a national park for 15kms after that.

I decided to take the coastal route and was constantly asking people about bridges and tracks. Not a single story matched!!! It was amazing :)

All together I was told that…

“There is a bridge 5kms inland from the ocean”

“There is a bridge right next to the ocean, but only for pedestrians”

“There was a bridge, but it got washed away in a flood 10 years ago and they haven’t rebuilt it again”

“There isn’t a bridge at all”

“There isn’t a bridge, but if you give this guy a call he can canoe you across”

“You can’t walk through the national park”

“You can walk through the national park”

“You can only walk through the national park with a guide, and they leave every day at 11am, 4pm and 9pm”

So, not knowing what to expect I got an early start. I arrived in Marina De Grosseto around 9am, and because I was only 7kms from the river I figured the locals would be able to give me some good advice. I found a woman who worked at a caravan park, she said she had done the walk many times, and that yes, there was a bridge down near the beach. She wasn’t sure about the walking tracks through the park though, but she did know that you couldn’t walk all the way around by the beach as it ended half way by cliffs.

So I then set off down the beach to find my bridge. It is always a struggle walking on sand, but doing it in boots and with a pack is torture. It was a long 7kms but I finally made it.

I spotted the bridge about 500m inland and in high spirits, went cross-country through this desert like landscape to reach it.

But then my life took a turn for the worst…the bridge didn’t cross the main river, it only crossed a small tributary next to it!!! I was at a bit of a loss. I walked a bit further up the river but to no avail, it was back to the river mouth to see if I could wade across.

I couldn’t…and I wasn’t happy. I then remembered that I had a number for the guy with a canoe, so I gave him a call. He was busy and couldn’t help, but if anyone is ever down here trying this same adventure the number is +39 3461 479 362.

It was now a choice of either walking 15kms upstream or swimming across. There was heaps of driftwood about, so I decided to build myself a raft :)

I didn’t have anything to tie the logs together with so my idea was just to wrap my raincoat around three big logs and balance my pack on top. Then I could swim across while towing it. It wasn’t the best plan I had ever heard of, but I was confident it I could make it, so I went to work.

After repacking my bag, so in the worst case scenario and my pack fell off, it would hopefully still float, I was ready to go.

Luckily, I was saved from a potential disaster by this young couple, who pulled up in a boat about 100m off the coast to fish.

After about five minutes of waving at them, they finally decided to come and see what I was about. I could see by the looks on their faces that they thought I was completely mad, but they gave me a lift across anyway, thanks guys :)

So that was one obstacle out of the way, now I was just faced with the park.

My map is only a 1:200000 so it is not the best for finding walking tracks. It did however have the one I wanted marked out and it was not long before I located it. I had to jump a fence to get on to it, so it appears that you are not meant to walk through here after all.

It was all good for the first few kilometers, I saw a deer and was amazed at how close it let me get before running away. I must smell really bad ;)

I then arrived at a point where a few tracks met, but I couldn’t find the one that would take me over the ridge I wanted. I searched for about an hour before finally stopping for a rest and passing out.

Two hours later when I woke, I resumed my search without any luck. Looking at my map I figured I could walk around the ridge along the beach and then find my track on the other side.

This appeared to be a good plan as I soon found a track that looked promising. But alas, it started to take me back over the ridge from where I had come from. Thinking then that this might be the track I should have taken from the other side I started following it the other way.

It wasn’t long before the markings stopped and I was left to follow what looked like animal tracks. I could see a house further down the beach so I decided to head for that instead.

It was another 2km walk along the sand before I finally reached these cliffs with the house about 200m away on the other side. Not to be defeated I thought I could see a track up and over, so off I went.

This was one of the more stupid things I have done since starting this pilgrimage. It would have been bad enough without a backpack, but with 25kg on my back it was completely mad.

I didn’t make it far before I realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. I did however attract the attention of this older couple that was walking down the beach, so they came to help. The man seemed to know the park quite well and explained that I was on the right track the first time and to go back there.

So, in not so good spirits, I trudged the 2kms back down the beach.

It ended up being all worthwhile. The view from this track was awesome!!! It was probably as nice a walk as Cinque Terre but without any people. And with wildlife! I saw another deer as well as two wild boars.

Even though I started the day with 3L of water I finally ran out. Since I knew there was a house up ahead I wasn’t too concerned but it was really hot and I started to get very thirsty.

This little voice in my head kept piping up saying “drink the wine, drink the wine” but luckily I hadn’t quite lost all sense of reason and ignored it :)

And then I stumbled upon Italy’s best kept secret….an Italian version of Shangri-La. It was amazing!

As I got down to the beach next to the house I had seen earlier, I was exhausted. I ran into this Belgium guy, also called Ben, who invited me up for a beer. I couldn’t resist…

It ended up that the house was actually a group of private apartments. They get rented out as holiday accommodation and are surrounded by national park. There are deer running around the yard, that are so friendly that they will eat out of your hand, and there is only a private road for access. Apart from mad Australians walking through the bush, the only other way “outsiders” can drop in is by boat.

I was very impressed…an absolutely magical place!!!

And to top it off my hosts were great. A beer soon turned into an invite for dinner and a place to stay but as I hadn’t made it very far today, I only accepted the invite for dinner.

But best of all they let me use there shower :) I think it was my first proper wash in a week!

Three families joined together for our little dinner party and it was heaps of fun. You guys are all wonderful!!! Thanks heaps :)

When I went to leave I couldn’t find my torch. I figured I must have lost it during the repacking earlier in the day, but I was soooooo glad that I had this problem here rather than up in the national park! Luckily, my hosts renewed their offer for a place to stay so this time I accepted.

What a great day :)


Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I love reading your blog... you have such unpredictable adventures!

Ben :) said...



I love that people are reading it.