The End of the Beginning

Trip Start Mar 04, 2008
Trip End Oct 06, 2008

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Saturday, October 4, 2008

I awoke Monday morning surprisingly refreshed and full of vigour. Sunday night happened to be THE social night at this hostel in Florence. Backpacker inns are really a crap shoot that way. The days of the week lose their significance once commitments and obligations leave and a lot of liquid cash enters the lives of young folks.

Having balked at the suggestion of the bike mechanic to replace my entire drive train (rear cassette, chain, front rings, +/- derailleur) at a minimum cost of 150 euros, this morning I had come to accept my fate. I was walking to Rome. The sun was shining, the air was fresh and crisp and I knew I could at least coast the downhills. I was pumped and ready to roll. A quick check to make sure my tires felt the same way and I was off.

The usual turmoil of trying to find a tertiary road out of town ensued. Firenzians are quite friendly, however. I had an enjoyable encounter with some flamboyant old men sitting around the cafe. They were arguing with each other about which direction my desired road was, whether it was my best option to Siena and whether or not it still existed or if it was now 'chiuso'.

With some trouble I made it out of town. Not on the road I wanted but on one that would meet up with it soon. Not bad. The Tuscany region is very pretty, especially on the forgotten highways and especially in the fall. This area is also known as Chianti, the world famous wine growing region. Vineyards blanket the hillsides and old men transport the daily haul along the twisty roads in their miniature three wheeled piaggio pick-ups, seemingly oblivious to the honks of impeded motorists.

Along the stretch back to Rome one passes through plenty of volcanic relics. The tell-tale circular shape of collapsed caldera lakes, columnar basalt columns along the roadside, volcanic ash layers in the highway embankments. Apparently, Lake Bolsena at least, still emits plumes of volcanic gas every once and a while. The ancients found that the easily hollowed volcanic 'tuff' rock bluffs made an ideal location for necropoli (cities for the dead, basically burial chambers in the rock). One stretch called the Necropoli della Via Cassia has 64 burial chambers excavated out of the rock face over a 180 m stretch. A quote from the tourist info sign: 'However, today most of the chambers are used by locals for gardening sheds and parking garages'. How quintessentially Italian.

My last night before hitting Rome I decided to camp up in the hills rather than push the extra 10 or 15 km to the Prima Porta campground where Ainaz and I were to reunite. One more night to say farewell to stealth camping, and Ainaz was still in Venice anyhow. I spotted an unfenced and treed embankment just as the road broke from the shroud of the hills and the expansive valley of the city of Rome came into view. I parked the bike and went in to investigate. Immediately I found a beautiful flat and grassy spot at the base of the hill. I grabbed my bike and returned to the spot.

In preparing to set up camp a fetid odour crawled up my olfactories. Geez, a guy goes three days without a shower and all of a sudden he smells like a rotting sheep carcass. Oh no. Wait. That's a rotting sheep carcass. All right  Jake, looks like this spot is occupied. Let's head up the hill a little bit.

Ainaz and I met up the next morning at the Camping Tiber campground in Prima Porta. We had a lot to catch up on. We've been hanging out the last few days taking care of packing up the bikes and checking out some parts of Rome we missed the first time through.

As our return flight date grows nearer we are both feeling apprehensive about what is to come for us back in Canada. Seven months is a long time to be away. Seven months is a long time to be living in a tent. One starts to forget how it is to perform in conventional society. Example: at the hostel in Florence one night I found myself sitting outside on a garden bench cracking open a can of tuna to mix with my canned beans and the rain. I had an out of body experience, looked at myself and realized that NOBODY does this! Everybody else is sitting inside eating spagetti bolognese at the hostel cafeteria.

I'll adjust I suppose. It may just take some time. In the meantime I'll leave you with a quote from Hemingway:

'Why not let up on the bitchery just a little, Margot'

No wait, wrong we go:

'Already there was something mysterious and homelike. Nick was happy as he crawled inside the tent. He had not been unhappy all day. This was different though. Now things were done. There had been this to do. Now it was done. It had been a hard trip. He was very tired. That was done. He had made his camp. He was settled. Nothing could touch him. It was a good place to camp. He was there, in the good place. He was in his home where he had made it. Now he was hungry.'
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ainaz on

I miss it
The month hasn't ended yet, and I find myself caught up in some rat race already.
I miss the satisfaction that came with simply completing each day, when we were on the road.

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