Yesterday's anticipation of the end of the walk may have been premature. If today is anything to go by the four days of walking from the mountains to Venice is going to be a real test of will. Today we walked 27km in sweaty heat with a lot of hard surfaces.
It started badly. Just to the south of Tarzo the route took us off the road and into trees. Maybe the recent wet weather has caused a population explosion in the creepy crawly world as all four of us were suddenly attacked by nasty stinging things desperate for human blood. We only had one stick of anti-insect stuff between us and by the time it had been applied we had all given lots of blood to support the insect cause and swellings were appearing everywhere. I had even been bitten through my shirt.
Pressing on and desperate to escape the trees we found ourselves in an area subject to recent flash floods. The damage, paths and roads washed away, landslips with huge heaps of mud and boulders deposited on hill sides, was very apparent and confirmed the extreme weather everyone has had this summer. More ominously, the route took us to a local beauty spot, the Molinetta della Croda, where a number of people had been drowned in a flash flood a month ago.
Just when road walking, insect bites and nonsensical twists and turns to the route were having a negative impact on group moral (Christine's), we unexpectedly came upon a roadside cafe which served the best coffee we've had on the whole trip. Perfect timing.
After taking a wrong turn at Refrontolo (where a piece of First World War memorabilia proclaimed that not everyone from Vienna is a bastard) we spotted a couple of young Germans pacing down the road in the heat of the day. Recognising them from many nights ago we caught up them and chatted on the long hot road into Barbisano. In a generous act of inter-generational Anglo-German income transfer we bought them an ice-cream each. Thinking we knew what we were doing they decided to follow us on an uncharted piece of walking which, according to a sign would take us off the road and save us 5 mins.
About 15 minutes later a navigational dispute broke between Chris (aka the 'Colonel') and me. Chris, whose skills as navigator have been honed at vast expense by the British Army, but on this occasion was using exactly the same device as me, insisted we head in one direction while I said that I wanted to go to Venice not Munich and that we should go the other. The young Germans, embarrassed by the impasse, pulled out a compass and we were soon traveling south rather than north.
Trying to make up for lost time we decided on a short cut. This is nearly always a mistake but rather than risk all our resources Chris agreed to send Mike (aka the 'Colonel's batman') ahead into the under growth dressed in a bright orange tee shirt to do a reccie.
After 5mins or so Mike shouts for us to follow. This advice proved a little optimistic and when we joined him we found him struggling up a very steep bank covered in brambles. Breaking through was difficult, involved multiple lacerations and the whole party was only finally assisted to the top through the formation of a human chain and a long pole.
Once on top, and relieved to be on the right route again our young German friends decided to make their own way to the next town probably thinking that they had paid a high price for an ice-cream.
Happily the rest of the walk passed without incident. Christine is making up for the shortage of fruit on the trip by helping herself to figs and grapes in what is now bountiful countryside. Also I have to report that Italians have even more dogs than the Spanish and that if anything they are even noisier and more spiteful. Strangely shaking a walking pole at them and shouting get a life only makes them angrier.
Ponte della Priula took a long time to arrive and did not exactly inspire as we wandered along it's shabby high street. The hotel was a big come down after the splendour of last night's but it did the job. We had a nice meal in town and of course finished off with a grappa to 'aid digestion'.