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Wooo hooo!!! Week no wash!!!

2 Jul 404

404Day 7….

How excited can one get about clean socks? :)

We collected all our stuff, including our rubbish, that we seem to have to carry every morning till the next 7-11 or Lawson, as there are no rubbish bins in the streets. None. Sadly, we do notice an abundance of litter in the streets, on the beaches, trails, forests…. everywhere.

We arrived at Temple 30, ZenrakujiI before 7am and waited for the stamp office to open. Andy was starting a ritual of enjoying the temple toilets. I waited for the stamp…then I waited for Andy… no photos, thankfully.

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It was only 7kms to Temple 31, which was the best so far. Walked behind a bell ringing pilgrim up a steep trail to Temple Chikurinji, located in the beautiful Makino Botanical Garden. We had been taught how to wear our Sugegasa (hat) the correct way and got a kick out of spotting a Japanese Henro with his hat on backwards. I said “Mae” to him, telling him he had the front of his hat at the back… 😉 Smart arse alien. He thanked me.

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Smart little henros read the guide book each evening to prepare themselves for the surprises thrown at them every day. Sometimes the book helps, sometimes it doesn’t…  like when shops have disappeared….

Today was a good day to be prepared. Between Temple 32 and 33 was a stretch of water. What could have been quite stressful, became a moment to sit, move and eat icecream. Taking us from Tanezaki Port to Nagahama Port with locals that had ventured over to do their shopping, we knew the ferry left 10 minutes after each hour during work hours. A few moments in shade with our packs off.

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We left our packs at the bottom of hill to make our way up to Temple 35, Kiyotakiji. A relief to get the weight of out backs and cool down a bit. Weird guy in car offering us sweets with ventriloquist looking doll in passenger seat… mmm?
Flea markets/commercial stalls outside and inside temple gate just didn’t seem right. Surely there is a more honorable way of respecting this way of worship?

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Temps in the 30s was beginning to take its toll. It was hot.

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Pushing on to a couple of Kms before Temple 36, we had read about a bus shelter that sounded better than the last few night’s accommodation… we found nothing.
No sign of a decent shed/bench/hotel(Ha!) to sleep, but found a park under Usa-ohashi bridge. Enjoyed watching the burning sun finally go down while eating dinner (yup, from 7-11) in the park with lots of feral cats hanging around. We had washed out some clothes in the disabled toilet and hung them under a pagoda. That’s where we thought we’d be sleeping, on the benches where we’d had dinner, but it just didn’t feel safe.

This was the only other option……..

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Disabled toilet that had a sensor light that turned on every time there was movement (;)). That bus stop from last night looks good now, doesn’t it?

Stench on a bench. Day 6.

1 Jul

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Day 6. Sunday. 63kms
Bus shelter etiquette #101. The thought of some clean, well dressed Shikokan having to sit next to someone who hasn’t showered for 6 days (moi?) would not help Japan/Australia relations. We were getting savvy. We knew that the last bus left at 8:30pm. Time to roll out the mats and god forbid….. take off our shoes. Plenty of banter between the smelly Pom and the Potpourri Princess. ;)

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We would be sure to leave the door open to rid evil aromas when we left.

As expected, Temple 27 was up a huge hill. We left our packs near the bottom and felt as free as a bird for the 4 km uphill!

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Skirting the coast for the rest of the day, we got harassed / adopted by some woman who would not let us out of her sight. She was worried that we would be in danger on the road… I had to pretend I understood everything she said or she’d just raise her voice and almost hug us. She just would not go away, driving off, then stopping her car further up the road.  Andy found it so funny he filmed the conversation from the toilet. When we finally thought we’d brushed her off, she offered us osettai…. lemons.

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We spent some time on a cycle path where we were passed by a couple of henros on bikes. We had been playing leap-frog with them for the last couple of days. They would laugh as they passed each time wondering when they would finally shrug us off. I was now quite envious of their panniers.

After heading inland and being 38kms past  Temple 27, we found Temple 28. Now it was a do we, or don’t we rush to Temple 29 before the stamp office closed at 5pm. Of course we do.

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Dinner bought at Family Mart included a couple of Asahi for when we finally stopped for the night. It was becoming some ugly game to see what we could find. Dreaming of sleeping on something soft, a BBQ, spa, masseur and a power point… there was supposed to be a numbered henro hut called Kamohara around the corner, we were hopeful for something special.
Walked a further 4 kms before we found a bench. (OK, so the numbered henro huts aren’t so special anymore.)

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Made of bamboo slats with trickling water and a POWER POINT, it was the perfect opportunity to do some washing and charge up the phones and GPS. No privacy from the road, no toilet, but at least we found a couple of brooms to sweep out the cigarette butts. The ashtray was full and a permanent fixture that we couldn’t move. It was immediately covered with a plastic bag to stop the smell.
Mozzies everywhere…..

Total distance for 6 days, 342kms.

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Bus stops, beer and Buddha.

30 Jun

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Day 5. Saturday.

So happy to roll off the bench and pack up our stuff after a bad night with no sleep. At some stage we are going to have to catch up on some much needed sleep if we are going to finish this in 21 days. The info we had found before we started, was that most people took over 40 days to complete all 88 temples. In one questionaire, only one person had recorded a fast finish in 29 days. Who the hell did we think we were expecting to finish over a week faster?? We had no idea what the trail or weather was going to be like. No idea, no clue.

We dusted ourselves off and headed down the coast for 21 Kms to get to #24, Hotsumisakaji Temple, located down on the tip of Cape Muroto-misaki.

We found Mikurado Cave where Kukai (Kobo Daishi) trained. It was a pleasant cool down in the cave before we made the steep climb up to Hotsumisakaji.339

351Steep climb up, steep climb down….

There was only 6.5kms to Shinshoji Temple, one of my favourites so far. Located in a fishing village (well that’s what it looked like) with friendly locals and interesting wildlife.354

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Lovely small shopping street with great atmosphere where we bought an ice cream from an okonomyaki shop. We should be eating there. It was lunch time and I’m through with eating bentos from 7-11, Lawson and SunKus.
Lunch wasn’t going to happen here. We only had 4kms to get to Kongochojo with a short but sharp climb of 250 metres. Let’s get it done. Business before pleasure.

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372375There was a pleasant, peaceful atmosphere here, above the hustle of Muroto City.

With almost 30 Kms to the next temple, and no way we’d get there before 5pm when it closes, we went and explored Kiragawa Antique street, where the area looks the same as it did in the late 19th century. There was a red banner flying which was a sign to an Okonomyaki shop, all in Japanese. I followed it down a little alley to a tiny restaurant. Two tables with hot plates, an old couple who own it with no English . Pure gold. Lots of laughter and broken Japanese and Asahi Beer. Andy’s first experience with the delicacy. Pleasure.

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In the end we paid 2,000 yen for the beer and were given the meal free.

Happy, refreshed and full of beer and okonomyaki we continued on our way in the heat.
Back on the trail to get as close to #27 following some beautiful coastline.

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The weather started to close in and we were pretty keen to get shelter before our packs got wet. We had plenty of food in our bellies and packs.
We had done 57kms, it was raining and after the disgraceful choice of accommodation last night, we hedged our bets when we found this…..

386 Yep, another bus shelter for the night.

64 km from Princess to Pauper.

29 Jun

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Day 4 Friday. 64 kms.
I enjoyed my second beer, celebrating like a princess in our palace before retiring for the night. We were pretty relaxed about leaving our phones and GPS watches charging in the toilet. Happy to say Japan hasn’t disappointed us in the honesty stakes and we felt incredibly safe.

After a peaceful night, we climbed down from our beachside henro shelter to do the 10 kms needed to reach Temple 23. Hopefully, there will be a Sun Kus shop (like 7-11) a kilometre past it… Yay! 11 kms till breakfast… maybe.
Lots of stair training, pretty much every day.

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There were loads of school kids out and about today. They were acting like they’d never seen a gaijin and were getting a kick out of saying “harro”. We played the total alien, saying “gidday” and acknowledging their attempts at Engrish.
A strange rustling in the bushes gave us our first encounter with a monkey! No photo proof, hopefully we’ll get another opportunity in the next 1,000kms.
Mid morning, we spotted a brand new Henro hut on the side of the road and went to investigate. Inside were two old ladies who insisted on making us green tea and giving us some rice crackers. The hospitality of the locals was amazing.  We were pretty keen to get moving as the next temple was not within reach today. Surely we could get to Temple 24 tomorrow morning some time….. If we believed the book it was 76 kms from Temple 23…..

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Today was pretty much about skirting the coast with lovely beaches and  views.

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Along the coast there were signs to tsunami shelters and what the height above sea level was. I had expected more tourism and towns along the coast, but it was pretty much deserted. Every once in a while we’d hear loud alarms ringing out. Should we be running for the hills? We had no clue.

Fireflies littered the skyline as we started to case the joint for free accommodation. It wasn’t looking good. As the light started to fade we were going along a road that wasn’t  offering any options. No choice but to put on our head torches (for safety) and keep moving.

So, this was the best we could find…
Bunkered down in a crappy bus shelter.  Dirty. Haven’t showered since Sunday. Worst hotel yet.

The view.. not quite like last night. The only excitement overnight was a few hoons (yep, Japan has a few..) racing down the street 2 metres from our bench and a truck that stopped to deliver papers to the foot of my sleeping bag. Like 10 centimetres from my feet…

Total distance in 4 days, 222kms.

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Shikoku ain’t flat…. I Shikok u not.

27 Jun 264

Day 3. Thursday

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The best thing about sleeping beside a major highway and being awake all night with road noise, rain, wind and one eye open, was knowing there was a bad coffee brewing at the 7-11 just down the road.
We stocked up with plenty of food weighing our packs down as we would be leaving Tokushima city and venturing back into the mountains.
Temple 18 and 19 were on the flat before we found hills, bamboo trails and mountains for Temple 20 and 21. Tough trail, but stunning.

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Big climb up, meant big climb down. Took a wrong turn coming out of Temple 20 which involved a lot of elevation… No thanks to the bus driver that sent us down the wrong way… back to Temple 19. Nearly lost my zen like state. We’d seen this from Temple 20….

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That little arrow was where we were heading. Down we went to the beautiful Naka river crossing and followed the river up towards Temple 21. Really pretty but beginning to question if we could get 67 more temples done before hitting Nirvana if this was what we were in for.
Beautiful tough trail, temps in the 30s and with a pack that was running out of food again.

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Hot and struggling after over 50 kms, we knew there would be shops as we neared one of the prettiest beaches on the island…. or so we thought. Had delightful conversation with two old ladies (or I think it was delightful?) they directed us out of Tainohama beach in search of food….
Nothin’.
An old Japanese guy started having a chat with us in his broken English. We  asked if there were any cafés or shops to buy food. He said “Japan very small country, no shops”
Great. We wandered on our way south until we heard him running up behind us “You need food? Bread?”
Ahh, YES! “Follow me”.
For 10 mins we followed this guy through some tiny streets. Everything was closed . He opened a shutter to reveal a FOOD SHOP!

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Andy couldn’t get past the ice cream he wanted 5 hours ago. I went for inari.
Paid the lovely old boiler for all our supplies, except the inari that she gave us as “osettai”. (gift for pilgrim) Did we really mention beer would be good? ….. Oh o….
Off we went along the street with the old guy to the closed beer shop ….

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4 Cans of Asahi in our possession, we bid a fond farewell to our best mate and went off in search of a bench to consume an ice cream and a beer before wondering where the hell we were going to stay the night..

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Walked off the sea wall with beer in hand looking at boats and thinking that was an option as sleep quarters, when we stumbled on our gift from Buddha … A cubby house!
WITH A VIEW!

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Even better than that, there was a toilet beside it with a power point to charge our phones and GPS watches!

Let’s hope the weather is kind to us tonight as there was no protection from the elements or mozzies. This being homeless gig is kinda cool though. Wonder when we will be able to wash?

Hungry hills.

26 Jun

Day 2 Wednesday
Sleeping with two alpha males was not the nightmare I expected. Peace reigned over the mountains and there was no exerting their manliness via a noisy nasal band of sinus sufferers. The small hut, with a 6ft 6inch French guy and a short 6 ft 1 inch Englishman was cosy….. my midget like stature had me sleeping on a mat folded over three times while they had single cushioning.

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Awake before the sun came up at 5am, we were keen to get moving and find food. We were hungry.
We left as Idris sang God save the Queen in fine French accent.
TOUGH hills…. no shops…

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Made me think my GNW 100 miler days are over. Pack is heavy. Henro hat, stamp book and stupid stuff to carry. Bloody pilgrim “journey”.
No food…… mountains. Miniscule Cliff cookie for sustenance until the 6 Kms of mountains is complete.

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Should have done a Bear Grills and killed this dude..

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Would have swallowed the bugger whole. Starving.

Vending machine at Temple 12 will deliver coke… surely…..

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Through the woods with steep climbs towards Temple 13, 21 plus Kms away before heading down to the river. Oh, great. Hungry? Much?

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Hot and not enough food. Pushed on. No wonder the locals catch the bloody bus. Never believe the book. Shops are not always there….

Tokushima! Finally we found a Lawson (like a 7-11) before Temple 17.  Decided to keep moving forward towards Temple 18 until we saw a fine Scottish restaurant where Andy consumed numerous variations of super sized dishes from the menu.

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Stopped at a Lawsons to stock up… because we could….

The Henro hut we were looking for at a major intersection ended up being a tool box that was locked and not big enough to squat in…. Pushed on a couple of kilometres. It was getting dark and we were on a major highway. Finally, on the side of the expressway… we were in luck. No doors, noisy and pretty windy, but, home for the night 😒

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88 Temples of Shikoku. In search of a higher being.

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It’s been 12 months since I finished my pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome. Successful in finishing the 2,300 km “journey”, (I still hate that word….) didn’t mean I found any higher being worthy of worship status.

After a conversation with Tim and Suse about some island in Japan that has a 1200km pilgrimage to 88 Temples, I was madly researching the island of Shikoku. After living in Tokyo for 5 years, Japan is a very special place for our family.

This search for a higher power didn’t involve any priests, just some cool looking monks with shaved heads and dresses. Could I reach Enlightenment? Nirvana?
He who must be obeyed was not keen on my determination to park myself on the trail alone in my tent. With the click of an email, I had a much taller, stronger but not smarter partner in crime, Andy.

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With a 6kg backpack carrying my trusty tent, sleeping bag, mat, clothes and everything I thought I needed for 3 weeks, we set off on our adventure.

Pete drove us to the airport at 3:30am for our 6 am flight via Cairns to Osaka. Arriving at Kansai airport at 5pm, we thought we should be able to get the 6:20pm bus to Tokushima… Until we saw the state of the Immigration Hall. Two and a half hours later we were at the front of the queue. That meant we missed the 7:20pm bus as well. The 8:20pm bus would have to do… except there wasn’t an 8:20pm bus. After being at the airport for almost four and a half hours we finally got on the last bus to Shikoku at 9:20pm. Hopefully we should be at our destination just before midnight. Wherever that may be.

We decided to risk being stranded and got off the bus at Naruto Highway instead of Tokushima, which was another 20 mins on the bus. It was the blind leading the blind. Ultimately we needed to get to Bando station near Temple #1. After walking for a few kilometres from where we were abandoned by the bus, we found Naruto Eki (train station), but no trains. It was past midnight. Fortunately for us, there was a cab parked outside the station. I asked “Ikura desu ka?” to Bando and we arrived at Temple 1, just 3,800 yen poorer.

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The map showed a park nearby, so we went looking for somewhere to sleep. German Park…. It would have to do. It was after 1 am and we’d been awake for almost 24 hours. The mosquitoes were monstrous, the howling wind didn’t silence the buzzing in my ears. Get used to it Trumper. At least there was a roof to our shelter.

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After a big day of travelling, only 3 hours sleep (I prefer to call it 3 hours of mozzie murdering) we were ready to start the road to Enlightenment and whatever the next few weeks threw at us.
Up early, mats and sleeping bags packed away by 6am, we waited for  the shop at Temple #1, Ryozenji, to open at 7am. Feeling like total tourists, we bought a Sugegasa (pilgrim hat) for 1500 yen and Nokyocho (stamp book) for 2,000 yen. Nothing like loading yourself up with heavy Henro (pilgrim) gear after being so anal about pack weight.
Off we went looking like two cartoon characters…

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Favourite temple of the day was Temple 4 where the Monk stamping our book had lived overseas for 20 years. It was his parent’s temple and he had a duty to come back to help. From what I could understand, if he didn’t, the temple would go back to the authorities? Getting our books stamped cost 300 yen per temple and took some time if we found a bus load of pilgrims when we arrived.

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At Temple 10, we chatted to a lovely Japanese man called Katchan who lives near Carmel in California. It was nice to talk to him and understand more about the Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. He is in Shikoku to visit his very sick brother.

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After visiting 11 temples, having our pilgrimage book signed and stamped at each one and travelling over 50kms on foot, we called it a day. We found a Henro hut after a steep 700 metre hike up over a mountain with a 6 ft 6 inch French guy called Idris inside. No shops, no dinner, just trails and tranquility. We didn’t know it, but that was to be the best accommodation we’d get in the next few weeks…

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We had very little in our packs to eat. Shops were 10kms down the mountain, past Temple #12. We could wait till then for food….

Last day to Rome

12 Jun

 

IMG_1817       My last night sleeping with Italian men… I left 2 of them sleeping soundly in the little village of Fromello as I disappeared into the day that I knew was going to be a scorcher.
I was surprised to continue on trail for a fair way before it became obvious I was about to enter a major city. The rubbish everywhere was disappointing. That breakdown lane below was a garbage dump.IMG_1818

Really Italy. You need to clean up your act. I’d noticed yesterday that there were TVs dumped in creeks and bags of waste just chucked. Bottles and cigarette packets galore 😠
Anyhoo…. Bought myself a gelato and some focaccia and made my way south. The roads were choked with traffic in parts and I was travelling faster than the cars. IMG_1822

At other times I was on ridiculously dangerous roads with no verge. Nothing worse than getting cleaned up in the last 15 Kms. The photo below was taken when there weren’t two lanes of traffic speeding towards me with nowhere for me to get off the road. IMG_1823

The signage wasn’t easy to follow and was once again grateful for Roger’s help fixing my GPS. It would have been like a stranger navigating their way from San Souci to Manly.
At one point I entered a park above Rome and sat for a few minutes. Not really thinking about much, not emotional, just numb really. I’d planned to get to the Vatican at 1pm and it was around 12. Just a big zig zag down the hill on shitty uneven trail and navigating a few more streets and I was there.

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It was 35 degrees and I was just beginning to realise that I wouldn’t have to do this tomorrow… Or the next day… Or the….
There were people everywhere. Not one was interested in me. These were your typical tourists walking 4 abreast and complaining about the heat and looking miserable as though they were suffering more than anyone else. Oh how I haven’t missed first world problems.
It crossed my mind too many times what the people really suffering would think. You know, the ones not on a holiday.

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I entered “The City” and felt like an ant with so many people around. I took a photo to let everyone know I had arrived while waiting for my Testamonial (a stamp and a piece of paper) and waited in line with a bunch of people complaining about their tour…..
30 mins later I was out the door with my prize. IMG_1828

I sat down amidst the throngs and searched for a hotel on my phone.
My phone went crazy with so many texts, emails, FB messages.
The support from friends has been huge and a major comfort in the last 6 weeks. It hasn’t been easy or fun, but I did it. I’m not doing it again, but I’m glad I have. If you know what I mean….

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Last 60km day … Forever! 😩😂

9 Jun

imageEffing hot, buying water in 1.5 litre bottles instead of Princess like 500 mls. The temps were in mid 30’s and felt every bit of it.

Pretty village of Capranica… all stone, lots of men drinking coffee and chatting in all the cafes. Just something they do at 8am before they start drinking wine an hour later…IMG_1805     IMG_1809

Did a bit of sight seeing around Sutri. Some of this shit is seriously older than me! Must google it when I get home to find out what I was actually looking at..

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From Vetralla to Formello should have been 53 Kms… Then why did my Garmin read 60kms? Those last 7 Kms ( and quite a few before then) sucked. Must be close to 40 degrees. Passed a pretty picnic spot but should never look into the rivers/ creeks. Rubbish galore. Bags of the stuff and a couple of TVs in this one.

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Passed an Australian couple (smart people had just day packs as their luggage was moved to the next spot each day) trying to sit in a square of shade out of the heat. A kilometre later, a girl from Luxembourg doing the same .. They weren’t impressed with distances either. There had been nowhere to buy water for too long.

I managed to contact the Australian couple the next day to try and meet up in Rome when they got there, but the man had collapsed just after I saw them and they were taking a day off.

Staying in Formello at Ostello Maripara for 15 Euros. Clean but no privacy. Nice view…

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Lying on a bed (bunk) two Italian guys in here as well, but they’ve gone to eat … I can’t be bothered going to get food.. or a wine.. I’m clean and shoeless. Not all that excited about finishing tomorrow… just sitting here wondering why the hell I decided to do this in the first place.

The building I’m staying in is pretty cool… all modernised on the inside but all original old stonework outside.

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So, tomorrow😳 who’s going to be in Rome??😔

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Sent from my iPhone

Stinking hot.

9 Jun

Kept awake by barking dogs most of the night, so got up early, packed tent away for maybe the last time? A hand written note 30 cms from where I was sleeping spooked me a bit when I woke. Made me realise how a tent has no security…. that’s my tent zip in the bottom left hand corner of the photo!IMG_1781

Beautiful around the lake before the rest of the world woke.

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Strolled around Montefiascone and then on to Viterbo and Vetralla. 56kms on the Garmin.
I was hoping to sleep at Monasterio Regina Pacis in Vetralla. The prices are rising the closer I get to Rome. These dudes wanted €30 but I told them I’d rather eat in my room than get some weird ritual placed upon me again and the price dropped to €20.IMG_1797

Good deal. They wanted to give me breakfast but not when I said I wanted to leave at 6 am.
The weather is stinking hot. Can’t believe the extremes I’ve had. Only a few weeks ago freezing conditions traversing snow.
So up and ready to go at 6 and I’m locked in. Took a bit of noise and 20 mins of walking around before Julie Andrews shows up to let me out….
Few hurdles still to overcome… my Visa card is very close to being in two pieces and I’ve hardly used it. Really wrapping myself in cotton wool and nothing (not even the German chick that coughed all night last night) will stop me getting to Rome.
Plan to not bush bash anymore after a shocker in a field yesterday.. Looked like a typical snaky spot and had prickles and welts all over my battered body. Massive shout out to Roger for getting my GPS waypoints loaded for the final 300kms. Saved me big time. Mwah xxxxx
Off to Formello via Capranica and Sutri for my last 50 plus km day. Temps expected in mid 30’s😩

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