Okay, to continue –
I had climbed up a near vertical section of hillside, using tree roots as handholds to pull myself up onto a narrow ledge where I hoped there would be a track which we all could follow around the barrier that had blocked our way.
But when I got up there, there was no track.
Meanwhile the others had tried to follow me – Peter with his 12kg backpack on! – but I shouted down to them not to bother. There wasn’t a track to be seen.
My dilemma now was – what should I do?
I couldn’t get down – it was about a 15m drop to where the others were, maybe more, and it simply wasn’t possible to climb down. I would have to free fall, and there were rocks everywhere. I’d injure myself seriously.
All I could do was keep climbing up, hoping that there would be a track somewhere further up the mountain side.
The others meanwhile down below were trying to find a way around the timber blockade, but realising it was futile, they headed back down the track, from where we’d come.
They were abandoning me!
Now for some geography –
The pilgrimage track followed a stream. On the other side of the stream was a motorway. Beyond the motorway was a small road, which ran parallel to the motorway, the stream, and the pilgrimage track.
So for the others, the plan was to try and get onto that smaller road, which ran parallel to the track, and which would meet up with it several kilometres further on.
The only problem for them was – how to get to that small road?
As they told me later, they didn’t want to walk the full 3kms back to where we’d started, cross the motorway back there at the town, and then connect to the small road. It was possible to cross the stream only a short way back, but then they had to cross the motorway.
This is a four lane highway, with barricades and a speed limit of 130kms an hour. And even though by that stage it was only about 10am, there was still a lot of traffic whizzing by.
I didn’t know anything about this – I only found out about it later – but they decided collectively that they would try to cross the motorway.
Jennifer was not with them, I should add – she had stayed back with Marie, who had not been feeling well, and needed a late start. Their plan was to meet up with us at a half-way point, where we were to have a picnic lunch.
So the group – Peter, Ken, Angie and Patti – decided to climb up the steep slope of the motorway, heft themselves over the barricades, wait for a break in traffic and then make a dash across.
Equally mad was the situation that I found myself in.
I knew that I had to head east – follow the track and the stream, and according to the GPS map on my mobile, in about 250m I would connect back up with the track. But the hillside was steep, slippery, and at times I had to climb literally like a mountaineer – finding footholds, handholds, and hauling myself up, inch by inch.
I soon discovered that it was not possible for me to traverse the hillside – to go along the side of it in order to follow the stream.Timber cutters had cleared some of he hillside, and they had placed all the timber in huge stacks that ran from the top of the hill right down to the stream.
They were like walls of timber, running from the top of the hill right down to the water, and there was line after line of them. It was not possible to climb over them.
The only thing I could do was to keep climbing up – and hope that these walls of timber petered out as I got higher.
I checked my elevation at one stage – I was 680m up. I don’t know what the elevation was when I started, at creek level, but I was climbing high. I looked down to see if I could find the others. Way way down below, I saw some ants on the other side of the motorway, waving frantically to me. Those ants were the group.
What they hell are they doing on the other side of the motorway, I thought. And how did they do that? How did they get there?
At least I knew that they were now able to walk along that smaller road, and continue on. I though was stuck. I couldn’t cross these stacked of timber. All I could do was keep climbing up, like I was in one of those indoor mountain climbing gyms. Literally.
I figured there had to be a track up that mountain somewhere. How else could the timber cutters have got in there? But there had been very heavy rains, and a lot of washaways, and each time I though I found a track, it petered out and just disappeared.
I kept climbing.
That’s all I could do.
I had no idea how I was going to get out of this.
These hills, even a short distance out of the small town of Pieve Santo Stefano, were remote, and heavily wooded. At least though I had cell coverage and my GPS app.
Peter Landers also had the same app (MotionX GPS) and we’d set up our phones so that we had live updates, so that each of us could see where the other was. So he knew where I was, and I knew where he was.
Not that was not much help – I could see him in the way way distance, and he could see me, because of my red Swannies cap!
I had to stop. I was exhausted. I was also dehydrated. I hadn’t had any water that morning. Stupid, yes, I know. When I thought back, the only fluids I’d had were three espressos for breakfast. I hadn’t even had orange juice.
But whilst I was carrying water, it simply wasn’t possible for me to take my backpack off and get to it. The hillside was too steep. And if I lost my pack I’d never see it again. And it had my wallet and passport. It wasn’t worth the risk of taking it off.
I looked up the hillside. Hillside? Mountainside? I don’t know… it was high. And I was high. Not high, but high… maybe I was high from dehydration…
The timber wall-stacks were starting to thin out as I got higher, but they were still impassable. All I could do was keep climbing –
To be continued… (I have to get ready now for today’s walk… )
(oh, and thank you for all the comments. I will reply, but right now my time is very short. Only five hours sleep last night… )