Sunday, May 15, 2005

Italian Riviera

Woke up and left Nice with Ford as he was going into Monaco. Continued on to Ventimiglia, Italy. Just on the boarder where I had to switch trains. Had just enough time to grab some lunch and eat on the beach. Stony beach with clear blue water and 3 foot shore break. Then back on the train to enjoy the view. The track is pratically on the beach. Pass a semi left point break, 3 ft. 6 guys out.
Got to Genoa and step out of the train station to be greeted by the American Indians worst nightmare. A huge statue of Christopher Columbus. This is supposedly his home town. Got a map and hotel listings and began the search. While I'm staring at my map a nice Israeli girl named Sharon stops to offer me help. She's out getting excercise and killing time and offers to walk around till I find something. She's not to good with the map, but she knows some Italian so that helps. I wound up at the Hotel Chopin which was nice, clean, English spoken, friendly and the room had a sink and TV. Spent the night alternating between the TV and people watching from my balconey.Woke up and stowed my bag with reception and went out exploring Genova.Down Balbi Strade to an area which houses 12 Palaces. Unassuming from the outside, but impressive inside. One had a little pond with ~12 snapper turtles sunning themselves. What a few for a while trying to climb out with difficulty. They're not the best climbers. Strolled thru Ferrari Plaza, a nice big open square with a big fountain. An old city gate here, nice cathedral or building there. Down at the harbor there's the aquarium and an really cool old warship. 40 or so canyons and really intricately decorated wood carvings. Sat and people/dog watched for a while. Including one dog that just wouldn't tire of fetching a stick. It would yap it's head off if you didn't continue playing.
Off to Genoa Bogliasco where I gonna camp for the first time on the trip. I get to the station and wait for the free bus to the campsite only it never shows. Wind up taking a taxi a measly 2km for 5 euro. A rip off, but since it was straight uphill and probably would have killed me, I didn't complain too much. So it's early in the season and the camp isn't fully opened so I have to hike down in search of food. Down below saw a couple of longboarders getting out of the surf. Now it's getting dark and I'm not finding anything open. Stumble upon a couple of vending machines and buy a coke and ice cream thinking this might be all I get for the night. However, on the way back I found a market that was still open so I stocked up. Now all I have to do is find my way back up a hell of a hill. Chose badly at first and wound up at a dead end. Actually it was an institute for the retarded. Thought for a minute about checking myself in:) Eventually found the right set of stairs and after alot of energy, sweat, huffing and puffing finally arrived back in camp. Enjoyed the peace. Very quiet with frogs croaking all among the hills, the occcasional woosh of the train way down below and the chiming of various church bells on the hour/half hour. It winds up being a cold night. 42 degrees and some light sporadic rain thru the night, but I managed to get some decent sleep. Next day I catch the train to La Spezia which will be my base for hiking the Cinque Terre trail. Should have been less than 2 hours, but 15 minutes from La Spezia the train stops. Apparently the tracks are flooded up ahead. After 40 minutes we continue to the next station to be told we have to switch trains. Finally arrived a began the search for a place to stay. La Spezia is really small so no hostels here. So I begin the search for a cheap hotel. Wind up circling around and winding up where I started. Hotel Parma across from the train station. Decent enough. Tomorrow I'll hike the trail.But the next day it's rainy and cold. Back to bed. Maybe the weather will clear. Well, it's still cold, but the rain has stopped so I make my move. Break out the parka, thermals, and waterproof pants and take the train to Monterossa (first town and most difficult climb on the trail.) It's considerably warmer here and sweating like a pig and tearing clothes off before I even get to the ticket booth for the trail. The Cinque Terre trail (Five lands) is marvelous. Up until this century it was the only way to get between these five towns on the cliffs overlooking the sea. Barely wide enough for one person in spots and no railings. Watch your step or you're in serious trouble. A real Hell climb, but worth it. Acqua blue sea below, lush green and terraced grape vineyards above. Takes about 1.5 hrs to get between Monterossa and Varanza. The trail takes about another 1.5hrs to get to Corniglia, but the it's easier and just as nice. Corniglia is so small that they charge a toll for cars to enter. Quaint towns. It should take another 35 minutes to Manorolla, but the trail is closed halfway due to a rock slide. Hop the train at Corniglia and consider getting off a Manorolla to do the last part of the trail, but its only a 15 minute hike and since it's starting to get cold and late I blow off Riomaggeire and train it back to the hotel. Tomorrow it's off to Florence, Italy