Un cop caminades Tailàndia, Birmània, Bangladesh, Índia, Pamir, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Azerbaidjan, Geòrgia, Turquia, Grècia, Macedònia, Albània, Montenegro, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croàcia, Eslovènia i Itàlia amb aproximadament uns 15.000 quilòmetres als peus, ara entrem a França.
Ciao, Italy! We are so sad to say goodbye. Really, it has been a blast!
You Italians, with your expressive hand gestures, kind hearts, wonderful espresso and delicious food, you keep winning us over, again and again. We have been so grateful to get to know you better and call you friends. We’ll miss you, truly.
But, you know how it goes. We’ve got to keep on moving, and France is up next.
L’aventura començà a Tailàndia i Birmània.
A continuació vàrem saltar a Àsia central per poder caminar Pamir, Tadjikistan i Uzbekistan evitant el seu cru hivern, així com també l’asfixiant monsó a Bangladesh i Índia.
Vàrem reprendre la ruta a Bangladesh, un pèl massa aviat per que les primeres setmanes ens ofegàvem de calor, humitat i en alguna que altra tempesta de final de monsó. Entrar a Índia per passar tot l’hivern ens va regalar perfectes temperatures diürnes, però poques hores de llum amb fredes nits i matinades on la boira espessa ens va acabar de congelar. L’operació quirúrgica de Jenn va marcar una important fita durant l’estada a Índia.
Des de maig a juliol vàrem caminar Iran per creuar Azerbaidjan durant un agost severament calorós que ens va causar forces problemes, però després vàrem gaudir d’un molt bon setembre a través de les muntanyes, valls i rius del sud de Geòrgia.
A continuació vàrem estar molt de temps creuant la llarga Turquia resseguint el mar Negre, per després passar al mar de Marmara.
Seguidament vàrem creuar una part del nord de Grècia, bressol de la nostra civilització i les muntanyes o llacs de Macedònia, Albània i Montenegro.
Triarem una ruta en paral·lel a la costa al llarg de la molt depriment Bòsnia-Hercegovina. Després vàrem creuar el nord de Croàcia i també un breu, bonic i natural tram d’Eslovènia.
Últimament hem caminat a través del molt industrialitzat i agricolament ric nord de la ‘bella’ Itàlia, per arribar a l’entrada de França per una preciosa i nevada porta, en Coll de la Madeleine.
Mirarem de seguir publicant i informant tan sovint com ens sigui possible, però com sempre, si no podem comunicar-nos, actualitzar o publicar molt freqüentment, assumiu que estem feliçment caminant entre bones persones i sobretot, que estem bé (o molt bé).
Així doncs, faré / farem el que bonament podrem, sense oblidar-nos de tots vosaltres que molt amablement ens seguiu, us interesseu per nosaltres, ens recolzeu i doneu ànims per continuar i als que us estem MOLT agraïts.
Mapa general amb la nostra ruta a través d’Itàlia. / General map with our route marked through Italy:
Mapes detallats de la nostra ruta a peu per Itàlia. | Detailed maps of Italy with our route marked.
As we have done in past posts, crossing borders and changing countries give us a chance to reflect on the places we’ve been and where we’re heading next. Here’s our short overview of our time in Italy.
We entered Italy in the fall of 2018 without any political fanfare, thanks to the EU and Schengen agreements. No border. No lines for a stamp in our passports. No police checks. Just a sign on the side of the road in Gorizia, near the building that once served as customs, that simply said “Italia.”
We walked along roads lined with vineyards. The grapes had already been picked, and the leaves were bright shades of yellow and red. We shared wine with locals, once in a café with a group of people who were having their mid-day, pre-lunch aperitivo and other times with our Couchsurfing hosts (now friends) over dinner.
I was lucky to meet one of my San Francisco’s friends, Barbara, who was in Italy for work. We spent the day together in Verona, chatting about everything that came to mind and admiring Italian architecture. These visits, rare as they are, fill me with motivation. Hanging out with people we already know creates a sense of normalcy for a few hours and puts some pep into our footsteps as we carry onward to our next walking milestone.
But, then the rains came, and the cold weather. This journey is hard enough every day, and there’s no need to suffer more than is necessary. Spending long, damp, miserable nights shivering in the tent during late fall and winter in sooo very unappealing. Besides, we knew, even if we walked onwards, we could not be in the Alps during December, January and February, and we are not prepared–and are unwillingly–to haul more gear to stay warm and trek on snow. So, we packed up, hung out for a week or so with our dear Italian friends, who are close enough to be thought of as family, in Villafranca di Verona and Schio (raising a glass your way, Luisa, Manu, Stefano, and Umberto!)
As we did during the 2017-2018 winter, we headed back to Barcelona, enjoyed the company of friends and family, and lavished in the creature comforts of sleeping in a bed with clean sheets and taking a hot shower on a daily basis.
The end of March, we returned to Villafranca di Verona, invigorated and filled with hope that warmer spring weather would follow us. Unluckily, northern Italy’s unusually dry and mild winter turned into a wet and cold spring.
This time, though, there was no time to hide. I am quite determined to finish the walk before the hottest days of summer set in as I am my own personal, travel in oven (thank you, menopause… Ugh!), and can no longer tolerate +30-degree Celsius/+90-degree Fahrenheit heat. Bessides we already knew we had to be back on June 29…because we’re having a party that day in Barcelona!
We toughed it out, and bought ski underwear and a merino wool sweater to keep us warm from the freezing, and sometimes sub-zero, Celsius temperatures we had overnight as we followed the Po River and inched closer to the mountains. We pulled into the tent almost every item of clothing we had to insulate our sleeping bags, which after heavy, heavy use these last few years have lost their fluff and warming capability. I used the material from broken umbrellas as shin and ankles gators, and they did wonders to stop rain water from dripping into my shoes. We had sunny days, gray day, and dark rainy days. We admired the bloom of fruit trees and stood in awe of snow-capped peaks. We smiled, laughed, complained about the rain (although we know the farmers we met were very happy with the downpours), packed up our tent in the early morning hours with frozen fingers, and sometimes traded out cold instant coffee (we’re not carrying a stove during this last phase because of the threat of fires later along the dry Mediterranean coast) for steaming hot and creamy cappuccinos.
As always, the big pick-me-ups came in the form of invitations from kind and generous people.
“Come, join us for some wine,” we heard one day from a group of people enjoying their Sunday morning brunch of wine, cheese, salami and prosciutto.
“You can sleep on my couch. I have some of my mother’s homemade pumpkin tortellini in the fridge that I can make for you,” said Vania, who many years ago pioneered herself through Europe when hitchhiking was a young concept in the traveling and backpacking mindset.
“Do you need to use the bathroom? Come in, and take a shower. Do you want some dinner?,” came the surprising invitation from Alessia and Angelo, who we met briefly in a village square and then coincidently walked by their house a short time later.
“Yes, you can camp in our driveway, away from the rain,” said Franco, his wife Bruna offering us coffee, cookies and, yes, more wonderful pasta.
And, we can’t say thank you enough to all the Couchsurfing hosts who took us in, offered us a warm and dry place to sleep, and shared their meals and lives with us. From Gorizia to the Colle della Maddalena, thank you, Antonella, Filippo, Michol and Davide, Pasquale, Nagore, Germana, Martina, and Roberto and Lorella… You know we carry you in our hearts!
We also had another side-trip that boosted our spirits. We took a train down to Bologna to spend time with Kavita and her daughter Alisha, who were meeting from other sides of the planet and doing spring break together in Italy. Kavita is one of my lifelong friends–our friendship started in the third grade in New Jersey and keeps us connected as our lives drift to different places around the world. Hugging someone who has known you for so long is like a deep, quiet moment of zen, wrapped in strength and resilience. The memory and warmth of that moment has helped me get through many other unpleasant moments when the weight of my backpack crushes me. It’s funny, and curious, how the power of nostalgia can work when harnessed into a force of movement that carries you forward and onwards while reflecting on the life behind you.
On that note, we look back on our trek through Italy with a glimmer in our eye, and say, “Grazie mille, ciao, arrivederci, che vediamo, Italia! Until we meet again!”
At the same time, we look ahead and with open arms and open hearts, we say, “Bonjour, France! What do you have in store for us?”
You know the drill by now… when we change countries, we have no idea what our connectivity will be like or how soon we’ll be back online.
Although being in the European Union now means we have free roaming with our SIM cards, keeping our phones charged is always an issue, especially in rural mountain areas and farmland where villages are further apart from each other and may or may not have a cafe, restaurant or public place where we can plug in our devices. Battery-sucking GPS map routing gets higher priority than blogging and social media posting. And, there are only so many cafe-charging stops we can justify in a 24-hour period. Surprisingly, too, with so many people now connected to the Internet on their smartphones, finding cafes with WiFi is becoming less common.
This is a long way of saying, we’ll post as we can. Thanks for your patience.
But, check back here now and again. We have new blogs scheduled in the next few weeks. We also are posting regularly on Instagram and Facebook. Our tag on both pages is @bangkokbarcelonaonfoot. The links are below:
Thanks for walking with us!