Friday, May 20, 2016

Day 10: Civilization! Wonderful civilization!

September 20: Karolina and I woke up to a beautiful morning. The wind was brutal all night, but eventually died down in the morning, and we were on the trail hiking by 7:30. From the refuge, the trail immediately climbed steeply up the high point for the day at Punta Muratello, then a long, relatively gradual slide downward into the town the Vizzavona--the only "real" town the trail goes through along the trail. Calling it a town probably makes it sound bigger than it really is, but it is a town with restaurants, stores, lodging and even a train station and generally marks the halfway point of the trail. Karolina and I were both anxious to reach town. =)

Just past the high point for the day, some mean-looking clouds blew through that dropped a few sprinkles, which had Karolina and I worried about how much it might rain. We hadn't heard about rain in the forecast, but it the worries turned out to be nothing. Except for the slightest of sprinkles, it eventually cleared up again into a beautiful afternoon.

The last part of the trail went through some of the lowest elevations of the trail and back into trees--beautiful trees!--full of fall colors. I enjoyed the crunch of the leaves on the trail.

As we approached closer and closer to Vizzavona, we saw a lot more day hikers out and about, and Karolina seemed amazed that they all smelled like soap. She said it with a certain wistfulness, like it was an exotic substance she'd only heard about on TV. =) Both of us, obviously, had long stopped smelling like soap.

We arrived in Vizzavona early in the afternoon, and our first order of business was food. We ordered a pizza for a late lunch, then resupplied at a small store nearby. The selection wasn't great--it was about what you'd expect from a convenience store, except it didn't sell gas. But it was all that was available, so hey--we took it! =)

I did run into one unexpected problem, though.... I had a mere 20 euros on me, and the town--as it turns out--had no ATMs. I was actually a bit surprised at my lack of cash. I had gotten a couple of hundred euros when I was in Milan thinking that would be enough for the rest of the trip, but between the cost of the taxis, trains, and subways--not to mention food at airports and such, I had spent most of it without even realizing it.

The 20 euros I still had wouldn't even cover the cost of camping at the refuges on the trail, and the nearest place for me to get cash was an ATM well off-trail in the town of Corte. That would mean a train ride to Corte, a train ride back, and I wasn't even sure it could be completed today. It's not as if the trains run every five minutes. It took us longer to reach this point than expected due to the difficulty of the trail and losing most of a day going into Corte didn't appeal to either of us.

Vizzavona didn't have any banks and no ATMs. The clerk where we resupplied wouldn't even "overcharge" us and give us the extra in cash. Money goes into this town, but it can never leave! Although I was unable to acquire cash--fortunately--I was able to charge my meals and resupply to my credit card.

Karolina was a bit more prepared and still had about 200 euros, so we tried to figure out if it was enough to cover both of our needs along the other half of the trail and I'd pay her back when we finished the trail and I could get back to a proper ATM. Fortunately, there wasn't a whole lot to spend money on while hiking the trail. Camping fees was about the only required expense, but those refuges were an all-cash business. We couldn't charge anything with credit or debit cards out there! When we reached the end of the trail, we might need some more money to get a shuttle to the largest nearby town with an ATM, but I supposed we could hitchhike if it came down to that. Neither of us were sure how much that shuttle would cost. So between the two of us, we needed to keep those cash expenses below 220 euros. So while in Vizzavona, we used our cards everywhere to save the cash.

Somewhat ironically, I actually had more US dollars and Swiss francs than I had euros. I had about $100 and maybe $50 or so worth of Swiss francs. But both of those currencies were completely useless out there. "I'm rich!" I told Karolina. "I just can't spend it anywhere."

At the shop where we resupplied, I bought enough food to get me through the rest of the trail. It would have been nice to occasionally get food at the refuges, but those required cash which was in short supply. So I filled up with food here, that I'd have to carry on my back, but which I could purchase with my credit card. The shop keeper seemed stunned at the amount of food we were buying, and even gave us some of the stuff for free--like the Coke I had grabbed. It was as if he felt guilty for taking so much of our money.

He also told us--or rather, told Karolina (he only spoke French so I couldn't understand him)--that we'd be kicked out of the campground for having so much food. The nearby campground was actually free to use, but apparently buying food at their store was considered "mandatory" if you wanted to camp there. Instead, he said we could camp for free behind his house, which is what we ended up doing.

It was certainly quieter than a busy campground, and the price was right, but I was a little disappointed. After ten days without a shower, I was kind of inclined to at least find a cheap hotel room or hostel where we could shower, clean up, recharge our devices, and maybe find a wi-fi connection where I could give Amanda an update on our progress and make sure AQ was still running okay. Karolina seemed to like the idea of camping for free, though, and I figured camping in a guy's backyard would make an interesting story, even if it wasn't my first choice. So off we went to set up camp.

The house was just a few minutes walk away. We walked there, carrying bags of groceries, and set up camp and lounged around a bit, eventually walking back to the main drag where we had dinner at a restaurant across the street from the pizza place we ate at before. Near our table was an outlet, so Karolina and I used it to charge our devices while we were there. Karolina needed to charge her camera and I needed to charge both my Kindle and smartphone.

After dinner, we headed back to camp for the night and called it a night.

For a short period, it looked like it might rain! But it didn't--not really--and soon cleared up again. =)

My trekking pole used to have a tip that was several inches long. After the AT and Tour Mont Blanc, it's a mere stub now!
At the lower elevations, we were back in the trees which were thick with fall colors! And I loved the sound of crunching leaves! =)

I wanted to get a photo of these small flowers and laid down on the ground to get this dramatic shot. Karolina wanted a photo of these small photos too, but she had a different technique: She told me, "email me your photos of them!" =)

The last couple of miles into town were along this completely flat and totally easy road. The easiest section of the whole trail!

Ruins of an old hotel at the edge of Vizzavona. It looks like it must have been magnificent back in the day!

We had lunch (pizza) on the patio of this restaurant. I also ordered a "Corsica Cola." (i.e. Coca-Cola). =)

Our campsite behind the house of the guy who owned the convenience store where we resupplied.

Dinner is served! (Notice our devices plugged into the outlet at the upper-left corner of the photo?)
This was my dinner.
But in hindsight, I kind of wished I ordered this instead! =) Karolina's dinner looked more.... diverse. =)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The small flowers are a type of cyclamen.
Strategizing about water, campsites and now euros.
Thanks for blogging.