DAY 16, JUNE 2
(CHRIS) Matt made us get up early again. (In Matt's credit, whenever we don't get up early, we tend to blame ourselves for sleeping too long; someday we'll find the mean between the two extremes.) And we drove some more. I fell asleep, last consciously hearing something about our "Back Door" book and its recommendation of the Italian Riviera's Cinque Terra region... And that is where I awoke. Somewhere between Genoa and Pisa lies a series of five hill/coast towns. We stopped at Manarola and tried to drive towards the beach. As we winded our way between stacked up houses and hillside vineyards, the road narrowed and finally stopped near the train station where there was only a foot path and a tiny marina on the rocky coast. So we went back and parked, and hiked to the sea shore.
The path along the sea was narrow and a bit rocky and slippery at points. We saw other tourists (mostly German and some English-speaking) but not alot of them. One German lady told us about her town's sister city program with Jasper, Indiana. She even gave us the sister city sticker. Soon our path was closed off by a gate with a warning on it that we could not read. So we went around it and continued on. Some other hikers going the other way told us a rockslide ahead had made the path to the next town impassable. So we cut down to the seaside (I hesitate to call it a beach) by using a rope on a 200 foot slope composed entirely of loose boulders. It was an adventure.
The seaside was also composed entirely of loose 50 pound rocks, but we decided to strip to our shorts and (I hesitate to call it swimming) stand on a big rock and let the waves splash us. It was strange but fun. Maybe it was fun because it was strange. Matt was especially content. We caught some rays and moved on to the next town, our stomachs growling in protest (We only ate a banana and a few scraps of bread and it was 2 or 3 already.) At Corniglia, we climbed many steps, but decide we were too hot and tired to eat, so we looked at some vineyards, swigged some aqua and headed back to Manarola.
The hike, so said the sign, should have taken an hour, but we hearty young folk made it in a half hour. In Manaroia, we relaxed at a pizza pub with a Beck's and a slice of veggie pizza. When rested and refreshed, we hiked up through the neat little town to our car and headed for the expressway. Matt clipped a side mirror when a car coming towards us crossed the center line. (These roads were curvy and narrow.) We were undamaged and it seemed harmless, but the other guy turned around around and followed us. So we pulled over. His mirror had a small crack in it. So we argued with him (barely hurdling the language barrier) about who crossed the center line. Then we exchanged info and were off.
We were tired of travel so we only drove 1/2 hour and found a nice town off the expressway. It had camping, a super market and a - real beach! So we got food and stopped at a nearly deserted camp ground 2 or 3 km from the beach. There we ate and rested. All but Sam walked to the gorgeous beach. There were thousands of beach chairs and big umbrellas but no volleyball nets. We watched the sun set and walked barefoot a bit then went back to camp. At camp, I did a bit of reading about Pisa and Florence and tried to call my contact in Florence, but only reached an old lady's residence. We went to bed before 11 and slept in 'til 9:20.