Saturday, July 26, 2008

Trip to Casteluzzo part 1

Because it’s cooler most of my trips up to the mountains to map out routes for our guests have been done in the autumn. The walk I like the most is up to the bump which overlooks torre pelllice and as I hear it call to me every day ‘come, come’ I decided I wouldn’t wait for autumn this year and would go today. We had some guests come back from there a couple of weeks ago who were a little more tired that one would have expected from such a short walk. Apparently it was ‘a bit overgrown’ and little resembled my description of the casual saunter it would take to get there.

And by golly they were right. I left at 05.15 when I was still dark and set off on the scooter as the wife needed the car. A lovely 30 minute ride up before the walking began. A huge hare, which at first I thought was a young deer was sitting in the middle of the road and ran in front of me for a good couple of minutes and then, seemingly bored that I wasn’t trying to run it over, accelerated away from me and dived into a field. They really do move very fast. Once I set off on foot I was welcomed by another hare and it was interesting to note that one was distinctly grey and the other the usual reddish. I took this as a good omen. The first part of the walk is lovely, and starts you off with an invitingly wide open grassy track which is where the other hare was. This path drops after a while to climb up through the larches over a stream or two and eventually up to a craggy outcrop with a magnificent view. From here it was almost light and the roe deer chorus began. It always amazes me how many you can fit into such a small area and in the morning with the wind rising and the air clear the sound of their barks travels great distances. I counted 11 different barking sources coming from the foothills below me.

The ascent to the craggy bit should have given me an idea of what was to come as it was completely overgrown with wild raspberry bushes. But the path was still clear to follow once you got onto it just by bending them back and seeing the beaten earth beneath. Anyway even in the autumn a couple of bends are difficult to navigate so I wasn’t that worried. But once you reach this crag the hardest part is behind you. There are ups an downs but the ascent to the crag is the hardest (not that it is really hard though) so I didn’t even think of turning round. From the crag on to the bump it just got worse and worse. The raspberries got taller and taller and then gave way to ferns which got taller and taller and then woody rhododendrons which grew across the path and the path itself got narrower and narrower. The rocks covered by the bracken and grass were treacherously slippery but going slowly they didn’t pose a serious problem, just slowed me up. Going slowly has its advantages too as I startled (read it startled me) a chamoix which made a noise like I’ve never hear before, reminiscent of a cow, and shot off with an amazing burst of vertical power up a sheer rock face and away. As usual I aged considerably in the few seconds it took me to figure what it was. I always think of lions for some reason and the adrenalin pumps in accordance with that.

From a certain point onwards the weight of the bracken pushing over the path forced you to walk right on the edge and in the middle of all this were fallen trees and branches and bits missing and maybe even snakes and lions. Mind you at 6 o’clock in the morning no self-respecting snake would have been abroad so I wasn’t really worried about them. It was just not the pleasant stroll I had had in mind. I know the way well but when you have head high bracken to wade through and are looking at your feet to avoid slipping getting your bearings is a little tricky in parts so I just kept my head down and wandered through. Fortunately something had gone before me, a roe deer or chamois perhaps so you just had to follow the nibbled bits. It’s weird how if you concentrate on looking you see nothing but if you just widen your field of view and sort of just ‘see’, abnormalities in the terrain just seem to appear. Sort of like magic. Even so it took 1 hour and forty five minutes to do what normally takes ninety. I sweated four and a half buckets of sweat and probably lost a few kilos in the process however I probably put it all back on again because as I have lost 5 kg since I started this diet and had got down to 75 kg I thought a prize was deserving so I took a can of ice cold pear cider with me and two, yes ////two sandwiches containing a little sliced roasted ham, toms, lettuce, edam cheese (yes I know it’s not really cheese but I like it and every now and again I buy some) plus two bits of chocolate, two apples and a litre and a half of tap bloody water with some lemon squeezed into it. (added later, despite eating all that, I was75 kg before I left and 73 when I got back. I didn’t eat the chocolate though). I’d tried to keep the weight of the rucksack down to 10 kg but didn’t manage it. I took the metal detector up, hence the extra weight. I did originally have a thermos of coffee in it too. Quite a good buy really as it is unbreakable, compact yet holds two ample cups. I left it in the scooter as it was unnecessarily heavy, somewhat like a mortar shell.

There is a prehistoric altar three-quarters along the path to casteluzzo and I had intended to get there in time for the sunrise but it took me a while to get my second wind and quite a while more to hack my way along the path so I missed it.

So of course eventually I got to my destination. Almost immediately I falcon shot away below me and a short while later I managed to film a perching short toed eagle and have now figured out why I got confused when I see one fly over the house, apart from the wings it is actually white. But there was no mistaking it once I looked at the film.

One of the reasons for going up to casteluzzo was to look at every rock to see if there are any carvings. I felt sure there must be something. So I took the metal detector and as I looked I detected too. I never expected to find anything but I did get a vast selection of bottle tops and ring pulls and bits of rusty tin can but nothing else. I also didn’t find any carvings until that is I went to the south side of the bump where there is a cairn. And lo a behold right next to the cairn was what I’d call a sun symbol, round circle with a dot in the middle. There were quite a few other interesting vaguely carving shaped anomalies in the rock but all so eroded it was impossible to figure out if they were modern or ancient or just imaginary.

Whenever I go out on trips like this I always come back smelling like an animal. Not a human smell at all, more lion cage at the zoo. Weird. Mind you the trip back to the bike certainly gave you an animal’s perspective on life, head height in ferns and raspberry bushes, often not knowing what was round the next corner. An interesting change in outlook. I was a little concerned about the snakes. Silly because of course there are snakes all over the place, even in places you don’t think about, but if you know they are there you shouldn’t have a problem Walking early morning is safe because as I said any self-respecting snake would be tucked up in bed, but at midday with dappled shade that is where you might expect to find one and walking though ferns seems like a good place. However if you know they are there you bang your feet as you walk, and if you have a stick bang that as well and they slither away. The only times I have ever seen snakes has been when walking quietly so even in bracken there’s no particular reason to be worried, if you look where you are going and make enough noise but this doesn’t stop you ////thinking about it.

I have always walked without a stick but I ended up with two and next time I go summer walking in overgrown terrain I will take two again, but a little stouter this time as it does help you to avoid slipping down gulleys or off the path and gives you two extra things to bang on the ground.

So all in all, I will still recommend this trip to our guests though with two sticks, and some scree cuffs and precise indications as to where to go in addition to the walky talky I usually give them.

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