Sunday, January 25, 2015

Yoo 653 - Path of the Gods

The day we spent on the Amalfi Coast was one of the best days we've ever spent together, rivaling our treks along Abel Tasman and Kepler Track in New Zealand. But, the morning could have fooled me! It started with eggs and yogurt and a bunch of oranges for breakfast in bed while watching BBC but then really started an hour later at the bus stop.

Silly as we are, we showed up 15 minutes early to catch the 8:30 bus. Like anything had been on time during our Italy trip? Today it needed to be! My plan was to ride the 8:30 bus from Sorrento, along the coast, to Amalfi and then catch another bus from Amalfi into the mountains and get off at Bomerano. It was going to take at least three hours but it would be a scenic three hours.

Well, we sat around the bus stop, wondering which bus to get on, and then when we figured it out we sat on the bus and watched 8:30 and 8:40 and 8:50 and 9:00 tick by while our driver and three-quarters of the other passengers stood outside and smoked.

But I was keeping it together! I was only allowing myself to be mildly perturbed and reminding myself that if we didn't make it to this hike that there were other options and either way we were going to have an adventurous day together.

The bus finally left shortly after 9 and I breathed a sigh of relief. Until half an hour later when I looked at my phone and realized we were taking a completely different route to Amalfi. One thru the mountains and not along the coast at all.

At first I was bummed. The coastal drive is supposed to be one of the best in the world! Upon further research though, I realized the road we were on was taking us right past Bomerano...our main destination. But how to communicate that to our driver who only spoke Italian? I wanted Greg to take charge and give it a try but he was asleep...

I sat there, trying to work my courage up to approach the (very good-looking) driver, when he accidentally side-swiped another truck around a tight turn and lost one of his mirrors.

That's when we pulled into a parking lot and waited for 45-minutes for a repair truck to come replace the mirror.

My morning was not going as planned. Yet another delay! I did get the opportunity to talk to the driver, using the one Italian word I had picked up on museum signs: "Uscita". I figured it meant "exit" or something similar and paired it with "Bomerano" in a questioning tone, sounding completely dumb. The driver kept playing on his phone but did nod his head and repeat "Bomerano", which I hoped meant I had gotten my message across.

So the repair men came and fixed the mirror, meanwhile everyone else on the bus smoked at least 2 cigarettes each and I learned tricks for rolling a cigarette. Travel is educational. With cheers the bus took off again, after some very tricky maneuvering to get out of the parking lot and back onto the highway. I spent the remainder of the ride stressing about our Bomerano stop.

If we didn't get off in Bomerano, we'd have to wait for the right bus in Amalfi and backtrack, which we probably wouldn't have time for after the delays.

But, lo and behold, as I watched our blue GPS dot approach Bomerano on my phone, the bus driver motioned to us and stopped in the center of town, just across the piazza from our hike's starting point. And as luck would have it, we got there an hour earlier than my original planned route, even with the late-start and accident!

I was elated.

The Path of the Gods, or Sentiero Degli Dei, has been on my bucket list of hikes for a couple years. I can't remember where I first read about it, but when we booked this trip to Rome, it was always in the back of my head "well, that would be cool if we could make it happen". Upon deciding to take a trip to Pompeii and stay in Sorrento, I knew we'd be close enough to make a day of it, if the weather was nice.

And the weather was perfect. I kept pinching myself over how well everything was coming together. There were so many variables and pieces that could have stopped us from walking that path, but everything worked out.

My first glimpse of the terraced mountains shooting up from the shimmering blue sea was payment in full. There was no doubt in my mind that this hike would live up to expectations.

We hiked past an older couple making out and leap-frogged with two teenage boys for the first 30 minutes, but otherwise had the path to ourselves for the next five hours. Every now and again we'd share it with a farmer, walking past with his donkey.

I loved that we were sharing the path with the people who live there. This is how they get from town to town among the mountains. It's a really fun blend of nature and culture and wow, is it gorgeous!

The painted path markers.

Overall, the hiking is easy from Bomerano to Positano and the views are ridiculously stunning. We passed a handful of groups hiking the opposite direction and we weren't jealous of them at all. Lots of UP to walk and the views are the same, if not slightly better heading towards Positano.

We took frequent breaks, about every five steps, just because we wanted to make it last as long as possible. The day was so perfect and the landscape was so incredible. There was more sitting and viewing than walking.

Didn't earn any cheeseburgers on this hike...

The highway below!

This herd of goats stopped us for a bit. Not that we couldn't get around them, but goats are fun to watch. Plus there were at least three dogs herding them!

This one stared at us like "Don't you dare mess with muh goats."

I was leading us using screenshots on my phone of a guide I'd found online. This guide mentioned a bus departing from Nocelle to Positano but when we got to Nocelle, we found no roads or buses. Maybe we weren't looking hard enough? I shrugged it off, more eager than anything to postpone the end of this adventure, and decided not to tell Greg about the more than 1,700 steps that now stood between us and Positano.

Just off to the right of this tiny piazza is this church:

Which has a stunning view AND is fun to walk to. A little jealous of that congregation.

And so began the descent. My legs became shaky after only a few minutes. Going down stairs always kills them fast, no matter how trained I am at the time. Sometimes we ran because it seemed easier. But then I'd feel like we were rushing so we'd have mandatory stops to take in the moment. It reminded us of our descent the second day on Kepler Track and the 97 switchbacks. There was a lot of laughing reminiscing that.

This cat kept following us down the thousands of stairs. This BLACK cat. It knew what it was doing, too. Greg saw it sneaking from behind and suggested we speed up so it wouldn't cross in front of us, because that would be catastrophic. And we did. The cat toyed with us, speeding up and slowing down, threatening its bad luck. There were several close calls but it never OFFICIALLY completed a cross of our path. Though January's been kind of a rough month, so maybe it did?

Dumb cat.

One-thousand-one, one-thousad-two...

 Mandatory break!

Losing count, but Positano is getting closer.

Pinch me. This slice of the Amalfi Coast is perfect.

Our finisher's photo! Got to the bottom with less than an hour before sunset, so great timing. Just had a short trek along the highway to the bus stop outside of Positano. Then great views and a sunset to take in while we were waiting.

I did feel bad for this group of British girls at the stop with us. They'd been waiting with us the entire time and when the bus came, the driver wouldn't let them on because they didn't have tickets. Well, they didn't have tickets because all the tobacco shops that sold tickets were closed and they were trying to pay their fare on the bus. I'm not sure what they did but I was really thankful in that moment that we'd bought the 3-day pass and didn't have to worry about paying fares. From what we'd noticed, the winter hours of most local businesses were pretty sparse!

We got a little taste of the coastal road while the bus weaved back to Sorrento. Greg was SOOOOOO glad he wasn't driving! And look at that sunset! It was a glorious end to a glorious day.

The bus pulled into Sorrento and I practically skipped back to our hotel I was so giddy from how well the day had played out. We cleaned up and headed out on the town...Teagan and Greg style. It started with appetizers.

A massive helping of French fries doused in some "Indian ketchup". It was an acquired taste but it didn't take us long to acquire it.

Then we watched a parade of children led by bagpipers. Part of the town's pre-Christmas festivities. Followed by kebabs at "our" kebab place. The owners were still fun the second night. And, unfortunately AFTER I'd killed most of my appetite on a ton of French fries, we found out that they have an eating competition. For the girls, it's currently four kebabs. You eat four and your meal is free. Maybe it was five?

Either way, I'm quite confident I could accomplish that without too much discomfort. Especially if I ran all day in preparation.

Greg would have to eat 10, and while I do not doubt his abilities, NO.

More walking and Christmas lights and shop browsing.

Then gelato. It was the best-tasting gelato we had in Italy. Some cherry flavor won our informal competition.

And that's almost a wrap for Sorrento. I completely loved this place and our time here!

Have a great day :-)