I'm not really sure on the mileage of this day, my route was kind of crazy and my GPS kept losing signal...telling me that I had run 166 km halfway through my run. I'm pretty sure that it was around 45 or 50 km, and one of the most challenging days yet.
The run to Lugano from Bellinzona was supposed to be pretty straightforward, 31 km along a sentiero. Once again, however, I didn't find the entrance to the path, and my route was pretty random and along the side of roads in bike paths that cars kept driving in. I again walked for about 15 km, hoping that the pain in my shins would calm down again. About halfway through the fairly direct route I was taking, I got to the town of Rivera, where Johnny had suggested that I take the "funivia" to the top of the mountain to see the Mario Botta chapel. I wasn't opposed to taking a machine up a mountain, provided that it brought me back down to the same place (so that I could continue along the valley to Lugano), so I went a couple minutes out of my way to the base station of the lift. When I got there, a sign informed me that the cost of the ride was 22 Francs for the out and back, and I said "No way am I paying that, I'll just run up it!"
I couldn't see the top of the mountain, and I didn't really think that it would be very far. I was wrong. As a general rule from now on, when a chairlift costs over 20 dollars, it is going a long way up. It was a very very long way up. I wasn't going to turn around, and after some serious running, hiking, crawling and sweating (and many false peaks) I arrived at Alpe Foppa, having gained 1060 meters of elevation. Soaking wet with sweat, I put on my pants and started going about the church. The view from the platform was amazing, and I was actually pretty glad that I had made the climb on foot. Had I taken the trip in an enclosed chairlift, it wouldn't have meant nearly as much to me. Standing on top of that platform, I felt truly triumphant, and truly grateful for the beautiful landscape that had brought me to the point where I was standing. The interior of the chapel was interesting, and I couldn't help but find echoes of Ronchamp: big revolving door, light breaking through the ceiling, little written messages and magnified sketches.
From the chapel, I headed to the cafeteria area and got a bite to eat and asked for the direction to Lugano. The man I asked told me to take the chairlift down and head along the valley...and that I had the other (insane and not suggested) longer option of continuing up to Monte Tamaro and taking the ridge line over and then down to Lugano. I wasn't about to backtrack down that hill immediately, so I chose the insane and not suggested option. Before heading on my way, I paid five francs to take a ride on a freaking awesome luge/bobsled thing. I went fast.
After sliding down a rock slide on my butt to get onto the proper trail, I took off my shirt and got ready to conquer some more mountain. The trail was incredible, and I felt like I was Highlander, Braveheart, or a really fast mountain goat or something...on little cut rock paths winding around the side of the mountain. At one point, a German couple that was hiking down the hill stopped and stood there with their arms outstretched and fingers moving, waiting to do "the wave" (the two person wave) as I passed by. That was pretty awesome. After some serious running, I skirted the top of Monte Tamaro and arrived at the top of M. Graddiccioli. At 1935 meters, it was about 1700 meters above where I had started the day (and 1700 meters above where I was going)...aka both the days it took to cross the Gotthard combined into one (plus the descent). At the top of the mountain, a plaque read (translated from Italian) that "the intensity of life is not measured by the number of breaths, but by the places and moments that take our breath away." This mountain definitely took my breath away.
From the top of the mountain, I could see the lake and city of Lugano, and I spent the rest of the trip running along the ridge lines and along the side of mountains towards the city (sometimes on trails, sometimes not). I eventually reached the town of Arosio, and took the longest winding downhill imaginable down to Gravesano where I continued towards Lugano. That downhill just destroyed my legs, and I had to walk/jog the last 4 or 5 km into the city.
Once again, I wandered around for a bit looking for something to fall into my lap. I bought a gelato and stood in the lake (which wasn't really cold at all) for twenty minutes or so...and fell asleep for a few minutes by its side. I had thought that I had a place to stay in Lugano, but once I got a little bit closer, I realized that the people who had sent me an email actually lived miles outside of the city...so I had to wing it again. I bought an amazing pizza (Gorgonzola and prosciutto) for dinner, and continued my rambling. After speaking with a few people, including a couple runners who had stopped to stretch, I found myself exhausted and with nowhere to sleep at 11 pm. At this time, I found a group of three people walking and said (an introduction I have been using kind of frequently) "Are you from this town?" When one of them said yes, I explained my story and asked if he knew of a place I might be able to find a shower and a place to sleep. Without another question, Lorenzo offered to let me sleep at his apartment and introduced me to his cousin and her new husband who were visiting from Italy for their honeymoon. Oh man, I was pretty happy...and pretty lucky once again.
21 July 2009