05 September 2009

Day 104

33 Kilometers.
In the morning I gathered my laundry that was still damp, said goodbye to Domenico and climbed up the hill to the edge of town in the direction I needed to go. I was hungry, but the only thing I could find that was open was the pastry shop, so I had two croissants with Nutella for breakfast (very healthy food). There was a little shop that had a computer in it, and the computer had a piece of paper taped to it that said "Internet Point," so I stopped in to try to do some of the work that I hadn't gotten done on the incredibly slow computer the day before. This computer wasn't much better, but it had a program installed that made a virtual cat walk back and forth across the bottom of screen, so at least I had that as I waited for pages to load.
I had a 35 cent piece of plain bread from the bakery (still the only place with food) before suiting up and heading out (I have a pretty regular routine of putting on sunblock, wrapping my coins up in paper to prevent jingling and properly orienting a shirt between me and my backpack to prevent chafing).
Once again the run was hilly and windy, and I made it about 15 km before the pain set in again. I managed to keep pushing for another 12 km or so before deciding to hike the last 6 km up to Caggiano. As I could see from 10 km away or more, Caggiano is built up onto a rock, and it was a pretty serious uphill to get there. I think I decided to walk for three reasons: One, the pain in my leg. Two, the desire to run a little bit less so that the next day I might have a little less pain in my leg. Three, the fact that the hill was enormous and steep and I was feeling particularly weenie.
When I finally got into Caggiano, I was hungry, tired an thirsty. I drank some water from a fountain and went into a bar to find something to eat. "All out" the guy said (as I looked around, I could see he wasn't lying...the place was empty). He informed me that the grocery store was shut and that there weren't any restaurants in town. "Hahaha" I laughed in the face of potential starvation.
I hiked up to the top of the town (and the historical center) to see if I could find something to eat. The place was empty, and it seemed like at least 60 percent of the population were incredibly old women with head shawls and canes. The town had a beautiful feel though, and I wandered by some amazing old "castles" and churches. On the upper edge of town (a cliff) there is a little Templar church that has no roof. The steps which lead to it are cut into stone, and while you cannot enter it, the view from this part of town is incredible. I sat down for a while and tried to take it all in. Just amazing.
Eventually, I went back towards the newer part of town, where I discovered a little general store that I hadn't seen before. I stopped in and got a couple apples and a boxed chocolate milk (an amazing find in a tiny Italian general store), and as the woman who ran the place made me a little sandwich, we got to talking about why I was there. Before she finished, she told me to come with her, and brought me outside to tell my story to all of her friends. "This guy walked here from Amsterdam!" (People often use the word for "walking" instead of the word for "running." It is always slightly harsh to hear, like when you get back from a track workout and someone asks if you had a nice time "jogging").
Anyways, I told a little group of people about what I was doing, and one woman (Nicolina) brought up the inevitable question: "But where do you sleep?" I explained that I normally sleep with hosts, to which she asked the follow up question: "Who is hosting you here in Caggiano?" I told her that I didn't have a clue, and she in turn offered to let me stay with her. With those words, a huge weight was lifted off my back and with the biggest of grins I said: "Really? Really?!" Nicolina confirmed that I hadn't misheard her, and I thanked her a thousand times with a very sincere "Grazie Mille."
I ate my sandwich as we talked for a while, and as a group began to gather around, I set out with Nicolina to her mother's house where I met her mother and her daughter and played fetch with a couple dogs. They were preparing tomato sauce in a giant metal pot over a wood fire, and her mom (82, I think) was working at peeling some vegetables. There were peppers drying under the sun and bunches of garlic hanging from the roof. It was easy to see that they took their time preparing their food the traditional way.
From her mother's house we headed back into the historic center of town with her daughter Alessandra, where they lived during the summers. Nicolina showed me around all of the abandoned places in the town center. The closed door that used to be her father's barber shop, the location of the old pharmacy and the old general store. The curch, the place where the people of the town met, and the place where she played when she was a child. Now it was empty, and there were only a couple old men sitting outside holding their guard. There wasn't enough work in the town, and many people had gone north to find a better life. It was a shame to see such a wonderful way of life disappearing.
Their home is in this beautiful old part of the city, and I took a shower there and washed my clothes before we drove out of town to get some dinner at the nearest restaurant. I had (rather fittingly, they pointed out) the "Vagabond" pizza, which was basically a mixture of everything that I would need to move on to the next town.
Before heading to bed, we sat around outside a bar and had a drink with some of their friends. Everyone in the town knew everyone, and the atmosphere of the place was wonderful. It was good to be part of it for a night, and it was a good inspiration for me to keep on going.


  1. I think this is my favourite tale yet!

    It's amazing some of the people you come across, you're very lucky in that respect! I hope it continues through Greece! :o)

  2. So amazing and wonderful! Thanks for the description of the inside of that house...I'm so there.

  3. That sounds like such a great experience. It is amazing to find that there are so many good people out there, with big hearts.

  4. Ryan, I like the "I am so there comment" of your friend. Sounds so fantastic (well most of it!) what amazing memories.