Saturday, September 22, 2007

Why long distance walking

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,


Since I was a boy I have been fascinated by travels and explorations.
My first "travel" was to "explore" the source of Scatorbia (a quite small brook near home).
I was about ten. I packed an egg, a pan, some oil, bread and water and forth I set on foot upstream along the creek.
Actually, I never succeeded to get to the source but, when far away from any human presence I was frying the egg over a fire of sticks, I felt like a true explorer.
In the following years I climbed the mountains of south east Tuscany - where my family used to spend the summer holiday - and, in autumn, I walked the hills around my hometown (Città di Castello), collecting wild mushrooms and observing plants and animals.
Then, when the adolescence crisis broke out, I used to wander alone over the hills and, sitting under some huge oak, read aloud my then favourite poets: Petrarca, Cavalcanti and, the most imprinting one: Baudelaire's Petits poèmes en prose.
No sooner I got my first motorcycle (at sixteen) than I planned a long trip to France (1,000 km). But, as many Italians would be, my friends were scared by the discomfort of such a travel.
So, in October 1962 I set out alone for Nice where I had some relatives which - by their invitation - had convinced my parents to let me go abroad.
I had a very minimalist gear: a sweater, a windproof (but not waterproof) jacket, a sleeping bag, an old US Army single place tent (with many holes and no dual roof), some pans and a stove.
My first stage was near Genoa where I pitched the tent in a deserted (because the late season) camp site.
While cooking a dried soup I felt an unforgettable sensation of liberty and space, being alone in an unknown place 500 km from home.
The following day reserved an other deep and strong sensation: crossing the border and being abroad for the first time. The foreign language, the different styles of signposts and the police uniforms. The place names and all the things producing dépaysement.
Nice was a nice place but it couldn't satisfy the vision of the ville tentaculaire which haunted me since my feverish reading of French authors - such as Rimbaud, Verlaine and Baudelaire - had crystallized an image of Paris far more vivid than the reality itself.
So, collected some money from my kind relatives, I set out for my coveted goal.
I won't bore further my gentle reader with the details of my solitary and slow journey through the vast countryside of France. The rain which soaked me through and the cold nights spent into my small and damp tent, pitched in fat meadows under some regularly cattle trimmed ancient oak.
But when the cold mornings dawned after a sleepless night I didn't feel tired, exalted as I was by that unutterable feeling of traveling alone through a totally unknown country.

I won't tell anything about all the other travels I made in the following years, riding a motorcycle or itch hiking.

With age, marriage and children, travelling became less and less brave but still, under the ashes, the
"adventurous" travel has been still dormant and any poem or book referring to wandering or journeying continues to thrill me.

About two years ago, one night I dreamt that I walked Ireland coast to coast. It was a wonderful sensation! Freedom but also a feeling of being deeply and intimately connected to the very essence of the country.

This last impression matched with my experience: places known while journeying at slow pace are best known. Their memory remain more vivid.

So I started to explore the possibility to actually undertake a journey on foot and, thanks to Internet, I discovered that it was feasible.

But that is matter for the next post.


Beatrice said...

Hi dad!
Thanks to this blog I discovered that we're more similar than I thought. Sadly, times have changed and it would be impossible for me, a little girl, to go alone on such adventorous journeys. I can't wait the moment I'll be able to completely isolate myself from everything I know.
I'll also be waiting your next post, though.
Sorry for whatever mistake I might have made, my English still needs some improvements.

Sergio said...

Dearest Beatrice,

I was happy to receive your comment.
I wouldn't have given the impression that my ideal is
I need, like cats, to be with few selected people at the
same time. People with whom I'm feeling well.
But, besides, I need moments of loneliness as well; away
from the noisy nonsense of everyday life ado, in order to
connect to the Essence.

Given your age and your of essentially self-taught English, my most sincere compliments. Your English is very good. I'm proud of you.




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