Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Walk of the Gods

I’m not sure whether it’s our recent desire to experience the great outdoors or the thought of those extra kilos we have put on while tasting the local cuisine, but Jules and I have found ourselves doing quite a bit of hiking of late. We are certainly not seasoned trail blazers by any means, but the challenge of a good climb, the possibility of some scenic views and the promise of a beer at the end is normally enough to get us interested. Such was the case when Jules suggested that we might like to tackle the much talked about trek from Positano (via Nocelle) to Bomerano, which goes by the intriguing title of ‘The Walk of the Gods’. Now, we have both been traveling long enough to be a little wary of grand titles given to certain walking trails … sometime the hype can overshadow the actual trek. However, as we had already experienced some of the breathtaking views from the cliff tops overlooking the Amalfi coast, we looked forward to this particular walk in anticipation of the amazing sights it might offer.

With seemingly endless days of 30+ degree temperatures, we knew that we would have to begin the walk quite early in the day … a feat easier said than done when you’ve slipped into holiday mode! However, with the mountains above Positano still in shadows, we began the initial climb to Nocelle. We had been warned that this part of the walk would possibly be the most testing, as it consisted of a very steep series of steps winding up the cliff face. Well, when I say a ‘series’ of steps, what I really mean is an ‘awful lot’ of steps! It was a few days later, with our muscles still feeling the pain, that we found out that the actual total number of steps covering the 400 metres upward was over 1700! It took us 45 minutes and was a very testing way to begin. So with a certain degree of satisfaction, we sat down for a minute in a small piazza in Nocello, guzzling water and looking back down toward Positano that sat far below.

Our initial plan for the 7 kilometre walk was to see how we felt after an hour or two and if the going was getting too tough, we would simply turn back, but having come this far we just knew we would have to press on. Although we weren’t right at the top of the mountain range we were pretty close, on a trail that seemed to thread its way along the very edge of its rocky ridges. Occasionally the track would dip back into dark leafy valleys then emerge once again to reveal spectacular views of the Amalfi coastline and beyond. Gradually we began to see more walkers, but they were all heading in the opposite direction than us! It seemed that they might have been more aware of those steps from Positano to Nocelle than we had been and had chosen for the more favorable down hill option to finish their journey rather than at the start.

As we pressed on, we came across the occasional deserted stone ‘rustico’ and wondered whether some folks might have been totally seduced by such an amazing outlook, only to forget about the problems associated with inaccessibility of the location. True, the views did seem to get better and better the further we progressed and we could well see the temptation to build up there. Even when the trail turned inland on the final stretch, we could see evidence of small dwellings carved into the cliff face itself, looking like something straight from the days of the ancient Aztecs. Those who had somehow managed to eke out an existence at these lofty heights had over the years carved staggered tiers into the hillsides on which grapes, olives, lemons and corn seemed happy to grow.

After four hours of walking and a little leg weary, Jules and I finally wandered into Bomerano. Unlike the tourist towns down by the coast, this was by comparison a sleepy little place. It was well into lunchtime by now and most of the businesses were closed. All was quiet except for a few old men sitting on chairs in the piazza, discussing life as Italian men do, while watching the young men set up what looked like a small performance stage for the evenings entertainment. Jules and I bypassed them all and headed straight to the pub to enjoy the coldest glass of Peroni Beer we could buy … boy, did it taste good! With drinks in hand we also took up a seat overlooking the piazza to observe the scene and to contemplate our hiking achievement.

As we savored our icy cold drinks, we observed other venturers preparing to tackle the trek in the reverse direction. By now the heat of the day had well and truly settled in and although we didn’t envy what they were about to physically endure, we knew that they would be amply rewarded for their efforts, as we had been for ours. ‘The Walk of the Gods’ had well and truly lived up to its grand name and reputation as one of Italy’s great walks. However, at this point we were more than happy to conveniently take the bus back to Positano where it had all began.

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