Plan: Pietraporzio to Col di Puriac - 14 km, 1400 metres ascent, 5.5 hours
Actual: Route sort of as planned to wild camp in meadow at 2350 metres on the Italian side of Col di Puriac:
15 km, 1500 metres ascent, 7.7 hours including 1.3 hours breaks.
Best bit: Lunch on a bench in the charming village of Ferrere.
We had no idea how much our stay at Camping Centrosentieri was going to cost. Everything since our arrival had gone on a tab. (I've stopped noting costs on these pages as it was pretty meaningless.) The important thing was they took credit cards - cash is low and it's a week before we can get any more. In the event €70 for 2 night's camping, 2 night's meals, and lots of beer and coffee seemed pretty good value.
This really was a friendly place. As we left a lady walking her dog engaged us in conversation. This gave Sue the chance to practise some phrases that Christina had taught her last night.
This section of our journey takes us to Rif Campo Base. Gillian Price's GTA route does this in two days, but our philosophy of following the border will take three days. First we had to double back up to Ferrere. We passed close by this high village two days ago. We could retrace Thursday's 1000 metre descent (hard), we could walk up the road then a track (easy), or we could retrace up to Murenz and take a contouring path marked by a dashed line on our map (adventurous).
Today we were adventurous. We are shying away from dotted paths for safety reasons. Dashed paths should be ok though, or so we thought. We should have been alerted by the lack of signposts, but we carried on anyway along a lane to the start of our contouring path. Encouraged by a splash of yellow paint on a tree we continued enthusiastically into a jungle of nettles, rose bushes and pine trees. There was a sort of path so we continued, vigorously setting aside the thorny trees that blocked our way. The further we got the harder it became.
That was what we were on. Our freshly laundered clothes were soon thick with sweat and vegetation. Our throats were parched. We found a river bed. It was empty. So, in a move of genius, we walked (well, sort of stumbled) down the steep gully. After a while we were able to peer out from the confines of this gully to see that the thicket was not quite as thick here, so we exited the gully and floundered through more forest to the safe haven of an alpine meadow and the hamlet of Prinardo.
It had taken two and a half hours; it would have been an easy hour along the road.
There was a fountain, so we washed ourselves down and lubricated our throats. 'Buongiorno' we said to a man in the house next to the fountain; but there was no acknowledgement of our presence from this, the first grumpy person we have seen.
It was back to normal in the bar just up the road in Primavera, where the service was great and we decided we didn't smell too bad after all.
That was our Jungle Experience.
'It'll take you two hours to get to Ferrere' they said, but we were quicker. The nun would probably have taken just one hour! On the way we were joined by another victim for Sue's linguistic skills - an old chap with an old dog. He couldn't help us identify the soaring birds, light brown with a very light coloured underside, osprey size. Could they have been ospreys? They were a pleasure to watch, both on the wing and perched in the tops of trees.
The path to Ferrere was another unsigned one, but it was obvious enough until the cow zone, just below the village. We battled muddily through this to reach the isolated but vibrant little settlement that, being on a 'contraband route' probably has a rich history.
In front of the small church was a bench, with nearby fountain and waste bin to serve all our modest needs.
So we enjoyed lunch here whilst the church congregation sung. A man outside the next door house offered us chairs and a table, but we were comfy on our bench - he understood that, he was just being friendly.
Then it was an easy ascent up to Col di Puriac (2506 metres) and the view into the Mercantour region of France, from where a brisk westerly wind was emanating.
So we went back into Italy and descended past fighting marmots to this lovely meadow, with fine views north to the 3000 metre mountains we will pass by tomorrow.
It was a 3.30 finish, so we have a very leisurely evening ahead, in our home from home.
Cloudy with sunny spells today. T-shirts and shorts again, but some massive claps of thunder as dinner is prepared. Showers are forecast tomorrow. Will we actually get a chance to wear our pillows?
Despite it being Saturday we saw just two other walkers today (not on the jungle path!) and some birds that I think were yellowhammers, and some like large robins, flocking like snow finches - redpolls?
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