It always catches me unaware the way time passes so quickly here, I cannot believe that it was over a week ago when we did the Annual Night Walk to Lago Santo. I think this is our fourth consecutive walk and we love it. It is never the same experience twice and for me this year was extra special and awe inspiring.
As always we meet at Il Mostrico the bar at Renaio, some slower members have gone on ahead wanting to stop and pick some myrtle along the way, but about ten of us left at around 6pm. Firstly we drive as far as we can up the windy mountain road which I might add was amazing well kept. Either the commune or the timber merchants have done a great job, you couldn’t quite use the words “as smooth as a billiard table” but all is relevant , its certainly the best forest strada I have driven for a long time.
There is a natural excitement as we drive up and up, we had decided to take Spot (on of our puppies) and Dolly our Jack Russell on the walk and even they could sense the mounting excitement. The views are outstanding and before we started the walk I was nearly going to cry wolf, but now I am so pleased that I didn’t. I would not have missed this for the world.
This season the weather has been so instable and today was no difference as the clouds gathered around the peak we almost called it off but onwards and upwards we went, it would be what it would be.
Arriving at the start of the walk again our thoughts went to the constructors who had also built some smart new steps to start the journey. The Generalli (the boss of Renaio and head hunter) lead the way, like a mountain goat he set the pace and it wasn’t a slow one either and it wasn’t long before the group straddled the side of the mountain.
As we exited the forest cover and started the climb we met a local shepherd sat with his two dogs watching his flock of sheep munching the rich herbs of the land, happy in his work, equally happy for the opportunity to pass the time of day with us. There were other walkers and a lone mountain biker at the end of their day, whilst ours is just beginning. They warned of building clouds and wind higher up.
A week or so ago, a poor mushroom hunter taken by helicopter off the same mountain having slipped and cracked his head open on the brutal terrain, and as my thoughts went to this as I am always a little nervous on some of the thinner parts of the walk. But Richard helped to dispel them and we were on our way again.
Higher and higher we went, the views are breath taking and as we neared the peak we could feel the wind as it raced up the side of the mountain, but there was a nicer side than the cold air that could have bitten into the centre of our being had we not been dressed correctly and we heard its melody as it sang its warning. A slightly eerie sound but melodious none the less.
The long grass about to shed its seeds saluted us as we walked by, waving and cheering us along the pathway. As we looked at the peak, the cloud and mist was now closing in, and like watching a magician with his show stopping final act, the person in front of us would disappear only to reappear again as we started the decent over the peak.
We too stopped at the myrtle fields the delicious little blue and black berries too tempting to resist and Richard found that the magic number for a mouthwatering explosion of flavor was six. Sticking our tongues out at each other to see who’s was the blackest. Richard won hands down.
The magnificent views as we walk the pass reportedly the Pass that Hannibal took years ago on his historical journey across the Alps. We were following in his footsteps and our journey feels epic if not historical too.
The majestic lake as it titillates the senses as it emerges through the trees, expanding in grandness as we get closer and closer, opening its arms to welcome us to its shore. The trout greeting us with a display of aqua dance as they bathed in the last of the suns rays.
The restaurant was warm and welcoming, Dolly and Spot settled nicely under the table as we joined the other 28 people who had made the walk over the mountain. A different crowd from last year, the young hunters making way for the older ones and we were the only straneri, but what a feast we had. Starting with three types of pasta, the first awash with fresh porcini straight off the mountainside, followed by wild boar and then finishing with truffle pasta, but that was just the starters, we went on to have polenta with a tomato and cheese sauce, I had trout and chips whilst Richard went for the mixed grill option followed by ice-cream and myrtle berries. All washed down with good wine and great company.
I have to say that it did make the start of the return journey a little harder, our full bellies stretched and straining at the thought of exercise. We all looked a funny crowd as we hoodied up, torch lights strapped to our heads. Off we went.
There was some singing and lots of happy chatter as we all walked slower and it was easier for the group to stay together. For some it was their first time and you could feel their anxiousness as their eyes were firmly focused on the small amount of lit ground in front of them, happy when we all stopped for some more wine and in search of the illusive shooting star.
By now the wind had subsided, there was some cloud but stars fought their way to the forefront, but this year not one of us was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the shooting star but I still made my wish anyway.
Our guides are great, making sure that we all make it safely back to our parked cars where we gather, hug and thank each other for the great company and shared experience.
It truly is one of those memorable times, one that goes down in our archive of subjects we talk about time and time again. If you want to join us next year it is normally around 11th, 12th or 13th August then let me know we are always happy to share the experience.
Article by Sensone
painter and photographer - started barganews.com, the first on line news site in Tuscany, Italy back in 1996