Marcie's case of shingles seems to be abating. Those suppurating, oozing pustules that covered her right arm and shoulder have scabbed over, and even the scabs are pretty much gone now. (Nice imagery, eh?). The pain from the neuropathy has lessened, but isn't totally gone yet, however, so she still can't carry her pack any distance. For the time being, we've been sticking to Plan B, which is working quite well for the most part. If you've been following the blogs and your memory is better than mine, you may remember what Plan B is, but if not, I'll recap it in the next paragraph. Feel free to skip ahead.
Plan B was our 'Base Camp' plan. We figured out a strategically located town and rented a room. Then we walked the segments of the Via Francigena we missed on the Rome side of the town and three or so segments following our base camp town using public transportation to get to the beginning of each segment, then, if necessary took public transport at the end to get back to the base camp. Then we moved on to the next base camp. Since each day was a day hike, I only needed to carry a light pack.
As I mentioned, Plan B has been working well for the most part. Where it hasn't worked is when there's no train station at the beginning or end of the segment we're walking. The train system here in Italy is great, and there have been train stations along about 75% of our route, but when there's no train station, we have to depend on the bus systems for Plan B. The bus companies are often small local businesses, each of which may or may not have a website or phone app with schedules, routes, pricing and ticket information. The little hamlets and towns we often end up in may only have a bus once or twice a day, or maybe none at all on the weekends, and since we can't usually find the schedule online, there's no guarantee we'll be able to get back to base camp at the end of the day. Not good news at the end of a 15+ mile trek.
To remedy this problem, we've developed Plan C. On those days when we can't depend on a bus, or the train/bus schedule is overly lengthy and/or convoluted, I carry a pack with the basics we need for a day or two... a couple changes of socks and underwear, rain gear, toothbrush, razor, etc. We don't need all the other stuff we packed for four months on the road, like the cold weather clothes we packed for crossing the Alps, sleeping bags, extra shoes, pants and base layers. When we pare the load down to the minimum, I end up with a pack that weighs around 12-15 pounds - much less than I'd normally be carrying.
There are a couple of complications, however. We need to check out of our base camp and find a place to stay along the route. And we need to find a place to stash the gear we're leaving behind. So far, we've not had a problem finding a place to stay, and since we've always returned to our base camp after a day or two absence, the hotel/B&B/owners/managers haven't had an issue storing our extra bag for us. In a given week we average 3-4 Plan B days, 2-3 Plan C days, and one day to relocate our base camp. On that off day, we also manage some sightseeing and catch up on our blogs. The new combination of Plan B and Plan C days is working so well, in fact, that we may continue with them even when Marcie is fully recovered - at least through the remainder of the Italian section. We'll have to see how convenient and inexpensive the public transportation system is in Switzerland and France.
Next week is a lighthearted look at ridin’ the rails in Italy. Come join us…