Tuscany: day 6 walk

Tipping
Tipping for tour guides lives on. Who would have guessed the same process exists for an English guide with a group of Brits as for groups with Americans! Yes. Under the sofa cushion in the dining/living area we inhabit in the big house is a large envelope. In that envelope are two other envelopes. One is for the guide and the other for the wonderful woman who cooks for us. 

SA arrived bearing these treasures before dinner last night. It was all hush hush. Obviously I was the only person for whom it was unexpected. Easier here than in Peru or Myanmar where a formula guided (‘directed’ is more accurate) how much we should tip. Here it’s by what you feel. Apparently the walking company’s rate of pay is very low. Don’t know about what they pay the agriturismo business. 

I find this business of tipping guides so difficult. Our guide has an excellent knowledge of the area, having led groups here for about 16 years. To me she’s done the basic stuff you are paying for, nothing more. Should I tip anyhow? How much? Or not, because I am not particularly impressed by how she’s managed some minor situations? Am I obliged to follow the crowd? Why? Why not? A dilemma. 

Heating

Getting a bit chilly in the early morning. Now, after last night, happily I can heat my little hovel. I said how cold I was and that I didn’t think I had working heating. A neighbour gave me a blanket, found the heating control and set it up. It was off during the night but I’ve since found the manual override. 😜Without heating I couldn’t even do my washing as the last lot took so long to dry inside. Since the rain started it’s not been easy. Post heating: washing done and dried overnight.

Scorpions Vs me

Score remains unchanged: 3 dispatched and one last seen on the ceiling in the bedroom.

Nighttime games

The good news is a few members yesterday found the small pool table. No charades or other parlour games last night. Tonight we have a shared dinner, our last evening together.   Should save me from any more games!

Last walk Saturday 17th September 2016

Driven to a small town, our starting point, the track started off as wide, unsealed road. 


Heading up, of course. Up, up to a small shrine inaugurated in August this year. Then cross country up through narrow, steep bush tracks that cut off the corners of the switchback road. Sometimes back on the narrowing road but mostly on the track. 

The rain had stopped but we were high enough that it was getting cold, time to wear gloves and jackets. We got to the near top with an increasing amount of shale and bits of marble underfoot. As we crossed a narrow track beside a steep drop to our left the clouds swirled up and around. So, very limited views from a place where you can see the coast on a fine day. 

Walking wasn’t that easy so we left our packs and headed up a little further. In near whiteout conditions we decided not to walk the last 30′ to the top of Monte Fiocca, 1714 metres above sea level. It was getting harder with the lichen covered marble and shale increasingly more slippery given the rain of the previous day plus the heavy mist up there. 

Every now and then the mist lifted, briefly, very briefly. 


After the obligatory photos and a lunch stop we headed back down. 


(Shot taken by SA)

Down, down to an increasingly better track. Even better, down to a coffee shop at the point we’d started earlier that morning. Coffees, a break, a chat to the resident cat and a watch on the dog to stop him peeing on our bags. As it was still early, we walked another hour or so further down into the valley. 

We walked along paths with small ripe blackberries covering the fences, mmmm, and over to the side of a small herd of about 10 golden coloured Guernsey or Jersey cows with their matching dog and an old shepherd. No, the shepherd didn’t match, just the dog did. He was a grumpy old man who diverted us around his cows, and through a small bog as his cows had the track. By now we were under the pylons and wires of a ski tow. 

A bit further, between very large chestnut and elm trees with the ground cleared and grassy underneath. And then a small village on yet another hilltop, a village that looked a bit touristy with its 3 albergues and restaurants in the main street and its old church. The notice suggested little remained of the original 12th century church with two successive and major rebuilds.  





A small chapel was on a side street, built, or consecrated, to Mary in 1721. Like one in an earlier town it’s hard to see why it was built. 

Maybe it’s the day to day prayer place as the church looked to be infrequently used.


We met two of the locals here. SA, one of us, was wearing knee supports, visible below her shorts. An old lady in dark clothing came up to her, proceeded to lift her dress and to rub her right knee. She seemed then to ask where SA lives and said she had family there and kept chatting on despite neither side understanding the other. Nor does SA live in the city she named! SA’s droll observation after about being picked up by an old lady was very funny, in context and, from her.

The local guy in the overstretched white t shirt saw the dog shit in front of the civic building where three of our group were sitting but seemed to be saying he cleaned the area on Monday. 


Despite it being Saturday he got a broom and did clean it up. But by then our bus had arrived and we were heading out, moving on, had no need to be delighted with him….

Back by 17:30, time to do my washing, shower and get ready for the big night out at 19:00. 

Except for the first day our walking group comprised 7 of the 8 on the trip, plus the guide. The missing person was much too unfit, even getting up the bus step was hard for her! The others were fit, very keen, lean and great walkers.

Big night out

Italian restaurant, of course. Two types of pasta to start: a green pasta filled with ricotta cheese with a nut (?chestnut) sauce, then flat, thin, bits of pasta in a duck sauce followed by main course. This was slices of pork, a little mixed vegetable and cheese baked ‘cake’ and well cooked silver beet or spinach with a dish of tasteless brown beans to share. Desert was various Italian biscuits and small cakes.

Lots of red and white wine and generally a good night. 

Visualise from my seat: to my right, SL, our lanky and best walker who was a teacher, is retired, and volunteers her time teaching IT to older people; to my left, C who is a professor of economics. Over the table, R who has the most interesting background, having volunteered for a few years in Nepal and for a shorter time in China. Despite her being the youngest she’s done other similarly interesting things, a traveller, who is now leading research into medico addictions. To her side the non-walking member who works for a citizens advice bureau, then a teacher who really understands the subjunctive tense and next a WHO worker. Coming around, a management consultant with a very interesting approach, not the usual one where change lasts as long as their contract and the status quo and stability return once the consultants leave.  (My empty seat was occupied in this photo by the management consultant, for those who need to put descriptions to faces. Yes, I had been sitting on the left, between SL (white T shirt and C, reddish top).


An interesting and diverse group. For some this was expensive and their big week away and for some, another holiday this year.

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