I created a Facebook group for friends who are passionate about both drinking and hiking. It’s part of my new years resolution to not be a sack of shit after a night out, and actually get up and get busy. Which is probably the best hangover cure anyway.
For our first trip we headed to the Cinque Terre in Italy. Which, in short, is five small historic towns dotted amongst cliffs along the Italian coast. There’s five towns with a 1.5-2.5 walk between each. There’s also a train that runs through the cliffs linking them all together. Perfect setting for low commitment, yet beautiful, hiking.
Looking down on Vernazza
We got in at a reasonable 6pm after re-familiarising ourselves with the difficulties of non-English speaking train travel and my questionable short cuts to save a few euros on trains. We stayed at a sweet air bnb in Monterosso. We got straight to work on working up a nice hangover for the next days hiking. Although it was a Saturday night, it wasn’t quite peak season, and this area is still not known for its nightlife even in the high season. Yet we found some cool people and ended up drinking on a rooftop with some Americans after all the bars closed at 1 or 2am.
I don’t think anyone recalls this Polaroid being taken…
We all got back at different times, last of whom were Simon and Casey. Casey didn’t quite make it back incident-free. He ended up in the ocean. With his phone in his pocket. After a routine boat-dock jump went sour. He also became the second person I needed to support financially after getting a £300 fine from transport for London. It sounds like his rental Boris bike didn’t correctly dock back into the station and he’d been charged for the bike. The other guy I was supporting was old mate, Simon. He’d lost his wallet for the hundredth time the night before the trip.
Day #1. The hiking commences! Bright and early at 12.30pm on the dot. We took to it like athletes and walked to not one, but two towns. It really was a spectacular walk. Highly recommend. We ended it with some bomb seafood, Italian wine and beer.
We walked from Monterosso -> Corniglia on the first day. On the second from Riomaggiore -> south off this map.
Cool olive harvesting machinery
Serious engineering challenges
On the road again, beers in hand
Some might say we’re a lot better at the hangover side of things than the hiking. Night #2 would support that theory. We swiftly got through a few slabs of beer playing drinking games and talking shit at the air bnb for the night.
Hiking day #2. So we had walked from town 1-2 and 2-3 out of the five (Monterosso being our #1 start point). So today we had planned to train to town 3 and walk 3-4 and 4-5. However paths between both these two were closed due to massive land slides and not due to reopen until 2019 i think? Which was new news to us… So we needed a plan B. A few guys were rallying to spend the day in the pub, but I was pretty determined to get our hike on again. I convinced the others and we tried catching a boat from Monterosso to the furthest south of the five towns, Riomaggiore. Which was a recommendation from travel expert Mum. However the boat time table didn’t match what I had read online and we were faced with an hour and a half wait. So we decided to flag the boat and instead train to Riomaggiore. Getting in about 1.30pm.
I had a grand plan of hiking from Riomaggiore to Porto Venere. Which is further south along the coast. I naievely thought that it would be the same stuff as yesterday. Nice coastal paths. So we grabbed some food in Riomaggiore and set off walking through the town in the direction of the coast line. However these towns are serious labyrinths.
Before long we decided to ask directions of this nice Italian man. He basically said we’re idiots and it isn’t possible. We had to walk up the towering cliff that this town poked out of. We then had to walk along the top of the hills down to Porto Venere. Which is all good and well, except we’re no athletes, and even if we were, it would be a real struggle to do it before nightfall. BALLLLS!
He presented us with an alternative, that he still recommended against due to time constraints. He said we could catch a bus to a town up high in the cliffs and walk from there. So of course, that’s what we did.
The clock was against us, so we hurried to the bus stop and quickly started waiting for our bus… for an hour and a half. Which was all the more disconcerning as we didn’t understand the bus timetable and neither did anyone we ask. One bus that did arrive let a pile of locals on then shut it’s door in my face. The bus driver gave my all time least favourite gesture, that single index finger waving left to right, a favourite of primary school teachers. He drove off and we continued to wait, with no real certainty that we were doing the right thing.
Eventually another bus turned up and we got in. This trip was a success and we had a picturesque drive up the hill. The advice to not walk up the hill was very good advice indeed. After about half an hour we got to small town where we got out. Here a few of the guys grabbed a quick espresso and we were off on hike #2. At 4.30pm…!! We truly do suck.
This hike took us mainly through trees and small towns. With the odd glimpse of the ocean either side of us, way down below. We found a cool abandoned house that I couldn’t say no to exploring. We ended up walking into our destination, Portovenere, as the sun was coming down. If we had of been another hour it would’ve been a very dark final decent. One benefit of hiking so late in the day, was that we saw only two other hikers the whole walk.
Then it was a bus to La Spezia for some dinner and a train home to Monterosso. Unlike the first two nights, this one was much quieter in the house. We were smashed from the hike and the previous night of drinking. It felt reeeally good to lie down. I think we did pretty good overall for a pack of non-athletic tourists. Definitely looking forward to hiking and hangovers episode #2!