Monday, 9 July 2012

Some facts, some figures and some news...

This post was meant to come to you from Vercelli where I was two days ago, but somehow the interweb thingy threw a spanner and "it",as they say, never happened. So here goes again.

I left Santhia, which is for all the world one big street with an ungainly railway station at one end, and headed straight into the rice fields. Hot, sticky, punishing country it is as if you have unwittingly landed centre pan in the oven of Sunday lunch in the making and of course, it's flat; indeed so flat the Fens look mountainous in comparison.

Many of you back in Britain are by now well acquainted with the ideal growing conditions for rice; a simple grass which basically thrives in mud and, here's the English bit, lots of water. The other half in this relationship consummated of mud and water is, of course, the mosquito. In short, this place is to mosquitoes what Blackpool is to the blue rinse brigade - it is the holy of holies, the Mecca and the blasted beasts I can report are in fine and flying form; I have a head like an over zealous cherry muffin!

So to some facts and figures which I gleaned from the hostel in Santhia; though not definitive, as the Via is not a single road, more a broad corridor of movement,they are nonetheless indicative. For those of you who believe this is a young man's game, over half the pilgrims on this route are over 60 - the oldest 77. There have been so far about 100 - 150 people, I estimate walking the Via Francigena; 10 stated from Canterbury, 55 were headed for Rome and of those, 6 were going to Jerusalem. Most were Italian, then French, but we must'nt overlook 3 Australians, one Brazilian and a Cuban... and me! It would appear, as I have for sometime suspected, but could be wrong, that I am at present, the only Briton on the route this year.

And some news, heading to Vercelli, the rice (and therefore mosquito) capital of Europe, the customary cry of "Ho Pilgrim!" goes up and after the traditional linguistic jousting to work out precisely who you really are talking t, Franz, Helmut und Ich settle on German; they are cycling from Stuttgart to Rome. I ask news of Sylvianne, the marvellous lady who I met before the Jura Mountains.

"The girl in the wheelchair?!"
"No, we have not seen her, but we saw her name in the register in Cavaglia two days back..." which means that this remarkable person somehow or other made it over the Alps safely.

And, for that wonderful news alone, we must all dance a little jig for joy...

Photos: rice fields; news of Sylvianne; the road to Vercelli (yuk); arrival in Vercelli.

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