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Hello and welcome to my blog formerly called Gypsy-K. Please note that I am only updating this blog while I am walking from Rome to Jerusalem from September 2015. My online home and permanent blog is at www.kymwilson.com.au. You can also sign up for pilgrim postcards and newsletters here. Thank you for being here and supporting my journey. With love and courage, Kym xx

Monday, 25 November 2013

Day 85: Roma

Number of kilometres today: 17.0
Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 2,022.0
Total steps since Canterbury:  2,818,493
Number of kilometres to Rome: 0

We left La Storta without eating breakfast. Sunday. All the bars were closed.  At least it wasn't raining.  We walked 3 kilometres to the next town, La Giustiniana, where we finally found a cafe up a side street that was open. Two cappuccinos.  An apple and custard pastry.  A cornetto al cioccolato. I filled up on sugar and warmth to keep soldiering on.

We walked along the Via Cassia, hoping that we might be able to enter the nature reserve not long after exiting La Giustiniana but as the guide book pre-warned, the gate was locked and we continued along the road passing only apartment buildngs and shops and Sunday worshippers as they left church. Many many cars passed by us.

It was not a long walk into Rome but being sick, it felt long.  After a couple of hours, my energy waned.  We stopped for a rest break and second breakfast in a bar near Tor di Quinto.  The toilet floor had been sprinkled with saw dust that had been trampled out into the midst of the bar. The idea of possible vomit beneath my feet did not make me feel better. After more coffee and yet another pastry I left the bar feeling full and warm and with more energy I started my final joyful march into Rome.

We reached the river Tiber and it started to feel like we were almost in Rome. The river was spanned by old bridges and I could see on my map we were only 4.5 kms away. We walked alongside the river amongst Sunday strollers, joggers and bicycle riders. I glimpsed the great dome of St Peter's peeking above apartment buildings. I didn't feel any great surge of emotion. It just meant we were almost there. I walked faster. 

We continued alongside the Tiber until we veered off onto Viale Angelico, walking along the bike path that split the road down the middle. I renamed it the Pilgrim Expressway. There was little bicycle traffic, a handful of pedestrians and then us three pilgrims marching towards St Peter's.

Just over a kilometre away from the Vatican which we still couldn't see, I started playing Daft Punk's "Lose Yourself to Dance" on my iPhone and started to dance walk my final steps into Rome.  Peter joined in. Paulius laughed.  Even when we hit the crowds leaving the Vatican after Papa F's Sunday Mass, I kept dancing.  This was a celebration.  More than 2,000 kilometres walked, 12 weeks to the day I left Canterbury.  I was arriving into Rome and I may have been dodging the Sunday worshippers but I wanted to dance, to be joyful, to celebrate this journey.

We almost had to elbow our way into St Peter's Square there were so many people walking out towards us but we finally made it to the centre and stood before the imposing St Peter's Basilica amidst the tourists taking their holiday snapshots.  We arrived.  No fanfare.  No welcome party. I did not cry. I just stood there in a fog of sickness feeling tired trying to comprehend that we were really there at the Vatican and I could stop walking now, almost. The office to obtain our final stamp for our pilgrim passports and official pilgrim certificate is closed on Sundays so it was a "now what?" kind of reaction.  There was nothing else to do but find somewhere to sleep for the next couple of nights and some lunch.

We found an outdoor cafe drenched in sunshine, close to the river that also had wifi. We ordered panini and wine and coca cola for Peter. We toasted ourselves and then set about finding accommodation for the night reading through notes and websites. I read messages of congratulations from family and friends and people I have never met but who have cheered me on along the way. My eyes filled with tears of gratitude and love but I wasn't in the right space to let them fall.

We found what turned out to be the perfect place to stay for the next two nights, the Spedale della Providenza e San Benedetto Labre cura di Confraternita di San Jacopo di Compostela.  We were welcomed by the beautiful and vivacious Maria-Luisa and one of the nuns and ushered into our dorm room that we were to share with a frenchman, Fabian who had spent 6 months walking various ways from his home in Montpelier into Rome.

Before dinner at 7.30pm, we were officially welcomed and blessed by the foot washing ceremony and prayer.  That was when our pilgrimage officially ended.  We had arrived.  We were embraced by the open heart and love of the beautiful Maria-Luisa.  We shared a meal with fellow pilgrims and guests of the convent.  We were in Rome.

The walking is over but the journey, not quite yet.  Part of pilgrimage is to take the experience back home.  I will not return to Melbourne until February and my pilgrimage, not my walking, will continue as I visit Scotland, the birth country of two of my grandparents, and return to Phuket, a place that has been so important in my own awakening.

I arrived in Rome three days ago and am only writing this now having had neither the time, health or personal space to write. I have spent the last few mornings in the haze of sickness somehow still walking around Rome and then sleeping in the afternoons. It still feels surreal to think about how far I walked.  It is going to take some time to fully comprehend the magnitude of this journey.

For 77 days, I got up in the morning, packed and set off into the morning light to walk into the world, into the unknown, to the next town.  It was as simple and as complex as that and in doing so I walked from Canterbury to Rome. That is how all big things are accomplished by taking little steps. I look at the map of the path that I have walked and shake my head in disbelief at the enormity of the journey, that I really walked all this way, 2,000 kilometres. But I know I did it because I am here in Rome.

Rome. I roamed to Rome. I cried. I laughed. I danced. I trusted. I ate a lot of dolce to get here.
I walked from Canterbury to Rome.

The last little bit of countryside

We walked along the Via Cassia, at least there were some pretty autumn trees.

Fallen autumn leaves

Then the river Tibe and this bridge I am not sure of its name.

Walking alongside the Tiber.

Walking along the pilgrim expressway.

Crowds leaving the Vatican

Arriving into the Vatican.

St Peter's.

View up to St Peter's as we walked away to find lunch

Me at St Peter's.

I walked all this way from Canterbury to Rome.
















Saturday, 23 November 2013

Day 84: La Storta

Number of kilometres today: 19.0
Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 2,005.0
Total steps since Canterbury:  2,794,404
Number of kilometres to Rome: 17

"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This was how I approached today.  We walked 4.5 hours in almost constant rain.  There was nothing we could do about except to decide to take shelter or to cover up as best we could and take one step after the other.  We chose the latter.

It was raining. It was 5 degrees and I was cold. My pants were wet from the knees down and cold against my skin not to mention that my camelbak hydration bladder leaked one litre of water inside The Devil this morning and my butt was now saturated to point of being soggy and cold. The cold I had evaded for more than four weeks has finally caught up to me and is bear-hugging me tighter and tighter. I accepted it all and settled into a happy walking rhythm through the flooded roads and the mud.  Nothing phased me.  It was my second last day of walking to Rome.  I wanted to enjoy it and I did. 

I walked alone for half the day by myself not wanting to take on the guys fast pace but once we started walking along the busy Via Formellese which we took to avoid a river crossing that I anticipated would be flooded and too difficult to cross given all the rain over the last few days, I found that place within where I could go and keep going.  I kept up with the guys and we smashed out 10 kilometres in 90 minutes to arrive in La Storta by 2pm.

We were welcomed warmly by a nun at the Istuto Palazzo Suore Povarelle and shown straght to our dorm room which felt deceivingly warm at first.  However, I soon discovered the heaters were not on and they did not come on at all that night.  Another cold room but not such a cold sleeping night thanks to the thick blankets we covered ourselves in.

The nun explained to us in Italian that there was nobody there between 4 and 7pm so we went out for lunch and made sure we were back before 4pm.  We used the afternoon to catch up on some sleep.  However, she didn't tell us about a curfew.  We enjoyed a long dinner and didn't make it back to the convent until 11pm.  We rang the bell at the gate twice before it was finally answered.  The nun told us we were too late.  We waited expecting that she would let us in bu the gate did not open.  We rang the bell again and eventually the gate opened.  We left very apologetic notes in the pilgrim guest book apologising for our late return.

One more day until Rome.  We cannot see Rome from here but know we are very close.  It is so surreal to think we are almost there and that the walking on this journey is almost complete.

(Thanks to Joni Brennan-Hazlett for sharing the quote above).

Flooded roads

Wet walking

More beautiful autumn woodlands

We passed an open paddock with many horses but they weren't keen to come close to us

Time out for second breakfast in a bar in Formello


View from the convent we stayed in


Peter's dessert

Paulius' dessert

My dessert











Day 83: Campagnano di Roma

Number of kilometres today: 25.4
Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,986.6
Total steps since Canterbury:  2,767,481
Number of kilometres to Rome: 41

It was a tough day for me. I went to bed with a sore throat and woke up with a full blown cold. I've been keeping just ahead of it for 4 weeks or more and it finally caught me.

I walked alone most of the day, unable to keep up with the guys. Well I could have kept up with them if  I really wanted to but it would have been too much for me physically and I would probably end up sicker than I was. I walked the pace that felt comfortable to me. They stopped regularly so I could catch up. 

There was more mud. There was flooded roads. Towards the end of the day I had no energy to protest anymore. I walked through it all without trying to avoid it.

There was one final climb up into Campagnano di Roma. A toddler could have crawled faster than I walked. We were welcomed by a lot of rubbish and graffiti.

We found our accommodation at the Parrocchia San Giovanni Battista. We were taken into a hall of screaming and laughing children that reminded me of Pondicherry then upstairs into a room with a big square table and chairs and some mattresses stacked on a table at the back. Our beds tonight, mattresses on tables. I was exhausted and needing to sleep a little so Peter made up my bed for me. I lay down to sleep, closed my eyes, then the music lessons started. Clarinets. Oboes. Saxophones. The kid learning oboe was obviously a beginner. Many high pitched squeaks. Every note. I couldn't help but laugh at our sleeping arrangements. At least they had turned the heating on and we were out of the rain.

We found our way to a wonderful osteria for dinner. Tagliatelle rag├╣. Saltimbocca con patate and back to a nice warm room to sleep on a table. 

Two more days to walk to Rome.


Yesterday's dessert. I am now a panna cotta convert.

Sutri 

Sutri

My room at Monastereo Santssimi Concezione 

Sutri 

Sutri

Monastereo Santissimi Concezione

Sutri

Sutri

Amphitheatre Sutri

Amphitheatre Sutri

Autumn hazel nut groves

Country roads 


Flooded field

Walking autumn country roads

And flooded country roads

Ad creviced country roads


Autumn paths so beautiful to walk on

Approaching Campagnano di Roma



Campagnano di Roma


Campagnano di Roma






















Friday, 22 November 2013

Day 82: Sutri via Capranica

Number of kilometres today: 19.5
Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 1,961.2
Total steps since Canterbury:  2,731,489
Number of kilometres to Rome: 65.5

Today we walked through more pretty autumn woodlands, hazel nut groves and through the beautiful old town of Capranica.  The Via Francigena signs were a little obscure and sometimes non-existent through the hazel nut groves.  We walked 500 metres in the wrong direction and had to turn around. Fortunately we had our maps to help us find our way and as today is a short walk day the extra distance didn't really matter.

It started off sunny.  Then it rained with a little hail.  Then the sun came back out again. And of course it started raining again within minutes of me taking The Kermit off. It always does. My face is glowing rosy red over my bronze tan.  Part sunburn. Part red wine. Part gloriously full stomach from a three course lunch in a warm and cozy tavern and given pilgrim price.

We have now checked into our accommodation for the night courtesy of the Carmellite nuns at Monastereo di Santissima Concezione where contrary to other reports I have read we were warmly welcomed.  The nun that tended to us stayed behind the wooden grill of her office and we passed our passports, pilgrim credentials and payment through a "lazy susan" type rotunda and she sent them back with the key to our accommodation next door to the church. She was bright, sweet and helpful.

Our rooms are clean and simple but have no heating.  It's not that it's not turned on, there are no heaters in the rooms here. Fortunately the bathroom has a hot water unit although 90 minutes later I am still waiting for it to heat fully so I can shower. Winter is embracing Italy and snow is forecast at 400 metres. We are currently at an altitude of 310 metres.  It is going to be a cold night. I am glad that I have carried my fold up spare water bottle in my "well-equipped" backpack. I have used it more often as a hot water bottle than for drinking water. I will sleep warmly tonight.

I have also opted to have a room to myelf again.  Last night I reflected on why I have been feeling so wiped out and unable to walk more than 18 kilometres the last two days.  There are a number of factors  We have walked a few long distance days.  My backpack is five kilos too heavy.  I really did overpack. I have mixed emotions about the pending conclusion of this journey that is quickly approaching.  I am fighting off a cold again as I have repeatedly over the last four weeks or so.  But also because I am an introvert who has been in the company of others for 6 days with very little time alone.  We walk together, separately but often in close proximity.  We eat together. We sleep in the same dorm rooms.  I have had no time or space to myself except when I shower or sleep. I love company but I need time to myself to regenerate and in the excitement of being around others after so long alone I forgot this about myself.

Last night I was able to retire to my own room at the monastery.  It was compulsory that I had my own room as the nuns don't allow people of different genders to sleep in the same room unless married.  I had time alone.  I returned to my journal.  I read a little.  I hung out with me. This morning I returned to my meditation and journal practices that I stopped after meeting the guys. I am still tired but I am feeling more alive and revived.

We are three days from Rome.  Tomorrow we walk 23 kilometres to Campagno di Roma.  Saturday 25 kilometres to La Storta.  Sunday the last 16 kilometres into Rome. (Assuming that we don't freeze to death over night.)

It feels so surreal that we are almost there.  Simultaneously it feels like last week but also a lifetime ago that I set off from Canterbury.  When I left, I thought I knew what to expect.  In reality, I had very little idea. This journey has surpassed anything I could have dreamed of in terms of its wonders and its challenges.  I have surpassed my own ideas of myself.  I am so much more than who I thought I was.

I am feeling sad that the journey is ending but that is one of the things about me, always wanting to cling to what has been good in the past.  I have had 76 days of moving from place to place, the path always taking me forward with only moments to touch down and be in one place.  Those moments pass too.  I have tried my best to be present in them all.  Even the mud but honestly I am really happy to let the muddy moments go.

So although I am feeling a little sad, I am feeling victorious and accomplished and want to march into Rome radiating all the joy and gratitude I have in my heart for this pilgrimage experience and for my life. Blessed, blessed, blessed.
   
Beautiful morning light and some mud.

Autumn woodlands

Paulius walking through woodlands

Sunlit woodlands are even prettier just this photo doesn't do it justice

A five minute rest break after an hours walk near a hazel nut grove

Pilgrim sign

Hazel nut groves and woodlands

The vines are dying so beautifully

Door in Capranica

Capranica

Capranica

Another door in Capranica

Capranica

Capranica

Capranica

Capranica

Dog and cat in Capranica

Leaving Capranica, Paulius and Peter waiting for me like usual

Up the hill past stunning autumn trees

Capranica in the background

Capranica through rock cutting as we leave it behind

Approaching Sutri

Entering Sutri

My room tonight