Travel is unplanned adventure at its finest and seldom goes according to plan, at least with me anyway.
Often times, especially with me.
This encounter follows up on the (mis)adventure I experienced, while travelling through Cinque Terre Italy, of how I lost my camera and along with it all of my travel photos.
This is made up of two parts.
See part I here before continuing.
Should you also wish to travel to this beautiful region, be sure to check out my Cinque Terre Italy Quick Travel Guide here.
Woke up to a mission:
Actually, I didn’t get much sleep at all, my mind in overdrive trying to figure out a solution. Immediately on seeing the first rays of light, I rush outside to see what I can do. In the centre of this village, I notice “publica assistenza” go in and explain my dilemma. They are unable to assist and suggest I try the police instead. After walking uphill for a few minutes along Via Colombo, the village’s main street, I arrive to a closed station, doors completely shut with not a body in sight. “I guess the officers here get Sunday off?” I think to myself. “Just my luck!”
Back at the apartment, I run into the caretaker, Giovanni.
“I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of strange requests, but has any traveller ever asked you for a ladder?” I inquire, sounding rather desperate, hoping he senses the urgency in my voice.
“No, can’t say I have. Why do you need a ladder?”
“Well, my camera fell down the mountain on my hike yesterday and I n-e-e-d to go and salvage it, but I need a ladder.”
“What! Are you crazy? Leave it. It’s too dangerous!”
“I know exactly where it is. I think I can make it. I can’t leave without trying. I just have to.”
“Let me ask my cousin next door,” he replies sympathetically and rushes out. A little while later, he knocks on the door and gestures at the ladder alongside along with some final words, “don’t say I didn’t warn you!”
I thank him profusely.
Step one complete.
“What if I get injured?” “What If I can’t get myself back up once there?” All these mind thoughts run disorder through my head.
My next thought is to wait for the office, where I had arrived to check in, to open. They would know what to do. Or at the very least, have someone at hand to accompany me.
Once the office opens my request falls on deaf ears, with the owner being rude and unhelpful. Too busy counting his cash to look up for longer than a second, to care about helping anyone.
Seems like I’m all alone on this one.
So I take the ladder and head off. “Great, it’s not heavy. And the weathers cool too.” I think, lifting the ladder off the ground and hoisting it over my right shoulder blade as it were a haversack “Wait, on second thought, I see clouds. P-l-e-a-s-e don’t rain! That’s certainly the last thing I need right now.”
Before even getting onto the trail I have to first make my way from the initial village, Riomaggiore, where I spent the night, to Corniglia via train.
I then have to walk from the station through the mountainous village just to get to the start of the trail, an hour later. As Corniglia is atop a large hill, it is reachable from the train station by climbing the 365 steps up the hill. One for each day of the year. I should know. I counted. During the five times I walked back and forth. Two of those times with a ladder on my back.
I’ve never worked a day in my life friends constantly joke…
This must certainly count for something.
Step two complete.
It’s still early morning, the sun just starting to expand in heat, yet I’m hot, sweating and exhausted. It doesn’t help that I’m fully covered from the neck down. I made sure to wear a long-sleeve t-shirt and a hard-wearing utility trouser, because of all the thick, sharp undergrowth and resulting bruises and scrapes from my attempt yesterday.
“I don’t remember the hike being so bad yesterday!” I remember thinking twenty minutes into the trek. The additional weight of the ladder is really taking toll.
“C’mon. Just keep going! Isn’t this why I go to the gym?”
“Oh, so it’s not purely in pursuit of that elusive six-pack? To look good, both with and without clothes?”
“Ahahahaa. I enjoy being healthy.” The internal dialogue provides a surge of dormant energy and I continue along.
The colourful village of Corniglia, perched on top of a tall cliff, is now just a tiny fragment. The trees disperse somewhat revealing the Gulf of Genoa in all its glory. Perfectly azure waters swell against the rock-face cliffs. It’s simply breathtaking.
There’s no time to enjoy the view.
I’m on a mission.
Through it all, I mainly focus on the very NEXT step. Just organize a ladder. Just get to next station. Just walk to the start. Just…
It’s all I can do.
On finally getting to the bridge where the camera had fallen, I confirm that it is indeed still there. No photography-enthused birds in this part of the world, thankfully. I proceed to lower the ladder from the opposite end of the bridge making sure it’s completely secure and sturdy. “Now all I have to do is wait for a fellow hiker to pass.”
I’ve done some crazy-things in my life, but I have no intention of going down this cliff, alone, without anyone in this world, knowing my whereabouts or intentions.
It’s not fear, it’s common sense.
As soon as a group passes by, I ask them if they are in a hurry. I hastily explain my dilemma to which two middle-aged German men agree to stay put to make sure I am safe, in the unfortunate occurrence of something going wrong.
“Viel Glück!” I hear as I head down. “Danke schon.” I respond in kind. The ladder vibrates amid the wind, but I make sure to descend slowly and not add to the movement. Slow and steady. One-rung-at-a-time.
On getting to the bottom, I fasten myself and look for the best spot to place my footing. I can’t see through the dense undergrowth! Accordingly, I wonder if anyone in the world has ever been down this far before. On closer inspection, my eyes now accustomed to the new light, I see strange organisms moving about their morning routine; caterpillars crawl in the sand, spiders collect the morning dew, other way-too-many-legged creatures scuttle away out of sight; but I just can’t seem to spot the camera.
I do however, suddenly grasp the severity of this all, pulses away from a 90-metre dead drop.
“Uh, isn’t it a bit too late now?”
I question my actions.
“You keep saying you’re an Adventurer. Wanting real adventure. Needing real adventure. Well, it doesn’t get more real than this. Take a chance. Take THIS chance!”
“Yeah, but is it worth it?”
“It’s worth the realness, the rawness and adventure of it all. Go for it!”
Once again, my body is flooded with an outpouring of energy and I push through the webs and undergrowth. I get caught in the thorns ever so often and forcefully break away, ripping my clothes in the process. Adrenaline keeps me going.
Further in, my body takes a break, my eyes now scanning my surroundings once again. “There it is. I see the camera!” shouting in excitement, as I flick a silver-haired spider off my shoulder.
“Are you ok?” I hear from above.
“Whaaaaaaaaaat?” The words reverberate along the steeply terraced cliffs.
“ARE YOU O-Kayyyyyy?”
Using the adrenaline, I push further. I am now within hand’s reach. But my eyes are almost entirely closed as protection from the dense growth all around. I instead feel for the camera. Sand, thorns, rocks that move, insects. Not what I’m looking for today.
One final s-t-r-e-t-c-h. This is it.
I got it! I GOT THE CAMERA!!!
Precariously close to the edge, I inch away, sluggishly, until I am able to grasp the ladder again. I get caught in more branches and thorns and wrench myself loose. My clothing barely hold together anymore. I untie myself and work up the ladder, one-step at a time. Slowly but surely until ultimately, I’m back on solid ground.
Always one wanting to fly, dreaming of flying, I’ve never felt better being on rock-solid ground.
“Insane!” I bow my head slightly as thanks to the two men who waited at the top. They move on. I’m solitary again.
I try to get the ladder back up, but it slips back down. Exhausted, my immediate deliberation is to leave it. “I’m sure the owner would understand. I might not even see him again.” I reason with myself, distracted by the crashing of the waves below. “No, that’s not right. The ladder doesn’t belong to me. He lent it to me in good faith. I need to get it back.”
A debate plays out in my head, my eyes now scanning the horizon, and the raw beauty that surrounds. I willingly go with the latter option and after a bit of a struggle I manage to get the ladder back up.
I stare at the camera repeatedly, still in disbelief at succeeding in getting it back.
And lived to tell the tale!
But… I guess this story’s not over yet.
Because just as I am ready to leave, it instantly starts to rain. At least I retrieved the camera.
But, now I have to deal with walking back on not the safest of trails, even less so as a result of the rain.
With a ladder!
People are intrigued to see someone on the trail carrying a ladder. “Are you getting married?” I hear as I make my way in return. Along with, “are you fixing the trail?” And to those who ask, I relive my ridiculous story. “What a great story, I love it.” I hear in response, “it’s hilarious!”
“Can we take a photo to remember the guy with a ladder on Cinque Terre?”
Walking back, I know I’ll never forget this experience.
“You should nevertheless still capture this scene on camera. You should set the timer!” a fellow hiker suggests. I instantaneously burst out laughing. OUT LOUD! “The very reason that got me into this mess.”
And just like that I breathe deeply for the first time since this predicament and all the stress, strain, anxiety and frustration of this incident dissipates.
Just like that.
The raw beauty of the Mediterranean catches my attention once again. Yet, it’s as if I’m looking at the ocean for the very-first-time. The midday sun shimmers upon the surface, the collaboration resembling a passionate dance.
I shout out loud, almost in disbelief. The words echo, carried by the wind, alongside some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet, joining this dance.
I join in.
I am ready to continue…
on my Epic Journey Around the World
Crazy story, huh? Have you ever lost your camera or photos whilst travelling?
I’d love love to hear.
If you’ve enjoyed this encounter, please don’t forget to share using any of the options below.
Your fellow (Mis)adventurer,