A lovely 33km walk from Vercelli to Mortara today. It’s described in my guidebook as two stages but for Paul and I, it was a decent day’s walk. We set off at 5.45 from our hotel which was right on the edge of town and joined the Via Francigena. We crossed a bridge and then immediately plunged into the rice paddies.
Apparently pilgrims complain about this “Po Valley” part of the slog because it is boring. “Like the Meseta” they say. Utter Rubbish. The Meseta on the Camino Frances is brilliant, an uplifting spiritual experience especially if you’re fortunate enough to share it with a good pilgrim companion. These rice paddies are a rich and diverse habitat, beautifully green and full of water. Naturally the insect population is abundant and irritating but you can hardly blame them for being drawn to a couple of sweaty pilgrims. The bird life is incredible. Suddenly the silence is broken by some huge heron rising out of the paddy like a jumbo jet, wings flapping furiously to gain altitude. Or little birds flying in formation looking for grubs. All the way along the path you hear the plop plop of tiny frogs jumping into the water or the occasional splash of something bigger. I love it. But I’ve been bitten a few times today.
We did the whole of the 19km first stage non stop before breakfast in Robbio. A large gathering of retired men sat on the terrace of a cafe in the square and we joined them.
Stage 2 was hot hot hot but we caught up with Fr D which was nice because he brings a sense of pilgrimage to the walk. In Nicorvo we stopped in the church, one of the few which are open, and had a few minutes spiritual refreshment. I signed the pilgrim book and stamped my credentials.
We fell for the old Booking.com trick again but for the last time. It goes like this: you type in your destination and very little comes up. There is a B&B with a 9.1 score but only 1 room left, hurry to secure it. 10 other people are currently looking at it. The description reminds me of the sort of language used by estate agents in the 1980s until it was outlawed. Reviews are glowing. You book it and pay up front, no refunds allowed. When you arrive you discover the awfulness of the place. The WiFi won’t work on Apple but is good on Samsung. There is a double bed not 2 beds and they begrudgingly say “no problemo” and drag in a foldaway bed. The windows are closed against insects but there is no air conditioning. Meanwhile the town is full of cheap air conditioned albergues. We’ve paid otherwise we’d be on our way. Except I am on my way to a cheap place by the station.
Spot Paul (extreme right) in among the retired men
We catch up with Fr D and find an open church
My hands free solar umbrella helps keep the sun off
Waiting for the train to cross the Via Francigena