Bango Roselle to beyond Grilli – April 14

A not so good sleep last night. After doing some emailing in the tent I eventually lay down around nine. A car came to the end of the street just near where I was camped. It drove off and showed no interest in me. Paranoia. I didn’t get to sleep until after ten. I awoke to the sound of a garbage truck emptying the bins nearby.

What I would have given this morning to have had my hands wrapped around a hot mug of tea. It was a cold and it doesn’t help wearing shorts. I had to get walking to warm up.

The country has really flattened out, but in the distance to the west, north and east
is a mountain range I’ll be climbing tomorrow. Today I’ve been dog-legging north then west then north again getting a little closer to the coast as I shorten the gap to my destination.

This afternoon there’ve been few cars on the very country roads I’ve been walking.
At my second stop after 4 hours on the road it was so quiet that all that filled the air was the sound of chirping birds and the rustle of leaves on the trees.

Surprisingly, I’ve seen a lot less human activity today than any other day. There’s been the farmer bailing hay, another turning the hay for drying before bailing, and the occasional person on the streets. Today showed me how much we as human beings yearn for interaction, even as observers. Surviving being alone I feel sure will be one of the major lessons of this walk, at least for the first part through Italy and across half of France until I reach the more established pilgrim routes in both France and Spain.

It had to happen. Yes, it rained this afternoon. Just for about 30 minutes but enough to get the wet weather gear out of mothballs. Tonight the sky is still ominously overcast.

Tonight I’m sheltering under a derelict house just off the main road to where I’m headed tomorrow. It was a great find after being told in Grilli that the albergo was full. There are three rooms. I took the centre one after cleaning the fallen masonry from the concrete floor. My bedding is laid out and my belongings scattered around like I own the place. It’s a little after 8.00pm. I’m ready for bed. Good sleeping.

Scansano to Bagno Roselle – April 13

As I stepped out of my albergo to go to dinner last night I saw the whole of the valley engulfed with fog, and by the time I’d finished dinner it was sweeping across the town’s streets giving a very eerie feel to them, with very few people around and dim light coming from street lamps.

I awoke this morning to wet streets, light rain and a blustery wind buffeting the town, however, when it was time to set off for the day the streets were dry, the sun shining, but that cold wind was still blowing. I walked for a little over two hours before my first break. I’ve been pushing into a headwind all morning. The
countryside hasn’t been as pretty as yesterday.

I covered nearly two hours before stopping again. At this stop, after eating I lay on my back and massaged my feet. Because I ask soo much of them every day I try to remember to show them that I love them. The hillsides are given up to massive vineyards. At times wind gusts would push me off balance. Having two walking poles is a great leveler.

The wind dropped off around three. I was feeling strong so I kept walking, eventually getting onto a local road, but still bitumen surfaced. I’ve now come to terms with walking on bitumen. It’s o’kay. I stopped around 5.30pm to send an email to my son Vincent, and set off again to find a campsite. I eventually found it at the end of 200m dead end street that ran alongside an abandoned sports ground. The side of a shed gave me protection from the wind and overhanging tree branches protection from the expected morning dew. Very close by were five giant rubbish bins. This was obviously a place for locals to drop off their domestic trash. Apart from this visual disturbance I’m looking over a green field in the direction of Grosetto.

As it was coming on dusk I saw a few locals but they did not spot me. There is security in anonymity. I didn’t raise my tent until just onn dark.

As it wa coming non dusk

Pomonte to Scansano – April 12

I wasn’t able to get the internet from where I camped last night but that wasn’t the big negative: because I was somewhat concerned about my safety at the location I’d chosen I couldn’t get to sleep until around 9.30pm, having got into my tent around eight. I awoke around 2.30am to the sound of chirping birds. I thought it was much later than what it was. At 6.30am I awoke to a very broad day light.

I only had a 200m walk from the campsite to a cafe on the edge of Pomonte which was already doing a healthy business. I resupplied my water and had a donut and hot chocolate. (I’m going with my whims, on occasions, and putting veganism aside, but in saying this last night’s meal was 5* vegan.)

It was a constant climb the whole 14km to Scansano. Why is it that the last few kilometres into these hilltop towns are always the steepest? After I make each crest in whatever direction I look there is another ultra green valley filled with grazing land, olive trees and vineyards. I’m not surprised that people who visit Tuscany fall in love with it. It’s got me thinking, again, about abandoning city life for somewhere in country NSW, probably in the hinterland of the far south coast.

Agricultural tourism (Agriturismo) is heavily present here in Tuscany. Some places offer no more than a bed for the night in a country setting, others are B & B, and some throw in horse riding and a swimming pool. Today I noticed signs for vineyards with wine and olive oil sales.

I arrived in Scansano around 12.30pm with a lot of time on my hands. I soon found accommodation (the only place in town) at an albergo, but nothing like a Spanish albergue. It’s big, has lots of rooms, and has an old fashioned quaintness about it.
The proprietors are friendly and this afternoon have been supplying me with hot water for my green tea. (I’ve rarely drunk any since I’ve been in Italy. For love nor money has it been possible to buy a canister of gas to fuel my portable stove.)

It appears the town has put a lot of effort into public seating. Everywhere you go there is somewhere to sit. I walked along lots of narrow streets, up and down stairs,
through arches and on a walkway on the southern edge of town where you can look out over a beautiful valley. I stopped there, sat on a bench and did a meditation for about a half hour with the afternoon sun warming my face. I visited the local church, originally from the 13th centuary, but for some unspecified reason had to be rebuilt in the 17th century. I lit a candle for all those people I know who are suffering.

I’ll camp tomorrow night and so I’ve been to the supermarket and stocked up on food that could last me two days. It’s 7.15pm and I’m off now into town for dinner. I love an early night.

Manciano to Pomonte – April 11

Leaving Manciano this morning was like stepping into another world. I didn’t think it possible in just a few kilometres after leaving Lazio and moving into Tuscany that the countryside could change so much. I was met with rolling green hills scattered with vineyards and olive groves and vast areas under other crops. There were very white sheep standing like fullstops on a very green page, and of course there were the villas built in those earthy colours.

The day was very hot. For the first time I needed to wipe the sweat from my brow. The sky has been a perfect blue. I really am ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. The weather has been so kind to me without a day of rain.

I stopped for a drink at a 15th centuary medieval village, Montemerano. I wandered around stooping under arches that were too low to pass under. I toyed with the idea
of stopping the night, but stuck with my original plan to walk to Pomonte, halfway to Scansano. It was just a 14 km walk but my troublesome toe, which is on the mend, needed more time to heal. It’s still carrying an infection. Today is the best it has felt
since day three.

I had lunch by a river and dried my clothes in the sun while I ate. I moved on
another 6km and found a bridge to sleep under. It wasn’t my ideal location. The river was close by, the water looked clean and so I bathed my feet in the cool,
running water.

Around 5.30pm as I was preparing dinner (a bed of mixed lettuce with lentils,
chickpeas, tomatoes, green and black olives, cheese and bread-dressed with balsamic vinegar) a family came by with a flock of sheep following closely behind. I can eat well but I have to be prepared to carry the extra weight.

I put up my tent in the best spot, none of which were particularly good. I felt very vulnerable in this location. Around 7.30pm I was still waiting for darkness to fall before climbing into my tent. I’m incredibly thirsty, but have to preserve my water for tomorrow’s walk. I don’t know what’s available at Pomonte and I can’t take chances with water.

The Road to Manciano – April 10

I awoke around 4.45am to a rustling sound near to my gear I’d left outside my tent. I soon realised it was a small animal, probably searching for food. Once I felt comfortable with it’s presence I became acutely aware of my surroundings. The air was filled with moisture. There was a beautiful stillness. I wondered how damp my gear would be having left it uncovered during the night. It was still quite dark. I commenced a meditation. The dawn seemed to break all of a sudden, or perhaps it was me being in meditation and not noticing. A dense fog was my first sight of the day.

I commenced these notes around 8.00am. A farmer has been out since seven on his
tractor. I’ve already eaten breakfast (apple, cheese and rice crackers) and packed my backpack. I said goodbye to my campsite around 8.10am where I’d felt safe and
snug all night. It was great find. I hope there are many more of them. I put the light on my hat for better visibility of me to oncoming traffic. I’ve only heard a few cars go by. This place has that country quietness about it.

I arrived in Manciano around 2.30pm. I needed three breaks along the 22km journey. I felt today was a hard walk. Manciano sits 444m above sea level and it was a steady climb all the way, especially the last 5km, and particularly the final
three. The sun didn’t break through until around midday, and the fog failed to lift for
at least another hour. However, I still managed to get the backs of my knees sunburnt. From the last 10 days on the road I now have one of those tans that stretch from the tops of the boots to the bottom of the shorts.

The trees are coming into blossom, the wild flowers are plentiful along the sides of the road and the hillsides are a lush green. Perfect for walking.

In Manciano I booked into Hotel Rossi, the first I came to. The shower was so good after nearly 7 hours on the road. I shouldn’t complain – in Vietnam when on an operation we’d go for a month without a shower. I got a good soaking while I did my
washing – by hand, of course. It’s all out on the balcony drying, along with my tent.

I’ve been for a walk around the town, parts of which are very old and the rest reasonably modern. There was a funeral procession with the mourners following the hearse down the street to the church on foot. I’m waiting for the supermarket to re-open so I can re-supply and make myself a meal tonight.

Montalto Marina to a campsite – April 9

It was another late start – 9.45am. I had to retrace my steps back into Montalto di Castro before making some headway today. I put in three hours before stopping for lunch by the side of the road. I took the opportunity to hang out the washing I had done last night in the shower and which had not completely dried overnight. The morning’s walk was again endless stretches of straight road. It was quite hot with the oly respite coming from the wind gusts from passing cars blowing onto my sweat saturated shirt. It might be a hot summer on the way.

Sometimes you just have to take a chance. I’m about half way between Montalto di Castro and Manciano, my next stop. As I’d covered about 20 km I started looking for a place go pitch my tent. Off the road to my left I saw a haystack under a shed. I decided that was the place for me. The road leading to it looked like it had not seen any recent traffic.

I’ve been here since about 4.30pm. As I type these words it going on for seven o’clock. I figured I would wait until the local farming community and their dogs were home for the night before pitching my tent. As I look around from the back of the haystack, where I can’t be seen from the road, there is a row of shrubs about two meters high to my right offering cover, and to my left is some long ago abandoned farm machinery and tractor. I’ll have to eat and pitch the tent before dark. I don’t want my presence made known by unnecessarily using a light. I mean no harm and I’ll respect this place.

Lido di Tarquinia to Montalto Marina – April 8

I didn’t wake until 8.10am after 9 beautiful hours of sleep and got away around 10.00am. These hours are nothing like I kept in Spain.

The morning’s walk was through what appeared to be small lot farmland where grain and vegetable crops were growing. Farmers on tractors towing trailers filled with recently harvested crops passed me by. I could still see the ocean to west. There were long stretches of narrow bitumen road. I’d intended to make the morning walk longer but sometimes you see a place that seems so ideallic it can’t be passed up. I saw such a place land stopped after two hours of walking. I indulgently stayed an hour sitting in the shade of a tree with boots and shirt off while they dried in the sun.

The afternoon walked turned into a 4 1/2 hour marathon. Google maps suggested a route but when I got to the point where I was supposed to leave the main road snd head towards the coast it would have meant crossing a major four lane expressway with a chest high metal barrier down the centre. I had little choice but to continue into Montalto di Castro and make my way from there to the coast, adding another four kilometers to the trip. In Montalto di Castro there was no hotel, no camping ground, and no suitable place to pitch my tent without a lot of scrutiny.

The last seven kilometres into Montalso di Castro were were the most hazardous I’ve ever had to do. I was walking on the side of the four land expressway with the flow of traffic. When I joined this road there was no place to cross to walk facing the oncoming traffic. It’s extremely unsettling and very scary not knowing what traffic is coming up behind you until it has passed. I had no place go go because there was a metal guardrail immediately to my right. I kept thinking that the next step I took may be my last. At one point the wind drag from a petrol tanker which passed particularly close-by nearly knocked me off my feet. What I did notice was that most of the larger vehicles did in fact move to their left when passing me because I could see them coming back into the right lane as they went by. Thank you drivers.

Montalto Marina is still asleep. A much bigger place than my previous night’s stop, full of town houses and apartments waiting to be rented during the holiday season. Shop proprietors and restauranteurs are cleaning up their buildings with a coat of paint and much needed repairs. You can feel that this place will really jump in a month or so.

I made my own dinner after a visit to the supermarket. How enjoyable it was to prepare something to my liking. For €21 I got enough supplies for dinner, and breakfast and lunch tomorrow. I’m heading a little inland tomorrow. Must keep away from these dangerous roads when I can.

Civitavecchia to Lido di Tarquinia – April 7

The early part of this walk was uninspiring, having to pass through industrial and petrochemical districts while exiting the city. After about 8km the country opened up to farmland. I’m starting to get a handle on Google maps which I hadn’t up to today. It was able to show me a route that was not on my conventional map which, although still bitumen, took me took me close to the coast through rural land.

Lido di Tarquinia, just 18km from Civitavecchia, is a small town on the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve booked into another hotel. I’ve decided that if a hotel is what I want for the night I’ll have one, otherwise I’ll camp. Mind you, there isn’t a camping ground around and I didn’t feel like pulling off to the side of the road tonight.

For the next few days I thought I’d limit myself to around 20km per day until this troublesome toe has healed. I had a walk along the beach to bathe my feet.

Tarquinia city, just a few kilometers away is just to the south of the site of the chief of the 12 Etruscan cities which were often at war with Rome, and lost. Modern Tarquinia had it’s name changed from Corneto in 1922. It has bee suggested that this not always accurate reversion to historical place names was in keeping with Italy’s former Fascist government’s policy designed to evoke past glories.

Lido di Tarquinia was last night deserted. The pleasant spring weather brought out the mums and kids to the beach. They were packing up as I headed there to bathe my feet. What I’ve noticed about this town is that it has the feel of a place about to be woken from it’s winter slumber. You know that in a month or two it will be teaming with people on vacation.

A Day in Civitavecchia – April 6

One of the reasons for staying an extra day in Civitavecchia was to give my only blistered toe a chance to heal. Thongs have become my footwear of choice when not walking the trail.

In the late morning I wandered around the waterfront district looking at what remains of Roman buildings and more recent structures built in the Middle Ages. Civitavecchia did not get it’s present name until the late 9th century. Building of a town and port commenced on the city’s present site between 107 and 108 AD. It serviced Rome, just 70km away, as a port. In 1432 it became part of the Pontifical State and remained that way until 1870, apart from a period of French rule between 1798 and
1815. Following a Papal visit in 1515 Leonardo da Vinci visited the city to sketch buildings that were about to be destroyed with the construction of new city walls. Most of the city’s significant buildings were damaged during WWII, including the magnificent four towered Fort Michaelangelo, which has since been repaired.

For those of you that are following the blog will have seen that I was busy catching up with my postings on the 6th while in Civitavecchia, but this did not stop me from finding a great little restaurant for lunch that had seating for only about 10 people.

I was tempted to stay another day and treat myself to a session at the thermal baths, just south of the city, in the expectation that this would speed up the healing of my one troublesome toe, but in the end I decided I should put some more distance between me and Rome. If feet are managed correctly they will quickly start to callous. I can see that the problem toe is beginning to callous and will only be a matter of days before it won’t bother me. It’ll then be a treat to walk pain free.

Tolfa to Civitavecchia April 5.

It was bound to be a late start because breakfast did not start until 7.30am at Hotel Tolfa. It interests me when traveling to see what the people of other countries eat at breakfast, in particular. The offerings at the hotel were sweet, without exception: tarts, chocolate croissants, small cakes and some very sweet cereals. Go to any breakfast bar in Italy and you will find people standing having cafe espresso and pastry. Not so in keeping with a vegan diet, but I joined in with moderation.

It was 22km walk into the seaport city, Civitavecchia with a north-east wind to accompany me. It was a particularly uninteresting walk. Street signs are a staple for a walker in a foreign country. In Italy there aren’t many that tell you the distance to
the next town, and if they do I’ve chosen not to believe them: they’re more of a guide, an estimate, or an approximation.

Arriving in any city for the first time, not knowing anyone, not having any where to sleep, not being familiar with the streets or buildings, can be quite dispiriting. Nothing seems to make sense. It can make you quite fearful. But stay a day or so and walk around while you are there and very quickly those places you remember from your way in become familiar landmarks, distances seem shorter, and you find yourself saying, “Oh yeah, I remember that.”.

After sorting out the problem I had with my Italian internet provider I headed to the taxi rank with the address of the only camping ground in the area, kindly written out for me by the proprietor of a gelato bar/cafe. After a €25 cab ride (the driver did warn me that it may not be open) we found it closed. I was kind of pleased because this place was way, way out of town.

I’m quickly becoming familiar with the way commercial and industrial areas are allocated to the outskirts of cities. On the way back from the camping ground I called into one and replaced the charger for my Ipad. I wasn’t so fortunate with replacing the English/European power point converter I was using for my digital camera charger so I was forced to buy a new camera.

The same taxi driver put me onto the Hotel Porto di Roma located in the old section of town near which I found a delightful little restaurant run by a husband and wife which had cheap, tasty meals, and less than 50m from my hotel. By nine o’clock I was ready for bed.

Bracciano to Tolfa – April 4 (Part III)

I’ve just arrived in Tolfa and it’s 8.15pm. I can smell the wood fires. I’m struck by the age of the buildings, perched as they are on the top of a mountain 480m above sea level. It’s cold. There’s a wind blowing. The cobbled streets have a chilly feel about them. There’s no place to pitch a tent. Every square centimeter of land appears to be occupied by either a building or a road. I asked about accommodation. Hotel Tolfa was another kilometer down the road. I decided I needed to eat first.

These last 5kms into Tolfa were a continuous climb at gradients of 30 to 50 degrees, more of the latter the nearer I got to the town. From my previous rest spot I’d seen Tolfa but didn’t recognise it as the place I’d end up for the night.

I found a very cozy terraced restaurant. I dropped my pack and collapsed into a chair. Even though I had drunk water all the way I could hardly contain my thirst. The excruciating pain in my shoulders almost stopped me from lifting a glass. I ordered the red kidney bean soup which was thick and warm. I luxuriated in each mouthful. I followed this with radicchio hearts split it two, lightly grilled and drizzled with olive oil.

9.15pm. I’m off to Hotel Tolfa, but checking out likely places to pitch a tent – just in case. At first the night clerk, a young man, told me that he had no room. He pointed out a hotel room plan on a computer screen. I could see that the hotel was not full. I think his initial response to my request was one based on suspicion, seeing someone walk up to his desk dressed in shorts, back pack, walking poles in hand and wearing an Akubra with a light attached. He left his desk and disappeared for no more than a minute. On his return he told me he had a room. I checked in and was shown a spacious, well appointed room. The young man couldn’t have been more helpful bringing me a cup of tea, bottled water and a plate of fruit and biscuits. I kept telling myself I deserved this luxury after 12 hours on the road and a 35km walk, 4kms more than planned.

Bracciano to Tolfa – April 4 (Part II)

It was a very positive feeling to rid myself of nearly 2kg of gear a Manziana. Looking around the streets from where I ate lunch I decided that the baby bonus must have been paid there as well as in Australia because young women with youngsters in prams and strollers were so thick on the ground they were bumping into each other.

I’ve decided to record the rest of the day like a running commentary, but in parts. The following notes were made on the side of the SP 3/a road around 3.00pm. My walking had settled to around 4kph, slower than what I was used to walking in Spain, but I’m carrying a lot more weight now than I did there. My pack isn’t feeling any lighter. It’s like the rank outsider for the Melbourne Cup being declared the top weight.

I’m at the intersection of the SP 3/a and a road that leads to a village called Bange di Stigliano. There’s a flash sign advertising a thermal spa. What a beautiful thought to be luxuriating in a thermal spa. I must present as something of an oddity sitting on a grassy slope, boots off, leaning on my backpack making notes.

5.25pm. I’ve stopped for another break. Ahead of me on my left I can see a section of a river flowing in my direction. When the road us silent of cars I close my eyes and become immersed in the sound of the flowing river. Way off in the distance to my left very high up on the hillside are grazing cattle. All around me I can hear the sounds if birds preparing to nest for the night. The next town is Rota, just a couple of kilometers further on. I think I’ll find a spot near there ti camp for the night.

6.35pm. Rota didn’t exist although it was marked on my map. I’ve just had a snack on a couple of rice crackers and a banana. I have to push on another 5kms into Tolfa. It’s coming on dusk and I’m concerned that as the light fades I am seen by oncoming traffic. I’ve decided to strap my headlamp to my hat, turn it on and hope the light is seen by approaching cars. It’ll be at least another hour before I reach Tolfa by which time darkness will have descended. On my previous three walks in Spain I’ve never walked this late into the day.

Bracciano to Tolfa – April 4 (Part I)

My first stop was Manziana which should have been a 2 hour walk from Bracciano, but which turned into a three and a half hour treck. The camping ground proprietors gave me the idea and an accompanying map of a track through bushland instead of along the bitumen road. I gleefully leapt at the opportunity. What I assumed from the directions I had been given was that once I got onto the track a couple of kilometers from the camping ground it would be straight forward walking into Manziana. It wasn’t until I came to a cross intersection that I had a choice to make. I took one path. It felt wrong so I doubled back. I took another path that let me to a T-intersection. After taking the ‘more wrong’ fork I again doubled
back to take the ‘less wrong’ fork only to find myself at a locked gate surrounded by a 3 metre high fence on the other side of which was a road. Another choice: do I go to the left or to the right. As I was contemplating how to overcome this latest challenge along came a man in a ute. He appeared completely disinterested in my presence. After searching around for a key he unlocked the gate and gave me directions to Manziana which took another hour to


During this time I made some interesting observations about myself. I never felt frustration with my predicament. I had a calmness i expected of myself. I certainly felt no anger towards those who had given me the idea and directions about taking the path I had. I was always comforted by the thought that I could simply retrace my steps, go into Bracciano and take the bitumen road.

At Manziana I spent two hours, part of which was eating and resting, but an important part of which was offloading 1.9kg of unwanted things that I posted to Australia. This I acknowledged as a blessing.

A Day in Bracciano – April 3 (Part II)

It might seem premature to take a day off after just two days of walking. It’s been challenging for me to let go of ‘goals’ that, on reflection, are not important. I ‘ve been working on this change for some time and now is the opportunity to put it into action.

I took a bus from my lakeside camping ground into Bracciano. The bus route takes in part of the lake’s edge where people were sunbathing in the 23 degree Spring day before going to one of the many restaurants, some with their tables on the beach (about a 10 metre wide stretch of gravelly sand) for lunch.

After buying some provisions at the supermarket I headed to the castle. It’s southern side is most imposing, standing around 50m high. Access was not possible. Restoration work is being carried out to pathways. The castle is surrounded by housing where narrow alleys lead to doorways. Outside of one a couple of people were standing with glasses of wine. I looked into the dooway. The space was no bigger than a bedsitter kitchen. A middle aged man had a giant pot on a stove from which the steam and smells of his creation were coming. Perhaps a niche place for something to eat and a glass of wine on a Sunday.

The camping ground proprietors suggested I could return via a dirt track that descends from directly in front of the castle with a warning to keep to the left and not take any oath to the right. Obediently following these directions led me to a dead end so I decided to escape through some private properties that backed onto the track. After a couple of driveways led me to locked gates I eventually found one open. Back at the camping ground lunch was followed by an afternoon sleep in a pleasantly warm tent.

The camping ground proprietors, husband and wife, were extremely friendly. They had a ‘restaurant’ where I had pizza one night and pasta the next. Both delicious. Not particularly vegan, but I’ll say more about this later. I couldn’t get a salad ‘because we have just

A Day in Bracciano – April 3 (Part I)

Bracciano was once a centre of culture in Italy. It has one of the finest examples of medieval castles, the Orsini-Odescalchi Castle, overlooking the lake. The Odescalchi family, to whom it was sold in 1696, still own it. The Bracciano district became a Papal possession in 1375 and in 1419 Pope Martin V gave it to the Orsini family under whose control the area flourished with its iron, sulphur and paper production, and becoming known for it’s tapestries. On a more frivolous note Tom Cruise and Katy Holmes were married at the castle in 2006.

My main reason for staying two nights in Bracciano was to try to replace some things I had lost in the crazy few hours before the start of the walk and to sort out my 3G connection that I’d secured from an Italian internet provider. Normally I don’t lose things but in that time I managed to part possession with the recharger for my IPad and two extra batteries and a spare memory card for my digital
camera, popping out of a side pocket to my backpack as they must have done. Bracciano proved to not be the resource centre I hoped it would be, hence the lack of blogging in the early days.

I always knew that the first week or so would be the toughest on ADOBE CS6 MASTER COLLECTION my feet. No amount of walking around my suburb could prepare me for walking bitumen roads with a heavy backpack. I am not under any imperative to cover any particular distance each day, nor even to walk each day. I’ve decided I don’t want this walk to be daily goal driven. My goals are to reach Santiago and to enjoy the journey getting there. My feet needed to rest so I gave them one.

The Road to Bracciano – April 2

Some walks are more a test mental than physical stamina. Today’s was one of those. The morning walk went well. I felt full of energy as I strode away from my camp site around 7.45am. Even the hefty 18kg of my pack was not bothering me. Around 11.00am I stopped at a roadside cafe for lunch. In between the road was a mixture slopes, bends, twists, climbs and falls, just the variety I enjoy.

Anyone who has walked the Meseta along the Camino Frances in Spain will vouch for the impact that long stretches of flat paths can have on the mind. At least along the Meseta the tracks themselves provide a variety of surfaces which help to break the monotony. Not so a bitumen road with it’s continuous white painted line along it’s edge.

My map told me it was 16km from my lunch stop to Bracciano. It was one of the toughest 16kms I have ever done, staring at that white line and always looking up with the sound of an approaching car to make sure I had time to take evasive action, if necessary. Fortunately, it never came to that. It took me 4 hours of walking with 15 minute breaks after each hour to reach Lake Bracciano.

One thing I’ve so far noticed is that directions and distances are not particularly well signposted. Upon reaching the outskirts of Bracciano there was a sign pointing in the direction of Campo Lago (Lake Camp), however, that was the last sign and so when I came to an intersection with a choice if three directions I asked a local. Shortly after I asked a different local and was pointed in the opposite direction. I decided to follow a sign to a B & B where I was told there were no vacancies. Sometimes we just follow our instincts. Mine suggested I continue down this ‘track to nowhere’. But as good fortune often follows adversity it led me to the entrance of another camping ground which had only opened for “the season” (late March-September) the day before. Here I was to stay for 2 nights.

Leaving Rome – April 1 – (Part II)

By the time I had done about 16km I’d had enough. It was time to look for a campsite. Off to my right, adjacent to one of those new housing developments, was in a lush green field with an old almond tree as it’s centerpiece. This was to be it.

As I was laying out my tent I was approached by a man and his rather large drooling dog. Both had come from the nearby estate. He asked if I was intending to camp the night, if that wasn’t obvious from what I was doing. He assured me, and I took him as being genuine, that he did not mind but urged me to head back towards Rome to find a camping ground. I declined. He countered by saying that Italians, of which I assume he was one, did not like what I was doing. He followed up by mentioning the police, not threateningly, but with an implication that they might arrive and move me on. The man, and his dog which all the time had shown a keen interest in me, soon left and I got on with the business of setting up camp.

Darkness came around 8.00pm. I watched the fading light from inside my tent. There is something very comforting and secure about being inside a one-person tent with the warmth of a sleeping bag enveloping you. It was probably a combination of exhaustion from all that I had done in preparing to leave Australia, the trip over, and the days walk, Which helped me get 8 hours sleep, in stark contrast to my usual 4-5 hours a night. I believed I would be o’kay where I had stopped for the night and I’d had a sleep which

confirmed that belief.

Leaving Rome – April 1 – (Part I)

Things don’t always go as planned. I was staying at a hotel near Ciampino Airport. The train into the city stopped after two stations whereupon the driver, who had emerged from his cabin to have an animated conversation with two other passengers, announced public transport was on strike for 24 hours. Adversity quickly became good fortune when I teamed up with 5 other people to get a taxi into Roma Termini. From there it was another taxi to the Basilica. As we drove past the official residence of Prime Minister Berlusconi the driver commented upon the shame Italians felt about his behaviour.

It was now after midday. I shied away from starting from the steps of the Basilica on account of the 300m queue and got a Japanese tourist to take my photo with the Basilica in the background. Before setting out at 12.30pm I was interviewed by Dorothy, a Polish journalist who was gauging people’s responses to the May 1 beautification ceremony for Pope John Paul II.

I chose the via Aurelia to leave the city. In fact this street gets it’s name from one of the original pilgrim routes coming from Western Europe, down the west coast of Italy to Rome. The other more travelled route to Rome was the Via Francigena from Canterbury in the UK, south-east through France, and passing through Siena to Rome. The reverse of this route was documented in 990 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigercic the Serious, when he recorded his 80 overnight stops on the way home from Rome where he had been to visit the Pope.

Leaving Rome is probably not that much different than leaving any other city. At some stage you get to the rural-urban fringe and then into the countryside. There were numbers of small housing estates with no more than a dozen or so houses. A lot of them were gated.

On my walks in Spain rarely did I have to walk on a bitumen road close to passing traffic. Not so in Italy. This was something I was going to have to get used to. Since reaching the urban-rural fringe I crisscrossed the road to find that side which had at least half a metre of verge on which to walk. in some places the verge did not exit and so I was forced to walk on the road with a heightened regard for my safety as the oncoming traffic bore in my direction. Little did I appreciate that walking on the road was to become the norm.

Generally, drivers have been o’kay. I got the thumbs up a couple of times. A few other messages I found hard to interpret, but I took them as positive, probably naively.

This being a pilgrim can be a hazardous business.

Pilgrimage (Part 2) – History repeats itself

There are striking parallels between how some pilgrims went about their pilgrimage in the Middle Ages to how some do it today. Jerusalem was a popular pilgrimage destination. A pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Europe was usually undertaken by sea, not by land. A long sea voyage was tedius, conditions cramped, and food, where it was supplied, not particularly good. Boredom was a problem, sometimes overcome by the appearance of pirates. Some drank their way, others played dice or chess, and there was communal singing. Yet others kept fit by running up and down the rigging or doing weight lifting. (One can’t help but see the similarities between categories of passengers who engaged in those pastimes with those you might encounter on a modern day cruise ship.)

From about the mid 7th century until its capture by the Ottomans in 1517, Jerusalem was under Arab rule except when it was recaptured by the Crusaders between 1099 and 1187 and for two short periods between 1229 and 1244.  Most ships carrying pilgrims landed in the port city of Joppa (also known as Joffa, and which is now known as Tel Aviv-Yafo following the merging of Tel Aviv and Joffa around 1910.) Arriving in Joppa under Arab rule had cost implications for pilgrims. After paying a toll per head at Joppa, pilgrims were led by Arab guides to Jerusalem. In addition, at Jerusalem a poll-tax was imposed under Islamic law on non-Muslims wishing to enter the city. Non-payment of this tax resulted in a refusal to enter the city walls. Penniless pilgrims often begged other pilgrims to pay the tax on their behalf.

The Venetian ship-owners, who had high reputations, came up with the answer to many of these problems – the all-inclusive package tour. The 13th century Venetian Republic imposed stiff regulations on ship owners so that their standards of safety and commercial morality were without peer. Sailing times to and from Joppa were set in statute, as were maximum passenger numbers. Rights, such as a minimum amount of deck space upon which to sleep, and duties of pilgrims were set out in contracts between the ship owner (usually the master of a vessel) and the pilgrim. Contractual disputes could be taken to a magistrate. The package tour included the fare, food and board throughout the journey as well as in the Holy Land, the payment of polls and taxes, the cost of donkeys and pack horses, guided tours of Jerusalem, and special expeditions to the River Jordan. Ship owners were sometimes left out of pocket when unexpected costs arose.

Even today people still do package pilgrimages. I have witnessed those who stay in hotels or have a private albergue (Spanish for hostel or refuge) pre-booked ahead, have their luggage transported by road to their next destination where there meal is organised at a local restaurant. While walking they can be spotted carrying a simple day pack looking remarkably refreshed from day to day. Their ‘pilgrimages’ are usually for 7 or 14 days. Somethings don’t change.

 (Sources: Jonathan Sumption, The Age of Pilgrimage, Hidden Springs, 2003, first published as Pilgrimage in 1975 by Faber and Faber, and various internet sites)

John Bettens


The Gawler Foundation – Sydney says, What is that?


While I have personally been publicising the Rome to Santiago Project around Sydney one question has repeatedly come up when I mention the Gawler Foundation? What is that? Regretably, it may be the case that widespread knowledge of the Foundation is limited to Victoria, or possibly Melbourne. Clearly something needs to be done about this because there are many, many people now affected , or who in the future will be affected by cancer, who will be denied access to the exceptional benefits that can be obtained from their programs simply because they don’t know about it.

Those of you who have found your way to this website without reference to the Foundation will no doubt will take a look at its website, and if you haven’t already, I urge you to do so. You never know when that little piece of knowledge you gain from going there might come in handy if a family member or friend is diagnosed with cancer.

Some people who receive a cancer diagnosis and are thinking of exploring the Foundation’s approach to health, healing and wellbeing might be put off for any number of reasons, one of which is the inconvenience of having to travel to the Yarra Valley in Victoria. However, you don’t need to travel there to experience the Foundation’s teachings. There are in the major population centres around Australia courses which are run by people trained by the Foundation to present a 12 week program which deals with all the major topics that are covered in a 10 day live-in program at the Yarra Valley. I am personally only familiar with the course run in Sydney where I have been a guest speaker for the past two years. The invitation to speak came about after I had done the 12 week program in the latter half of 2008. I did this program as a refresher after having completed both the 10 day and follow-up 5 day live-in programs at the Yarra Valley in late 2006 and early 2007, respectively.

I found the 12 week program invaluable for many reasons, including it re-familiarised me with the Foundation’s teachings, it re-inforced and gave me a better understanding of those teachings, and it provided a forum for all the participants to bless us with their personal experiences from which we can learn so much. A friend of mine did it the other way around.  She has told me that when she did the 10 day program she got so much more out of it because of her earlier experience with the 12 week program. Either way, the programs will teach you how you can do so much for yourself to improve your survival time.

It is important to know that the overwhelming number of people who attend these programs, be they the 10 day, 5 day, or 12 week ones, do so having had, or who are in the process of having some form of conventional treatment like surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

The Sydney program, conducted at Crows Nest on Sydney’s lower north side, is run by Sabina Rabold, a very experienced counsellor, educator and group facilitator. You can access information about Sabina’s programs by calling her on 0419 980 923, emailing her at, or going to her website at

John Bettens

Pilgrimage (Part I) – Relics as a drawcard


The role of relics has played an import part in the history of pilgrimage throughout the medieval or middle ages, generally thought to be between the late 5th and mid 15th centuries. During this long period the cult of the relic ebbed and flowed. Some outlandish claims were made, often to give prominence to their location and the supposed miracles that they were said to have produced. Thus, these places would become a drawcard for pilgrims making their way to one of four main destinations, Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Canterbury.

In the early part of the 12th century the Monks of St Medard issued a pamphlet advertising the miracles of the milk tooth of Christ which they claimed was preserved at their abbey. One might wonder why a milk tooth of Christ was preserved at all given that the man would not have likely come to public attention until he began his ministry in his 30′s. Guibert of Nogent, who died in 1125, wrote extensively on religious life. His writings included his treatise On the Relics of the Saints. Guibert put paid the to monks’ claim by pointing out that it was inconsistent with the doctrine of the resurrection which could not be completely true if any part of Christ’s earthly body remained on earth. Considerable suspicion surrounded claims made by Guibert himself of his possession of relics which included pieces of rope which bound Christ to the whipping post and fragments of the crown of thorns. Another ‘relic’ falling into this same category was the blood of Christ. In 1351 the Franciscan prior of Barcelona sought to explain the presence of Christ’s blood on earth by stating in a public sermon that the blood shed at the crucifixion lost its divinity and remained on earth after the resurrection. He was promptly prosecuted by the Inquisitor of Aragon and forced to make a humiliating retraction.

Other absurd claims included the two heads of John the Baptist, each in different locations, and milk of the Virgin Mary preserved in a crystal vase at Laon. The ‘relics’ of Christ preserved at Rome, which included the foreskin and umbilical cord caused some embarrassment to Pope Innocent III who thought he’d leave it up to God to explain their authenticity.

Possession of a relic could result in a town or city being added to a pilgrim route. In the mid 11th century a second phial of the blood of Christ was unearthed in the garden of the hospice of St Andrew in Mantua, the first having been ‘discovered’ there around 804.  This quickly resulted in Mantua becoming an important place on a pilgrimage to Rome.

(I find this a fascinating subject and one upon which I will touch again in the weeks ahead. In writing this blog I have relied exclusively on an extensively researched and wonderfully entertaining book by Jonathan Sumption, The Age of Pilgrimage, Hidden Springs, 2003, which was first published as Pilgrimage in 1975 by Faber and Faber.)

Alternative – a word in need of therapy


Don’t mention the ‘A’ word.  If you use the word alternative in the context of medical therapies you likely will be met in some conventional medical circles with responses that include scepticism, scorn, derision, or even abuse.  Anecdotally, I am led to understand that some medical specialists, particularly oncologists, are unusually skilled with these types of reponses.  Fortunately, my doctors, including specialists, have been accepting, and in some cases, supportive of the approach I have taken to my healing, although I have felt the pressure of being told I will die sooner than later unless I availed myself of conventional therapies.

How has this situatiion come about?  After all, alternative simply means one of two or more available possibilities.  I guess that those who scorn, deride or abuse a particular alternative therapy do so because it may not not supported by ‘science’.  Without the support of science it is said to lack credibility.  Science is held up by many as the only yardstick by which a therapy should be judged.  Another part of the explanation might lie in alternative’s other definition: of or relating to activities that depart from or challenge traditional norms.  If you are trained in a particular medical paradigm it is lilely to become the only paradigm.  My own experience has taught me that it was challenging to the norms of medical orthodoxy when I chose a range of therapies, including stress reduction, diet, regular exercise, yoga and meditation in lieu of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to deal with my cancers.

My own use of urine therapy (see Post 09.01.2011 Urine therapy – a taste of things to come) fits both definitions. It proved to be a viable treatment for follicular lymphoma in lieu of chemotherapy, and it certainly challenged traditional thinking as to how lymphoma should be treated. I’m happy to call it an alternative therapy.

The use of alternative as a word generically descriptive of a therapy is mostly no longer used by those involved in the integrative approach to medicine. Why? Perhaps its use is assiduously avoided because it is thought it might bring the integrative approach into disprepute, or it is thought that this approach will not be taken seriously if it uses it.

I’m for bringing back the use of the word alternative as an adjective to describe a therapy that the user believes is a viable possibility for the treatment of a condition, particularly if such therapy departs from or challenges traditional thinking about how that condition ought to be treated.

John Bettens


Urine therapy – a taste of things to come


I wanted to make this post one that would give some insight into how I’ve gone about managing cancer. This is why I have chosen the topic of urine therapy. Whenever I have spoken at the Gawler Foundation’s 12 week program held in Sydney for people affected by cancer ( the mention of urine therapy attracts disproportional attention to anything else I might say. Why is this so? It’s probably because the very thought of drinking one’s own urine evokes in people a feeling of repulsion while at the same time triggering a deep sense of curiosity and wonder as to why anyone would do it.

As you will probably have already read on the website, I have chosen to not have surgery, radio therapy or chemotherapy for either of my cancers. My view is that we should not be afraid to experiment. After all, it’s our body and our life which is at stake. Sometimes you just have to trust your own instincts when it comes to trying something new, even if that something seems so far from left field.

That was the situation with which I was presented when urine therapy was recommended by one of my two GP’s, for the treatment of my follicular lymphoma. My GP said she was aware of anecdotal evidence to suggest that this type of therapy worked in the case of follicular lymphoma but not for any other type of cancer, and that she had no explanation as to why it worked. She did add that it may have something to do with improving the immune system’s ability to recognize the cancer and therefor be able to do the job it was intended to do. The issue between the immune system and cancer cells is that the immune system fails to recognise a cancer because the cancer cells have learned to disguise themselves as healthy cells. Therefor, unlike other foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria which trigger an immune response, this does not happen with cancer cells. So the explanation may be that the urine eliminates the ability of the lymphoma cancer cells to disguise themselves making them vulnerable to an immume response.

I was diagnosed in March 2007 with follicular lymphoma. In February 2008 I commenced to drink 250mls of my urine daily. Between these two dates CT scans showed that the cancers were continuing to grow, however, after February, scans showed the cancer masses reducing in size. The cancer was located in my neck, chest and stomach. I had scans in February, May, August and December 2008. In February the cancer mass in my stomach, which was the largest in any part of my lymphatic system, was about 3cm in diameter. In May that same mass measured about 2cm diameter, and by August it was down to about 1cm diameter. In December it was not reported upon, presumably because its size was insignificant. By August, the mass in my chest, which had been the most resistant to change, had also reduced in size. Those in my neck, which were small to begin with, had either reduced in size or completely disappeared. The most recent scan in February 2010 reported on only one mass, which was in the stomach and it measured just 6mm x 4mm. No other significant cancer mass was seen elsewhere.

I should note that during this period in 2008 the only alteration I made to my health and healing regime was to include urine therapy. I think these facts demonstrate a strong correlation between the use of this therapy and the reduction in size of the cancerous lymph nodes and that this correlation suggests the therapy worked. For me it doesn’t matter whether the urine therapy was the catalyst for these results, what matters is that I have the peace of mind that this cancer is presently not a threat to my life. I continue to maintain urine therapy as a part of my daily routine.

John Bettens


Welcome to Rome 2 Santiago Project


Welcome to the RTS (Rome to Santiago) Blog.

I welcomed in the new year in such contrast to last year. In 2010 I was with my two sons and an estimated crowd of 2 million people on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janiero. This year there was just two of us.

One thing will distinguish my previous walks along the Camino Frances in 2007, 2008 and 2009 from the journey I am soon to embark upon: Not one step of it have I walked before. I have not previously walked through Italy or France, and this year, upon reaching the French/Spanish border I’ll take the Camino del Norte (Northern Way) which generally follows the coastline along the Bay of Biscay, in lieu of the Camino Frances which, after crossing the border near St Jean Pied de Port, passes through major northern Spanish cities like Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, and Leon.

2011 holds the prospect of being one of the most exciting, rewarding and satisfying years in a long time. Having walked my first Camino in 2007, in the lead up to the 2008 and 2009 walks I fed on a joyous feeling which I felt when just thinking about walking my next Camino. I am experiencing that same feeling now. It is something that provides me with a source of energy and inspiration.

I’ll be leaving Australia in the March 29 and arrive in Rome on the 30th. I plan to spend two nights there before commencing the walk on April 1. I’ve so far mapped my route from Rome to Pisa, have a good idea of the way I will take across France, and will follow an established path upon reaching Spain. The added intrigue of the Italian section is that the path I have chosen is not part of an established pilgrim’s route. There is a way of linking up with the via Francigena, a pilgrim’s route from Canterbury in the UK, which moves south-east through France, into northern Italy and onto to Rome via Piacenza and Siena, but I have chosen not to do this. The via Francigena is based on a route developed in the 6th century and improved in the late 8th century by the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne. In 990, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric the Serious, diarised the 80 stops his party made on its way back to Canterbury after having seen the Pope in Rome.

The route I will take in Italy is more in keeping with the via Aurelia which followed the west coast of Italy into France, down through Nice, Frejus and onto Arles. It was originally part of the 100,000 kilometres of roads built by the Romans which extended from present day Portugal/Spain to Asia Minor. The first main road I will take on my way from St Peter’s Basilica is called via Aurelia, and my first night’s stop will be at Lake Bracciano, a distance of about 32kms.

There will be more about the route I have chosen in future blogs, along with a range of other topics, the most important of which is why I am doing this walk.? I’llbe writing about cancer and the path I have chosen to deal with the two cancers with which I have been diagnosed.

John Bettens


Hello world. This my website!

Hello world. This my website!