Climb Every Mountain(Peggy Wood/Margery McKay)- The Walk Between Belgirate and Stresa,Lake Maggiore,Italy - 27th May 2016


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May 27th 2016
Published: June 2nd 2016
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We have two plans for a walk somewhere around or above the lake today. We will try for Plan A which is a 20 minute ride in the cable way up from the lakefront at Stresa to Mount Mottarone, a peak behind the town at 1490 metres above sea level.

Once we get to the top we will take a trail that leads through forest, open meadows and a couple of small villages back down to Stresa. And along the way we might get a pizza lunch in one of the villages. All this including lunch should take us 4 or 5 hours and will nicely take care of the middle of the day.

So we were a little more on the ball for breakfast this morning, not too much, just a little.

The sunrise had been special again this morning although not quite as stunning as yesterday. We guess you can’t expect to have this important part of the day replicated every day.

It was just a short drive along the lakefront to Stresa. The middle of the small town was busy with tourists and we drove past the stately hotels to a car park that was just a short walk away from the cable car station.

We could see the cableway stretching across the main road and high up the mountainside and we should have known then there was going to be a problem with Plan A today as there didn’t seem to be any activity with cable cars going up or down. And sure enough when we got to the ticket office we found the place being repaired and the cable way closed until July. So that was the end of Plan A which we were so looking forward to executing.

There were ferries going from a jetty nearby to the small island of Isola Bella, which name sounds idyllic, until we recalled the bus groups of tourists making all that noise yesterday at San Guilo. And there were groups of tourists standing around ready to take a ride to the island. So that idea was quickly snuffed out and anyway we did an island yesterday.

So Plan B it is to be.

Plan B was being held aside for tomorrow depending upon this fine, warm weather continuing.

It involved either a return walk through forest above the town to Belgirate which according to the website listing the walk would take about 5 hours and was classed as a ‘tourist’ walk. Easy one would think.

Although we had plenty of daylight we had already purchased our parking ticket which had a time on it to expire and that had been geared to Plan A.

So we gave the idea of the 5 hour return walk away and opted for a train ride to Belgirate, just one stop away and then have lunch and take the walk back.

Again all this should have been easy especially as the railway station was just up the road a short distance away.

Problems continued to mount when we took the wrong side of the railway track to get to the station and walked a longer distance than we needed to.

However we did make the next train that arrived in 10 minutes and we thought things were starting to look up with Plan B.

Our train ride last about 5 minutes and although we thought we might get some different vistas of the lake from the train window we discovered that the train route involved almost more time in tunnels than it did with a view of the lake. We should have realised this as we can hear trains from our apartment way of in the distance and although they should pass somewhere in front of us we lose the sound and never actually see them and now we know that is because they enter a tunnel that takes them somewhere underneath us and emerge well away from the apartment.

It was a short walk down to the lakefront from the station at Belgirate and we found ourselves a restaurant that ran its business from the roadside under a large white tent like structure.

We both had a desire for pizza and Gretchen went for her favourite a margarita while I went for a Buffalo. The toppings including the mozzarella all had the word ‘buffalo ‘and the word was mentioned 4 times so I gathered that there would be cheese and buffalo meat but I was sure what the other two ‘buffalo ‘ingredients would be. Nothing like a mystery meal.

It was very relaxing sitting back with a wonderful view of the lake and drinking a very cold German wheat beer. At 500ml this would see us right for the walk back!

Because it was after 1pm the main road along the lake was quiet with local traffic taking a siesta and very little else passing. All this added to the serenity of the occasion.

The waiter who served us was wearing a shirt that had New Zealand on the back and we questioned him if he had travelled to NZ.No, he replied, he bought the shirt at a market and had never been to NZ.I was wearing my black NZ shirt with the silver fern (damn it we should have changed our flag at that referendum!)and indicated to him we were from NZ.He gave us a smile but we really wonder whether he knew exactly where NZ was in the world!

Lunch over and the bill paid we needed now to work out where to start the walk back.

Or after such a filling lunch and a 500ml beer inside us would we just catch the train back. At least we knew where the railway station is!

The problem trying to find where to start was that the map we looked at online was from Stresa to Belgirate and after the large beer we had to try and remember the text of the directions in the reverse as of course we were starting in Belgirate.

The markers for the route were ‘L2’ (for walk #2) and red, white, red painted on stones or trees along the route. There were of course a couple of villages along the way and that should give us a good idea of how far we had progressed.

We had seen an ‘L2”sign near the railway station so it was back up the hill to the station and found what we were looking for.

After the first couple of long flights of steps that took us up towards a small church we had our first stop, huffing and puffing a bit.

Now we have done a fair amount of walking on the BBA V3 so far and we thought we were in fairly good condition and up for the challenge. The view was very pleasant over the terracotta coloured roofs of the houses of the town contrasting with the calm blue surface of the lake and the hazy sky in the distance. Of course this was the problem, there was no wind to save us gasping for air and it was hot, well over 30C we reckoned.

Anyway the church was a good place to rest and admire the history of the structure dating back to the 11th century. The Romanesque style church had had later additions but part of the original foundations had been retained within the church which was now only used for a couple of services each year.

The frescoes on the ceiling from around 1500 had been well maintained and the vibrancy of the colours was quite amazing after all these years.

Another feature of the church was that although it had been added to and partly rebuilt over the centuries the bell tower was original and dated from around 1100.

We had recovered our composure somewhat with the time we had spent at the church. Now was the opportunity to change our minds on the walk and go back down to the station and wait for a train to Stresa. Or we could continue.

And continue we did. Uphill even more!

There was only supposed to be a difference in height one attained of 170metres on the walk according to the website but all this seemed like it was going to be done and dusted in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the journey.

Up and up we climbed with a hot sun overhead and no shade to resort to stopping every few minutes to get our breath back. Then the path entered the chestnut tree forest and levelled out. It was a relief to have some shade and a path that was basically flat.

We followed the L2 and red/white/red signs faithfully but when we thought we were getting near the end of the track based upon the time the website had suggested it would take to walk the distance we found by deduction that we still had an hour’s walk ahead of us.

Something had clearly gone wrong and we think that somehow we had joined an upper track that while taking us in the right direction towards Stresa it had caused us to walk extra distance.

The forest was quite dense and while we had a sense that the lake was ‘just out there ‘we couldn’t actually get a clear sighting of it.

Around midway we took a short track of the main trail to a tiny ancient church in the middle of a grassy clearing. It had history that went back to the 1100’s and would have been the church used by the people that lived in the abandoned small houses that we had passed in the chestnut forest. The church was unfortunately locked and because it was very dark inside the only way we got a look at it the inside was to video it through the bars on the door and then watch the video later. The camera had made allowance for the darkness inside the building.

Eventually we emerged from the forest onto a road amongst some very palatial homes with large manicured grounds.

Now the walk was taking us downhill towards the town.

We had promised ourselves a gelato once we reached Stresa and although we were over an hour longer walking than we had anticipated; it would still be another couple of hours before dinner. So we had our ‘desert’ before our main course.

Peggy was still there waiting for us, almost alone in the car park. And thankfully although we were a couple of hours beyond the time we had a ticket for there was no parking fine attached to the wind screen wipers.

The local tour director has another location to go and explore tomorrow but she has promised no long walks!

We will sleep well tonight.

PS;the title is so appropriate for today's tale of the BBA V3 even if the song was set in an adjoining country.Enjoy any one of a number of videos on Youtube.


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