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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

SCRUB FIRES- OUR ANNUAL NIGHTMARE

So here we go again!
The hill behind Marina del Cantone has just gone up in flames and as I am writing I can hear  the fire-engine racing down the road with its siren on. The smoke is rising in the sky and you can hear the crackling of the burning vegetation.
Last night it was the turn of Tordigliano, on the way to Positano. A few nights previously, Monte Monticchio.
It is the same old story, year in, year out. Strangely enough the fires always happen  at dusk or some time during the night, making it impossible for the helicopters to come in  until daybreak or even later, when the damage is already done. 
Admittedly it hasn't rained properly for weeks, and yes, it has been and still is incredibly hot, the ground parched and the grass dried to straw. However this makes it an arsonist's dream.
Prevention is virtually impossible, the area  too vast to patrol even should there be sufficient manpower.
There are some very sad and very sick people out there, who evidently get their excitement from seeing the flames go high up into the sky, as they destroy the countryside   and fill the air with smoke and cinders.  In all the years I have been here, no one has ever, ever been caught.
So now the waiting game begins. What is next on the list? Monte San Costanzo, Punta Campanella (still bearing the signs of last autumn's fire), Monte Vico Alvano, Monte Comune, Faito?
This autumn, once again, we will be walking along our trails surveying the damage, but at the same time admiring the resistance of nature as the first green shoots push their way up through the ground, ready for the coming year..


Friday, 17 July 2015

CLOSURE PUNTA CAMPANELLA - GOOD NEWS FOR AN ALTERNATIVE HIKE

Following Giovanni Visetti's suggestion just a couple of days ago (see previous Blog), in what can only be described as record time, the local authorities have already cleared the ancient Vuallariello track once used by the villagers of Termini to reach Campo Vetavole, thus giving hikers an alternative route now that the path to Punta Campanella is closed. This will not however  take you to Punta Campanella unless you fancy a steep and slippery walk down the CAI300 path to the Punta, (which in any case will be off limits and with work going on), only then to have to re-trace your steps back the same way. It is just to give hikers the possibility of an alternative hike in this area.
The new Giro di Santa Croce is very panoramic forming a perfect loop of between 4 and 4.5km with approximately 250m elevation. As already advised in my earlier blog, there are 3 ways of then reaching San Costanzo and Termini, although I would strongly suggest that you first make your way to the view point of Campo Vetavole (395m.a.s.l.) to admire the views.
Giovanni suggests following this new loop anti-clockwise for the following reasons:
  • the ascent from Cercito to Vuallariello takes you through woods and is always fairly cool 
  • as you walk towards Campo Vetavole, you will always have Capri in sight
  • if you take one of the CAI trails towards San Costanzo, you will be able to enjoy the views of the bay of Jeranto and Li Galli islands
  • from Santa Croce to San Costanzo the view of the chapel is much to be preferred to that of the "radar"
Giovanni has already updated his map, with the Giro di Santa Croce marked in red, indicating the various possibilities with relative distances and heights. The closure of the path to Punta Campanella is also clearly evidenced (purple crosses). In addition he has added the fenced off area of the "radar" as an ulterior aid to getting your bearings.

As per all his maps, this map can be downloaded completely free. Click on this link.
Link to Giovanni's latest blog


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

IMPORTANT - TRAIL TO PUNTA CAMPANELLA CLOSED UNTIL JANUARY 2016

One of the most popular hikes in the area of Massa Lubrense, from Termini to Punta Campanella, which is also part of the Athena Trail, is now off limits until January 2016 due to work being carried out on the path and in the area around the tower. A locked gate  by the shrine at the point called Cancello will bar all access not only for vehicles but also for pedestrians.
In his latest blog, Giovanni Visetti proposes an alternative route so that walkers will still be able to enjoy the amazing scenery and flora between Punta Campanella and Monte Santa Croce at the top of the ridge.  
His suggestion is to create a new circuit, for the moment named the Giro di Santa Croce, starting from Termini, but following the newly cleared path from Via  Cercito towards Vuallariello (see my blog "When in Termini - another option for an interesting hike" ). 
Once past the caves, up the steps and out into the open,  instead of following the  new trail up towards the belvedere,  ideally the original Vuallariello trail should   be cleared, so that hikers can follow this to  Campo Vetavole and join the official CAI300 path there.
When you join this path, marked  on all the maps and guides of this area, you will have the usual 3 choices of how to proceed:
- follow the path to the west towards the belvedere before coming out onto the road and walking  to the chapel of Monte San Costanzo and/or back to Termini.
- follow the old CAI path up to  and around the "radar" station and which then takes you back down onto the road and on to Termini and/or Monte San Costanzo.
 - follow the newer CAI path which takes you above the Bay of Jeranto and on to the pine woods and Monte San Costanzo (very panoramic but not for those with vertigo).
Whether or not the local authorities embrace Giovanni's suggestion (I am optimistic they will), it is of paramount importance that clear, multi-lingual signs are in any case put up at all key points of the original routes to warn  hikers of the new situation; this not only in the centre of Termini and at the start of Via Campanella, but also  along key points of the CAI 300 trail,  on Monte San Costanzo, at the Belvedere, at Rezzale, at Campo Vetavole, in order to warn anyone  walking the Athena Trail clockwise (Monte San Costanzo - Punta Campanella - Termini) that they will find a locked gate at the end. Their only option then will be to retrace their steps and face the long climb back up the ridge. To be honest I wouldn't wish that on anyone and especially not in the heat of the day or even worse as night is drawing in. 
Giovanni continues his blog with the consideration that since the path to Punta Campanella is going to be closed for months and that from September onwards there will be a great number of hikers in this area, it might be an idea  to propose the "Giro di Santa Croce" as a valid alternative to the classical Termini to Punta Campanella  or Athena Trail, with a view to it then even becoming an official route in its own right, especially if the feedback of those that have tried it out over the coming months is positive.
In fact if you compare the three, Santa Croce is shorter and has less elevation.  What is more, you avoid the long stretches along the paved road to Punta Campanella, have shade for the uphill part, but still have the views :
  • Athena trail - 7km and 500m elevation
  • Punta Campanella  there and back - 6km and 300m elevation
  • Giro di Santa Croce - 4.5km and 250m elevation.
The most important thing now is to get the signs up as quickly  as possible and the rest of the path cleared.
Click for link to Giovanni's blog.
NB the purple "x"s on Giovanni's map indicate where the path is now closed.




Saturday, 11 July 2015

FAITO - A COOL ALTERNATIVE

Now that the height of the summer is upon us, it is worth considering going a little  higher up to beat the heat and enjoy a walk in the relative cool.
Faito (1100 to 1444 metres above sea level) is ideal for this with its extensive chestnut and beech woods offering lots of shade and a network of paths which will take you to some of the finest viewpoints of the whole area.
The best map of Faito is once again the work of Giovanni Visetti and can be downloaded (completely free) at this link.
My favourite route, having first admired the views of the Bay of Naples from the Belvedere at Piazzale dei Capi, is a loop via Campo del Pero , Casa del Monaco, Conocchia (1387m), Molare (1444m and the highest point of the Monti Lattari) returning via Acqua Santa.
For more information and a more detailed description of this hike, please visit my website at the following link.  
The path varies from wide, level beaten tracks, to narrow, rougher trails with a lot of loose stones. Much of it is in the shade although the one steeper climb (to Conocchia) is completely exposed. Generally there will be a good breeze to help you along. The ascent to the top of the Molare is an optional depending on your head for heights..
Whichever route you choose, the views are spectacular. It is never crowded and well worth the effort of getting there.

If you do not have a car, the only way  to Faito is by bus from Vico Equense (not that frequent, so check the times).

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