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Monday, 30 October 2017

WHEN PRAISE IS DUE


On Sunday we changed our planned itinerary (having found it impossible to  park anywhere near Positano) and made our way slightly higher up to Monte Pertuso. We left the car and took the CAI trail 331 which meanders very pleasantly, high above the road, leading to Valle Pozzo and beyond to the Tese and Capodacqua. 
Wrapped round a pole towards the start of the trail was a very small and insignificant bilingual notice from the local authorities advising you against hiking due to the instability of the path following  the summer's fires. Take note.. it wasn't an outright ban, rather a friendly piece of advice. So we ignored it and set off , be it not particularly convinced  that we would get very far. 
As we progressed, we came across the bright orange dots and arrows of a recent  trail race. This gave us cheer, since if trail runners had passed, then there was hope for us too.
In fact, although the fire damage along the initial stretches leading to Valle Pozzo  was more than evident, the path was clear and well maintained. We easily climbed over one fallen tree trunk and circumvented another (the detour clearly marked by orange arrows). 
Having heard bad things about Valle Pozzo even before the fires, we ignored its turning and carried on along the 331b linking to Le Tese. We already knew that Le Tese were unscathed, so took this route, making good time up to Santa Maria del Castello where we stopped for a short break.
Not wanting to return the way we came, we asked a local whether the CAI 300 Forestale path was viable, since we knew that it had  been particularly badly affected by the fires. We were told that people had been seen walking along it, so we decided to make our way to the Caserma del Forestale and then walk back down to Monte Pertuso via the CAI 329, thus creating a perfect loop. It was a good decision since the path, provided you watch your feet on the loose stones, is more than possible and not much worse than it was before.
However it is not a pretty sight. The devastation to the landscape is total. Whilst the lower vegetation is gradually re-emerging here and there, the overall impression is that of a scarred and barren wilderness, littered with the charred skeletons of a thousand fallen trees. It is quite shocking to see. Gone are the pines, gone are most of the cypresses. It is a landscape dominated by grey and black with occasional splashes of colour from the rusty brown of burnt leaves.
Yes, the views have opened up, but there is no longer anything between you and the sheer stony slopes. Anyone  suffering from vertigo is going to be in difficulty.  And I would definitely not recommend walking these trails after heavy rain or in high winds.  There are an awful  lot of tree trunks perched perilously  on the slopes ready to come tumbling down.  It is only too easy to see what could happen now that there is nothing left to hold back the loose stones. We already had a foretaste of this with the first rain in September when the road to Nocelle was blocked with mud and detritus that had come tumbling down the hillside.
What is however impressive is the general state of the paths which have been virtually cleared and are no more difficult than before. I really was not expecting that. 
I am generally pretty quick at criticizing. However I am equally willing to give praise, when praise is due. And here it definitely was. Hats off to whoever is responsible!

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