Monday, 28 May 2012

Verona & The Mountains (Trento) with George


Had a great few days in Verona, as per usual with my traveling I’m never quite sure how long I’m going to stay in a place but turns out that 1 or 2 nights here ended up being a few more, just enjoyed the people I have met and this region is just stunning. Ale lives about 30mins away from Verona city and his apartment is in an old railway station, he lives next door to two awesome chicks, Valentina and Silvia who I am so lucky to have met.
The first day I was there I just chilled out for the morning while Ale was at work, oh yea and also cleaned up the copious amounts of pee that Ginger, Ale’s dog, left for me outside the bathroom door, outside the door of my room and lastly on my bed! He is about 8 months old and looks like a huntaway cross with Doberman crossed with something smaller, but he is gorgeous and I soon realised that the look on his face when I tried to talk to him was of utter confusion as he is an Italian dog and doesn’t speak English ha, so I had to learn how to talk dog in Italian.
When Ale got home he took me up into the hills to show me the view of the town he lives in and Verona off in the distance, we went up to a church and sat there for a while, turned into longer than we thought due to a funeral being held there and everyone arrived just as we got there so had to wait for the funeral to finish! I had a go at driving for the first time ever on the other side of the road and I think I scared the both of us in the process, the roads are super skinny and my judgement is completely out of whack. So when a big white van was coming towards us I just screamed and tried to dodge the van and came precariously close to the stone wall on the other side, I could feel the fear from Ale’s brand new car at that moment also but all was well and then Ale took over.
Ale then introduced me to Aperitif, drinks and snacks before dinner, spritz aperol is the usual drink to have, white wine with bright orange liqueur mixed in, super tasty. We continued on to a few different bars, including the local where we ended up going quite a bit, a sign at the bar said that they would not serve anyone under 16, apparently there is no drinking age over here, anyone can have a drink at a bar but the young ones just don’t do it. Couldn’t help thinking that if that was the case back home then the bars would be packed with 14 year olds getting drunk!
Coming to Verona I instantly relaxed and felt like this was my chance to take a breather from all the tourist stuff I had been racing around to see the past couple of weeks, Ale was amazing, a great host and really made me feel at home.
The girls took me into the city one of the days and showed me around the city, Silvia cannot speak much if any English, so when Valentina had to go to an appointment that hour or so was hilarious as we couldn’t really talk to each other but we had our phrase books out and had a great time anyway.
The shops in Verona are fantastic, the clothing and shoes are so wonderful, nothing like what you get back home, however you definitely do pay for it here. There are no real cheap shops like Glassons or Supre here, it’s all high end but fabulous.
We went into an outlet shop for designer clothing and shoes, most things were reduced by a hell of a lot but you would still be looking at a few hundred Euro for a pair of heels.
Also went and saw Juliets house and balcony, not quite sure I understand how it can ben her house and balcony when Juliet is fictional, I know the families back then were real but the actual Juliet and the real balcony from the story? Not sure I’m convinced. It was packed full of people, there is a statue of Juliet in the courtyard and if you touch her breast then you’ll have good luck, I didn’t bother trying to battle through the crowds just to grope Juliet, it was a nice statue and all but not that nice J
The other highlight of Verona is the arena, similar to the Coliseum but 1 level less and a bit smaller, but still from a similar time period and it’s still used today for concerts etc.
My last night in Verona I went to a fashion show at the gym that Ale works at, some new Italian designer that has changed his name to Dom something, and has London written under his name, go figure. After about 45 minutes of terrible ballet by the local dance school we had 15 minutes of a fashion show, so after lots of see through mesh tops and nervous models it was over and we went out for a few drinks.

Decided that it was probably a good idea to organise my life a bit, so I planned the whole of the following week which is much more planning than I have done so far, got my flights sorted to Malaga from Milan the following Sunday, in between times was going to go and see George for a few days, and come back to Verona for a bit.


Wasn’t sure how many days I was going to stay up in Trento with George for, but once I got there I knew I wanted to stay as long as I could, I have to say that up there is the most stunning places that I have been on my travels so far, it takes your breath away how magical it is.
George picked me up from the train station, was so great to see a familiar face, and we headed off to first go to George’s mate Luca’s place to pick up my tent etc but it was raining so wasn’t looking forward to setting that up.
I met Luca’s parents, his Mum is so wonderful, she can’t speak any English at all and George proceeded to show off his skills at the Italian he had learnt, I was most impressed.
Luca’s mum then made us all lunch, everyday she cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole family, and the kids have one thing, the granddad has another and then the mum and dad have something else.
We got out the kids school books from when they were at primary and tried learning some more Italian, the more I try to learn it the more I want to learn it properly.
Luca & George decided to go for a jump that afternoon, so began the mission in the rain to watch a base jump for the first time.
The cliff that we went to is 300m high, above the lake and the landing area isn’t the biggest, we drove up into the hills along a road that I might have to say was one of the most beautiful roads I have ever driven on.
We got to the top and George made us a coffee, the boys got ready and we started walking, we got to the cliff and my heart rate started to increase at the thought of them jumping off this thing. I was on a raised part of the cliff looking across at the exit point for the boys, I had my camera but the rain was making it pretty hard, and just as they were about to jump off a big drop of rain hit my lens.
I managed to get one photo before they disappeared and it turned out to be a pretty epic photo if I do say so myself, the thing with this jump is that after they disappeared off the cliff I couldn’t see them open or land, all I had to do was walk back up this mammoth hill in the rain and hope they were still alive. The drive back down the mountain was interesting, my second time driving on roads only wide enough for 1 car and I’m now in a big van, can’t believe George trusted me with it to be honest! Managed ok though, it’s the roundabouts that really throw me but I got to the bottom and found the boys at the pub/café at the bottom of the cliff safe and sound.
We dropped Luca back home and headed towards Georges home, a campground carpark type area next to a café at the bottom of Monte Brento, a mammoth cliff that the boys jump off all the time. It was still pouring so put up the tarp attached from some trees to the van and started cooking dinner.
Chef Staite whipped us up some ravioli and saucy stuff, oh and we polished off a couple of bottles of vino rosso.
Still raining, the tent putting up was a no go, managed to weasel my way into the van so defo didn’t rough it as much as I thought!
When the rain stopped later on we went on a mission down the river that runs next to the camp, it was roaring from the rain but in a still pool we found these creeping bug things that we realised were bugs after George squashed one! Then he proceeded to fall into the water, ha karma!
The next day we just chilled out, missioned into the town and had ginormous gelato on the edge of the lake, it’s so stunning there, could sit there all day just looking at it all. In the afternoon we missioned up to the top of Monte Brento, George and I took climbing gear with us so we could get close to the edge to film the other guys jump off. Now my fear of heights has definitely got better since I started skydiving, but there is something that isn’t natural about clambering around on rocks 1000m above the ground to get to the spot where you harness yourself in. Once we were all safe, George went over the edge, I think I was more scared about him being over the edge like that than I was for me standing up on the top. There were some French guys up there with us with no rigs on that were just standing on the edge hanging on to the rope and smoking a cigarette with not a care in the world and here I was in a harness not as close to the edge as they were!
Was wicked to see the guys jump off though, especially the wingsuiters, awesome to see them go from falling to flying, Luca is insanely good, he jumped off and flew right to the other side of the valley before turning around!
We met a wicked guy from Liverpool, Howie, a genuinely super nice guy that is completely high on life and his positivity just rubs off and when you are around him you feel great. He is a tandem master and aff instructor but as just got into BASE, was awesome to see him jump off, these guys make it look so easy, but with this cliff its pretty hard for something to go wrong.
After about 10 minutes I started to get comfortable with being up there, and began thinking that I might be able to do this one day, there would be no way of getting me off the lower cliffs but this one is huge and would be just like doing a hop and pop. Glad that George didn’t jump off otherwise I was going to have to walk back on my lonesome and it was dark by the time we were driving back down the mountain again.
Dinner was an epic mish mash of stuff from the previous night and snags, if you didn’t look at the end result then it was great! Pretty much looked like vomit, but should never judge a book by its cover, ahh the joys of camping.
Day 3 involved heaps of lounging around and soaking up the rays, the boys went for a jump in the afternoon, it was Georges 100th BASE and he did not disappoint with the entertainment for this special event. I dropped the guys to the top of the mountain and raced back and just got back in time to watch. George did the jump naked, but that’s not all, he got a hula hoop, wrapped it in a bandage, doused it in lighter fluid and set it on fire, then proceeded to jump off the cliff through the burning hoop, mad man but was awesome.
That night we all went out for dinner at a local restaurant, was planning on leaving the next day but decided to stay one more, we had a mission to accomplish – find these bloody cows of Italy!!
The next morning the boys went for a jump and I stayed back at the café and watched them from the ground, it’s so cool when someone in a wingsuit comes racing above you, just so strange to see people that low I suppose after seeing normal skydiving pitch heights.
We then went for a mission into the mountain, Luca told us the general direction to head in so off we went, was hilarious when we finally saw some, we must have both had our eyes peeled for ages then we came over a rise and there were 4 cows in a paddock and we both got a little too excited for seeing cows.
Stopped for a picture of proof, and continued on, we found another 5 cows at a different farm, so 9 all up, the mystery still wasn’t solved, 9 cows surely can’t supply Italy’s milk needs.
At the top of the mountains we chilled out in a park for a couple of hours, then went to get back into the van and we had left the lights on and the battery was completely dead. We managed to get the help of some locals and they pushed us towards the hill and eventually we got it going thank god.
By the time we got back into town it was quite late and we still needed to get dinner so found a pizzeria but they just had lasagne left, suited us fine.
My last day in the mountains we went back to the lake and met up with Howie, fed the ducks with our feet and Howie braved the freezing water and went for a swim.
I had such an awesome time up in the mountains, the whole region is one that I will definitely come back to, hopefully sooner rather than later, was pretty sucky to be leaving, but it will be there still when I get back.
After George dropped me back to Ale’s place, had lunch then Ale took me out on his motorbike into the hills behind where he lives and again the scenery is just spectacular, I could totally see myself living somewhere here, either up near Trento or in the back hills of Verona. Oh and here we saw actually dairy farms with cows being milked so after that I was satisfied that they do have cows in Italy and enough for the whole population.
Ale and I went out for dinner at a steak restaurant, the steaks were massive but was interesting to try the difference between Argentinian steak and Italian steak, the Argentinian steak is similar to back in NZ but the Italian stuff doesn’t really taste of anything.
The next day I just chilled out while Ale was at work, then in the afternoon he dropped me at the train station to where I was to head to Milan.
Over the past week or so I have met and got to know some amazing people, and seen some incredible things, I’m really sad that my time in Italy is coming to an end, but I know I will be back.


Milan was not what I expected, it is meant to be the fashion and financial centre of Italy, and I was greeted at the station with countless homeless, the guys trying to sell stuff everywhere, dirty streets and a station that every wall I tried to stand next to smelt like pee. I didn’t get a chance to get any cash when I was in Verona but figured there would be a few ATMs at the Milan train station, but no, there was one and it was broken and I didn’t’ find it until after I had spent an hour or so walking throughout the station asking everyone I could and everyone sending me in different directions.
I walked into a newsagent and asked if I could pay by card for a bus ticket, he made me think that I could, then asked me if I had 1.50, I said no and then he tells me he cant help me. I was so tired and over this horrible smelly, dirty city and just wanted to get to my hostel but couldn’t without a bus ticket. I nearly started crying, silly I know, but I took a deep breath and told myself that crying isn’t going to fix the situation and that I just need to start walking to find an ATM in the city somewhere. I walked across the piazza in front of the station, dodged beggars and people trying to sell me stuff and eventually found a cash machine, yay! Jumped on the bus and headed towards the hostel, found it easy enough and from the outside it looked like a pretty good place although the neighbourhood wasn’t great, the first place in Italy where I have felt uncomfortable and not wanted to go anywhere out of bright sunshine.
Was taken to my room and it felt like I was in prison, there were 2 big queen sized beds and 3 single beds, my bed was a single stretcher looking think shoved against the wall like it wasn’t really meant to be there, there wasn’t much room to walk around each of the beds either.
My bed had a sheet on the bottom, no mattress protector, then a shabby old scody blanket for the top layer. I went and asked the owner if I get at least a top sheet as a barrier between me and the scody blanket and he said no that that was it. I then asked him whether he then washes these blankets every day when someone new arrives and he said he did but there is no way that happens, thank god I have my silk sleeping bag liner!
I had to order a taxi for the next morning, my plane was at 7.30am so I needed to be at the airport at around 5.30-6am, so I needed a taxi to take me to the bus station to then catch the shuttle. The shuttle I wanted was at 5am, so I wanted a 4.30am taxi. The owner just dialled the taxi number and handed me the phone, after some huge confusion obviously cause of the language barrier he grabbed the phone off me and I asked if he could order one for 4.30am. After he got off the phone he said it was ordered for 4am, he ordered it earlier cause he thought that would be better!! Was so glad to be out of there, will not be writing a good review of that place!
Being so early I made it to the airport fine and onto my plane to Malaga, I slept solidly the whole way, I’m getting really good at sleeping sitting up.

My day got so much better as soon as I arrived in Spain, the bus to the city was directly out the front doors of the airport, and the last stop for the bus was at the central bus station. I then only had 15 minutes to wait for my next bus to Ronda, I bought a new watch for 5 euro and after teaching the lady some English she gave me a free bracelet too. The bus trip to Ronda was lovely, but again I crashed out pretty soon and woke up just before arriving in the town. We drove past the train station on the way into town so it was easy to find, I bought my ticket to my final stop Jimena and had a couple of hours to kill before it was due to leave at 4.16pm. Went and had a beer at the station in the sun then started walking into the town, this is the first time I have had to carry my pack while sightseeing and its so hot here and the sun is intense. Found one of the oldest bull fighting rings in Spain, which is still used today, unfortunately I didn’t have enough cash on me to go inside it but will be coming back through he when I leave so will see it then.
Kept walking through the old city, I love that the streets are lined with orange trees and they are full of fruit at the moment, makes such a nice contrast against the white buildings.
By this time I was sweaty mcsweats and headed back to the train station to chill out and wait for my train, it was about 4.15pm and a train came past and stopped briefly, it had a destination on the side of it but it wasn’t the one I was looking for and with this station only having one platform I gathered that it wasn’t the right train, I tried asking someone and they started off in Spanish and I had no clue, but yea turns out it was my train and the next one wasn’t for another 3.5 hours, awesome.
So off I went again into the intense heat in search for a park to sit in and try and kill time, I dropped my pack off at the bus station cause they have lockers there, but the cost of the lockers was 4 euro and I only had 3.60 left, so the ladies there put my bag into one of their storerooms so I didn’t have to lug it around with me.
Got myself on the train heading for Jimena, there I was greeted by Fiona and her daughter Sophie and we headed to their place. They live in the town itself but where I am staying is on the farm down in the valley but walking distance from the house, about 1-2km.
Since it was late I was just to stay at the house then head to the farm the next morning when we start work.
Once at the house I then met Fi’s other kids, Lily who is 8, Daisy who is 4, Toby who is 12, and Sophie who is 10. Fi has two more daughters who are older and live back in the UK. Fi has lived in Spain for over 30 years and all the kids are bilingual and go to a Spanish school but when they speak English its with an English accent.
All the kids are wonderful, Sophie made me a bracelet to add to my collection and we all became great friends real quick. They have only ever had male wwoofers in the past, so I think they are enjoying the change.
Had dinner at about 10pm, asparagus and beans & tuna, real simple but super yum, it doesn’t get dark here till 10pm so we were sitting outside having a few wines before that, so lovely.
Crashed on the couch, really looking forward to seeing the farm.

No comments:

Post a Comment