Flying Fish, Swimming Humans

We’re back on the right side of the road. Honestly! Between this walking fiasco and multiple powerpoint conundrums, The Homogenous Kingdom of Europe I’d imagined has been shattered. This is exactly how I felt when I found out my favourite Yo La Tengo song is a goddamn cover. Betrayed by my own ignorance.

Today I’m hiking in Cinque Terre, in the company of an Argentinian whose tattoo reads “la vida es una fiesta.” He’s a good companion, besides begging for a beer at every town. I get to practise the few Spanish phrases I’ve learned such as “muchissimo tráfico” and “estoy cansada.” We have to stop every now and then so that he can vlog. I take in the sparkly view while he spins around with arms wide, proclaiming the same phrases to his reflection every time. See below: evidence of my sun-safe attire and jubilant mood.

After my first prickly pear experience my mouth resembles a Venus flytrap. Delicious, but wouldn’t do it again. A billion stairs lead down to glassy lapis lazuli waters that dissolve our aching calf muscles. It’s a morsel of savoury relief before we head back up the two billion stairs to finish the hike. Pinching myself isn’t enough—I’ve resorted to leg-slapping and head-hitting. We’re visited by some angels in dog form that traverse the narrow cliff walkways with ease. I’m sticky with grape juice, covered in blackberry scars and still picking spikes out of my lips.

We end the evening on a pebble beach in front of a screaming passionfruit sunset. There are flying fish and swimming humans, potato crisps and Birra Moretti. Two men are performing a very important rock-carrying dance across the uneven ground. In between breaths of fried food and air we make the last hike up the hill to the shuttle stop and I turn in early.

On Thursday I journey to Porto Venere with three lovely girls from Montana, who soon become two as one takes the wrong path in a wood that isn’t yellow. There’s a view through olive tree foliage and an open gate so we peer in. A passionate “NO! Stay out!” is followed by a middle-aged woman jaded by the selfishness of travellers. We shuffle the hell outta there, vamos, and continue downhill. A few metres later I collect a beautiful knee scratch as a souvenir of my stumble. It’s not as beautiful as the view but it’s close. I wish I had more words because even the pictures don’t do it justice.

Inside the town, my second ever online dating adventure commences, involving (surprise!) more grapes, snorkelling and some relatives in seaside bone boxes. Anonymous Boy spends six weeks here in Italy every year with his grandparents, whom (yes, whom) I meet briefly, or rather smile at and mumble ciao, buongiorno.

We visit the church and take the ferry out to the island and speak of cormorants and boats with wings and plenty of other things that are none of your business. I had to borrow a piccy or two from Anonymous Boy because evidently I was having too much fun to take any. Our brief farewell occurs on a jetty in La Spezia, as he has an important statue-sacrificing ritual to attend. Later we summarise the day as, “met internet stranger, didn’t die,” which is huuuge! Two ordinary attendees with no homicidal intentions. More than I could ask for.

Back at the ostello, I’m feeling social. Salt-caked and shiny, my tired legs carry me to the garden. A Melbournian is intent on ironing out the correct slang term for chicken parmigiana and comparing beer glass sizes. I insist on my indifference and lose an argument to the Londoner on how many mls are in a pint. We ridicule each other’s blogs and compare amount of days spent wearing the same pair of shorts. He wins by two.

We are silenced for a prolonged moment because the aspiring singer is more than eager to perform. I cross and uncross my legs and cross them again waiting for it to finish. A pair of bloodshot eyeballs beg for an instagram follow, nearly swimming in their glass of red at this point.

The moon is so huge I confuse it with a street lamp. “It’s quiet time in the hostel,” says the host, but he’s easily bought out by my cheerful chocolate offering. Tables are knocked over in a flurry of awful salsa dancing and my book suffers a fatal wine stain. Fumbling hands apologise, and I’m sure the protagonist, Eleanor Oliphant, is scolding us from inside the pages. After a few more plastic vessels of local wine, it’s “business doing pleasure with you,” and goodnight. I’m calling it. This has been the best day so far.

Frase de giorno: I’m not a tourist, I’m a traveller. An ADVENTURER

Musica del posto: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell

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