Too much too soon. Our walking notes say 18 kilometers. Well, it felt longer than that. My longest distance in a day in last year’s Camino Frances was 37,000 steps. Viterbo to Vetralla counted 38,000+ steps. That’s more than 25 kilometers! You can say I beat my own record. The same Walking Notes claim “there aren’t many services available on the first walking day”. Guess again. There weren’t ANY, AT ALL. We walked from Viterbo to Vetralla without passing any town, hamlet or tiny villages. We did cross many fields, walked on dirt paths, sometimes on single file as the paths were too narrow. No toilets in sight. No bars. Energy bars to the rescue. Poncho raincoats for pee episodes for the pellegrinas. Oh, there were times when I truly wish I were a man. 😔 My bladder held, but I struggled midway through the day’s walk. Ughhh.
The first 3 hours were wonderful. We walked on roads hemmed in by stones or trees. I enjoyed flexing my leg muscles and the rhythm of one foot forward then the other. After an hour of walking, I generated enough heat to pause and peel off a layer of clothing. When I shed my fleece vest, I realized I wore my shirt the wrong way. I let the others go ahead to undress then and there and put on my shirt the right way. Hilarious. Feeling light and perky, I enjoyed the verdant green fields and peonies in bloom left and right of our paths. My Camino buddies seem to be enjoying the landscape as much as I was holding my bladder. But we were likewise looking out to meet some locals, if not other pilgrims walking the Via Francigena like us.
There were signs alright. In brown, or those red and white stickers around poles, road signs, tree trunks or branches. They’re not as many as those found in Spain, nor as big and distinct. We likewise missed those road markers indicating how many kilometers you are from the final destination. Yes, like a countdown to the finish. Well, of course it’s different. I can do without all these except the cafe bars dotting the trail every 5 kms or so. Though we were a big group of 11 walking together, I can do with some interaction with other pilgrims or locals. On our first day, we did meet a pair of American pilgrims. As for the locals, they’re either canine or ovine. Hardly any human. Once, I thought I spotted one. No luck. It was a scarecrow😂
In the first 3 hours, we were mostly walking together. Just like the herd of sheep we found. When we started growing hungry and thirsty, we munched on chocolate bars, biscuits, cookies, nuts and champoy. The latter was a hit. Seedless and sweet-salty, it’s exactly what we needed not to dehydrate. By the fourth and fifth hour, we were seriously growing hungry. And restless. Where in heaven’s name is Vetralla?
Before long, we reached Vetralla. We knew we couldn’t wait for the 8pm dinner so we searched the town for eats. But Vetralla is such a sleepy town that most pizzerias and cafe bars were closed. Except one. We ordered pizzas and beer and sodas. Then some kebab which we devoured before one could even think how far we’ve walked. Hungry, anxious pilgrims. And it’s only Day 1.