Guys, it’s been a long, long time since I updated the blog. For those of you who are interested, it’s been for a variety of personal reasons. But also because I’ve been channeling all of my writing into a new blog project, Plants and Pipettes.
If you like science, or plants, you should go check it out. If you like me, personally, you should go and like us in the twitterverse, on ‘gram and facebook. It’ll help if one day I want to break free from the academic world and make it as a science communicator.
Anyway. I haven’t blogged for a while, but now I’m blogging.
Because we went to The Mountains.
The Mountains belong to Fabio. Not officially (although it’s possible that he marked his territory while we were up there), but at least in my mind.
I’m a huge proponent of ‘visiting international friends in their homeland so that they have to show you ’round and introduce you to their foods’. And not because it would be hard for them to come to Perth- personally I’d love it if my friends all dropped in on the West Coast. But because there’s no better way to see a place, than to see it with the locals.
So, at the start of August, in what can only be described as a ‘lat minute flurry of booking activity’, Enrique and I decided to head to the North of Italy, to visit our dear friend Fabs.
We were very kindly hosted by Fabio’s mum, stepdad, and their three delightful cats- one of which I unsuccessfully tried to steal. And they were lovely to us, even the cats.
But more on that at a later day, today, I promised you MOUNTAINS
But Prettier, and with less silos.
Ready for the adventure??
Fabio lives in a small town (technically a city), near the larger base-of-the-mountains centre of Bergamo. We drove from his town to the Passo di San Marco.
There was a huge traffic jam, but we made it through with the help of Greenday’s greatest hits. We zoomed down a highway thronged with row upon row of butterfly bush (one of my favourites in the world), passed San Pellegrino, famous for its water, and entered and exited countless roundabouts. At Enrique’s command, the music switched to something vaguely country (it was a mix tape, and although there were some obvious choices from the likes of Neil Young, we also got a few interesting Italian classics).
To everyone’s delight, Country Road, also known as Country Horse (‘because it makes more sense that a country horse would take him home than a road’), blasted over the sound system just as we entered the first of the mountain tunnels.
When we arrived at the old Cantoniera di San Marco, the first thing we did was grab some food, and a drink.
Which in my case, turned out to something akin to tasty diluted jam:
The food we choose turned out to be AMAZING. We are quite convinced that at least 80% of the people in the mountains were there for the food and possibly a brief nap in the sun. Very few people were wearing anything that resembled hiking clothes. But I may be saying that just because I’ve been in Germany- where people readily don all of the outdoor survival accessories even when going to check the mail- for too long.
We ate a local specialty, something delicious and cheesy and perfectly chewy…
.. and also ordered an amazing hare ragout pasta dish, and a mixed plate of meats that contained a kind of polenta (corn paste) in the centre.
The Polenta like substance is what you would get if you took normal polenta and dissolved cheese into it until it reached saturation point. When the polenta can take no more cheese, you should switch to butter, and repeat the dissolving process.
This, my friends, is how you get Energy with which to Climb Mountains.
After a few minutes of digesting, we headed out into the wild. Or at least, along a well-worn track.
To start with, it was very beautiful. And mostly flat.
Although Fabs had been worried that my lung would panic at the high altitude (2000m), my entire lack of muscle mass made the whole situation unproblematic.
Of course, once we started climbing, it quickly became clear just how unfit I am. But I think that’s on me, not the air.
The great thing about the mountains is that the air is pretty cool, despite the sun. I managed to get some sunburn on my leg despite some forced sunscreen slathering, but overall, the combined elements were perfect for the experience.
What’s more, it had rained the previous day which had made our attempted day tour in the city kind of tricky, but was perfect in the context of the mountains:
We walked, photographed, and occasionally stopped to baptise ourselves in the streams and waterfalls.
When the climbing started, things got trickier. But the view made a solid effort to compensate us.
Because this is a blog, and I love a good selfie, I convinced the guys to stop for some silly shots.
Many thanks to to the rocks that precariously supported my camera and its expensive wide-angle lens!
Although the group shots were pretty great, I would argue that this was the most successful of the day:
Our ultimate aim some trenches, only a couple of ks from our starting position. When we arrived, we sat, and watched the sky.. and at some point Fabio scurried off to look at some caves.
… and one of us nearly fell off her rock…
And then, at some point, we realised that we had taken a bloody long time to climb the little mountain, and that we should probably hurry back down if we wanted to make it out of their before dusk.
Plus, there were rumours floating around that mountain cheese and hipster food festivals awaited us on the next stages of the our quest…
… so that was it. We said goodbye to the mountain, and headed back to the city.