Saturday, 23 October 2010

Day 13 - Refuge d'Usciolu to Refuge d'Asinao

The slightly grumpy gardien at the previous refuge had told us that this was a very long day that he expected would take 8 hours walking time mostly due to the difficult descent from Monte Alcudina - a magnet for lightning storms. Thankfully there was no storm forecast but it was a rather dismal day. Consequently lots of people who weren't usually early risers left with us and the other regulars at 7:00. The pace across the rocky ground was quite fast but we kept up. Later on we walked through beech woods and slopes covered in heather and bracken to reach the bottom of Monte Alcudina. We met Steve and his girlfriend and follwed them up for a while. The low cloud meant that we could only very occasionally make out the summit we were heading for. When they stopped for a break we caught up with Martin and let him set the pace for a while, which was much easier tha doing it yourself. Almost out of nowhere the summit appeared, with a fallen cross on top. I was obviously quite disorientated as I'd thought it was about another kilometre over to the left of us, thank goodness for the waymarking. Greg joined us for a quick food break.

The descent was very challenging, Greg had pointed out at the top that most mistakes happen in the last few days when people become careless, so we took it slowly, but Martin and Greg found it a lot harder without poles. We were actually only the second people to arrive at the refuge this day, after `the two fit French' - a middle aged couple with massive calf muscles who must live in the mountains. The gardien in the refuge came across as a bit grumpy but I think really he was more of BFG (bearded friendly giant), he just spoke the local dialect which, as Pierre-Yves had observed previously, involves a lot of silence. The shower here was the worst we'd ever seen. Not only was it freezing cold but the plumbing was so bad that the water sort of dribbled out at waist height.

Later on in the evening we were cooking yet another dinner consisting of 500g of spaghetti with not enough tomato sauce (a logistical nightmare when you only have two small trangia pans) when a horse came up to the table next to us where two Germans were sitting and ate one of their packets of dried soup, plastic and all. So, when the horse persisted, they made a hasty retreat with all their stuff for the safety of their tent, which was the other side of ours. The horse followed and even though we could see it coming I couldn't act to quickly enough and soon he had a large mouthful of freshly cooked spaghetti dangling from his mouth. Jack hid everything in the tent and suggested I use the poles to usher him away. This still didn't work - it just made the horse agitated and he even tried to eat the lighter a couple of times. So Jack went to fetch the gardien who came out, took one of the poles from me and whacked the horse over the backside with it. He returned it to me rather bent, and then hastily proceeded to bend it back. It was fine, and everyone watching found it hilarious. Thankfully Jack and I can live on 450g of spaghetti between us.

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