Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Tues 26 July - Plotting & Planning the Magna Majella

The Clearance Team


An impressive tool!













This is all very exciting. The Magna Majella (www.magnamajella.org) is building pace.  And what a lot of fun we're having.  Very privileged and very humbled to have been asked to be guides for the English speaking group (heaven help them), we're finding ourselves being drawn in to the excitement and the plotting and planning in readiness for the big event on Sunday 7th August.

Last week it was the planning meeting in the church hall, so along we went armed with notepad, pen and lots of questions.  All, it turned out, were completely useless.  The notepad and pen because the speed of the talking, and the number of people all talking all at the same time, meant not a single word was understood.  The second because my questions and concerns had become trivial and redundant.  



Oi, KP!  Where you off to now?!
Expecting the meeting to discuss things like health & safety, emergency procedures, timings and weather contingencies, I was a little thrown to find such topics not on the agenda at all.  Getting around 400 people (mostly inexperienced, unfit, non-mountain walkers) down a mountain safely, in one piece and in one group, particularly when there's copious amounts of free wine involved, is no mean feat.   But no, these guys had it sorted and they know what they're doing.

The meeting began well with a great turn out and seemingly half the village rammed into the church hall.  There chairman clearly had an agenda and appeared in control.  A good start. Promotional posters and flyers, impressive in their artwork and design, were displayed and distributed, but interest was clearly starting to wane as, one by one, and then in bigger groups, the church hall started to empty.  The smell of cigarette smoke from outside the door started to drift in, along with muffled chat and laughter.  



Tea time
Full attendance, order and attention was, however, immediately resumed once the topic that was clearly everyone was waiting for was reached.   Where the food stations were to be, who was manning which, what was being cooked and by whom.  Far, far more important.

Chaos and the decibel levels reached mammoth proportions as impromptu groups and allegiances were formed around the room, this highlight on the agenda was sorted out between the groups with no help whatsoever from the Chair.  



Quite how decisions came to be reached when all were seemingly talking at once and the only hands that were raised were those used in gesticulation and point emphasis, I have no idea, but decisions were clearly made.  I'm not sure if the Chairman had any idea who was doing what as no voting occurred nor did it appear that any motions were passed, but this was far more fun!  
Boys toys


Eventually, as chaos levels reached the point of no return, everyone descended on the bar round the corner, laughing, chatting and in great spirits.  No meeting was declared closed, no minutes were taken or signed.  Brilliant. I like these sort of meetings. 


Start of the route
One of the many fantastic views
As for my health & safety questions, well there's Antonio in his Land Rover so just give him a call if you need help I was told.  Of course, silly me.

As for the route itself, KP went off on Sunday with the Serrese boys for some male bonding and route clearing.  I left them to it.  Clearly man's work all this wielding heavy machinery and the swinging of scythes and machetes.  But a good time was had by all and the 12km route down the mountain was cut and prepared.

Not wanting to be left out however, and taking my job very seriously, I did want to actually walk the route.  So yesterday a very pleasant day we had, together with Rossano, as we followed the route down.  And it's beautiful.  From the top of the mountain you can see all the mountain ranges of Abruzzo and the entire coastline stretching from hills of Le Marche in the north all the way along to Molise in the south.  Absolutely stunning.




A useful shelter (complete with token bat)
The route takes you through glorious woodlands of dappled sunlight, across sun drenched open plains, past streams and waterfalls and some fascinating ancient caves with resident bats, shepherds bothies with complimentary sheep, goats and cattle, hermitages and churches.  There was even a place where the wheat was cut, milled and bagged before being transported down the mountain.  Absolutely fascinating and not so long ago either.
On the whole, the route, being down hill almost all the way, is relatively easy walking. There are a few points that may pose a bit of a challenge, but only enough to give the walkers a feeling of satisfaction and achievement and a few dinner party tales.  So long as it doesn't rain (those rocks can be very perilous when wet), and so long as the copious amounts of home made wine freely available all the way down isn't too potent...


Route Summary & Stats (courtesy of Endomondo.com)

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