For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Friday, 23 July 2010

Amalfi Walks (2)

'... and what is the use of a book', thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversations?' LEWIS CARROLL Alice's Adventures In Wonderland


The Valle dei Mulini is an ever-narrowing ravine which, if you followed it far enough, would take you into open mountain country, and eventually to the top of Monte Cerrato (4314 ft), the highest peak dominating Amalfi. It's lush and it's beautiful, and I walked the valley path one hot, sunny morning as far as a high waterfall. At first you pass the ruins of long-abandoned paper mills...


Paper making was once an important industry here, and Amalfi paper was considered some of the finest in Europe. Only a couple of factories now remain. On the way I passed the intriguing-sounding Paper Museum - which made me think of other quirky and odd museums I'd either heard about or visited in Britain, such as the Pencil Museum in Keswick or the Dog Collar Museum in Leeds Castle (which, for all non-UK readers, is not in Leeds but near Maidstone in Kent!) But I digress (yet what is the use of walking and writing without digressions? Without digressions, a walk would be in danger of being simply a practical route from A to B, and a book simply a logical sequence of events or instructions). Which reminds me of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy - novels which are pure diversion and divagation through and through. But I digress again...


So back to the plot. I shadowed the tumbling stream up-valley, then crossed it by this wooden bridge...


After a short, sharp climb and a few rocky scrambles I came to a waterfall - it must have been about 100 ft high - cascading down a tree-strewn cliff. It was so lovely, and so unexpected, that I had to catch my breath. I stood a while before this lacy curtain of splashing water, transfixed and transported. I approached it as near as I could without getting drenched. At its base, behind the final fringe of water before it hit a hollowed-out pool, was a mossy grotto, green and damp - no doubt the home of naiads or other water nymphs. Yes, this was one of those special places, those numinous places, those indescribable places (which nevertheless I've tried to describe both here and here).



I stayed there for what could have been moments - or was it an an eternity? Who can tell? This magical spot had carved a niche in my mind that I knew would be there for ever. That day I had the place to myself. In fact I'd seen only two other walkers all morning. Reluctantly I wrenched myself away. I followed part of a ferny gorge - the gorge that had amazed Goethe and other writers, artists, botanists and geologists when they'd discovered it many years ago - and returned to the wooden bridge and the main route...



Meandering back to Amalfi on a different path on the other side of the valley, I thought, not for the first time, how 'the most soulful places are almost always reached only on foot'...



The more effort you have to make, the more exposed you are to the influences of Nature, then the greater the likelihood of being aware of its beauty. What this implies is that the greater the self-sufficiency and the fewer the barriers imposed by equipment and man-made features, the greater the potential for heightened awareness. Being alone can further increase this awareness. These factors all point to the value of simplicity rather than complexity as an approach to life. COLIN MORTLOCK Beyond Adventure


3 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Well have been to the Amalfi area several times Robert but never seen that bit of it.

George said...

With the C2C experience still reverberating in my soul and your fine description of the walk above Amalfi, I could feel the spray of that waterfall on my face, Robert -- and I loved the quotes, both yours and Mortlock's. I am placing an order for Mortlock's book today and I think I will put your quote on the sidebar of my blog. It's a great thought and one that I would like to remember.

The Solitary Walker said...

Mortlock's book is well worth reading, George. Not for its literary or stylistic qualities, but for its message that, rather than just 'conquering' the mountain, it's infinitely more rewarding to examine the wild flowers you've just crushed underfoot in your ego-driven, one-track-minded, narrowly-focused race for the top.