My excitement for today's activities was overflowing! I woke up early to meet my tour group for a boat trip to the island of Capri. The tour had all the works: a glass of complimentary Prosecco on-board, access to the Blue Grotto on the island, and half a day to explore the island. Only it never happened. As I walked the 20 minutes down to the beach, waves crashing against the shore, I approached the registration tent and provided my name. "The tour is no longer happening," the attendant told me. "The waters are too rough today. No boats are leaving from the coast." What a let down! All the pictures and luxuriousness that would never be captured or experienced. Regardless, I appreciated that they looked out for everyone's safety by cancelling.
After swiftly submitting my request for a refund (hello, extra spending money!), then came the inevitable question, what would I do for the day? I had nothing else planned, and Positano has more shopping activities than main attractions (aside from water activities, but again, none of that would happen today). Finally, after Yelping my options, having breakfast at a nearby trattoria, and meditating on the beach, I decided I would go on a hike on the Sentiera degli Dei, or Path of the Gods.
Based on prior research of Positano and the surrounding Amalfi Coast, the hiking trails are endless and cater to all levels of hiking, from mild to extreme. After scouring several of the best tour group websites, I couldn't find any that were less than €100, far too much for my budget. I then resolved that I'd figure out the hike on my own using provided maps and trail markers. But then I made the mistake of looking at reviews online. The horror stories of solo hikers getting lost, hurt, or even killed had me thinking twice about the whole experience in general. I'm not a "real" hiker; I'll don sandals and a camera before sturdy boots and a water supply. But who was I kidding attempting to finish this hike without the essential shoes, food, and water in such an unfamiliar area?! So even before arriving in Italy, I removed my tennis shoes from my luggage, accepting this defeat before even having to face any future failure. This decision was very disappointing, though, as I'd planned for this to be my main activity during my birthday the next day. But I'd figure that out when the time came.
My resolve came to me after my meditation session along the beach. The crashing waves were a reminder that even though the waters of life may be too rough at the moment, I had all the protection from the Divine powers to accomplish anything I set out to do. And how could I give up something before even trying it? Definitely not my style.
So after getting home to prepare for this adventure as best I could, I set out for the path. The trail leading up to my B&B displayed a sign posted with an arrow pointing up towards a (sigh) very steep flight of stairs. "Enjoy!" it said. So I headed up the stairs. I eventually reached a point where the stairs leveled out and proceeded to follow the main trail provided. The higher up the hill I got, the larger the view of the ocean appeared. "I got this!" I said, soaking in what little sunshine that would peek out from the dark clouds above. But then signs of "Privato Proprietà" became more apparent. But if this is the way to the path, how could this be private property? I pressed on up the hill until I came to a locked gate. No entry. Maybe I'd followed the wrong fork in the path.
So I traced my steps back and went down the other path less traveled. As I followed the path, a small village appeared between the foliage and a paved pathway was in front of me. Up until this point, I still hadn't encountered any other hikers on the trail, so seeing some kind of civilization was relieving. I then encountered an older man walking his dog, shortly finding out after a broken Italian-English conversation that I was nowhere near the Path of Gods and that I needed to catch a bus to another town to get to the starting point! Then followed a long walk down to the main road, where I ran into my host working on-duty as a police officer, in which I found out that I needed to catch a bus that would take me to Nocelle, one of the two entrances to the trail. I then waited well over an hour until my bus finally emerged around the cliff to pick up passengers. I was relieved seeing others on the bus donned in baseball caps, hiking shoes, and small backpacks - a clear sign that they, too, were en-route to the path.
Many sharp turns and inclines later, the bus finally arrived at its last stop in Nocelle, a quiet town tucked away into the hills. From here, hikers would begin a nearly 4-mile journey through the Amalfi Coast hills on the Path of Gods. My goal: make it to the highest point on the trail.
My journey didn't start off very promising. I'd drank about half a bottle of water before arriving, without any signs of a bagni (restrooms) anywhere along the trail. I also knew my hunger levels were low despite my hearty breakfast and the fruit I'd eaten en route to Nocelle. To top it off, everyone on that bus looked like they were preparing for the hiking world championship. Aside from my sandals, I only could spot one other person with unfit footwear. But even hers were closed-toed Toms. To say the least, I was becoming more and more regretful.
Still, I ventured off on the hike. I followed what I believed were trail markers to guide me along the path. Shortly afterwards, I noticed that I could no longer see or hear the group of hikers that was ahead of me, and the trail markers I was following pointed towards Positano and Nocelle, which were paths leading up to the main road close to where we were dropped off. I could go into more detail about my directional challenges along the way in much more detail, but I eventually encountered some helpful hikers that pointed me in the right (and opposite) direction. At least I got some pretty shots along the way!
The hike was pleasant at times, guiding me through a small village of various B&Bs housing donkeys in their front yards, the smoke from their barbecues wafting into the air, further heightening my hunger in the mere infancy of my journey. But I gauged my physical needs and felt strong enough to stay focused in reaching my destination, although I wouldn't know what that looked like or how long that would be until I reached it. Thankfully, the weather was cooler today, as there were several points of intense inclines and rocky steps causing me to overheat. I've also encountered similar, if not more, intense obstacles in my hikes back home, so I gained more and more confidence as I journeyed on, putting my hunger in the back of my mind.
One thing I've noticed and appreciate about hiking is how friendly the other hikers are. I can team up with those walking behind or alongside me to figure out certain distances to certain points, as well as share information we've gathered about the hike prior to starting. In addition, those approaching in the opposite direction can serve as experts, informing how long you have to get to a certain point. It was from this help that I abandoned a pretty nice view to witness an even more magnificent one.
Easily, this location made my list for my top five best views. It wasn't until I reached this point that I realized how important this moment was for me. The hike started as a lofty and forgotten dream, all of the roadblocks splayed across my path (no pun intended). But I believed in myself and the abilities God's gifted me to see the challenge through (and a bit of motivational Beyoncé lyrics). There's no better feeling go either methaphorically or literally climbing through the dark forest, evil always lurking in the shadows, to then emerge to the most forceful and life-giving winds, seeing views you only could have imagined. That single moment confirmed my desire to travel places and immerse myself in nature. The amount of BEAUTY we've been blessed with to explore and embrace is frankly, overwhelming. But taking the time to experience it is always motivating to press forward through all of life's obstacles with optimism and faith.
Another 1.5 miles back, I had a nice conversation with other hikers who were making their roundtrips back to the Nocelle entrance who'd hiked a different trail up to an even higher point many meters above the trail. Can we say #goals?
Back in Positano, the hunger had finally set in and I promptly made my way from the drop-off point to dinner at Bruno with a marvelous pasta dish and a great reward of a few glasses of red wine. A rewarding day it was, indeed.