The water has diamonds.


I awake from the floor of a apartment where I passed the night in the warmth of 5 towels and a small pillow. It wasn't the most flattering of sleeping arrangements, but after 10 hours I am well rested. My friend Sherri has been kind enough to host me in her flat at the last minute, after my original plan fell through. However, I have no room to complain. Her apartment is in Cinque Terre, a famous fairytale along the west coast of Italy, where five famous towns await lovers and adventurers alike.

Two nights sleeping on the floor is worth seeing paradise.

The boardwalk, the beaches gleamed with bronzed bodies. The waters, literally sparkling as if littered with floating diamonds. We are in Monterosso, the town furthest in the North and want to work our way to the other towns for the day. Taking a train from town-to-town would be fastest, but would leave no beauty to the landscape in between. Our options are to go by boat or hike.







We agree that Cinque is beautiful, but cannot compromise on how to experience it.


"You're going for a hike in the hottest part of the day?" she asks.


"Yes....I think so."


"Well...I'm taking the boat. So, call me whenever you make it."


The next town over is Vernazza, which the map says will take two hours, 3 km by foot. I considered none of this, nor the fact that I may need water, as I begin to ascend into the forested trails. It wasn't difficult to know which way to go as there were red and white markers along the trail. Also, the occasional panting and sweating hiker would pass letting me know that I was at least still on the path.


It's been about an hour and there are no signs of Vernazza. The Sun spares no one. But a beautiful thing happens. Somwhere in between giving up and perseverance a breeze blows. Coolly at first, then swiftly. The air at this height is so pure to breath, and each breath gives me the will to go on until finally. Finally, I cross a ridge and look down upon Vernazza.



It's worth it. 



From this point, it is all downhill. Literally. Descending is liberating, and now the roles are reversed as tired trekkers ascend. There is an understanding with each person you pass. It's beauty and burden.

----

My success is short lived. I took the train from Vernazza to Corniglia. Yes, I stopped for a bite to eat with Sherri in a quaint pizzeria. It was delicious, and the town's mountaintop view was the type of imaginative landscape that shatters expectations. I make postcards, not pictures. 

The water has diamonds. 



With two towns left, I opt to continue hiking. It seems like a great idea after the easy going train ride and lunch. Sherri chooses the leisure route again,and says to meet her in the last town, Riomaggiore, by 5 p.m. I set off into the hills with full bottles of water and a heart full of fire. 

 The sweat pours from my pores, the knees ache and moan, the shirt comes off, and the water runs dry. I wonder why. 

"Why? Why am I baking on the side of a mountain in the hottest part of the day?"

However, every viewpoint is inspiring. I stand  looking at how far I've come from Corniglia. It's stunning. It's all too magical, too alluring. This chase, the challenge of every part of me. I want it. The reward, a stunning visage. A precious moment. 



Yet despite all of this beauty the next town, Manrola, is a world away. 


There is no choice. Only the trail. I take my shirt off. I finish the last of the water and continue through the never ending hills. I arrive to Manarola as a broken man. My legs seem to have forgotten what it's like to walk on a flat surface. I walk slowly with care, ever mindful of potentially buckling knees. I'm certain there are many beautiful things to see here, but the only thing I care about is the nearest water fountain. It is the most important monument. As I gulp water I see that it is 5:30 p.m. I will have to see Sherri later.

The path to Riomaggiore, the final town, is a light 20 minutes along lovers lane. It is a long flat pathway famous for romantic outings. Couples from across the globe come to attach locks to fences with their names engraved as a representation of eternal devotion. Others draw murals along the walkway dedicating the spot to the place where the shared a passionate kiss. 


Riomaggiore is absolutely stunning. It is an uphill walk revealing rows of clustered colorful buildings. The afternoon is finally cool. People align the cafes, restaurants, and bars relaxing in the receding sunlight. I trudge along the long road. I came to get photos. To see the five lands. I wont leave without seeing it all. 
I find my vantage point at a small castle. 

At this pinnacle, there is no one. Just a shameless vagabond looking watching the sunset over the city.