Wednesday, February 28
Take a moment to observe these steps. See the road down below? Yes, that is where you would end up if you tripped on these steps. Mr Clavel might have ridden up them on a mule 80 years ago to get to his precious cave, but I am not so fortunate. I climbed the first few steps and then looked down. I froze and a wave of fear washed over me. I stopped and watched as my companion pratically skipped up the steps.
“Um, isn’t this a bit dangerous?” I asked him, “how come you’re going so quickly?”
“Oh, I’m used to it!” He replied from way, way ahead.
I inched nearer to the rockface, praying that it wouldn’t crumble away and slowly, crablike, made my way up the scary steps grabbing onto grass roots, notches in the rock and anything to give me a sense of balance. I was going to get up to that damm cave no matter what. They might have to lift me out by helicopter though, I wasn’t sure if I could get back down again.
I arrived, shaking at the top of the steps. A woodland path stretched out before me, mysterious and inviting, except that the woodland was only on one side of the path. The other side was yet another sheer drop into a canyon. The path, of course was only about 30cms wide. I carried on, clinging to flimsy saplings and branches that would do nothing to stop my fall. We clambered across what must have been a waterfall many years ago, we spent a few minutes wrestling our way through a very prickly bramble bush and then…
Oh no! Another scary staircase. This one was worse though because we were much higher and there were a few steps missing or half crumbled away. By this point I had figured out that it really does help if you ‘don’t look down’. I couldn’t actually look in any direction other than straight ahead without feeling the tiniest bit swoony. Who the hell were these crazy people that built steps into the mountainside hundreds of years ago? And why did they build them?
We had been climbing for an hour and a half when the overgrown pathway suddenly came to an end. A bush was growing nest to a large boulder and there was no way around. My companion hauled himself over the boulder but found nothing but cliff face on the other side. Maybe we had taken the wrong turning earlier. We reluctantly made our way back down the mountain.
Near the bottom we met an old man who asked where we were going. He laughed when we told him that we had been trying to get to the cave.
“You’d never find it!” He smirked, “it’s been overgrown for years, you’d need to take a machete, and me along with you. I worked for the Forestiere for 15 years. No one knows these mountains like I do.”
“You’d take us there?” I asked eagerly, “when can we go?”
“Eeh, it’ll be a while unfortunately. See, I had a little misfortune the other day.” He rolled up his trouser leg to show us a gleaming white plaster cast encasing a broken ankle.
I secretly sighed in frustration. I had been asking for years if anyone knew their way to the cave but nobody had used the path for years. Now finally I find a man who knows his way there and what does he do? Break his leg, putting him out of action for months. There must be someone else out there that knows the way…
at 7:20 PM