|'It's pretty good now. Not so much fighting'. she replied. I had admitted honestly to the couple sitting next to me that I knew very little about Zambia, their country and had enquired as to what their country was like. They were off to Melbourne, too, having boarded the Emirates flight in Dubai along with me, anxious to visit their three expat adult children who have all studied in Melbourne, mostly in areas of accountancy, banking and commerce, following in their parents' footsteps as a banker and CEO. Inconveniently, they resided in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, spanning almost the four corners of Australia. From our initial meeting and listening to them speak, I realised how little I knew of African countries (and the rest of the world for that matter) as English is the main language spoken in Zambia and was of course what was being spoken by them for the entire trip. If you are on a long haul flight, talking to your neighbour is a great way to pass the time as there is always an interesting story as to why one travels. When travelling you can have loads of conversations, brief or extended with those you share public transport, accommodation or walking paths with and each piece of information elucidates more about the rich world we live in. Usually these conversations are transient and you are just left with the memory of those you met. Sadly, I never got to know the names of the lovely Zambian couple I sat with and shared many conversations; I did intend to conclude our trip with a thank you, maybe a business card swap and at least a name swap but as a massive anticlimax, being in the aisle seat, I was out first and was pushed forward by the more aggressive travellers, who, once grabbing their cabin baggage intended to somehow push their way to the exit as quickly as possible, even though we had only just landed.
One of the disorienting effects of travelling over the International Date Line is not having a firm feeling of what day it is when you arrive. I had managed to maximise my time on my last day before boarding the flight at Milan so it did feel like 2 days ago. Not expecting to achieve much more than get to the airport on time, I feel like the rest was a bonus. I would have achieved an even longer sleep on the last night if not for the loud orgasmic squeals from my neighbours, heard easily through the paper-thin walls late at night. However, my sleep was adequate enough to afford me the time to enjoy one last breakfast, which included a conversation with the only other person I saw at the bnb who was on her own - a missed opportunity for company perhaps but at least I was able to share my knowledge of some of the treks with her which seemed to give her confidence to do something she would not have done otherwise. And I couldn't leave without thanking David and delivering a card.
Possibly one of the most exhilarating experiences you could have for £5 in Riomaggiore. Ask for Roberto and he will carry your luggage down the steep steps, pop it in his little van and if you’re on your own you can hop in the front as he drives through narrow footpaths that regular cars won’t fit through, honking his horn to alert surprised tourists that a car is coming. Just a few scrapes along the way as we squeezed through narrow tunnels. He is wiry but just popped my heavy suitcase on his shoulders and walked it upstairs to platform 2. We shook hands at the end of the 3 minute journey. Alla prossima Riomaggiore!
Inbetween Riomaggiore and Dubai there was still time in Milan. Determined to crack 20 kms on the Health App, I walked the 30 minutes rather than using the Met to
Pinacoteca di Brera, yet another museum of quality Italian Gothic and Renaissance painting, set inside what was once a historic building, in this case a Jesuit convent from the 1500s. This was my last chance to wander, free of charge and pick and choose which amazing masters to spend more time with. You may recall from my earlier day trip to Milan that the city does not do things by half measure. Some of these paintings were huge (see pictures). For me, one of the highlights was seeing Andrea Mantegna's The Lamentation of Christ, not the largest, but perhaps the most masterly in terms of foreshortening. This recalled my Year 11 art classes and the teachings of Margaret Standen, who brought to life all those Italian terms - sfumato, chiaroscuro, conrapposto and so on. How much she would have enjoyed this visit. As another bonus, I still had time before needing to collect my luggage at the 'left luggage' department at Milan's station (which is great, for 6 euros per bag for the first five hours). So I walked further to La Triennale di Milano, which is a design and art museum in the Parco Sempione in Milan. So walking through a lovely park, past a large castle was the by product of not catching met. This museum was contemporary by contrast but a perfect contrast to Pinacoteca di Brera. The 45 minute walk cemented my 20 kilometer total for the day, as I headed towards the train to Milan Malpensa. Soon I would be back in Australia, but already I was plotting my next trip. Stay tuned!