Hello from the city in a lagoon, Venice. I haven't seen a single gondola yet! Ripped off. Today I'm walking from Venice to Padua & I'll have my rest day there. I'm really longing for that rest as well. It has been a physically demanding week. I left Dave in Austria with my old boots, which he's going to try & take back to Australia for me & I headed off towards the border. I crossed the Alps in 3days & was absolutly gob-smacked at how beautiful the mountains were. The Italian people have been very friendly & generous & I've had a few strangers buy me dinner or organise a place for me to stay or even haggle the local hotel down to a low price for me. I've had some history lessons along the way too. Crossing over from Austria to Italy I followed the original Roman road, which has been carved out of solid rock & winds up through the forested foothills. It was very quiet & making the trek & I began to imagine the perils of making this jounrey 2000 years ago. I got lost once but that's nothing new. I been lost twice on the mountains behind my parent's farm. One time was one of the funniest treks I've ever had! Thanks to the Lutheran Church in Villach for pointing me towards the old road in the first place! The valley I walked down through on the Italian side of the border has seen it's fair share of modern disasters. An 8.4 earthquake in 1978 that leveled everything & flood in 2004 that rose 40m above the rivers normal level & again wiped out countless villages. The clean-up job, in March 2008, is still in full swing. There were cranes, excovators, bull dozers & trucks at work everywhere. Despite the previous destruction, the beauty of the place still remained & so did the people's smiles, "It fall down, we build it up better!" I have never seen so many massive, jagged mountains & I don't think I've ever taken so many photos. It was snowing at the beginning of the week, then it rained & yesterday it was 21degC. It rained on Thursday all day long & I discovered that my water-proof backpack cover isn't water-proof, which is a shame, because it doesn't have many other redeemable features. It is a lovely shade of orange but I kind of bought it for the water-proofness factor. I also managed to bend one of my new walking poles navigating the notoriously difficult Italian roads. There has been very little consideration taken for pedestrians when building roads here & I have had to, for the majority of this week, walk in between the white line & crash barriers (approximately 50cm wide) or jump over the crash barrier & walk on the massive slope running down into the small canals that line all roads. This is the main reason why this week has been so difficult. A 40km day feels like 60. My feet twist & turn on the uneven 'balance beam' I've had to walk along. In order to stop myself falling off the edge or falling into on-coming traffic I've had to use my walking poles more than ever. It was while leaping across a small canal after running out of room on the road that I bent the pole. It's still useable though & kind of matches the rest of my equipment now. That day I also stepped on my camelbak water system mouth piece as I was picking my bag up & snapped it clean off. I still have the tube though so it's ok for now. My backpack shoulder straps have began the pull apart so my greatest tool of all, a role of sticky tape I bought in South America, is being used liberally. The new boots have had the ultimate 'breaking in' period with all the twisting & turning but that has caused problems for my feet. My 1st blister in 5months plus some minor tendornites caused me to finish walking a few hours early a couple of times. I even resorted to crawling yesterday, but that was because there was no room to walk on the side of a bridge so I had to crawl along under the road signs & wedged between the crash barrier & bridge edge. It was a little absurd :-) I've discovered that my hearing is a little more accurate than I had realised after 2 incidents in 1day. While I'm walking & praying, I walk facing the oncoming traffic so that I can see what's coming at me. However, I can't see the cars coming from behind that are overtaking. Hence, I walk looking forward but listening backwards. Serious. I can now tell if a car is passing from behind on the other side of the road or overtaking & about to pass within half a metre of me & I can tell roughly how fast they are going. The 2 moments in 1day involved a snake & a drunk man on a bike. I was walking through the grass on the side of the road, with heavy traffic beside me when a bird took off out of the grass. A metre of so from it a heard a another small, short sound & without even thinking about I thought, "Whoah! A snake!" I stopped & peered in & eventually spotted a 1m brown with black spots snake. It stayed for a moment & then shot off into the canal. As I walked on I was left wondering how I knew it was a snake & I really don't know but obivously a snake in grass makes a different sound to a bird or a lizard?? The 2nd moment was scary. An intoxicated man was struggling to walk his bike down a small town road in the early twilight. He was around 70m in front of me when he turned the bike & without looking, wheeled it out across the road towards the other side. I could hear a car coming from behind & without turning around, new that they were on a collision course. I shouted, "No!" but he staggered out as the car shot past my right hand side at about 80km/hr. The driver slammed on the brakes & the only sound that could be heard was the scream of 4 tyres on bitumen. I honestly thought I was about to watch a man die. It was a horrible 2seconds. As it was though, the squeeling tyres frightend the drunk man so much that he litterally jumped for the edge of the road right at the last milli-second as the car crunched his rear wheel. As the smoke settled the locals all came out to the end of their driveways to see what had happened. Everyone was ok but the bike was no more. It wasn't even wheelable. I was very thankful that no one had died & I'm becoming more & more thankful for the gift of hearing. I said the gift of hearing! Yeah it's 8 o'clock. I'd better get moving now, Padua is a 6hr walk from here & it's already 11am. I normally finish each blog with a piece of scripture but I just received an email from a fellow in England by the name of Tony Palmer & if it's ok with you Tony, I'd like to leave you with Tony's opening line. God bless & peace be with you, Sam.
Jesus prayed for it in John17, "That we may be ONE… SO THAT THE WORLD WOULD BELIEVE…!!!" Christian Unity is not an effort for “good Church politics”… it is our Lord’s dieing prayer! It really amazes me that our Lord prayed for unity of the Church BEFORE He had even given birth to it!!!