Me & My Ma!

I’m just back from walking the Amalfi Coast with my Ma. It's been such a treat to spend a week with her. Though we've been on holiday together innumerable times, we’ve always been with other people – husbands, grandparents, cousins, sisters, friends, children - never just the two of us.

This ‘leisurely’ week of idyllic coastal walking is not, however, the main event. Rather, it is something of a precursor to our big summer adventure – our three generational Kilimanjaro Climb! Yes – we are planning to summit the roof of Africa and, if successful, we think we’ll be the first grandma, mum and grandchild trio to conquer the African giant. Oh yes - did I mention we’re taking my 12-year-old son up with us?!

For now though, it’s back to Italy. This holiday was the perfect way to spend some quality time together and get our Kili training regime underway. Plus, it was an opportunity to see whether I could wake up every morning and put my walking boots back on for another day of trekking. Having been organising walking holidays for her friends for years, I was more than confident Ma would be ok.

Amalfi_view

When I first asked Ma if she'd like to walk Amalfi with me, she swiftly replied, "Oh yes - I go to that part of Italy regularly". I was taken aback - I couldn't remember any childhood Italian holidays. When questioned, she told me she’d been 43 years ago - when she was pregnant with me - and again 21 ½ years ago. So regular - yes. Frequent - no! Either way, it was about time she returned.

We arrived at the Hotel Due Torri and immediately sat down to a wonderful spread while our cases were taken to our rooms. Ma is gluten-free, and I'm vegetarian, so it was a relief to discover the family running the hotel were totally comfortable with our weird dietary requirements, and produced alternatives with no fuss. We started to get to know our fellow travellers over a couple of glasses of wine (free on the first night, then charged on an "honesty sheet" basis), and then went to settle in.

The first day saw us walk to the top of Tre Calli - the mountain you can see from the hotel. Everyone made the summit, and along the way we discovered what a fabulously social group of sixteen they were, all happy to chat as they walked. A mix of couples, sisters, solo travellers, and us, ranging from 30s to 70s, we were a cheerful, eclectic group who bonded over our love of adventure.

Jae_Sheila Jae and Sheila smiling at their summit success

Sitting down to dinner back at Due Torri, I reflected; if I had to choose the weather (bright sunshine but with a March bite in the air), the views, and the people on this trip, I'd have struggled to choose a better combination.

Then it struck me. Ma had just climbed her first mountain! In my mind she’s a proper walker – she’s out on the trails far more often than I am - but I've been up Snowdon a couple of times, climbed other mountains around Snowdonia, summited Scafell Pike (and some nearby peaks), and hiked up a volcano in Java at night to reach the top in time for sunrise. It just hadn’t occurred to me before - even when I asked her to embark on the Kilimanjaro adventure - that she’d never stood on top of a mountain before!

So it was rather a treat to share and celebrate this special moment with her and the rest of the group - some of whom have a spreadsheet of the peaks they've "bagged" around the world. We all joined in raising a glass to her achievement.

Amalfi_group The group on the crater rim of Vesuvius

Every day the scenery was jaw-dropping. In many cases we would emerge onto a rocky outcrop to find a simply stunning view laid out before us. The mountains, bays, waterfalls and fishing ports all presented their best sides. The glistening, sun-dappled vistas from 'The Walk of the Gods' took our breath away (as did the bus journey back down along winding cliff roads but in a very different way!).

The top of Vesuvius showed us the Bay of Naples, and the island of Capri - with all its associated 50s-style glamour – seemingly just a fingertip’s reach away. It was here that we shared our second special moment of the trip, as we scattered some of my Grandma's ashes. She'd have loved the view, and having Gracie Fields just across the bay!

Vesuvius_crater Vesuvius crater

On Thursday, our free day, Ma and I went to explore Sorrento. We found the balcony Dad had photographed her on when she was expecting me, and I took a similar shot. We ordered tea and Limoncello in the Hotel Bristol, the nearest hotel that was open, and explained why we were there. The waiter took a photograph of us both on the balcony, and they refused to accept any payment for our drinks, saying they loved our story. We loved their charm!

Sheila on the balcony then and now! Sheila on the balcony then and now!

Our group gelled quickly, in our love of the great outdoors, a good walk, and in an increasing dislike of steps! The downside of a topography that shares such incredible picture-postcard views is the amount of ups and downs you must endure for your reward. Mules used to be the main mode of transport around these parts - and we saw some still in use moving cartloads of sunshine-yellow lemons down the hillsides – therefore mule steps have been carved into the ground everywhere. The "sodding steps" as they became known, had us all debating whether bums, knees or calves ached more at the end of each day. Nobody questioned whether it was worth it though. The whole group took part in every bit of action going, from the Vesuvius crater rim trek to the extra walk our lovely leader, Paul, put on for us yesterday before our flight back to the UK.

I've returned with more shapely legs; a desire to go back to Italy - and the hospitality of Giani, Nicola and Giovanna at Due Torri; a new bunch of friends; and an ever-increasing appreciation for my fabulous mother. Not once did she complain about the terrain or distance, she knew everyone’s name by the second night, and made them giggle every single day!

Sheila-laughing Sheila enjoying life to the full!

Happy Mother’s Day Ma!

Jae and her mother travelled on our Walking the Amalfi Coast trip in March 2015. To find out more about Jae and Sheila and their 3G Kili Climb, check out their blog. They will be travelling on the first family departure of our Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route trip and are raising money for three charities – Catching Lives, Friends of Conservation and Baraka Community Partnerships. You can donate via their blog page.

By Jae Hopkins - Exodus Marketing Director

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