Day 9: Friday July 30th, 2004 Read Short Version View Photos

Short Version Instructions: Only read every other paragraph.

We got to sleep in until *gasp* 8 AM for a change, then had a quick breakfast and boarded Efram's other bus, which had his name painted two feet high on the front and was a bit smaller than the normal one. Half the group had left earlier and gone on a "4 hour hike" to an abandoned village called Costa which we decided to pass on. Tom and Tyler went, along with the rest of the kids and a random smattering of everyone else.

We drove up into the hills, into a valley parallel to the one we had been in yesterday. We stopped seemingly randomly and walked down a dirt path, across a bridge spanning a small but raging river, and into one of the many abandoned hamlets in this area. There were only a few buildings, the largest of which was the old copper forge which was now a museum, restored by Marco's company.

Thumbs Up: Old copper forges Once inside the museum, we were given walkmen which described with a bit too much detail the operation of the copper forge, including the large water wheel which powered the forge. Overall it was a very cool museum and town. We returned to the bus and continued up the road where Efram continued to expertly maneuver the bus through some very tight turns and narrow passages.

We stopped in a small town and made our way up a hill, past a church which advertised that it was screening a Bugs Bunny movie on Sunday, and eventually to the town's visitor center. Most people went in, but we felt it would be boring so we waited outside. We saw some amusing things, including two old women playing bocche barefoot, Tori doing backflips and flip flops, and a dog cooling down in a tub of water.

The visitor center was taking too long, so Bekki, Jessie, Tori and I walked back down the hill to a store and got some snacks. We walked back up and waited a bit longer for everyone to shuffle out and went back down the hill again. We hopped back in the bus and continued along the road into Gran Paradisio National Park, where we stopped to have a picnic lunch. We grabbed our bag lunches ("packet lunches") and exited the bus.

Thumbs Up: Picnics in the park Our tour guide told us to go find a nice place on our own and enjoy our food in nature. I immediately set out towards the river, followed by Bekki, Jessie and Tori. We settled down on some large rocks to eat only to discover we had been followed by Joyce, Norm and Phyllis, then Daniella and company. But who can blame them, as our rocky perch offered a wonderful view and the temperature was much cooler than in the fields.

After we picked through our lunches, Tori and I climbed down to the rivers edge and hopped back and forth across the river on rocks. We ended up on the other side, walked down to a bridge and met Bekki then Jessie. We wandered through a bit of the small town, nearly all of which was closed, then back towards the bus. We realized we had at least 20 more minutes, so Tori and I headed back down to the river for more rock hopping. Shortly thereafter we were summoned by Bekki as we were leaving ahead of schedule.

We drove back down the way we came and into a random parking lot, where we all squeezed onto a tiny 14 passenger bus (for the 13 of us plus Efram and a new driver). We took this bus up to the Santa Maria church, where Jeremy and Daniella had gotten married the previous year. Right outside of the bus, Joyce stepped on a bee which promptly stung her. Thankfully it wasn't bad and didn't seem to bother her after a few minutes. We went inside the church, then around back and under the church where we met the Cima ancestors. All professionally stacked up with skulls and leg bones in front, and everything else towards the back.

Thumbs Up: Ancestral bones As is the custom in most of Europe, once you've been buried in a grave for 50 years or so, they dig you up and put your bones somewhere else, to make room for more recent corpses. Apparently things down here had been reorganized since the 1996 reunion, and for the better. The room didn't smell and was actually quite pleasant, and the bones were all stacked nicely behind glass.

We made our way back to the bus, and traveled up a dirt road to an abandoned village. We congregated in front of a church that had been renovated 10 years ago. While standing here we noticed a few teenage girls down in the abandoned village. Interesting. We walked down where the houses were (there were only about 15 structures in this village), and found that there were 5 or 6 teenagers living there. After talking with them briefly, our tour guide explained that they used to live there before it was abandoned, and were spending some of their summer vacation camping there. I got the distinct impression that their time was equally split between eating, sleeping, smoking, drinking and sex (in no particular order).

We left the campers and continued down into the small village and lectured for 10 minutes before heading back up to the bus. We drove back down to Efram's bus, and went back to the hotel for a nice early arrival at 4 PM. We rested for a couple hours then met Efram's normal bus for a 20 minute drive to Pont.

We arrived in yet another random parking lot and shuffled into a building, which was later identified as the Tower Museum, a showcase of traditional clothing from the region throughout history. We cruised through as quickly as we could, and amused ourselves in a room where there was a huge nativity miniature scene. The scene gradually cycled through day and night every few minutes, and I could see that there was a track inside of it, and the people moved along it, although it wasn't on.

Thumbs Up: Tyler's antics Tyler decided to find out how to turn it on and disappeared through a curtained door behind the scenes. He reappeared shortly, only to go back again. As he was way back there, the proprietor guy came in the room and went into the back and quietly got Tyler out of there. The rest of us, on the other hand, could hardly contain ourselves. We then found out that the nativity scene was something like 90 years old.

We escaped from the museum with Alan and decided to wander around town, as we had half an hour until dinner. This town was where everyone stayed during the 1996 family reunion, so Alan was somewhat familiar with it. We wandered down to the main street and to a candy store which was just about to close. Bekki, Alan and Jessie each got some treats, and we wandered around some more. Jessie went into a cheese store to find some more of the tomino cheese we had had during our dinner in the wine country.

Eventually it was time to go into the restaurant, which was pretty nice although like most everywhere in Italy, they have no concept of screens and are seemingly not bothered by teeming masses of mosquitoes and other bugs. Throughout dinner we were waving them off and killing them, and we ended up with a quaint little bug graveyard at the corner of the table. The meal was pretty good overall, but we were distracted by bugs the entire time which took away from it. During this dinner we had the fifth and final tear-inducing laughing fit of the trip (Batman 2).

Afterwards we all piled back into the bus and went back to the hotel.