Let's Explore Perseverance with Ian Packham
I’m one of the last few passengers still aboard the ageing local stopping service as it trundles slowly north along the historic rail line, connecting otherwise isolated communities perched halfway between the valley floor and forested foothills.
Behind the foothills, the Adriatic Alps stand ragged-toothed and bare, while beyond the Plexiglas windows of my carriage cobs of sweetcorn ripen in the slow-to-warm July air of northern Italy next to fields of sunflowers already in full bloom.
Far from the large tourist destinations of Florence, Bologna and Venice – busy with the onset of the summer season – the train creeps from village to tiny village, from Gemona to Venzone to Carnia, names that mean nothing to me. For much of its route, it follows the valley of the wide and startlingly white shingle bed of the River Fella. Its bright milky blue water fills only the slightest part of its full winter width.
It’s a long way to come for a photograph, however majestic the mountain views and immense the feeling of space. I had been following in my great uncle’s footsteps for months, a journey that had begun in the Algerian capital, passed through Tunisia, saw me arrive in Naples and travel much of the length of Italy.
Ian Packham is an adventurer, award-winning travel writer and motivational speaker. His first travelogue, Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport, tells the story of his solo and unassisted circumnavigation of Africa by public transport. He has travelled the length of Sri Lanka’s longest river, walked the coast of the Isle of Man, the length of Hadrian’s Wall, and through Scandinavia using a 1960s guidebook.