How about a winter walk, (really) very short and fun? And what if it were the occasion to learn something about the world of those people who are either blind or vision-impaired people? Then look no further than the Cometa Trail (Percorso Cometa) in Mendrisio.
The Cometa Trail runs in the woods between Mendrisio and Castel San Pietro and for some stretches merges with the local fitness trail; its aim is to allow blind or legally blind people to enjoy a nature walk, without the need of assistance.
How the Cometa Trail works
The way it works is really simple: to one side of the trail there’s a thin and flexible “cable”, to use as a guide. When it’s covered in plastic material you know that the trail presents an even surface, when it is covered in a rough material then there are some obstacles (it could be a root or a big rock) and you need to pay attention, a metal cover means steps, and if you find a ball, the path of the trail changes and you need to walk to the other side of the trail, with your back to the ball.
Our experience on the Cometa Trail
To give the Cometa Trail a a seriously try, we brought along some scarves to cover our eyes, only to find out they would keep falling off (try them at home, or bring an airplane sleep mask) – so we decided to continue with our eyes closed.
Of the three, dad was the one who took it most seriously, and ended up with an injured finger. Stefano cheated the most and yet still managed to fall… mom used the good old “I need to take photos” excuse to take a look around, and nothing happened to her.
Generally speaking, it was not easy – at the beginning it was indeed really hard; after a few steps we were covered in sweat– not due to the distance, but to the effort to focus on what we wrre doing. However, we also had fun and, above all, we understood how important vision is.
The sensations we experienced along the Cometa Trail were several, and changed throughout the walk, basically as soon as we had familiarized with the cable. Here they are, in no particular order:
- 1,5 kms without seeing is a very long distance
- The fact that you don’t know your whereabouts is oppressing and overpowering
- It takes a short time, with your exes closed, to sharpen your senses: noises become more annoying, smells and perfumes more intense.
- To feel the sun shining upon your face gives you a great sense of comfort
- Your feet become very sensible and notice the changes in the ground: rocks, , leaves, grass.
At the end of the circular Cometa trail there’s a large park with deer, which kids will love. They aren’t shy and come near to lick your hands. Had we known it, we would have brought them some bread.
Article published on 2 March in Extrasette, an insert in Corriere del Ticino.