In the morning, as usual, things did not go according to plan… We were mistaken about the sunrise: at 5:00 there was pitch darkness, so the march delayed.
Then, despite thorough preparation, everyone found annoying shortcomings that he hadn’t fixed.
It took much more time to equip the donkey, then was expected. So, we began our march only at 6:40.
There were ten people in our unit, and we took Fairy, a clear-eyed she-donkey. Six legionaries from Leg XI CPF, two of Leg X FRT, a muleteer and a Celtic artist, who pictured our adventures on wax tablets.
First we walked through the beautiful countryside with picturesque hills and sun-drenched vineyards.
The road was smooth, the morning was fresh, so we were marching, admiring the views, it was a pleasure.
At the end of this road there was a ford across the river.
Legionaries wearing caligae didn’t notice the obstacle and crossed the river. Guys in calcei messed with laces a little, and quickly passed the ford.
But there was a problem with Fairy: loaded donkey resolutely refused to cross the river, so we had to help her.
After the crossing there was a small halt to fit the equipment and to regale ourselves with grapes from vines… Patrol guarding the vineyard was quite surprised when it met a Roman contubernium. Guards understood the situation and there was no conflict.
Then the path lay right through the vineyard, and it was splendid!
Although the sun was already rather hot, morning euphoria ended and furcae began to grow heavy, the path through the vineyards was one of the most atmospheric places in our way. And after the vineyards the real march began.
When we came out of the vineyards, we incurred non-combat losses. A young warrior from Leg X FRT suffered from ill-fitting equipment. Segmentata squeezed his shoulders and underarms. Helmet, fastened around his neck, pinched his carotid, so he couldn’t breath fully. Perhaps, at short distances it is imperceptible, but a march with full kit mercilessly punishes for such shortcomings. The guy started to stop and fit his equipment on the fly. He dropped behind and put out of time all the unit. As a result, his older friend made the right decision: they both returned to the castrum. We took their water and remains of bread and went on marching.
Now the road went through the dusty hills covered with sparse stunted forest. The favorite legionaries’ pastime began: descent-ascent-descent-ascent.
Sun was heating, we were pouring with sweat. Damn lime dust gnashed on teeth, it covered all equipment and sticked to sweaty bodies, turning into slimy cement. Jokes and talk died down. One could hear only regular clanging of suspensoria, knocks of paterae against cased scuta, and legionaries’ heavy breathing.
The rumble from only six Roman milites was noticeable. It was nice to imagine rumble of a whole legion! But soon we had to abandon fantasies. With each step furcae, scuta and other equipment were becoming heavier, and one asked himself and each other: «What the hell I’m doing here?».
At such moments it’s good to study patterns of nails on soles of a comrade going ahead, to focus on dragging your legs along and smooth breathing. Smooth pace and breath are the most important things in difficult marches. And ups and downs upset them a lot.
During a harsh ascent, one legionary had a heatstroke. His pressure jumped, he felt giddy, face and neck became crimson. Evacuation was impossible, because we were in a remote nature reserve. So, we took a rest, gave the comrade some water and appointed him honorary muleteer.
The former muleteer was promoted to legionary, it was a fulfillment of his dreams. After this reshuffle, we continued to march through the limestone dust at the same pace.
The road was still good, and there were pleasant views of the Crimean nature. But nobody admired the beauty, we obstinately and intently marched forward, dreaming only about the big halt.
Despite all the difficulties our pace was not that bad. About noon, we reached the foot of a plateau. At the summit there was the goal of our daily march — an oasis with a lake and springs.
Water reserves were almost over, so we were motivated to reach a spring. We had overcome already 3/4 of the way, and now we had to climb up the mountain along the serpentine road. Еasier said than done, so before the hardest part of our march we organized a 1.5 hour halt.
There is a rocky plateau ahead with a cherished spring at the top.