Another adventure beckons: Austria & Italy

We’ve waited for this trip for a long time. At Christmas 2019, we booked 5 mountain refuges to hike a section of Alta Via Uno in the Italian Dolomites during summer 2020. However, along came Covid and the world sat still.

The trip was put on hold and the bookings moved to August 2021. Like everyone else, we stayed at home, waiting for vaccinations, hoping Covid would disappear and we’d soon be able to resume our travels. However, as summer 2021 approached, it became clear we still wouldn’t be able to travel to Italy. In any case, at that time, I wouldn’t have wanted to be crammed into dormitories and restaurants with dozens of other people. Therefore, the bookings were moved again and we staycationed.

Finally, last winter, Covid became less of a threat, the world started moving again, and we dared to dream that our trip would go ahead in 2022. We reconfirmed our bookings in the mountain refuges and began planning our next adventure.

A few short hikes in Germany at Easter made me realise I’m not fit for a 6-day mountain trek carrying a large rucksack. I sit at a desk too much and we’ve been cycling rather than running or hiking, so my legs aren’t used to being straight. My hips and certain muscles ache when I walk any distance! Therefore, we’ve planned enough time before the trek to acclimatise and get mountain ready again.

Our first stop is Bad Hofgastein in Austria where we plan to do some day hikes and simple via ferrata. Via ferrata means iron path in Italian and refers to metal rungs, ladders and safety cables fixed on rocks to help people cross difficult mountain terrain safely. We’ve bought our own via ferrata kit (harnesses and tails with carabiners) ready for the Dolomites where via ferrata routes originated in 1880, installed by local mountain guides to help their clients make ascents. These types of paths were also used in the First World War as a way to move troops around the borders of Austria and Italy. Neither of us is good with exposure and big drops, and we aren’t climbers, so we’ll only be doing tame via ferrata, which aren’t too long, vertical or scary. Even with the kit and being securely fastened to the iron, I don’t want to fall!

Our next stop is at Toblacher See, where we can do more hiking and via ferrata, building up to the trek. Although we’ve been to the Dolomites quite a few times, in both summer and winter, this is an area we haven’t visited before. I can’t wait because the mountains of the Dolomites are stunning, with vertical rocky cliffs soaring above deep valleys and green meadows, dotted with turquoise lakes.

Then it’s time for Bertie the campervan to go to an Airbnb for 6 days while we do the trek. We struggled to find anywhere to leave him where he’d be safe with all our possessions inside. Campsites wanted to charge us for a pitch, even though we wouldn’t be there using the facilities, so I had a brainwave and approached an Airbnb near the start of the trek, where it looked as though there was plenty of land for parking. Renato at the Airbnb has been very kind and helpful, checking bus times for us and even inviting us for dinner. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes as we don’t speak Italian!

After the trek, we return to Austria for a week of relaxation near St Wolfsgang in Salzkammmergut, the Austrian Lake District. Swimming, packrafting, cycling and gentle hikes are all on the menu here before we set off for home.

So… we’ve packed the kit into the boot, with various boxes for hiking, trekking, cycling and packrafting, alongside the essentials like the camping chairs, table, washing line, stove… you get the picture… Bertie is full! Clothes are in the cupboards and the fridge is full of wine and beer. Unfortunately, since Brexit, we can’t take much food and will have to find a supermarket soon after we arrive.

Tomorrow we travel to Harwich and get the overnight ferry to Hook of Holland. Then we’ll have 2 more long days travelling through The Netherlands and Germany before we reach the first campsite in Austria. We’re very excited to be on the road again, looking forward to the adventures ahead.

Tom Cat

I’m sure Tom will miss us because he’s adopted us, our house and our garden, despite us refusing to feed him. Hopefully his true family will get to see more of him while we’re not here!

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