Friday, July 16, 2010

Itchy feet

We'll be sleeping in the same bed for the 4th night tonight. Strange... It's odd not packing the backpack in the morning, and due to the soft mattress and the pullup wound along my back and butt (Matt, don't ever tell me again I'm not putting out :)), my back has been hurting more than when I carried the pack all day long. Rob continues to say "every day I sit in this hotel room, I get weaker, and every day Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger." When I ask him what he means, he just gives the same reply. "Can we just have cold rice and rat meat for dinner tonight?" I am not sure what he means by this, but I don't press the issue.

We cut out the last four days of the trip. When Dione and Gerd joined us, they were still recovering from a cold, and I guess weren't quite prepared for the up and down, and the long days of hiking (because contrary to popular belief, we did hike - not only drink and eat). Unfortunately we missed one of the most beautiful stages, also one of the more strenuous ones where you couldn't bypass anything with a quick bus ride. Initially Rob and I thought, we could maybe go back and do it later at some point, but when we realized that it takes almost seven hours to Oberstdorf, plus the few additional hours to my hometown, I think it's highly unlikely that we'll make that train trek again.

Hiking in Oberstdorf is certainly different than back in the hinterland. It's very busy here. Taking the gondola was like being herded into a cattle car, and going to the Breitachklamm, a deep gorge, strangely enough reminded me of my first trip to an Ikea (which had just opened up), and people were just moved through, had to stay in a line, and if you didn't want to be trampled unconcious by the crazed furniture shoppers, you had to move with the crowd. But hopefully it still gives Gerd and Dione a taste of the Alps without having to carry a pack and the need to hike steep and long sections.

We won't spend another day in Oberstdorf, although Rob has been going on a hunt of the Oberstdorfer "Wilde Maennle" (see picture) and made it his task to get to the bottom of this old legend. Gerd already knows the town like the back of his hand, and so we decided to take a day trip to Munich.

Petra reporting from Oberstdorf.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Break day

Leaving the Braunschweiger Hut was a short hike down and after just about 2.5 hours, we found ourselves at a bus stop again. That same afternoon we picked up Dione and Gerd (aka Garrett) at the train station and loaded up on calories at the local festival and dinner spot, watching Germany win their 3rd place game. The next day was break day and acclimatization day for D&G! We slept in, and then went to the Kneippanlage which is like a water park for hikers with sore feet. You can dip your arms and feet into cold water or walk like a stork through a pool with cold water. Herr Kneipp invented this circulation-increasing method quite a while ago, and lots of hiking areas offer something like this. We also hit the lake (well, it was more of a pond) in an attempt to even out the tan (no luck). The opening of the new soccer field in town had the club celebrate with a big tent, beer and musical entertainment by Siggi & Gerd. People were dancing and partying at 3 in the afternoon, and I was really hoping that the older fella' who had been on the dancefloor since we got there, would ask me at some point, but he was busy wearing out the table in the first row, picking one lady after the other, and we had our bus to catch. So, no dancing for me - this time. Due to the major thunderstorm, we stopped and had another beer in the local public house, before going on to order pizzas to eat in our hotel. While waiting for the pizzas Rob did a few pull-ups on the wood beam, and I wanted to join him, because I'm a big girl, and I can do pull-ups too. Kipping pull-ups. But kipping is a bad idea on a beam, because rule #1 is: hold on to the object you're pulling on. So adding up the fact that this was a beam only holding my fingertips and that I had four beers in me, resulted in me falling off that thing and hitting the stone floor of the pizzeria like a wet sack of dirt. Bam. Luckily Rob caught my head with his foot, otherwise he might be wiping drool from my face now. So much for break day. It's all good though, and the next day we hiked on to Zams. You can see the three taking a break at an Alm. It was a long day, and would have been even longer if Rob wouldn't have talked the guy from the gondola into waiting for us. But he did - because they didn't want to search for us later - as he said.

Petra reporting from a train about the hike from Imst to Zams. You can read other stories from this trip at

An inconvenient truth

After Rob's excursion over the ledge, we decided to take it easy for a few days. We had two more days before break day... The first day we hiked the early stage, cut out the middle part with a bus trip to the tongue of the glacier, and then put on the gaitors to cross the snow field ahead. It was melting snow on top of ice on top of rock. I went first, inhaled, exhaled, attempting to make myself as light as possible, and moved. That went well for the most part. There was a really hairy steep spot, but I managed over it, exhaling, putting the imaginary wings on -tip tap, tip tap - over the whole thing. I made it to the top, but wasn't able to see Rob due to a dip in the mountain. It took suspiciously long for him to appear... He had ventured on another excursion down the hill, causing two avalanches and I'm sure major glacial erosion - how inconvient. The poles came in handy again, helping him to stop, strike a pose, and work his way up again. Let me tell you, I was glad to see him in one piece with no major injuries - just a few cuts in his hands.

After a short downhill track, we arrived at our hut. We spent a leisurely afternoon, chatting with various other hikers, one looking and sounding like a white Morgan Freeman (coinciding nicely with our earlier march of the penguins).

We hit the mattress camp early, ear plugs way in for a good night sleep, as Morgan Freeman was warning us earlier that he'd be marching his penguins all night long.

Petra reporting from a train, about the hike to Braunschweiger Huette in between Oetztal and Pitztal. More to come shortly.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sleepless in Austria

Today the hikers converged. After a relatively easy journey, Garrett and Dione have joined the Andrades in Austria. Now more than 24 hours without sleep (as prescribed by Rob and Petra for an expedient time zone transition), I am currently void of wit and vigor. Actually I am feeling dilusional. I am seeing rain and flys where they do not exist. However, with the five cappuccinos that are currently fueling me, I can tell you that I am overwhelmed by the beauty and tranquility of both the Austrian and Swiss countryside. It was about 84 degree this afternoon as we joined the senior citizen club in festival in Jerzens where we had bratwurst and radler (many). Now we are watching the cup between Germany and Uruguay for 3rd place. Go Germany! Time for some Weiner Schnitzel and I hope they will not hold me hostage from my bed for too much longer. We are grateful to be here. Dione reporting. I think.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ass over tea kettle

This was the toughest hiking day we have had so far. By 5:00PM, we were so exhausted, well, let me tell you how exhausted we were.

We were so tired that I tripped over something, maybe some air, and went off a ledge that had a drop of a few feet, followed by a long, steep incline. Luckily, a perfect storm of instinct, lack of coordination and low shrubs worked together to keep Petra from being able to guiltlessly find a better man.

The whole thing after I tripped went in slow motion. I went off the edge, flipped completely upside down, and landed on my face with an unhappy shrub in either hand. My urge to live was strong, so I did not let go. Most of this, aside from catching the two bushes, sucked.

Petra laughed and cried at the same time, and I asked her to please stop both until I reached the trail again. She did, and all turned out well. We will, however, see how sore I am from this tomorrow.

I would like to take this moment to thank my jiu jitsu instructers, who taught me that being upside down is ok, and that landing is not as difficult as one might think. I would also like to thank the US Army Airborne Instructors at Ft Benning, GA, who drilled into my head that I should land on the balls of the feet, the calves of the legs, the thighs, the buttocks, and the "pull up muscle." but most of all I would like to thank my mother, without whom this totally fucked up moment would not have been possible.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Iceman Cometh

We left the hut this morning, and instead of heading straight down the mountain, we opted to climb to the spot where Oetzi the icman was found. We had to do a good deal of scrambling up rocks, and treked across a glacier for a while before getting to Oetzi's glacier. He was found after a 5000 year repose about 15 meters inside Italian territory. He, unlike the iceman in the movie, is dead now, and resides Ina glass refrigerator in Bozen, Italy.

We spent another hour going through a snow field, and as I was sporting my sexiest look, tall gaiters with surf trunks, my feet stayed bone dry (thanks for the tip, Matt), but The added benefit was that the chicks dug it. So at least I have that going for me.

The landscape was otherworldly, and the fact that I had never even considered cutting tracks across a glacier, I chalked it up as a super duper experience; Pera agrees.

After we got out of the snow and glaciers, we spent the next few hours heading steadily into the valley, where we will watch the Germany vs Spain game tonight.

That is all. Rob reporting from Vent, Austria.

From wine country back into beer land

After a few days of very hot weather, lush meadows, waterfalls, vineyards and orchards, we climbed onto a glacier today, but not just any old glacier, it's the one where they found Oetzi, the ice man. So, it's really a receding glacier, otherwise they wouldn't have found him almost twenty years ago. Now, he's in the fridge in a museum in Bozen. We decided not to go see him when we were there, but if the weather cooperates, we'll go see where they found him. It's cold up here and there are still plenty of snow fields around the hut. It's very busy up here with hikers and climbers. We'll be in the matress camp tonight, along with lots of others. Rob and my brother are sleeping the afternoon away right now, after having a few afternoon beers to incent us for the hard climb.

The last two nights we spent on farms, and although I love the cows with their pretty bells, their poop is smelly. The farmers collect it in big piles, so they can fertilize the fields later, but strangely enough, they also hang their laundry up next to that pile. My oh my - the last two nights, the sheets and the towels smelled like a cow just got done with them. Anyhow, no such smells tonight!

Last night we decided to have dinner on an Alm, a remote farm, about 30 minutes from our not so remote farm where they didn't serve dinner. It took us more like 50 minutes to walk there, but it was worth it. Dinner was yummy, the owner shared her homemade Schnaps, and she even made us a job offer to stay for a few days and bring in the hay - for room and board. It was a tempting offer, but we had to move on. Well, first we had to move back down the mountain to our farm. Rob did not bring his light, but thanks to the long summer days and hiking songs we made it. Rob's decision to challenge the Scottish highland to a bull fight also just resulted in some scrambling, scared cows, and we made it back just fine.

Tomorrow we'll be heading down into the next town. Can't miss the next soccer game Germany - Spain! We were on a TV-less hut for the Argentina game and had to get the updates from the cook who had a radio in the kitchen.

No service up here, but will post asap.

P reporting from Similaun hut on the Austrian-Italian border.