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Walking in Austria

Wednesday 6th - Sunday 24th June 2018

Click here to download the full report.

The first part of our adventure in Austria started at the campsite, Ferienparadies Nattterersee near Innsbruck. We all arrived at the right place on the right day from various directions and were given a warm welcome by John and Tina Walker, the rally officers, and other ICA members. Although the site is large there are several different camping areas and we were sited in Panorama which, as the name suggests, had scenic views of the surrounding mountains. It also had the added advantage of being close to the super-modern facilities, which are some of the best I’ve encountered. The only downside was, to quote a fellow member, “the five day camel ride to the rubbish bins” but this was a walking rally after all.

At the welcome tea (with delicious homemade carrot cake) the six new members to the ICA were introduced and welcomed. From the outline plans provided it was obvious that we were going to be busy! Our first day concluded with a very enjoyable classic Austrian meal at the campsite restaurant, overlooking the lake.

The walks from Natterersee were organised by the Innsbruck tourist office, led by professional mountain guides from The Alpine School and available to anyone holidaying in the region. Our guides were Angelique, a charming young Dutch woman with excellent English and Wolfgang a cheery middle-aged Austrian, with limited English but with a large smile and a propensity to share his boiled sweets on the bus home.

A typical walking day started at the bus stop at 8.50am to be greeted by Wolfgang and Angelique. Once on the bus the plans for the day were explained with options for varying levels of walking and most importantly where we would be stopping for lunch. The bus ride was a good opportunity to take in the beauty of the valleys we were driving through. We passed through pretty villages with painted houses and saw gushing mountain rivers. The hillsides were dotted with wooden chalets with neatly stacked woodpiles and surrounded by pastures with grazing cows, sheep and goats. We saw crazily steep slopes of grass being cut by hand and small handmade haystacks, which looked liked monoliths on the hillside.

Our first walk was in the Sellraintal valley and started just beyond Kuhtai (2020m), about an hour on the bus from the campsite. The walk started through wild flower meadows but we were soon steadily climbing a mountain path through woodland but continued to hear the tinkling of cow bells receding below us. The number and variety of wild flowers amazed us all and many of us kept stopping to photo each new species spotted for the wildflower competition. As we climbed higher we saw an increasing number of bright blue gentians and many of the trees were heavily clad in lichen. After a while the group split into two with the option of a higher, steeper and longer route to a ridge called Faltegartenkopfle with magnificent views down to the valley floor. Both groups met at the mountain restaurant (called an Alm) at Feldringalm where beer, soup (containing dumplings the size of tennis balls) and cake were enjoyed before the final descent to the road to catch the bus back.

All our walks from Natterersee were equally enjoyable. Sometimes the scenery was so reminiscent of a scene from the Sound of Music that if Julie Andrews had come over the hill in full song no one would have been surprised. Our guide, Angelique, was incredibly fit and walked slowly ahead of us as if she was leading a group from kindergarten. You could always tell when the path became steeper as one by one we all became silent. One day we had a picnic sitting on wild thyme by a small mountain stream in the company of cows and another day we had lunch at an Alm by a lake (Moserer See) where there was a harpist playing on the terrace. It must be recorded that there was one rainy day, although you would consider it just a normal day in Keswick, when just eight walkers out of 24 arrived at the bus stop. I won’t name and shame those who didn’t turn up but those that did enjoyed walking in the rain and especially the different colours and ephemeral light in the forests above Innsbruck. It has to be said that most of those who didn’t walk on the rainy day opted to walk the following day, which was a ‘free day’, and some said that was the most enjoyable walk of our stay. During our ten day stay at Natterersee we had three free days. Many people chose to visit Innsbruck using the free bus while others enjoyed the cycle paths or swimming in the lake.

We were of course kept busy back at camp with some very enjoyable happy hours with everyone chatting and exchanging stories over a glass of wine, or two. The first weekend concluded with the Sausage Sizzler! This was an excellently co-ordinated event with sub-committees taking on various tasks such as sausage collecting, sausage storing, barbecuing and the infamous chip and cake committee. Thankfully the forecast thunderstorm held off and we had a great meal followed by a large slice of Sacher Torte (chocolate cake) and rounded off the evening with a word game and of course much banter and fun. Another evening after a tremendous thunderstorm the weather cleared just in time for us to make our way to a room provided for the music quiz. This tested our knowledge (or lack of it) on a variety of music genres. The quiz was followed by each member’s favourite song, including The Sound of Music , Rawhide (chosen because of chafing walking shorts) and the ICA anthem Road to Nowhere.

At the final happy hour John and Tina with their assistants, Sandy and Jo handed over to Les and Jo and Steve and Marina, who were the rally leaders and assistants for our time in Mayrhofen. Two beautiful cards painted by Sue Parry-Evans and signed by everyone were presented to the rally leaders to thank them for all their hard work and organisation in making our ten days at Natterersee both enjoyable and memorable.

The next day, Saturday 16th June, we all made the journey to Mayrhofen arriving at our new campsite by lunchtime. Mayrhofen Camping is in the village of Laubichl , within easy walking distance of the town. It is a family run site with an excellent and inexpensive restaurant as well as a swimming pool, which was much enjoyed as the good weather continued throughout our stay. Our pitches were on a terrace in the newer part of the site and adjacent to the modern and comprehensive facilities. Every pitch enjoyed views across the valley to the mountains. We soon settled in to our new base camp and were ready to meet Les at 3.30pm for a guided tour of the town. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day as 22 ICA members strolled in to town. Les did a magnificent job of showing us the main attractions but it was rather like herding cats as one by one people could no longer resist tailing off for an ice cream, beer, outdoor shop, dirndl or any of the other many irresistible attractions that Mayrhofen has to offer. Les returned to the campsite with just three loyal followers but the rest soon came home to roost in time for Happy Hour!

For our first walk in Mayrhofen, we set off along the forest path adjacent to the campsite to walk to the mountain village of Brandberg. Almost the first building we came to was an ancient barn which had been restored and was a museum containing a lot of very interesting information about the local history. We enjoyed our picnic lunch in the village square by the water pump, before we made the steep descent to the valley floor to follow the river back to Mayrhofen. We thought Les was joking when he said that our next walk was to the Alm we could see perched on a cliff face on the mountain opposite the campsite. The next day dawned cooler with cloud hanging over the mountain tops but “our Alm” was visible so we set off like a herd of mature mountain goats. After half an hour of almost vertical climbing we arrived and rewarded ourselves with strudels and hot chocolates accompanied by complimentary Schnapps before continuing to the village of Finkenberg, stopping by a waterfall to have our picnic lunch on the way.

Our third walk required good weather and visibility to be fully enjoyed as we were taking the cable car to Penkenalm (1985m). We were in luck as the day dawned sunny and warm. As we rose above Mayrhofen we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the valley below and appreciated the refreshing coolness of the mountain air as we stepped out of the cable car. We enjoyed the most fabulous circular walk at altitude taking in spectacular views all around. On our return to Mayrhofen the temperature had risen to a staggering 36 degrees. Due to the heat, our rally leaders and their assistants made some hasty changes to the scheduled walk for the following day and took us up the Ahornbahn cable car where there were several choices for different levels of walks. Some of us chose to walk to the Edelhutte, a mountain restaurant at 2238m. This was perhaps the most challenging walk of the rally but also the most rewarding as a great sense of achievement was felt as we arrived at the tiny Alm perched on the mountain, which could only be accessed by foot or maybe helicopter!

Our stay in Mayrhofen also included some fun evenings of entertainment. There was the men’s cooking challenge to prepare and cook a Kaiserschmarrn (mega Austrian pancake served with fruit). The ladies were asked to judge and it was difficult to choose a winner as they were all (surprisingly) delicious. On another evening we had a quiz during which there was an unfavourable change in the weather forcing everyone to take shelter under Bob’s capacious awning and in his caravan.

Our final evening came all too quickly and we celebrated the end of an extremely enjoyable rally with a meal at the campsite restaurant. Once again Sue Parry-Evans had painted two charming cards to thank Les and Jo and Steve and Marina for a truly great rally. Bob was also thanked for the use of his awning for social events during both parts of the rally. Mike Parry-Evans had written a poem about the rally, which reflects the fun we had far better than this report, so I have included it below so that you know what really happened.

On behalf of everyone, thank you so much Tina and John, Sandy and Jo, Les and Jo and Steve and Marina for a superb rally and lots and lots of fun.

Catie Bartholomew



Austrian Rally by Mike Parry-Evans

Part I - Natters

A long journey down, but no problem there

Vans intact and all in good cheer

The Natters site had a restaurant right here

For our welcome meal of Schnitzel and beer

The walks from Natters were really no fuss

With Wolfgang, Angelique and a smart yellow bus

Bronze, Silver and Gold for success at the feat

And plenty in the Alms to drink and to eat

Barbecues were summoned to the spot

Connected, primed and got really hot

For sausages, burgers, chips and the rest

The Barrons won the subsequent test

A musical quiz at the end of one day

Was hard fought by teams of four all the way

Surprise, surprise - the Barron Team won

Then our favourite tunes were played one by one

So Natters was done and we all moved on

To Mayrhofen, not too far along

Our thanks for this part of the rally go

To John, to Tina, to Sandy and Jo

Part II- Mayrhofen

The Zillertal valley loomed into sight

With skiing mountains to left and to right

A busy, bustling, welcoming town

Ideal for shopping and browsing around

But no time for lazing - the hills to be tried

New boots bought for feet that were tired

We all worked hard as the days went by

To earn beer and ice cream at the end of the ride

The cookery match was a very fierce fight

As the men worked hard to make it look right

Eggs were tossed and batter was burnt!

But perhaps some cookery lessons were learnt

A tricky quiz had some of us stuck

We guessed some answers and hoped for some luck

It was Jinx and her team that went on to win

But the Barrons’ marks were a little bit grim

We reached the Ahorn and Penken by cable

Some climbed the heights - others less able

But fabulous views were enjoyed by us all

The beautiful flowers and the cowbells call

And so sadly we’ve come to the end

Of a wonderful rally - it’s time to wend

Leaving grateful thanks to those in the know

That’s Les, Marina, Steve and Jo