Friday 29th July
Today we headed into the Gesause (Ge-soy-see, apparently!) national park for a day of hiking in Austria’s beautiful countryside. We haven’t even reached the Alps yet, and already Austria is blowing us away with its towering grey mountains and thick green forests.
We’d used an Austrian hiking website to plan our route, which was very helpful except for being entirely in German. It was possibly due to the linguistic barrier that we drove to what we thought was the start of the hike, spent 20 minutes packing our day bags and putting sun screens up in the car, before we realised we were actually an hour’s walk away from the start of the hike. Oops. So we got back in the car, and eventually managed to find the actual starting point using an infuriating combination of my phone (which is too old and crappy to load flashy websites, and doesn’t let me download most apps) and Morgan’s phone (which is perfectly functional, but lacks decent signal coverage.)
The first thing we came across on this route was an extremely creepy, huge caterpillar.
It looked like it had been gorging itself on blood, and peered up at us, gnashing it’s black pincers as if hoping for more. We declined its kind offer, and hurried on.
There were a few mountain streams on our route, so it was a perfect opportunity to use our “Life Straw”, a small water filter which makes virtually any water safe to drink.
Enjoying the deliciously cool river water, we set off up uphill into the hot morning, and almost immediately spotted an outhouse just a few feet upstream from where we’d been drinking! Fortunately, it was a dry pit and didn’t empty into the river. We’re not sure that even Life Straw could have saved us from that!
Upsettingly, Lex’s collapsible water bowl had spontaneously broken in Vienna, meaning we resorted to giving him water to drink out of our hands throughout the walk. Which is adorably ticklish, if highly inefficient. But seriously, that water bowl was one of the most useful things we owned, before its sad demise; you’ll see it dangling off my backpack in 90% of the photos on this blog.
Lex is actually notoriously fussy about his drinking water, as illustrated by this dog friendly cafe we encountered in the mountains.
It was a Goldilocks & The Three Bears moment, as Lex sniffed the first water bowl and had a tentative sip. He then sniffed the second and third water bowls, before turning his nose up at both of them. Because Lex has me well trained, I dutifully emptied one of the bowls and refilled it with fresh water, which he happily drunk. Of course, half an hour after this show of diva-like behaviour we caught him drinking out of a muddy, stagnant puddle. Just to keep us on our toes.
We stopped at a delightful wooden cabin halfway through the walk, and were delighted to see multiple men dressed in traditional lederhosen! Brown shorts, paired with knee length green socks, and green suspenders over a white shirt. Was this their normal clothes? Sunday best? Or a special occasion we didn’t know about? It seemed rude to ask, but seriously. It was like we’d just walked into a fairy tale.
The views from here were pretty amazing.
A thunder storm started just as we were trekking across an exposed field, great booms of thunder seeming to shake the very mountains. It sounded like an avalanche was thundering down the cliffs as the storm passed right overhead.
At one point, I hid in a tree house.
Lex, fortunately, has no problem whatsoever with thunderstorms. Or fireworks, loud music, huge crowds and all the other things that typically bother dogs. So he happily walked on, getting soaking wet and trying his best to shake all over us like a good dog.
The storm soon ended, and we stayed overnight in the national park, enjoying how peaceful it was as we cooked dinner.
“It’s so silent and dark here, compared to yesterday’s crazy rest stop!” I noted happily.
“Those lederhosen outfits looked quite well-worn, as if they’re just casual outfits worn every day, not just on special occasions…” Morgan pondered aloud.
Several hours later, he had not quite gotten over the mystery of the lederhosen.
Nor could we possibly get used to the awesome star-scapes that greeted us whenever we slept in a dark, middle-of-nowhere spot like this.
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