Dear Readers, today we took a bus to Hochgurgl, which is an ‘interesting’ ride – it’s hairpins all the way, and you are sharing the road with cyclists who are plodding their way up the curves, motorcyclists who are frustrated with being behind a bus and so overtake without being able to see what’s coming, and vehicles coming down much too fast, who are then surprised at how much room it takes for a bus to get around a tight corner. Still, we arrived in one piece at the old Hochgurgl Lift middle station – it’s sad to see it unused in the summer, especially as it used to give easy access to some of the valleys around here.
In the winter there is a toboggan-run, which starts from this hut, currently occupied by a shade-loving cow, who was eating all the green shoots that were popping up underneath.
I love this walk. We said hello to the snow blowers, which sit here in the summer like so many jet engines just waiting to take off.
I love this walk – usually, when we get to this point, there are ponds with tadpoles and dragonflies, but this year there’s just mud, which surprises me as we’ve had a fair bit of rain.
And, after a bit of uphill, I suddenly remember how much downhill there is on this walk – you can see the path in the photo below, and this is only the start – the path winds on through the woods all the way to Obergurgl. It can be a bit hard on the knees and ankles (and toes if your boots aren’t tied up properly). It goes down, crosses the next valley (the Konigstal) and then down again.
But this path is also a great site for black vanilla orchids(Gymnadenia rhellicani), one of my favourites. I managed to get a blurred photo (probably being so close to the edge of a precipitous drop didn’t help), but I’ve also attached a decent one. They are said to smell very faintly of chocolate.
It’s these little things that are what I come to Austria for – the sheer abundance of plant life just popping up along a footpath, and probably going largely unnoticed.
At the entrance to the Konigstal you have to cross a rather rickety bridge over a vigorous mountain stream. A few years ago it had been washed away and so you had to walk up another couple of hundred metres and then cross the torrent. It’s always a relief to see that it’s actually in place.
And then the descent becomes much steeper, and wetter and more slippery. Oh joy! As we head into the trees, I can hear multiple nutcrackers calling but couldn’t see a single one. However, I did find this feather as a momento. I do hope that I catch more than a glimpse of a whole bird one of these days.
So, after all this excitement, we spotted this lot laying about in a leafy glade.
The second that they saw us their ears pricked up, and then the whole lot stampeded across the undergrowth towards us. Well I’m not usually fazed by domestic animals, and I used to have quite a lot to do with goats in a previous life, so I was more amused than anything. However, I had forgotten that John still had our lunchtime cheese rolls in his backpack. The Billy goat took one sniff of John and started to rub his horns against him very forcefully, while all the female goats galloped past and then stood there to see what would happen. Well it was all getting a bit much with the rubbing (and now the standing up and nibbling at the backpack) especially as we were on a very narrow path with a substantial drop on one side, and the Billy goat was a very robust and determined creature. I drew myself up to my full height and shouted at the Billy, who moved on reluctantly, and not without glancing back wistfully several times. Honestly, these are the cheekiest animals, and as a souvenir we found the ear tag of one of the goats further down the path – she seems to have the name ‘Francesca’ which is rather sweet, though she’s certainly no saint.
So we finally got back to our hotel. it’s surprising how many aches and pains you can acquire in a relatively short walk when it uses muscles that don’t usually get exercised in an urban setting, but I’m sure that a good night’s sleep and a bath will see me ready for anything tomorrow. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t involve goats.