Our Hike of 2016: Val Gardena and the Dolomites

When we were talking about our 2016 holiday last year, the boyfriend and I were thinking of a camping-mountain holiday: three weeks with the car and the tent to Austria, finding maybe three or four fun camp sites and hiking around the mountains and lakes. But with our work situation of this year, three weeks was just not an option unfortunately. And then I arranged to go to Bolzano for work, so we figured we’d take a week off after the work thing and spend our holidays in Bolzano. A random turn of events, but one we are now super happy about. Because our holiday was absolutely spot on. And of course, one important thing to cross of our list last week, was that mountain hike we had been craving for. So we took a bus to Val Gardena…

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The bus ride itself was a good way to ease us into the different landscape. The Bolzano vineyards slowly disappeared, the mountains became higher and the deciduous forests made place for pine forests and eventually tall rocky peaks. The Dolomites.

We got off in Santa Cristina, the middle of the three villages of Val Gardena, and headed straight off to the tourist centre to pick up some maps. (Which, from now on, we will probably try doing before we actually leave on holiday so we can spend our time maximally on hiking and not on figuring out which hike to pick.) We went for a hike up to the edge of the Sassolungo, a pretty impressive peak. There was also a hike around it, but for that we’ll have to continue training a bit and try again another time.

First, we had to take two chairlifts up to the start of the hike. The boyfriend had never taken a cable cart before, let alone a chairlift, and it was hilarious to make him nervous. Every time the chairlift slowed down to let someone off, I told him it’s what they do when someone falls off. Hehe. But soon he was too distracted by the amazing views to worry about the swingy ride.  The clouds were slowly fading away and in the distance we were starting to see more and more mountains. And more. And more. They just kept coming as the sky was clearing up. By the end of our second chair lift, we found ourselves on a big grassy slope leading up to the foot of the mountain. Which is where we went.

We hiked all the way up to the Vicenza hut, built at the end of the 19th century and now still a popular spot for hikers to take a break. From way down below, we could see the tiny hut standing lonely between all the rocks. And all the little specks of hikers making their way towards it. It was a busy path, felt like playing leapfrog with other hikers: we overtake, stop to take a photo, they overtake, we overtake,… But I didn’t mind too much. I was a woman on a mission: I was gonna be the first one on top of that hill. I don’t know if you remember from my previous blogs, but when I got back into the gym, I gave myself a challenge: I wanted to be the first one on top of the mountain when we would go hiking in Austria, and prove to the boyfriend and mostly to me how much fitter I’d become. And booyah I did it! (The boyfriend would tell you it was just because I happened to be walking first at the time and that he was right behind me, but I’ll take it :p At least he didn’t have to wait for me and stuff!)

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We sort of spoiled ourselves in the hut: espresso and Kaiserschmarrn please! With a view, of course 🙂

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The way back was very different. We soon left the gravel path that we took up and walked along the side of a mountain, until we found the little path down that was going to take us into the valley. It led through a little pine forest and for the first time since we started hiking, it was just us two. Lovely hiking! When we got out of the forest, we found ourselves in troll land. You know, these kinda trolls… (Sorry for the Disney reference :p) Perfect spot for lunch. Sorry, lunch number two. We had a drink and a sandwich and just enjoyed the view. I think that’s the main reason we never manage to go on truly long hikes. We like to “enjoy the view” extensively around every bend. Which we did for the rest of our hike.

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It was gorgeous and so much fun. I totally love it when we’re adventuring. Adventuring our way. Just us against the mountains. Mission accomplished.

 

Bolzano The Holiday – Some Hikes

Our holiday is three days in now and they have been wonderful! So far: two hikes, a picnic, a museum, a pool session, some ice cream, a lot of espressos, and not to forget some wining and dining.

For our hikes we have stayed in Bolzano up to now. (Tomorrow, we are taking a bus to Val Gardena for a new challenge.) Our first one was super cute. I had planned it meticulously in the previous weeks when the boyfriend was still at home and I was filling up my free time between the classes at summerschool with scouting for our holiday.

In the afternoon of our first day, we walked along the river to the Runkelstein Castle. Sadly it was already closed, but we admired the outside and marched on. We went up quite steeply between the vineyards and had some insane views of the city, but didn’t dilly dally for too long since we were on a tight schedule: we had sunset plans. A little bit before sunset, we arrived at our planned picnic destination: a viewpoint over the city, with bench, on the Oswald Promenade. The sun was slowly sinking behind the hills, battling heavy with the clouds for an impressive sunset. We opened a bottle of Lambrusco and got out the bread cheese salami ham for a picnic Alla Italiano. We watched the sky go dark and Bolzano go light as the lights in the city came on. When the first stars came out, we put on our head torches, packed up, and headed home (where we got to enjoy a well-timed lightning storm above the hills from our hotelroom window).

For the second hike we went to the other side of town, to the Haselburg Castle. Sadly, also closed! Note for self: check castle opening hours before you plan a hike. But nevertheless, the hike was totally worth it. Very different from our picnic one. The path was a lot more challenging, and the views more forresty and less vineyardsy. And which better way to celebrate our new achievement than to head straight for ice cream on the town square: raspberry and straciatella, don’t mind if I do!

For our third one, we’re heading to unexplored territory! The Mountains of Val Gardena! I’m so super excited, I’ve been training so hard for this in the gym… We haven’t really picked a hike yet but we’re hoping the tourist office on site will sort us out. Bring it on 😀

Bolzano Day 2: My First Bolzano Hike, sort of

So yesterday was fun. I did do a fair bit of studying and I think I have a good idea of what’s going on in class, and for today’s class I didn’t really have much work because it’s a lot less relevant to what I’m doing, so no need to go the extra mile. I even managed to do some other work, well done me! That’s work sorted, yay.

I also went for a long walk with my roommate yesterday, just along the river. Turns out the river splits at some point. So when we crossed the river to walk back on the other side, this  appeared to be less ideal than anticipated. Not the nicest walk, but at least I got those legs moving. You see, I’ve been working super hard at the gym and gave myself this self-imposed challenge: when the boyfriend and I go hiking in the mountains (which will be in less than two weeks now, can’t wait!), I will be the first one at the top. But now the cheeky bastard has really upped his game at the gym as well so I totally have to step it up. Which I really did today. I stepped up, up the hill, and it was gorgeous.

I didn’t have too much time because I was going for this hike between classes, so I told myself: one hour in and then you have to turn back. I decided to tackle the Oswaldpromenade. (Some statistics for you: I walked 1h20, covered 5,9kms with a height difference of 150m.) It’s a lovely little path at the side of the centre going up one of the hills between all the vineyards. There were amazing views of the town centre and the mountains on the other side, and the level of the walk was the perfect little challenge for an in-between-important-stuff hike.

The path was perfectly accessible, not too steep, and relatively easy to navigate. At the end of the path (or maybe it wasn’t the end, but it was as far as time allowed me to go), there was a massive super fancy hotel, the Eberle Hotel, with an amazing view of the city and I bet it would be the ideal place for an evening cocktail (but my glass of wine in town this evening suited me just fine). The map told me the way back would just be road, but really it was quite fun! The road was super narrow, therefore, very cute. And insanely steep! It took me almost an hour to reach the top on the way in, and only 5 minutes to go down because it was simply so steep you just had to run down to make it easier on the knees. That was fun 🙂 The last part of the walk I went straight through the bustling town centre, shops and Italians eating ice cream everywhere. Back nicely in time for a shower and back to the lectures I went.

So far, this combo of work and holiday is going quite well. Bring on tomorrow!

Happy Memory, Happy Desktop

A while ago I talked about one of the little tricks to make work more fun: my desktop pictures! Today I have another picture worth sharing with you.

This one was taken on the rim of the Wilpena Pound in Australia’s Flinders Ranges. We left early in the morning to beat the heat, and scrambled our way up the rim. This is one of the views from along that scramble. Once at the top, a much more smooth path gradually took us back through the centre of the pound and through the pass on the other side. We hardly passed anyone, and we were amazed by the different views all around. This hike is definitely in my hiking top 10!

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I Dream of a Hike

I just read an article / blog post with ten tips for long hikes. It made me dream.

I’ve always wanted to do a long hike. One of those that take a few days and you carry a tent or hike from hut to hut. Why have I not done it yet? My fitness.

I used to be a very lazy child. Never loved sports and PE at school was my most dreaded time of the week. The only thing I ever enjoyed was swimming, but I had to give it up because I didn’t have enough time. I was busy playing theatre, learning music, and being a creative dork.

Whenever my parents took me on a holiday, I suffered. You see, they love walking. And I, I was that annoying child asking “are we there yet” before we even took off properly. I often just sat down and refused to keep walking. My poor parents. I don’t know how they always managed to get me home safely.

But then we went on this awesome holiday to South Africa. The views were so spectacular but I was puffing and panting and everyone was feeling sorry for me, I guess me most of all. But I also started to realise the things I was missing out on by staying home rather than struggling my way through the hike.

I finally changed my ways about four years ago. I was an au pair in Ireland and I had a lot of free time. And in that free time, I really wanted to get out of the house that was both my home and my work, with both my family and my bosses. My favourite place: the cliffs. Just that little bit too far away to walk. So I started running.

Say What?

Yes.

I started running.

I used this Flemish podcast called Start To Run. It’s a lady who tells you when to run and when to walk with music that fits a good running tempo, and it builds you up from running one minute, walking three, running another minute, to running twenty minutes non-stop. I went every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. By the time I left Ireland, I ran about 45 minutes 3 times a week.

The most fun part: my parents came to visit me half way through my stay and were well surprised. First of all: when they asked me what I wanted to do when they came over, I said I wanted to roadtrip and walk. Secondly, when they actually did come over and we did hike (we did some parts of the ring of Kerry, hiked on Valencia Island, over the Burren, along the Cliffs of Moher,..), they were surprised by how much my fitness had improved. I was well proud of myself and that holiday is still up there with some of the best ones ever. (Also thanks to Ireland of course, the most surprising country I have ever been to for sure.)

But for you fellow hikers out there, you know it is addictive and you want more and longer and further and more impressive. So I’ve been wanting to do a several-day-hike for a while now. Maybe first try a three-day one. Then move up to ten-day ones. One day maybe even a month. A crazy adventure.

Sadly I’ve been slacking with the running and the gym. I work out only once a week with a friend, kickboxing style. (It’s not really kickboxing. It’s more like a group class where you work out by punching a bag. Great way to get rid of any work frustrations.) I want to get back into it. I’ve read so much about hiking and heard so many awesome stories. Like that Australian storie Tracks or the movie about the Pacific Coast Trail, Wild. I feel like I know perfectly well how to prepare and organise and go about it. But will I ever really go through with it?

Tonight I’m going for a run. For real. When I get home from work: straight into the running shoes. I really hope I do.