Naked European Walking Tour 2008 – Tuesday

The next morning I woke to find the sunshine streaming in through the tent flaps and illuminating the valley below. The grass was bright, bright, yellow and green and the day was fresh. By now I'd nearly given up on anyone joining me on the walk, but I had arranged as a third and final meeting place the Austrian/Italian border just south of the town, and so after a coffee at the gasthof I walked up the road to the border to see who, if anyone, would arrive. In fact, I met Humbert at the cafe lugging an enormous rucksack, and we both met Clifton at the border carrying a more practical rucksack. Humbert lives near Frankfurt and is a young and active naked runner with whom I'd previously exchanged emails, and Clifton is from New York and an active naked hiker who had booked his flight to Europe, specifically for the Newt, at the start of the year and I was glad to see he'd made it too. So, the Newt finally had some content, besides me, and this was a good thing. We had a last drink at the gasthof, and a brief discussion about the impending, and non-too promising and darkly looming, weather before setting off together along the trail which led us west out of the village. We were quickly joined by an elderly and friendly mushroom hunter, and we walked together for a short while before taking our seperate routes. We all three of us stripped off, putting our clothes in our rucksacks, and continued for most of the rest of the day hiking naked. We zig-zagged up the forest logging tracks, and after a while took the more direct and marked route through the trees, up and up. Although the sweat dripped from us as we toiled up the mountain trail, we were enjoying our naked excursion, and halfway up we were rewarded by a magnificent view over the valley from a wooden table and bench set on a small outcrop. The view from here was an inspiring sight, and one which motivated us to keep walking. We rejoined the trail and wound our way eventually to the top of the ridge, where the trees fell back to expose a pond below the high mountain alm with several summer farm buildings, just as the rain started. We dressed minimally to enter the alm, and were immediately offered a can of beer each by the farmer and his son who we passed while they were working on their barn. This unexpected and friendly bonus, improved the prospect of our brief lunch stop, as we hunkered under a sheltered wooden barn as the wind whistled around, and the rain dropped with enthusiasm. Refreshed, we set off once more and, having replenished our water supplies from the local spring we passed the large cast iron bell and follwed the trail as it peeled around the back of the ridge, accompanied by a light rain. We trundled along the easy track for a while before we had to leave it for a smaller trail which wound it's way past enormous ant hills of pine needles, and finally down the other side of the ridge, on and on, down and yet further down. We decried the loss of altitude as we knew we had to make it up later enroute. The forest darkened as the rain clouds crept across the sky, the moist path underfoot gave slightly with each step, softening the impact on our knees as we descended the trail towards the pass below. The heavens simply opened as we set off on the long climb up the hill towards what promised to be a manned mountain hut, with a dry bed and dinner, far above us, but we were uncertain as to whether it was open or not, and after about fifteen minutes of torrential rain, we decided caution was the better part of valour and that we should make camp at the pass instead, (better the deviil you know), so we turned back and in the midst of heavy rain pitched camp beside the hut at the pass, where at least we had running water, not that that was in short supply at the moment. While it had been raining hard, Humbert had met a hunter and his daughter in a 4x4 in the forest, and once we'd made camp, and were sitting down to a shared salami and biscuit meal in Humbert's enormous three-man tent, we thought we heard them beeping their car horn outside. Or it may have been the forest police wanting us to move on from our illegal campsite. None of us were game to leave the dry tent, and the occupants of the car were clearly not game enough to reciprocate from their dry vehicle, so we will never know. After dinner and a good chat we returned to our respective tents and hunkered in for the night. There's something very special about camping in the rain - the persistent pattering of rain drops on the material above you as you (hopefully) stay warm and dry in your little man-made cocoon - which is just as well, as it rained all night long.

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