Naked European Walking Tour 2011 – Wednesday

Wednesday dawned with low mist on the hills, which some thought looked like bad weather and the rest of us thought would be burnt off by the coming sunshine. We drove again to Maishofen, and this time turned north. We were able to remove our clothing differentially almost as soon as we left the road and crossed the bridge, once more zig-zagging up through the forest trails. After some time we passed an occupied farm with a dour couple who nevertheless exchanged greetings with us, and on and up again to a lone mountain hut which looked purpose-made for our kind of naked week in the mountains. A super view, tables outside, no neighbours to be concerned about, if only we'd been able to rent this place, we all thought. As anyone will tell you who has organised any kind of group activity, let alone a naked one, finding the perfect place is not easy at the best of times, and only made more complicated by changing numbers of attendees, and an indecisive organiser. Nevertheless with the experience of years, and some advice from Roland, perhaps next time. Roland had also brought Elgar along again this year, which was nice as Polly had something to keep an eye on during the day. The pace was a tad quick during the week from time to time, and we had to keep pushing back so the slower walkers could keep up and not become demoralised by the speedy gonzaleses at the front of the line. The daily-nominated Tail-End-Charlie was a difficult but essential role for someone to take on, and we were lucky to get a willing volunteer each day. More than once they were most definitely necessary, and today Roland set the pace for the steep section. Onwards and upwards again, until we finally emerged from the trees again amidst a group of cows and mountain horses hanging around near a couple of small huts. The main group headed off up the obvious (wrong) track, while I and a few others followed the map and the correct route. Even in glorious sunshine it was obvious how easy it can be to lose half your group on an unfamiliar mountain with well marked trails, and all the more so if the weather turned unexpectedly. The main part of the group rejoined the map-carrier some were sheepish, and some unrepentant, but alls well that ends well. We continued up the easy track across the mountain side, towards the ridge above, where we stopped for a group photo with our walk from Monday as the stunning backdrop. A man appeared on the trail below us, and somewhat surprisedly asked of our naked group: "what are you all doing?", to which I replied: "walking in the hills, and what are you doing?", at which reply he broke into a wide grin and said: "yes, of course, how silly of me!" We took a photo of the friendly man with our little group, before he headed off exchanging waves of mutual encouragement. We set off shortly after and mounted the ridge with stupendous views off to the east towards Saalfelden and the Steinernern Meer beyond. We met the man again at the summit of the where we took mutual photos and chatted about the mountains. He's a local from Zell, and has been walking the mountains now for nearly eighty years, much like Doug (82 and chief pace-setter) and Jim (79), (both from New Zealand). He left us, and we had lunch on the summit, glorious views and a well deserved rest, before heading off along the ridge to the next shoulder. We passed a little group of mountain bikers, one of whom warned us about one of their team, a woman who had not had a man for a couple of years, quite cute and very dangerous apparently, especially as this was her birthday mountain bike tour! We stopped at a pool of water, perhaps 20 degrees on top and 5 degrees just one foot down, for a few of the lads to jump in and splash about. Polly lent a hand/paw to proceedings. We kept moving along the ridge, soaking up the atmosphere, the incredible views on both sides of us, the easy walking was a simple joy up here. Being naked amongst such scenery, finding little time for chit-chat and idle banter and we were all of us absorbed in our own thoughts as we were surrounded by raw, naked, huge, gorgeous, nature, (and sunshine). We took a path along the ridge through the trees, being overtaken by a friendly couple on mountain bikes. Gilles interviewed the man, and the woman chatted with the rest of us a while, before continuing on their own tour. We trudged on, and eventually arrived at the Biberg Gasthof perched halfway up the ridge on the other side of the hill, and with a stupendous view across the Leogang valley to the Leogang Steinberge beyond. Again, I asked the owner if it was ok to be naked on their sun terrace, away from the other guests. At first she misunderstood and thought I had said "nachtwandergruppe", (night hiking group), instead of "nacktwandergruppe", (naked hiking group), and questioned me as to how long I expected to stay (it being 1600 in the afternoon). Eventually the story became clear, and we almost got a refusal from the lady when the man of the house asked: "naked? from the waist up?", and I replied: "yes, and from the waist down, too", and he looked surprised (as usual), and then said: "sure, why not?". So Robert, who had missed out on Monday's adventure at the Hochzelleralm Gasthof to attend a funeral, had his own being naked at a mountain restaurant story to tell, his grin was as wide as he is tall. Gilles interviewed an enthusiastic lady cyclist on our terrace, and the owner came up to take a couple of photos, while we sipped our drinks, and lounged on their sun terrace deck chairs, tables and chairs. Below us several guests vied for the best seats and waved occassionally. Gilles interviewed a family group on the terrace and the kids were very enthusiastic, so much so, that when we left they stood up on their chairs and waved us goodbye with big grins and shouts of glee. So much for the usual drivel about children being upset about seeing naked people, and we wondered how their parents were going to get out of the naked walking holiday next year... We set off again, Gilles finding yet another, (pretty too), enthusiastic interviewee en-route. The question came: "what do you think of meeting a naked hiking group up here in the mountains?", she replied: "so long as you don't come at me with weapons, I'm perfectly happy about your walking naked in the hills", Anton, (our GPS expert), asked: "weapons?", looking down at his naked body, and she laughed. We set off once more, steadily losing height, talking non-stop about the interesting interactions we had had this day, and this week, and all too soon arrived at the base of the hill by the road. Now some people had a dip in the fast running stream next to the trail, and we all tramped back to the hut, looking forward to the meal which the Dutch team of Joop, Roland, Tony (from the Dutch Naturist Federation) and Wilfried, had gone on ahead to fix. We lost Andre today as the walking was just too much for him, even though we promised a short easy day on the morrow, especially chosen for the weaker walkers.

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