The mountains are calling the weather is turning colder, snow is appearing in the distance, so our mountain adventure may soon becoming to an end.
After three days of van lock down we waved goodbye to Switzerland, sped through Austria in a day, stopping only to re supply on food and LPG , Austria is too big for us to give it a concentrated mountain exploration with the time we have left, so we resolve to return on another occasion.
Italy home of pizza, pasta, pant wetting twisty mountain passes and the jaw dropping stunning Dolomites. Italy has fast become our favourite place so far, the mountains are incredible and we drive around slack jawed at the beauty and majesty of them. Well in fairness I am slack jawed, where as Jac seems to be a little too clenched around the jaw line when I am driving. Maybe she is too much in awe of the majestic mountains, I can’t see any other reason why.
We have now been here five weeks and have not progressed very far, which seems to be a pattern with our mountain tour. Benifits are that slow and steady uses much less fuel and allows us the opportunity to really explore the area and take our time.
Our first introduction to Italy was via the Stelvio Pass, that was a baptism of fire, Wiki says “The Stelvio Pass is a mountain pass in northern Italy, at an elevation of 2,757 m above sea level. It is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps and the second highest in the Alps”. What it doesn’t say is that there are 40, yep thats right 40, hairpin bends to wind your way to the top of that 2,757 meters. Luckily for both of us I suspect, I wasn’t driving, I was enjoying the feeling of car sickness and taking in the drop offs. Apparently I was also supposed to be on the look out for approaching vehicles, as this road had snake hips and was more than a little tight on the corners. Our beast form the east has a long wide rear end, takes some gentle handling to go up steep hills, as does the van.
Eventually we made the top and were greeted with lots of snow, bikers and cyclists who had made the top from the other side. After a couple of days playing in the snow we had to drive down, this at first seemed easier as it was defiantly a lot less twisty. Unfortunately it then narrowed to a single track which had you praying not to meet anything wider than a bike comping up. At one stage we became stuck between a drop off and a rock wall. The road ahead was blocked by a huge herd of goats, that had chosen this particular moment to descend on mass from the mountains. A standoff ensured we looked at them, they looked at us, and nobody moved for quite some time, note to self goats can move surprisingly quickly when you press your horn.
Our next stop was Bolzano, resupplying with food and reintroducing ourselves to city life. Normally we stay away from cities, it is hard to park a 7 meter van in a city centre, it can be quite stressful and thats not a good start to a day out. Luck was on our side though and we managed to find a spot on the outskirts and walk in. Bolzano is a lovely spot with a beautiful historic centre. There was a food market on when we visited, so we bought some sun-dried tomatoes, these have since proved to be the worlds most chewy and inedible ones, even after soaking in oil for weeks they still provide a good jaw work out,
Then we hit our first Dolomite national park, Puez-Geisler Nature Park, we spent a good couple of weeks exploring the area, doing a few cheeky walks along balcony paths and twisty narrow ledges. You know the ones where Jac goes “ all it would take would be one little slip” type. We sampled a non vegan apple strudel, as it would be rude not too, lost and found Jac’s watch, though sadly after a night out on top of a mountain it no longer works. We have been moved on by an angry park warden for illegal parking which we had no idea was illegal and I think sworn at in German but I can’t be sure.
Lots more national parks amazing walks and stunning views have been seen since. Now we are currently parked up once again in the shadow of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. This is a magnificent three peaked lump of rock that we have spent a few days walking around. We have gazed at its impressive formations from a far on other walks. A week ago it was witness to the great slip, snap and swearing incident.. Where one of us … ok it was me, slid down on my ample ass in the snow, breaking not just the pot of hummus for lunch, but my wrist in the process.
So once again I am plastered and not in a good way. Four weeks in a cast has put paid to venturing too far or too high into the mountains. I am a one armed bandit and have a cast that is as lumpy as a mountain range and a bruised arse that looks like a midnight sky. However it could have been worse and Jac seems to be secretly pleased that I can’t drive, in fact a little too pleased if you ask me. If I didn’t know better I would swear she might have pushed me.
Things I have learnt:
Hummus, when you sit on it with great force can explode and cover everything in your rucksack in a garlicky mess. This will ruin lunch as nobody wants to dip a crisp bread inside a mucky rucksack, even if you are starving.
Poppy has become increasingly reluctant to go on mountain walks with you, not because she is tired or lazy but because you have nearly squashed her twice, with your large bottom when going arse up on the snow. She is now Jacs dog as its a safer bet.
Parking next to other camper vans has its benefits when you stagger off a mountain with a broken wrist to find a surgeon parked up next to you. Who will confirm you have broken it but not to worry it won’t need surgery. You can then relax and have a cup of tea and scrape some hummus out of the inside of your rucksack before heading off to hospital.