Squirrels in the morning sun

Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
Trip End Feb 02, 2011

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Flag of Austria  , Styria,
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yesterday morning we had still not made a decision about walking or not until suddenly after breakfast, just like that, we decided to give Mariazell a miss but still go walking a little longer, this time along a trail called the Raabklamm and then to the Weizklamm. Knowing Felix’s leg would most likely give him to much pain to keep walking after a few days made Mariazell an unrealistic goal. Something smaller, that could be taken at a relaxed pace was more in the ‘achievable’ category for us. 

 Hans had told us these trails were really beautiful. And he was right. We had to walk about an hour to get to the trail, and again the trail markings failed us at a critical time. The path went off in four directions and the sign had fallen onto the ground and was pointing nowhere. After consulting the map and compass and having a little scout down each path we decided to take the one that went in approximately the right direction and down hill, the Raab is a river so we had to get down the hill sometime if we were going the follow the steep river valley

 We walked down the track for a while then heard the river below us. The path went off in the wrong direction so we decided to go cross country down through the trees down to the river. We walked a hundred meters or so through the forest then the ground just dropped away in front of us into a deep, steep valley. And on the other side of the valley we could see the path we were supposed to be on. One way was to go back to the intersection with the sign on the ground, or to go down the slope and up the other side. We took the latter option. Stepping, sliding and grabbing trees as we went down, our packs making us terribly unbalanced we made it to the bottom. Then we had to make it up the other side, which was much steeper and littered with fallen trees. Felix made it up no worries but I was having flashbacks to the last time I was in this situation... I believe I was scrambling up a steep slope, digging my finger into the dirt, clinging to frail plants and roots for dear life; that was in Switzerland. That time I didn’t have a heavy pack working against me. But this time thankfully I wasn’t on the slippery wet rocks of a waterfall. We made it safely to the top and it had been a nice shortcut and my suggestion so all was good.

 A few minutes later we made it down to the river. It was so beautiful. We crossed a suspension bridge and went to sit on a sand bank next to the water for lunch. The river was crystal clear, autumn leaves floating past and beautiful coloured rocks on the river bed. It was such a perfect spot. Cliffs towered up in front of us with golden yellow and orange trees clinging to them. Behind us the hill went up more gently also covered with stunningly bright coloured trees. I couldn’t have thought of a better time to have come here, autumn is such a wonderful time in the forest.  

 We ate leftover lasagne for lunch and Felix had a little wash in the icy cold water. We then sat with our back against a tree and I read aloud the book we are taking turns reading to each other for a while before picking up our bags and walking on. I can’t describe with justice to the place how beautiful this path along the river really is. The river really twists through the valley, digging out deep holes on the river bed. These deep holes look irresistible filled with perfectly clear blue water, if it wasn’t for the near freezing water temperature I probably would have taken my clothes off and jumped in several times. And then there were the dramatic cliffs covered in fiery autumn colours. It was so splendid and beautiful. It was like a magical fairyland from the illustrated books I had as a child.  There was even little mushroom families everywhere for the fairies to build their villages in.

 By about five PM we had well and truly left the Raabklamm and were now walking along the same road from Arzberg towards Passail we had walked along a week earlier.  Felix’ ankle gave way with a snapping sound again - clearly not enough time had been given for it to heal so we were travelling very slowly. We stopped on the same bench where we were sitting when Hans had driven past last time for a while before carrying on again. 

 We were walking along a road and it was becoming quite dark when I decided it was time to find a sleeping spot, which seemed like it was going to be very difficult. Steep hills loomed up on each side of us which were mostly open pasture topped with thick forest. There were also a few houses scattered around. It looked like we would have to walk much further if we wanted to find a flat-ish sleeping spot. There was a patch of forest hanging off the side of a hill which we decided to try our luck in. Although it was a steep, hill it was a small one so maybe it the top there would be a little plateau or at least a almost flat place were dirt had banked up against a tree. It was totally black in the trees and we climbed up and up, I’m glad I couldn’t see how steep it was or I may have given up. 

 Finally we stopped going up and our eyes adjusted to the dark, we could see we were indeed on the very top of the hill and beneath a tree. Sheltered by its roots was a flat little hollow perfect for us to make a bed in. It was such a nice night we decided to sleep with the tarp just covering our feet. Then should the weather change we would have a shelter to wiggle down into but while it was so nice we could look up into the trees. We set up our bed and then all warm, cosy and comfortable we ate some more lasagne and took turns reading our book until I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

 In the morning I woke to squirrels jumping from tree to tree among the bright yellow leaves above me. I glimpsed a clear blue sky between the trees and a while later the sun came up. With sun shinning on the yellow canopy everything was covered in a wonderful, cool yellow light. It was pretty close to waking up in paradise. I lay there for a while watching the squirrels in the crisp five degrees Celsius air. When Felix woke, we straight away started reading the book again. It is an autobiography written by a US Navy SEAL who was trapped in the mountains of Afghanistan with the Taliban hunting him, his three team mates had been killed and he had broken his nose, three vertebrae and a shoulder and had a leg full of shrapnel and a bullet hole in his thigh. We couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to him.

 Around one PM we started walking again. And we walked until we made it to Weiz around five PM. We only managed to find about two hundred meters of the Weizklamm walking path, so instead we had to walk along a very busy, narrow road down a steep narrow valley. It was an absolute safety nightmare and I thought I going to die every time a car, truck or bus passed nearly shaving the side of my head off.

 We had made some confusing plans with Hans  that involved visiting his mother and walking up a mountain with him and Felix’s new German girlfriends, and then sharing breakfast with Hans’ lovely mother . But this plan meant we would have to wait around for a day, it was Friday and this visiting and walking in the mountain plan was set for Sunday. So we decided to just catch the train and some buses back to Sankt Marein and then if we wanted we could ride the bike to do the Sunday plan.

 We made it back to Sankt Marein with out too much difficulty. On one bus we had to catch we had a friendly driver who really helped us and had a nice chat with Felix about motorbikes. And so back here we are...until next time.
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Jim Royston on

Dear Felix and Floss,
Still enjoying your snippets from your remarkable journey - thank you so much for sharing them with me and my family here in Melbourne, Australia. Went very briefly to Austria and Liechtenstein in 1988 - would love to see it all again - maybe I'd think before doing it on a motor bike.
Kind regards,

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