I’ve Ridden Over an Alpine Pass – Now what? Indecision in Austria (Day 30 – 23 June)

My first morning in Austria hasn’t begun well. It’s rained overnight and I wake to find a fairly significant puddle between the floor of my tent and the footprint (groundcloth) and some water has gotten into the tent as well. I think it’s a combination of a poorly chosen site and signs that this tent – beloved as it is – may be on its last legs.

The rain has stopped falling but the sky is heavy and the morning is cool. As I lie in my tent and contemplate the tasks ahead I want to be someplace else. It’s the first time of the trip where I really want to be elsewhere – not home, home – not for good – but if I could fall back asleep and wake in Sydney just to spend the day there, that would be really nice. I’m also feeling the weight of not sharing the trip – today, this morning, not sharing the shitty bits. But then Van Morrison did tell me there’d be days like these.

I drag all my stuff from the tent to the toilet block (the ground is quite wet). I disassemble the tent and do my best to rid it of the excess water. But the special drying clothe I bought for just such a moment isn’t up tot he task. I’m not happy.

Some days are just harder than others. I’m reminded of the first time I was in Austria – when I was 19 and on a Eurail trip around the continent. I arrived in Vienna in the first few days of July and the beginning of my second month of travel. All the hostels were full – this I knew from walking around and asking. I spoke absolutely no German. I was tired of not understanding anything and tired – in those pre-Euro days – of remembering new exchange rates every time I’d crossed a border. (I’d been through Great British Pounds, French Francs, Italian Lire, Greek Drachma, the Italians again, German Deutchmarks and now Austrian … I don’t even remember what they were.) I had had enough – failing to find accommodation I got the overnight train to Paris and pushed on to Ireland.

Somehow Austria is just harder than other places for me. I’m also disappointed with how little German I have retained. I took a class – albeit only one day a week, studied and was Learning German with Christoph Waltz before I came away and now I feel like I’ve not much more than gutan tag and danke.

The countryside, however, is – as ever – fantastically beautiful. Something of a salve for my wounds. I criss-cross the River Inns, up and down undulations through forests and small towns. The views are endlessly gobsmacking – suddenly snow-capped granite fills a gap on the skyline and it’s laughable.

Even with the gorgeous views I am distracted much of the day with worries about where to go next and beyond. I try to remind myself to BE HERE NOW, but my mind keeps wandering back to the worries.

I have had a positive reply from Sarah and Tobi so this much is sure – today I will ride as far as Landeck and get the train from there to Bludenz to stay with them. Sarah and Tobi stayed with my then-husband and I a few years back as Couchsurfing guests. They were medical students who had done a rotation in Melbourne and were travelling in Australia for a while. It will be good to see them again.

On the train I contemplate my options. I can visit Sarah and Tobi in Bludenz and then come back to Landeck to rejoin to Via Claudia Augusta. Or, and this is where I’m leaning –  just move on by train through Switzerland to someplace in France and ride toward Paris. But the woman sharing the carriage with me has just suggested the ride to Lake Constance and on into Germany, Switzerland and France – a ride she insists is basically flat and beautiful. Interesting.

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