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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rain, every day all day

8 am at Rifugio Tournalin. Things are packed, ready for breakfast. I could take my time, it still was raining cats and dogs. Another bread, another coffee. Clouds everywhere and I harfly could see the oposite mountains. Italian hikers told me there might be a gap and the rain might stop between 9 and 11. They seemed to be convinced and started walking. I did the same, passed Col di Nana and Col des Fontaines. Right after that, the time was over. Heavy rain and thunderstorm started, me in the middle. Shortly after Cheneil I was forced to stop, found a shelter and tried to dry myself and my clothes by using a hot air hand dryer in the lavatories of a picnic area where, luckily, the door remained unlocked.

I used the waiting time for my lunch break - fresh bread with Italian cheese and Salami. Then I went on, half wet but not hungry anymore. The street led me to Breuil-Cervinia, a skiing mekka just consisting of hotels and restaurants/bars. Again I took the lift which, to my surprise, didn't go up to the very top. I had to try my luck, not sure if I can make it. Weather changed again and snow aggravated the whole thing.

I walked 10 m and had to rest for a while. Catching breath at those heights ain't that easy too. I saw the Rifugio Teodulo for quite some time, but it seemed I wasn't really getting any closer. What a struggle! Somehow I made it to the top at 3317 m. And the view was stunning!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Sun still exists - but not for long

The weather forecast promised sunshine. At least until midday. I needed to start early to get the most outta it. With the sun shining everything is a bit easier. The ride/climb down, as well as the tour upwards through Gressoney (Saint-Jean and La-Trinité). In Stafal I took the lift to Colle Betta to save time. It got colder and the weather changed again. I needed to hurry, passed Résy and Saint-Jacques-des-Allemands. The ride up to Rifugio Tournalin was perfect, winding up in a quite moderate way, and again I arrived before the thunderstorm hailed down. And they had the best Panna Cotta ever (I got the recipe too).

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

If you think it can't get worse - it can!

The shortest stage of the Tour, but not less hard. It started to rain early in the morning which made the 400 m of decent not easy. I went through Alagna Valsesia and Riva Valdobbia before turning right towards Sant' Antonio. Rain started and the track got really slippery. I couldn't see a thing, being surrounded by clouds for the entire walk up. I reached Rifugio Ospizio Sottile (built around 1700 and it really still looked like that) at half past two, luckily, as heavy thunderstorms started to develop in the afternoon. I was the only guest, there was no shower and electricity was cut short in order to save as much energy as possible. The whole stay was kinda travelling back in time.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Rise and shine and still too late

Getting up at 6 am is not a thing I'd like to do too often. But this time, the view made up for this. The rising sun coloured the mountaintops reddish. A moment where even the breakfast had to wait.

The way down was too steep, too rough, too many rocks and roots. It was almost impossible to bikeride but push and carry it instead. Even the local Italians adviced to take the lift! For going down? No way! Three hours later, I finally rolled into the village Macugnaga. On the market place there suddenly was life again. Locals selling local products overpriced, but people bought stuff, so did I. Some sweets for going up to Passo Colle del Turlo. Just half an hour later the street ended abruptly. A sign made me aware of hiking for another four hours to the top, following an old mule track. Again pushing and dragging the bike and I almost lost my motivation. Soon I was alone, no one following me, no one came towards me. A Capricorn was the only one I met.
The track down was amazing and even more challenging than upwards. It took me one and a half hours to reach Rifugio Pastore after a descent of 1100 m. My fingers were burning from continuously breaking. Really challenging but so cool!

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Starting Tour Monte Rosa

First day and late already. I left Eichberg quite on time, but it almost took forever passing Oberalppass and Furkapass. Too foggy, too many tourists with their campervans slowing down the traffic. With a delay of about 3 hours I started in Stalden (860 m). The backpack was too heavy. But I had no idea what could be left in the car. When travelling alone you need a bit of everything. I followed the main street, through Saas-Grund and all the way up to the lake Mattmark. With 2200 m it was quite high already, but the heaviest part was just about to come. From now on, I needed to push or carry the bike uphill. The track was getting rough and rocky, temperature dropping to less than 10 degree with the sun setting. I reached the Rifugio Oberto at almost 2900 m in total exhaustion, and with only one other guest.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Alberta, Edmonton and Rocky Mountains

You wanna go to Canada, they asked? We'd have there something for you, they said. Easy job! Yeah sure, why not, has been my answer.

What I didn't know - the entire preparation and process takes forever. Web based trainings, certificates, inductions, work permits ... After getting the visa thing done in Toronto I flew into Edmonton the next day.

And there it continued: alcohol and drug test, Canadian registration office to get a social insurance number, buying safety boots with a special Canadian label which doesn't mean they are different to those 3 pairs I already have...

Work was hard, 12 hours per, weekend included. Kinda exhausting and nothing else to say. But successful at the end.

And finally there was some time for the fun part. Not much, but better than nothing. And if being that close, I took the chance to get around. Jasper National Park.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Quick stopover in Toronto

It was 6 pm already when I arrived at the Toronto Pearson International Airport. As I have never been here, I needed some minutes to check where the nearest exit is. I looked around, and found an express train going to the Toronto city centre. Too bad I got my hotel booked on the other side of the airport, quite close though, but as I have to go around the entire area, it would take forever. I took some kind of airport taxi, way too expensive for the 20 minutes ride, but as a tourist, you are trapped in those cases. And here I was, in the middle of nowhere. Too far away from everything. Well okay, there was a Subway “restaurant” just around the corner, but I was too lazy and tired, even for that.

Didn’t know that jetlag could be a good thing. It made me wake up early, not able to fall back asleep. Which is good, in a way. I got my stuff packed, went down to the lobby and found an airport shuttle bus running every 20 minutes or so. A few moments later, back at the airport, I checked in my luggage and took the tranfer train towards downtown. I got off at Union Station, walked along the CN Tower, the Air Canada Centre (sadly, I missed the playoff game of the Raptors by only one day), the Harbourfront, the Old and the Toronto City Hall in direct comparison. After that, time was up, and I had to get back to the airport, the same way I was coming from. Not much time to discover a city, and probably not the best time of a day to do so as well...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Far north in Finnish Lapland hunting the Northern Lights

Whenever there is a slight chance to see the Northern Lights, I am in. I joined my cousin for a few days to go to Kittilä / Levi, even more north than the Arctic Circle. We had a cosy little apartment, small sauna included. The couch I crashed on overnight was not the biggest one, but fairly big and comfortable enough. When done with some grocery shopping, the sauna needed to be heated up. Test run! And found to be good!

To cool down again, you always come up with stupid ideas if a couple of shots are involved, we decided to go downhill sledding, Of course we had no sledges at all, even nothing similar. We found some paper boxes, unfolded them and used those likewise. Lying down on the back was working surprisingly well. We speeded up that much we totally lost control over the self-made sledge and mostly crashed heavily.

A road trip was planned on the next day. We passed Husky and reindeer farms and stayed for quite some time at the snow village. Although I would not spend those prices to sleep in beds made of snow at temperatures far below 0°C it’s always impressive to look at those icy art sculptures and buildings.

The formerly village Sirkka is now known as Levi, named after the mountain which you can ski downhill in almost every direction. Since Finland has never been the cheapest country and skiing isn’t a low budget activity anywhere in the world, prices were as high as expected. But it’s still fun, we have rented stuff for 3 hours and rode maybe almost every slope. I could already feel my old bones after that, needing a little rest and warm up in the sauna.

After dinner, we finally would be able to hunt some Northern Lights. The weather forecast was predicting clear sky for the night in the north east of Finland. Although it was still snowing, we decided to go towards Inari. After a while, the snow stopped and the sky really got clear, with a heavy temperature drop to minimum -28°C!!! A few stops later the lights were revealing themselves, in different colours, moving around at the entire sky. A fantastic thing to see.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

All the way from Fort Saskatchewan to Brooks

Everything needed to be real quick once again. Booking a flight, getting everything done, running through 6 different safety courses in form of webbased trainings. One of them took me several hours, and it happened to be finished on Saturday evening before taking the flight on Sunday morning. No access to the Converter Stations granted if I do not have them.

I had stopovers in Frankfurt and Toronto from where another 4 1/2 hours flight took me Edmonton. Travelling in Business Class was making up for this. It helped a lot to kill some time, but you just can't spend all of it on watching movies. When leaving the aiport, it was much warmer than expected, temperatures over plus were making me checking if I have been travelling to the right destination.

But obviously I had been right as my colleague drove by to pick me up. Since it has been 9 pm already (6 am the next morning in Germany) we paid no attention to Edmonton and went straight to the hotel in Fort Saskatchewan.

Winter was back the next morning. The last days’ rain froze overnight, not visually at first glance (a thin snow cover made it not easy to detect), but noticeable when walking to the car and suddenly slipping. I had absolute no control over both feet, but somehow managed not to trip and fall.

After finishing the work at the first station, we had a little car ride ahead of us. We tried to start as early as possible to travel while it’s still bright. It didn’t go that well. On the way south I notice once again the remarkable street architecture. All streets are manufactured in perfect order – in a rectangular way (1 mile east to west orientation, 3 miles north to south orientation). That means when travelling towards, in my case, south direction, it’s just a few right and left turns before going straight for the other 4 ½ hours. Despite some bison the ride was quite monotonous and not much happened.

Brooks itself had not much to offer either. The only thing worth mentioning is the hotel. I have made a single room booking and got a single room. So far, so good. The first hotel in Fort Saskatchewan had two double bed in it, the one this time had three. Three king size double bed. I didn’t really get that but didn’t ask for details either.
On Thursday the job was done, too late to take a detour through Calgary. Damn it! I had to skip that also. Maybe next time. But at least one highlight was still awaiting me. The flight was following the route north and when looking out of the window, the northern lights could be discovered almost permanently during the night.