Alta Via 1 - Day 8
We quickly resumed our hike. After a short while, we reached Malga di Pramper, a farm that sold homemade food and where we had breakfast. After that, the last massive climb of the hike started. We climbed uphill, first through a forest, then over grassy fields, and finally over barren rocks. In the meantime, a thunderstorm was blowing in. We hoped we would reach the summit before it started to rain.
About 30 minutes before reaching the summit, the wind picked up, and 15 minutes later, it started to rain and we saw lightning in the distance. I quickly climbed to the top and put on my rain clothes. Koen was shortly behind me, and we started running downhill. Shortly after, it started to rain for real, and we saw lightning strike the mountain tops around us. The rain stopped after about half an hour and we took a short break while watching a marmot.
The descent continued forever, and it started to rain again after a while. The trail went down steeply over slippery rocks covered in wet grass. As it was thundering again, Koen decided to run down anyway. It took at least two hours, but eventually we reached the next cabin. There were several other people. I was growing a serious appetite, so I ordered apple pie, bean soup, a huge main course, and chocolate milk. The chocolate milk was so thick I could almost cut it with a knife. I think it was made using raw milk from the nearby cows. It was raining hard the entire time.
As soon as the weather cleared up, we continued. First, there was a muddy descent and then a steep climb. We were happy when we reached the top, as from then on, it would be only downhill to the end of the AV1. In the meantime, it had also started to rain again, stopped, and started again. After a few kilometers, we reached the next and final mountain cabin. We were shocked when we walked in, as there were three girls who had left the previous cabin not that long before us. We felt we had hiked pretty fast and were covered in mud, while they looked well-rested and were perfectly clean. They said they had online maps that contained shortcuts that weren't on most paper maps, so I they might have circumvented our climb. I also think they had slept in the previous hut and washed their clothes there; at least, that is what Koen and I told ourselves.
The end of the AV1 was 10 km away. We had planned to have lots of drinks in the cabin to celebrate the (almost) end of our hike, and then camp somewhere nearby in the forest. However, we saw that there was still one final bus leaving from the end of the trail to the nearby village. If we caught that, we would be able to sleep at a campsite and take a proper shower. It left in less than two hours, so we decided to rush for it. The ladies left simultaneously but planned to camp somewhere along the trail. We ran downhill for the first hour and slowed down to a normal pace when it was clear we would easily catch the bus. The trail switched from a dirt road to a narrow and steep trail for the last few kilometers. We hoped we wouldn't break our neck in the final stretch. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and we safely reached the end of the AV1.
We found the bus stop nearby, where three girls from Canada were waiting. They also just finished the AV1. We found three different bus schedules that all showed other times, and neither was correct. Fortunately, after 45 minutes, a bus arrived that took us to the nearby village. I apologize to all the passengers in the bus that were forced to smell us.
We got out at the bus station. It always feels weird to be back in civilization after a long hike and it was fun to see Koen shocked by this. Now, we were suddenly confronted by the problem of finding a place to sleep. We couldn't pitch our tent in the middle of the street but no campsite was nearby, and all hostels and hotels seemed full. Eventually, we learned about a campsite outside of town. I proposed walking there, but on closer inspection, it was a two-hour uphill walk away. No buses were going in that direction either, so we tried to call a taxi to drive us there, but nobody picked up. It was already getting dark, and the taxi company would close soon. I asked someone at the train station for help. Her called the company and he told us a taxi would come in about 20 minutes. That gave us little choice but to wait outside and hope a cab would actually show up. Fortunately, one of the largest thunderstorms I had ever seen was moving in to distract us. I forgot to take a photo, but it looked like a scene from a disaster movie. The clouds were enormous, everything turned dark, and there was rain and lightning everywhere. We were glad we could shelter underneath an overhang, but it wouldn't be great to camp in that kind of weather.
After about 40 minutes, the rain stopped, and the taxi arrived. Our ride to the campsite was the most dangerous part of the vacation, but we made it out alive. The campsite had three stars, but looked like a homeless camp. Yet another thunderstorm was closing in, so we quickly tried to find the tent area in the dark and pitch our gear. Just when we got inside our sleeping bags, another massive thunder and rainstorm started. Koen said he didn't feel safe in his tent, so he wanted to take shelter in the campsite's main building. However, he didn't know if there was one nor if it was open. As I didn't want to get drenched, I decided to stay inside. It rained and lightninged nonstop for about two hours, but fortunately, I remained dry. Afterward, Koen returned and told me he had taken shelter in the metal toilet building, but as it smelled like poop, he had later stood outside next to it. That didn't seem a lot safer than my dry tent. I quickly fell asleep after the storm passed.