Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ortisei - travel and hike

Tuesday morning, we were off to the mountains to escape and enjoy the Dolomiti.  Neither of us has ever been in this part of Italy, so it is an adventure into the unknown.  We had an easy bus (Emily researched) ride to the Campo de Marti train station, where we caught the fast train to Bolzano.  It still took around 3 1/4 hours, but the travel was smooth and easy.  Emily had researched that we could catch a bus by the train station in Bolzano to Ortisei.  The stop was right there, and we only had to wait around 20 minutes.  You buy the tickets on the bus, which we did not know, so that added a little stress, but Emily went to a cafe and asked and ended up talking with two bus drivers.  The ride was spectacular - steep, tiny roads that wound up, over, and around mountain valleys.  The landscape is incredibly green and beautiful.  We thought that the final stop for this bus was Ortisei, but were not sure and there were no announcements so we just watched the stops and it did stop at a station there.  I had received via email instructions to find the hotel, which were mostly fine, and with a little perseverance - mostly from Emily, we found the hotel.  The hotel is beautiful, and we are treating ourselves to 5 nights at this 4 star hotel.  The plan includes breakfast and dinner, and dinner last night was a true gourmet treat.  I hope the dinners continue to be so great.

Part of the deal with the hotel is being able to participate in group hikes with a local guiding company, Catores Guides.  I signed up via email, as I did not know for sure when we would arrive.  On Tuesday, we scouted out the town after checking in to the hotel, and we eventually found their office.  So, today, I was up to do my yoga practice, then Emily and I went down for breakfast.  The breakfast was really quite nice and very good, but not in the ballpark of dinner the night before, although that would be difficult.  I met at the guiding office, and the group was larger than I had hoped, around 16 plus 2 guides.  We walked through town and up to a relatively new funicular that with the purchase of a ticket, takes you up around 3000 vertical feet.  From there, we climbed another 500 or so vertical, then did a beautiful traverse past a lodge in the middle of nowhere to a very small church.  The views on the traverse were really spectacular.  One of the guides spoke a little English, but that was it.  He pointed out peaks and mountain groups to me as we traversed.  The pace was quite slow, which was a little frustrating, but going with the flow worked for a great day.

From the small church, we descended on very steep trails to a farmhouse that serves lunch to whatever hikers want it.  The prices were reasonable, and it was nice to have a relaxing glass of wine and a local specialty with an incredible view.  Really fun, nice pranzo.  Again, almost no one spoke English, but I struggled with my Italian and some of my table mates struggled with some English, and we communicated well.  After a break of around 1-1/2 hours, we resumed our descent, now going down steep double track roads which eventually turned into less steep dirt roads.  This brought us into a small town called St. Peter, where after a 40 minute wait we were able to catch a bus back to Ortisei.  I was home around 5:00.  Things were a little slow, but what a great day with incredible views.  I would never have found this on my own.  What a pleasure and privilege to be here and be able to enjoy this.

The beautiful church at the center of town in Ortisei.

Downtown Ortisei.  This is a big winter ski resort, the area is better known as Val Gardena.

One of the great views from the traverse on the hike.

Probably the best view I had of this group of the Dolomiti.

Great view spot at a sheer drop.  I thought this bench was really cool, being built on a tree still rooted to the ground to hold it all together.

The lunch (pranzo) spot with the group and some other hiker / mountain bikers.  

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