Getting into Austria was an easy drive along the main road north alongside the river. We bought the required motorway vignette at the border and spent our last Swiss Francs on fuel.
Our chosen campsite was only a few kms into the country but on arrival it was small and packed so we drove onto our next choice and what luck! Thomas’s campsite in Innerbraz was fabulous – we had a large pitch with mountain views, a short walk to a good Spar shop and best of all, free use of a newly-built ‘wellness centre’ with saunas.
We needed a sauna after a taxing but hugely enjoyable day in the mountains. The short 10kms bike ride, which we set off on early in the next morning’s mist, was a struggle. Blaming the wet roads, the non-slip surfacing, the tyres on our bikes and eventually our own legs it was a cold and miserable slog in the murky morning to get to the tal station for the cable car.
Once in the cable car and flying high at speed up the side of the Sonnenkopf berg we had fabulous views of the Klostertal valley emerging in the sunshine.
At 1841 metres we reached the summit of Sonnenkopf resort. Cleverly marketed as a family hiking and trekking centre in the summer months it had lots of activities for children, a small boating lake, carved wooden animals and a cavernous restaurant with just one couple inside it eating. We bought a coffee and the bored waitress told us that from the first snows, due in a few weeks, it would be humming with skiers and snowboarders.
Out on the trail we saw only a handful of other hikers. It was a stunning setting. The summit is covered in marshy moorland, which we ventured across getting wet shoes and socks in the sucking and springy ground. In the sunshine the billowing grasses and the low alpine heathers glowed in golden browns against the backdrop of glistening granite peaks.
The light lent everything a soft glow and air carried the comforting scent of warm and woolly animals, although we didn’t actually see any. It was truly beautiful and just like the image promised all those months ago by the Austrian Tourist Board’s poster campaign – ‘arrive and revive’.
We meant to visit an alpine family restaurant which was closing that day for the end of the summer season. Having climbed up to 1950 metres beneath the dangling chair lifts to the top of the Muttjochle ski slope we saw it way down and too far below to get to and return in time for the cable car. No matter, the scenery was incredible and the sunshine was hot and enjoyable to meander about in.
With a little reluctance we scampered back down to the cable car before the last ‘flight’ left at 4pm. The steep descent was just as fast as the ride up and it was thrilling to perch out over the valley, now bathed in sunshine and busy with farmers cutting the long grasses of meadows for winter fodder.
The only sound was the whisk of the cable, until suddenly traffic noise rushed up to our ears just a 100meters or so from ground level.
Neither of us was particularly looking forward to the cycle back to camp but a cheering thought occurred as we looked at a large-scale map of the valley whilst guzzling mountain drinking water from a fountain by the cable car. The station was at 1003 meters and our campsite at 710 meters. This meant that we had cycled entirely uphill in the morning!
The bikes flew back down the cycle paths at a thrilling, and sometimes nervy, speed and legs barely pedalled to get us home for the treat of a sauna before the thunder and lightning arrived.