Week 99 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 31st January 2010

When we arrive at the film making course, The Strand is closed off because a huge crane has been brought in and is being kept off the ground by a piece of tape. Amazing!

In the evening we set off for France via Erotunnel which is a total mystery to us - we have no idea what to expect. We arrive at a giant maze and carefully navigate through. Eventually we get to an unmanned barrier and a computer screen welcomes us by name. Not only does it welcome us, it also offers to let us travel much earlier for no extra charge. We opt to go as soon as possible and then drive though another maze until we come to a stop where there are real people being helpful and selling hot dogs as well.

We drive into the train which is extremely open plan. It seems you just sit in your car and about half an hour later we arrive and just drive off to our hotel. Infinitely better than the ferry which can often be held up for hours by storms - Eurotunnel badly needs some competent PR.

Monday 1st February 2010

Today is no fun - we start driving at 9.00am down through France and then Belgium. What is noticeable is the extreme lack of places to stop for petrol and a cup of coffee. We are in danger of running out as we near Luxembourg and just cannot find petrol. Eventually we realise that petrol in Luxembourg is so much cheaper than in France ( about 110c as opposed to 135c per litre) that it has driven all the nearby French petrol stations out of business.

We book into a hotel near Ausberg in Germany at 8.00pm having driven 535 miles.

Tuesday 2nd February 2010

We set off at about 10.00am and only have 150 miles to cover in order to arrive at the Hotel Jagerhof in Kolsassberg at 3.00pm. How hard can that be? Well, it starts snowing and a road is closed but at 2.00pm we are nearing the Hotel Jagerhof. No problem. Then we realise that it is the wrong Hotel Jagerhof - the navigator could not find such a hotel in Kolsassberg so decided to send us to one 30 miles away. Very irritating.

We arrive at the correct spot with three minutes to spare. The road up to the hut is horrific - we are following the owner in her four wheel drive otherwise I would not dream of continuing. At one point she comes back (or rather her pretty friend does) to advise us to stick to the right over the next section. This seems rather strange advice and while we are contemplating it we slide into a ditch on the left hand side of the road. Fortunately, the road is so steep that we can reverse out without delay.

Eventually we arrive and the hut is just wonderful - albeit full of stuff that you would not insult Oxfam with. No coathangers but hundreds of ugly vases and endless junk. I hide the cruxifixes. "Lose the creepy dead guy" as my girlfriend puts it.

We have mains electricity, water and a flush toilet - just what the economics of that are in a hut on top of a mountain I cannot imagine. Heating is by a wonderful wood burning stove.

Wednesday 3rd February 2010

I wake up at 3.00am and check the fire which is almost out. I load it with logs and go back to bed. In the morning the hut is unbearably hot even though the fire has gone out. We gradually realise that it is extremely well insulated and will keep warm with just a few logs each day.

Obviously, a well insulated building costs less to heat but there are other unexpected benefits - you can heat it up to be tropical if you wish. You could also go away for a week and not worry about the pipes freezing - even with no heating it will still be warm when you get back.

At 12.30pm we walk down to the Hotel Jagerhof and have lunch which is very substantial, as you would expect. I draw a picture of a coathanger and ask the girl if they can spare any - it seems they can't but I learn that it is a Kleiderbugel (with an Umlaut). The candle on the table is interesting as it is a real candle forced up within a white steel tube. Where else but in Germany? OK, Austria.

Austria is the home of poor taste - worse even than the USA or the UK - just endless fussy junk like in your grandmother's lounge.

The walk back up is exhausting and I end up carrying my coat and gloves. Later we discover it is 1.6 miles.

Thursday 4th February 2010

When I wake up it is 7.45am and the whole of the valley is covered in mist. I move the clocks forward two hours and tell my girlfriend it is 10.00am. She gets up but has heard the noise of me adjusting the clocks and checks her watch but is very cheerful about it.

Later we drive down to the village - very carefully. We find a small supermarket, Billa, which has a huge selection of food. The drive back up is less scary this time and we don't slide into the ditch. We go for a long walk up the mountain but eventually we are climbing through thick snow which is very exhausting. We give up and on the way back down wish we had a huge sledge.

No sooner said than done - we drive down the mountain yet again. In Innsbruck we literally drive past a huge sports shop (Intersport). Their sledge selection is pretty basic so we end up with two small plastic sledges.

When we get back we try them out by sliding down the short section to the hut - they seem to work pretty well.

We go to bed at 11.30pm CHT (Central Hut Time)

Friday 5th February 2010

Now it is time to try out the new sledges. The road from our hut down to the next road is just over half a mile and it is not gritted - just pure compressed snow. The sledges hurtle down - us with them most of the time. Walking back up is a pain - literally in my case as my boots have rubbed off some of my heel.

It ends up with me ferrying my girlfriend up and down the road in the car. We stop while we are still ahead of the game. The car copes very well but even so it still slides quite a lot - I do the trip with the windows all open so that if it rolls we can get out easily.

Later, we build a snowman. Or rather, we extend the one that is already here.

Saturday 6th February 2010

When we wake up it has been snowing for some hours. We drive down to the village to get some bread and other things but when we try to drive up the last stretch the car slides sideways - literally. Fortunately we are only a few yards up and the road is still quite wide at the bottom so we get down again.

We decide to put on the chains - which we only have because it is a legal requirement to carry them. I had assumed that we would never use them as the 4 wheel drive would be sufficient. The chains look impossible to put on. The instructions are a vague help and finally we have done it. We are unsure whether to put them on the front or on the back but decide on the back. We get up the hill without drama.

The idea of being half way up and unable to go up or down is pretty scary - I am amazed at the number of ordinary cars around. I would have thought that everybody would drive a 4 wheel drive car but they only seem to make up about 20% of the car population. You can buy an old Japanese one and it will still be extremely reliable and no more expensive than most of the cars around in Austria.

In the evening a snow plow arrives and to our surprise clears our little private drive to the hut with the result that it is perfect for sledging by starlight.

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