This Is A Good Place...

18 May 2013
Gorge near Perttisau

In Kim Stanley Robinson’s Antarctica, there is a character, Ta Shu, who is a famous Chinese feng shui expert. Ta Shu is travelling around Antarctica with an adventure tour group, relaying his experiences back to an audience at home. His descriptions of the landscape are detailed and insightful and extremely poetic. In Chinese, at least. His English is more limited, which leads to some of the other characters in the book underestimating his intelligence, particular as he responds to most of their queries about what he thinks of places with the phrase “This is a good place” as a substitute for the detailed explanation he would give in Chinese.

Anyway, yesterday we went to a place that Ta Shu would have described as a “good place”. We were spending the day with Rita’s parents, her brother and his girlfriend, and her parents. They were all visiting our part of the country for a “parents meet the parents” holiday. We first drove from Igls to Achensee, a long lake in the mountains about 50 km east of Innsbruck. While the others went on a boat trip, Rita’s parents, Rita, me and Winnie went up on a cable car to do a bit of walking. The weather wasn’t great and there was still a lot of snow around, so we didn’t get all that far (although Winnie did a bit of marmoset-chasing, which was more fun for her than for me, as I had to then chase her...). After coffee and schnapps in the hut at the top of the cable car, we headed back down to meet the others.

The plan then was to drive to Perttisau on the other side of the lake, then up to Gramaialm where there is a Gasthaus, for everyone to have lunch. The Gasthaus was very traditional, so nothing much for vegans, so we decided to go for a walk with Winnie while the others ate. Rita wasn’t keen at first because it was raining, but I pulled out the classic “Winnie needs some exercise” line and she was persuaded. (The rain stopped about a quarter of an hour into our walk anyway.)

The Gasthaus is close to the top of the valley, but we headed back the way we’d come a little. The floor of the valley is very green and there are dozens of different kinds of alpine flowers everywhere, along with lots of stunted pine trees. It’s very beautiful, and the setting between the high mountains hedging the valley is very impressive.

After a little while, we came to what looked like a big bank of gravel. At first we thought that it was artificial, since it was flat-topped and twinned with another, parallel, bank about 50 metres further on, with a flat channel in between. Not artificial at all though! We followed the channel up towards the wall of the valley, crossing a small stream that we eventually saw issued from a narrow gorge twisting back into the mountains. We scrambled up the gorge as far as was safe for Winnie–she’s a super little mountain dog, but she doesn’t have thumbs and she is only small, so she has her limits! It was really beautiful, with crystal clear water splashing over the rocks, many of which were smoothed by the flood waters that have obviously carved out the channel we’d seen.

And as we were walking around there, I had the greatest feeling of happiness and peace that I’ve had for a long time. Here I was, with my most beloved and our little canine friend, exploring a wonderful place, somewhere we found purely by serendipity. Truly “a good place”.