Cross country cruising in Cortina

We both enjoyed a good night sleep at our Rifugio last night.  Even though we shared a bunk room with another group of 5 from Switzerland, they were all “church mice” in their former lives. They were so quiet.   To be honest it was probably me who kept them awake all night.  Unfortunately I come from a long maternal line of snorers.   My mother was known, not so affectionately in our family, as the “human buzz-saw”.     At least we were tucked into a corner of the L-shaped bunk room and hopefully I didn’t disturb them too much.

Rifugio’s here in Europe are a completely different proposition than Kiwi mountain huts.  We slept in freshly laundered linen under thick fluffy duvets, sipped our pre-dinner prosecco’s and enjoyed a 3 course meal from a menu of 4 or 5 choices for each course.  Hot showers with flushing loo’s…. there’s no comparison to the garden sheds with long drops we call our mountain huts.  We are looking forward to spending another night here.

Today we are on our way down from Rifugio Scioatolli to meet my old University friend Jane for some cross-country skiing in the valley to the north of Cortina.

OK...how hard can this be?
OK…how hard can this be?

Jane is a level 3 cross-country ski instructor, so Graeme’s keen to get some tips on his skating technique. He’s been watching so many biathlon Youtube clips lately that I think he’s dreaming about competing in the Olympics as his legs twitch from side to side in his sleep! I am just happy Jane has promised that today’s 10km skate is all downhill!!

We arrived early to the cross country facility and got organised with all our gear. A trail day pass is only € 6. What a bargain.  Cross-country skiing really has to be the most perfect exercise. It’s a hugely aerobic activity, like long distance running but also requiring good balance and co-ordination and most importantly, as cinquagenarians, there’s no jarring to our aged joints. Then add incredible scenery and exhilaration from whizzing along the snow at speed and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more perfect exercise.

The trail we skied along is an old railway track that descends about 200m over 10km from Cimabanche to Fiames where there is a purpose built nordic centre.  The trail passes through forests, alongside historic WW1 buildings, over wooden bridges and through a series of lit tunnels.

The lovely scenery did certainly help lessen my intense frustration at watching Gra skate elegantly away down the track with lovely large gliding strokes while I flapped and flopped like a waddling penguin.  I didn’t fall over….but my, it was a close thing!  Adding to my woes, I learnt from Jane that I stick my butt out!   Well actually, I’ll defend my stance!  It was strategic.   I was just lowering my centre of gravity in case I needed an emergency bum dragging braking manoeuvre to avoid on-coming traffic.  But apparently, sticking your derriere out is not good skating technique!

Jane graciously rewarded us with lunch back up at Cimabanche after our ten kilometres of effort.  She, of course still looked fresh as a daisy despite recovering from a World Loppet 42km event on Sunday where she came 4th in her age group and 13th woman home overall.  She still has 2 or 3 more races coming up in Austria before heading home to Jindabyne.   As I have mentioned before…she’s no slouch.  Now!  Just to get her to the Merino Muster!!

We were sitting down to lunch when a man walked in with a huge dog.  Grey dappled fur, big chest, lean hind quarters and yellow eyes.  “Look, a wolf!” I pointed him out to Jane and Gra.  We ANZACs still have an initial disbelief that it’s OK to share a restaurant with a dog, and then today a second moment of disbelief when we saw it was a wolf.

And it really was a wolf or rather a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog.  After speaking to the owner we learnt that they are really quite shy and gentle with humans but he has to be careful taking him into the forest that he doesn’t hunt down all the small animals or even deer!  Also there has been a few incidents with poodles and sausage dogs…!?  Graeme liked the wolf-dog immediately upon hearing this bit of information.   There was also a snappy, yappy little sausage dog haunting the dining area and we all secretly hoped for some action, but apparently my soothing stroking under the table kept him happy enough to ignore the antics of the potentially tasty sausage entree prancing before his nose.

Well it truly is goodbye to Jane this time.  What a fun day.  The time passed so quickly and we lingered over lunch so long we almost missed the last chairlift back to our Rifugio.  No hot tub tonight.  The wind is blowing very strongly and they don’t light it when the wind speed is over a certain strength.  Not to worry. Nice long hot shower, delicious meal and early to bed.   The lovely guardians of the rifugio have given us a bunk room all to our selves.  Nice!

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