It's just a great occupation - and at the same time somehow a hobby - when you get to capture hiking tours in the South Tyrolean Alps. Even as a child I loved to go hiking, but at that time in the Stubai Alps. I had heard of Italy before, but never really perceived it as a potential hiking destination. And now - now I hike in the summer months at least 1x a week through the Dolomites or other parts of the South Tyrolean Alps.
With hiking I mean here especially, the hikes as a companion of a wheelchair user. Although I myself find this definition quite cruel, it is nevertheless seen by many people and above all also admired as such ..., when we are on the road, we are often praised how great it is that we try such tours and we are appreciatively patted on the shoulders. That doesn't mean anything to me. Instead of patting you on the back appreciatively, it would be more important for people to open their eyes a little and take initiative. Not every trail needs to be barrier-free; after all, it's part of nature that it's rough. And not every trail can be walked or driven on equally by everyone - otherwise the silence and "being alone" that many also associate with a hike would quickly be gone.
I particularly enjoy the challenging tours - because although I know that a flat tire on the wheelchair or a flat battery on the traction device is not particularly desirable, it is still exciting to try out how far you can push the wheelchair and traction device. Baumi doesn't always like it, but often he's still more the driving force than I am.
Sure, as a pedestrian this is all easy to say. 😊 The Anschiss gets yes afterwards the wheelchair user - especially if he would have to be freed by the fire department or the like from a predicament. So far it's never come to that though, after all I research the tours well beforehand. In addition to researching the parking lot, quality of the hiking trail, altitude differences and refreshment stops, I also examine everything in detail using satellite images. So you know at least approximately what is coming and what challenges are offered or will be in the way.
Nevertheless, we have developed a routine - when we arrive at our starting point, the first local who crosses our path is put through the wringer. Because even if the pedestrians among the locals can not always assess how wheelchair and traction device work together, they know the paths inside out and can give valuable tips and info. And if you are then told that it might not work, then you can already prepare for a setback or reschedule.
And if you try it anyway and it works, then there is already such a small sense of achievement, and not just for me. 😊
In the meantime, we have often been asked how exactly we do the research and which tools we use for it. I would like to tell you a little bit about that here and maybe it will become clear why I also have a handicap - my memory. I almost always forget a certain thing ...
A different kind of research ...
Could the way be feasible with a wheelchair?
As you might imagine: I'm on the internet a lot. On the one hand, for professional reasons, because as a freelance translator and editor, the exchange with colleagues is enormously important and because of the distance, this exchange takes place a lot via Facebook groups. It's also important to keep up with the times and keep up with the most important changes and innovations in the industry.
Especially in the numerous groups, pictures are often posted, also of hiking experiences in South Tyrol. Particularly pretty pictures naturally catch my attention - who wouldn't feel that way. And then the research actually already starts. Where is this hut or where exactly did he or she hike? If you can't tell exactly, then you ask. Once the starting point and the destination have been determined, the next step is to find out what kind of hiking trail it is. Is it a trail, a "normal hiking trail" for pedestrians, is the trail suitable for strollers, or is it even a forest road? To find out, I use everything that can be found on the Internet - from the data of the Alpine Club, to offers such as Sentres or Outdooractive, to the websites of huts or Google Maps. The more information, the better. If I think that the tour could be feasible in terms of trail conditions, I recreate the tour with a map provider. My favorite provider is komoot.de, although in South Tyrol many other providers are used. There I then get my previous research regarding the trail conditions mostly confirmed and I am also displayed the elevation profile. This does not always fit 100 %, but it gives a good first impression. If the starting point can only be reached by cable car, this is also researched, because after all, a wheelchair with traction device cannot always be transported. If I don't find any information at all, I call them and ask. Sometimes they even send me pictures.
Well, and then all I really have to do is try out my powers of persuasion on "my" wheelchair driver - and off I go.
What did I forget?
... ...think hard...
So, did you notice? What have I forgotten?
Right, the refreshment facilities and for many female wheelchair users immensely important, the toilets.
Why is that?
This is actually quickly explained:
I have a super trained bladder. 😊 No, seriously. As a rule, I don't go to the restroom on hiking trips - it's just not necessary. And since I'm traveling with a guy who has a different solution to the problem and also doesn't need a WC, the need just isn't there.
What about food?
So we are always hungry. But the huts or alpine pastures are not always accessible without barriers, which is why we have made it a habit to always have something to eat and drink ourselves. Depending on the season, we either lug around a backpack with cold packs and water bottles or a backpack with warm clothes and masses of tea in a thermos. This, by the way, is a huge plus compared to hiking pedestrians - you simply have to lug a lot less yourself.
If we find an alpine pasture or a hut, or perhaps it is even the destination of the hike, and this is accessible without barriers or perhaps has a step, which we master together but without problems, then we use this opportunity. Depending on how much of our supplies we have already eaten, we either have a macchiato with a treat or something warm to eat. Often we get into conversation with the landlords, because after all we are a "little speciality". Then we chat a bit, drink the coffee with pleasure, look at the beautiful landscape and go back ...
Huh? Why don't they check out the toilets while they're at it?
Exactly! There it is - my handicap! My head just doesn't want to remember that in every hut or alpine pasture we pass, the toilet should also be inspected.
I really try hard and as you can see from the one or other tour, I have sometimes managed to find the dog-ear again.
How do you do it?
Do you do hiking trips and record them somewhere? Do you perhaps do research similar to the one I described?
Then I would appreciate any dog-eared tips.
My current idea is to make hut owners aware of the possibility to publish accessibility information under Google Maps and thus to encourage them to publish data themselves.
Firstly, I'm off the hook as far as my dog-eared problem is concerned and secondly, the information is directly accessible to so many more people on a platform like Google than a publication on wheelchairtours.org. Even though I will of course continue to publish information about accessible toilets there ...
... so, come to think of it. 😊