Looking back, there are already a couple of things I can learn from the first day of The Big Hike:
- try to get as close to your starting point as possible.
Getting up at 5 in the morning to go to the starting point by public transport and arriving there, ready to finally really leave, at 7 am, thus being 2 hours awake but not really doing anything but wait, is a bad start.
- get good maps, have a GPS device with you.
Losing the route every half hour is not funny. Having a GPS device with hiking/mountain biking maps can at least help you to get where you want, albeit not via the route you wanted.
So yes, I got up at 5 in the morning, just to make sure I had packed everything I needed. I had a bus to catch at Siebenhirten (end station of U6 in the south of Vienna), and I was nervous as can be that I could fall asleep and miss the stop either at Siebenhirten or at the stop where I had to change, or the stopt where I had to eventually get off the bus to start the hike.
The hike was not very exhausting physically, but in a mental way it was very challenging: I kept losing the “right path”, because there were not too many signs around to tell you in which direction to go. I am incredibly happy that I had a GPS device with me, especially since Georg and I had downloaded a hiking/mountainbiking map for Austria the night before. That way, I at least knew which way would lead in which direction and if it would take me to the “right” next village at the least.
I called it a day in Maria Raisenmarkt, after hiking about 22 km, just before reaching the Peilstein area which is supposed to be really beautiful. I felt exhausted already, and was looking desperately at the schedule for the regional bus at the bus stop. Some guy was putting up signs for hiking routes, and he asked me where I wanted to go. Bad news was, I would have to follow the route, as it would be the shortest way to get to the next village. Good news was, he had been through the same mess as me, and in the end even offered me a ride. In the next village, I had a nice late lunch (Radler, soup and cake ;) ) and then checked for the next bus to leave towards Mariazell. I would skip part of the hike, as I did not feel at all capable of walking on, and I was lucky: a bus towards the right direction would leave only 2 hours later. The 2 hours I spent reading at the bus stop – and I also fell asleep a couple of times.