Right," said Marion from Austria, "you'll need some sturdy boots for the trekking with llamas, training shoes for the cycling and salopettes for the skiing." I looked at my watch. It was the middle of summer. "Skiing? Llamas? Austria?" I said. "The skiing's on a glacier. Burgli will tell you about the llamas when you get there," she said. "Burgli?" I said, but she had gone.
Soon enough, I was standing halfway up a mountain with Burgli. And Dave from Essex. "Funny," Dave was saying, "the last time I was here was skiing with a mate. He broke his leg on the first day, and I went out drinking that night, met two sisters from Southend and only got back to the chalet three days later. He was lying in bed in plaster, and hadn't eaten or been to the loo since day one."
"Are you still mates, then?" I said.
"No, we're not, funnily enough," said Dave.
"Right," said Burgli, just as I was about to ask her about the llamas.
"Time for some gorge-trekking."
First, though, we had to walk around her calves, for she was one of those healthy outdoor Austrian types who had been climbing mountains since she was knee-high to an edelweiss, and had the legs to prove it. For the next two hours, we followed them through deep gorges and past splashing waterfalls and ice-dark pools, until we emerged at last into a sunlit paradise of lake and meadow.
Trout pottered and frogs sat stolidly in the shallows, bright blue dragonflies darted about, and on the slopes above, sturdy calves only slightly smaller than Burgli's grazed and tinkled. It was all so impossibly idyllic that at any moment you expected Julie Andrews to come cartwheeling down the mountain in a habit. When we discovered a little lakeside cabin selling Magnum ice cream, I began to suspect that I had actually died on the flight over, and had gone straight to heaven. Then it was on to Kaprun, a sleepy village of 3,000 souls, famous for year-round skiing on a glacier, and infamous for the funicular fire of 2000 which killed 155 people. In the quieter summer, the visitors are mostly retired Brits but you will see more and more young whippersnappers who realise this is the only place in the world where their digital holiday photos can show them skiing, mountain-biking, windsurfing, golfing, parascending and snogging llamas before going out drinking all night.
Indeed, talking of mountain bikes, I was due to pick one up and go round the lake with a chap called Steve. It was years since I'd ridden a bicycle, but it's a bit like riding a bicycle, really, and within minutes I was pedalling along merrily with my hands in my pockets, whistling Schubert's Trout Quintet and reexperiencing that most childish of pleasures of riding for miles without using your hands.
And then, afterwards, other forgotten pleasures of childhood, of swimming in a lake and feeling the grass between your toes as you towel yourself dry in the sun. On the way back, I heard a thump behind me, and turned round to see Steve lying on the ground bleeding profusely with his bike on top of him.
"Sorry. Wasn't paying attention," he said.
"That's all right. At least you can tell everyone you were attacked by a cycle path," I said.
Laugh? He was in stitches. Four, in fact, as I discovered when he got back from the hospital. "Still, the doctor was gorgeous," he said, rubbing his head. "Come on, I need a drink."
At some stage, much later, we seemed to find ourselves in a bar playing a game which involved hitting nails into a log with the wrong end of a claw hammer. If you think this is almost impossible after a few drinks, you're being generous. I came back from the toilet at one stage to find Steve explaining to a chalet girl how he'd damaged his head. "Luckily, though, I was able to push the two little girls and their mum out of the way of the truck before it hit me," he was saying. The next morning I had the surreal experience of skiing down a glacier 8,000ft on the mountain above the village. "Your skiing is a triumph of power over technique," said Frank the instructor, as he dropped me back at the hotel. I was trying to work out whether that was a compliment or not when Burgli arrived in a large car.
"I have come to talk you to the llamas," she said.
The llamas were in a meadow outside the village, looking baffled. "What exactly are we going to do with them, Burgli?" I said.
"We are taking them for a walk," she said, handing me a lead on the other end of which was a truculent beast who went by the name of Attila.
All went well for the first half-hour. Until the thunder started. And the lightning. And the torrential rain. So if you were one of the pensioners driving through Austria that Friday afternoon and saw several people and seven llamas crushed into a bus shelter, there was no need, after all, to change your medication.
Geoff Hill was a guest of Crystal Mountain Action (0870-160 6040; www.crystallakes.co.uk), which offers a week at the four-star Hotel Orgler in the centre of Kaprun from £335 per person, based on two sharing and including return flights from Gatwick to Salzburg, half board and transfers. The hotel offers free bike hire, free half-day excursions and free activity programme for children in high season. Trekking with llamas, golf, fishing, glacier skiing and mountain biking can be booked through Crystal pre-departure or on arrival. Frank Schumann at 7 Tage Sport und Abenteuer (00 43 664 253 0381; www.fot.at) can also organise rafting, canyoning, paragliding, trekking and snowboarding, as well as renting motorcycles, trikes and sports cars.Reuse content