Beating bowel cancer together

Deborah treks from Austria to Italy in memory of her dad

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Deborah Fleming, 49 from Ottershaw, Surrey, has just finished walking the Alpe Adria trail through Austria, Slovenia and Italy, in memory of her dad who died from bowel cancer in 2014.

Friday 16 August: The start

An adventure to get to my B&B before the hike. On the way to Gatwick I heard the Eagle radio news mention my "epic" hike in aid of Bowel Cancer UK – "Surrey Woman begins epic hike across Austria this morning....". It was amazing. I made the 7am, 7.30am and 8am news! A crazy surreal start to the day.

Flight to Salzburg, train for two hours to a small town then two busses to Heiligenblut to sleep at Pension Baurle.

I met a gorgeous lady called Annelies on the train who chatted to me and had the biggest smile. Sometimes people drop into your path when you are feeling particularly lonely and she was one such person. She asked me where I was going and when I said "I am walking to Italy" she grinned and bought me a tea. She said "I meet nice people on train, you just have to talk not mobile!"

By the time I got to Heiligenblut we had smashed the £2,000 mark on the donation page, even a stranger going to start their chemo has donated.


Herman the bus driver collected me at exactly 9.25 (I am in Austria after all!) and filled the bus with people to take up to the Grossglockner. It was 30 mins of the most stunning bus journey ever. Imagine Alps, green pine trees, 3,000m high and sheer drops. The glacier was in our sight all the way up and right at the top was Austria's highest mountain.

The mandatory "start" picture was in the most incredible backdrop, and I even spotted two Marrmuts (a bit like a badgery beaver animal). Swiped in to the Alpe Adria app point then off I went (the three Darleks are the Alpe Adria mark points).

The start of my hike was at a more reasonable 2,396m. The glacier has receded 10m a year and about ten minutes into my hike I passed a sign demarking the point of the glacier on my 10th birthday in 1980. This was a dramatic reality check of climate change on the glacier. Within 30 mins I was by the edge of a pristine turquoise glacial lake, there was a floating lonely dirty iceberg.

Lots of people, after an hour or two, became five or six, then after four hours I was finally on my own. The first few hours were spent clumsily settling into my rucksack, getting my hat tied on, getting my glasses tied with Amanda's emergency shoe laces, hanging my water bottle in the right place and wearing my camera. So much to tie or strap on. When you travel so "light" everything becomes a prized possession so nothing must fall down the mountain.

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