I have been on five tours now with InterNATIONAL PARKtours, if memory serves - Hawaii, West Coast USA, Alaska, Autumn in eastern America, and now a walking tour in Europe. Its title was Alsace to the Alps.

IPT does tours in Australia as well, but I have never been on one. The company celebrated its 25th anniversary recently. It does not advertise widely, but has a nice brochure you can email them for. Their address is Binna Burra Rd, Beechmont, Queensland Australia 4211.

The company originally specialised in adventurous walking, but its custom comes about 85% from return business, and mathematics will lead you to the conclusion that its original customers are now 25 years older, so the walks have been watered down somewhat. New, younger customers are required!

The tour was for twenty four days, and I only did it because I was flying to Europe for a cruise, and thought it was a long way to go for seven days. I had six days in Barcelona, then caught a train to Paris, where the group met in our hotel. We had a couple more days in Paris, free time, then on Wednesday June 7th we traveled 460 km by bus from Paris to Colmar. We had a free day in Colmar, then on Friday had our first real walk.

We were driven 40km to the trailhead of the GR5, one of France's Grand Randonnees, or long distance footpaths. These were a surprise to me. On our other trips we had done longish walks in national parks (which is what the company is all about), but Europe has been so long settled that there are not too many national parks. Instead, the country is criss-crossed with paths with little codes like a green circle, or a red dot. You start following the sign that will get you where you want to go, and stick with it. A map is a good idea! These paths go through woods and paddocks, and uphill a lot!

We began our walk, and our luggage went on to our destination. I once went on a "four-wheel drive" tour with Centralian Tours, one of the few passengers not without my own four-wheel drive. I found that all the other drivers wanted to do was drive, not look at anything. This one was a tour for walkers, and everyone but me on the tour was a person who enjoyed walking for its own sake. I enjoy walking in new places, but once I'm stonkered I like to stop. This was a challenging walk, about 14 km, and a lot uphill, and I wasn't fit enough. We began at a museum which was an old trench site from the 1914-18 war, and it was a moving place. We later passed a war cemetery. I had read something about big winds in Europe the previous December, but it hadn't made an impression. However, all through the parts of France and Germany where we walked there were great sweeps of blown-down trees, and they had wiped out our paths on the first couple of walks.

Our hotel was the Hotel de la Poste in Le Bonhomme. It had a very nice pool, no doubt designed for the skiiers, with a powerful surge to swim against, and a lawn to lie about on at the back. Fourteen of us went walking the next day, and it was another challenging walk, leaving me wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew! However, after this I must have got into gear, because I enjoyed the walking for the rest of the trip. I was also a bit worried for the rest of the trip that I had inferior equipment, mainly shoes. The others had real hiking equipment, I was walking in my street shoes (and tennis shoes on occasion). However, I didn't have any trouble (in that regard).

The following day we walked to our next stop, La Poutrie. It was much easier, in low cloud. Cyclists passed us regularly, and it must have been a tough ride for them. We stopped at a museum of Eaux de Vie, or liqueurs, etc. We were in two hotels because of a long weekend, and a big walk, Paris to Colmar, going through. There was a dodgem and merry-go-round in the street.

I was well-equipped with cameras. I had lost my still camera, with flash and telephoto lens, on the cruise, but bought a replacement camera. I was carrying an $800 17mm lens with nothing to put it on otherwise! I also had a new digital camera and an old stereo camera. I had carried the digital on the first walk, but felt the new camera would unbalance me, so I had been leaving it in my luggage. Next day's walk was only 11k, so I thought I would take the camera bag. We walked to Kaysersberg, and the day was lovely, but one of our walkers sprained her ankle, and she and her husband had to withdraw. I was tired after the walk again. Kaysersberg was very touristy and quite large, and the next day was free.

Next day was an easy three-hour walk to Riquewihr. I had taken a disposable camera, which had turned out to have one picture left, and was wishing I had brought a real camera. It was a lovely day with no danger to the camera. Soon a violent thunderstorm had us hiding near the portcullis. It cleared, and we walked on, and got drenched before we got to Ribeauville.

From Ribeauville we had a short trip to Strasbourg, where we had a free day.

On Saturday we had our Big Walk. We started at Castle Fleckstein, passed a couple of other interesting ruins, and finished in Wissembourg. It was a long twenty kilometres, and we were plenty slow by the time we reached our hotel. We had a free day next day, and then a long drive across Germany, stopping for lunch at Baden Baden, and arriving in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

This was dinner in the open at Rothenburg. The daylight was long at this time.

We had a free day again, and then drove 140km to Augsburg, and then on to the Hotel Sonnelbichl at Trauchgau.

Next day we took a cable car up from Oberammergau, and did a long and spectacular walk down. Although all downhill, it was still hard work. It rained about 9pm, and was still raining next day. We were to have done a similar walk to yesterday, but it was too wet for the steep paths. We walked along a creek to the castles of Neuschwanstein and Höhenschwangau, and afterwards on to Füssen. We toured Neuschwanstein next day. We drove on, and did a steep walk up to Ehrensburg castle, an old ruin, for lunch

and then on to our three-night stop in the Post Hotel, Garmish-Partenkirchen. I had a lovely view from my hotel.We did a walk up the mountain, after going the first part by cablecar.

The tour finished with two days in Seefeld, in Tirol, Austria. This was our last excursion up into the mountains. Then we went home.