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HOME>PHOTOGRAPHS>TRAVEL STORIES>Headlamp at Night by Tomoko Yamamoto

Headlamp at Night

© 2007 Tomoko Yamamoto

When I prepared for a month-long trip of photography and hiking, I consulted a book. It was about safe solo mountain climbing written by a Japanese woman. She maintained that a headlamp is one of essential items to take along on mountain climbs just in case.

It was only a few days before my departure to the Dolomites in northern Italy. I looked for my headlamp in the pocket of my backpack where I thought I had left it. It was not there. I looked all over my house before I finally found it in a desk drawer.

On my first night at a mountain “Gasthof” (restaurant with guest rooms) in Villnöss (Funes in Italian) in South Tyrol, I found that my headlamp was handy since there was no light by the bed in my room. I used it to read a book in bed or just to have enough light in the middle of the night to go to a shared bathroom on the floor.

I was in a single room for the first two nights, but for the next three I had to move to a dormitory room in which a communal bed for sleeping four fills the whole side of the room. Since I had asked for a single room, I was told that I would be alone in the dormitory.

It was Saturday. In order to make a move easier, I repacked almost everything into my two pieces of luggage, a backpack and a duffle-type gear bag. I moved to the dormitory on the same floor before I went out for the day.

The “Gasthof” is owned and run by a family. The son works as a waiter while his mother cooks in the kitchen. His sister, a school teacher, helps out during the summer vacation.

As I was leaving the dining area after dinner, the sister approached me and said, “We have a problem. We have someone without reservation tonight. There are no vacancies anywhere else.”

She asked me if I would agree to have somebody else sleep in my dormitory room. I asked if somebody was a woman. She said, “No. They are a man and a woman. Would you like to meet them?”

It turned out that the pair was sitting outside at one of the picnic tables set out for outdoor dining during the daytime. They were Italians and the woman could speak a little English and German. I agreed to have the "Gasthof" young woman show the dormitory room. I was hoping that they might not like the fact that I was taking up all the desktop and shelves with my photo equipment and my clothes were hanging from hooks on one wall. I even told the woman that I tended to snore. All the information did not deter the young Italians to want a bed for the night.

I reluctantly agreed to have them sleep in my dormitory room. After a full day of hike I was rather tired when I slipped into my bed by the far-end of the room. I was still half-awake when they came in perhaps close to midnight.

I might have dozed a little and then I woke up and went to the bathroom. They were sleeping in two bed sections next to a window. I was hot and felt too stuffy. So I opened the window a little. Then I tried to go back to sleep.

I was hearing one of them snoring. It was not that loud, but it was irritating to hear it when I was awake. I was angry that I had to let them come in although I could have said no. I decided to read to keep my mind off.

I got up to search for my headlamp. Where did I pack it? After a few minutes of digging around, I found it and put it on my head to read the book. The book was Reinhold Messner’s autobiography in German. Villnöss was where he was born and learned his rock-climbing techniques. The book was engrossing enough for me to forget the noise as I read about his early rock-climbs including the one that took place near the “Gasthof.” I also felt good to have this bright lamp to counteract the snoring noise from the other end.

After more than 20 days in Villnöss, I went to Badgastein, Austria for ten days.

A few years ago I took a night train from Linz to Zurich without a problem. At that time without my asking I was given a women-only compartment (Damenapteil)on the “Liegewagen”. It turned out that I was the only person in the compartment, so I could sleep anywhere and put my luggage anywhere I wanted.

Two days prior to my departure from Badgastein, I purchased my reservation for my place in the “Liegewagen.” The “Liegewagen” is a couchette car, in which each compartment is equipped to accommodate six persons for seating during the day and for sleeping at night. In fact I had learned about the existence of the "Liegewagen" from a fellow woman guest at the B&B in Bad Gastein where I have always stayed when I visit there. The "Liegewagen" would be much less expensive than sleeping cars. This time I was told that there were no women-only compartments.

My night train headed to Zurich was departing Badgastein a few minutes after midnight. The husband of the B&B, Seppi, volunteered to walk me to the train station, as their lodging is only several minutes away on the other side of tracks from the station side. An improved pedestrian bridge was still under construction and was not completed before my departure.

At first there were nobody else waiting for the train but him and myself. A few minutes before the train arrived there was a man, another passenger. Seppi stayed until the train arrived and when I climbed onto my car, he handed me my duffle bag.

The car corridor was unlit. I wondered how I would find my place, but there was a conductor already waiting for me. I said my bunk number and handed him my ticket. He opened the right compartment door and pointed to a middle bunk. I was asked for my passport and he gave me a form for me to sign. He put a bedside lamp on my bunk so that I was able to see where I was signing, but there was no time to read what the form was about.

In the compartment, two women occupied the bottom two bunks. I did not know where I could put my luggage in the dark so I left them in the middle area and removed my shoes to climb up a ladder to my bunk. The bunk had a sheet and a blanket. I just took off my long pants and crawled in the fold of the sheet. I did it all with a small lamp on the sidewall.

Later a man came in to occupy a middle bunk opposite mine. Then a teenage boy came to climb to the top bunk above me. Finally a gray-haired man came in to occupy the other top bunk.

However, not everyone went to sleep. The man from the top bunk came down to speak with the woman below me. I noticed that he looked like sitting on my duffle bag. I complained. Although he insisted that he was not sitting on it, he agreed to move away and stow my bag under the bunk bed. I had not realized that there was a space below.

Although I thought I would never go to sleep, I drowsed a little. When I woke up, everyone seemed to be sleeping. I climbed down the ladder to go to the bathroom. I looked for my shoes. I found one, but I could not locate the mate. All the shoes I touched nearby were way too big to be mine. The lamp on my bunk would not light the area underneath the bottom bunks.

Then I thought of my headlamp. I had packed it close to the top of my duffle bag in the unlocked center. First I had to locate my duffle bag underneath one of the bottom bunks, and then it was easy to feel my lamp with my hand. With a bright lamp in my hand, I searched below the bunks again and saw the mate way in the back beneath the right bunk.

My headlamp surely met my solo travel needs.

Keywords: headlamp, solo travel, night train, overnight train, woman travel, Liegewagen,single room, dormitory, Bad Gastein, Linz, Zurich, Zürich

Originally Posted: April 11, 2007