Hiking in the Tatra Mountains
Sun 30 Jul 06
That's polish for hi, and we've been using it a lot in the last few days. We've been hiking in the Tatra mountains, and whenever we would pass somebody on the trail, we'd say "cheshch" (I'm not quite sure on the Polish spelling of the word, but that's how it sounds)
We started off at Zakopane, which is pretty much the Whistler of Poland. Hoards of tourists as far as the eye can see.... I'm not a huge fan. But we then took a bus into the national park, and it quickly started to get better. The first part of the hike was on a road (only for horse carriages taking people to lake Morskie Oko and service vehicles), so that wasn't too special. But once we turned off, it got really nice. We started to see the peaks, and man, did they look cool. There's something about these mountains that are different from the ones back home. While around Canada, we have either very green mountains, or very rocky ones, these manage to be both at the same time (as the pictures below can show). It seems that grass and shrubs manage to find a way to grow, even on almost sheer cliffs.
Anyways, after a bit of a climb with our packs (we had left most of our stuff at the hostel in Zakopane, but brought with us some clothes, sleeping bags and food), we reached a mountain refuge. These are great little places that offer beds and food, and we would call it home for the next two nights. Places like these are a great idea, and I wish we would have them in Canada. They are scattered around the national park, and I like the fact that they are not allowed to refuse anyone, even if it means sleeping on the floor (although I am happy that we got there early enough to get a bed).
After getting set up, we decided to go for more of a hike. There was a peak we could reach, and it looked interesting. It was a very hard climb up there, but it was well worth it. The view was simply amazing. I also find that I get a really cook feeling whenever I'm at a peak of a mountain. On one hand, I feel like I'm the king of the world for conquering the mountain, but as I look out and see the huge size of these mountains, I feel like an insignificant speck among it all. It's weird having both those opposing feelings at the same time.
The next day, we decided to do a big loop around. It started off with a bit of a hike to get to that big touristy lake, Morskie Oko. While it was kind of nice (but not as nice as other places we had just seen), it was completely ruined by the masses of people there. It sort of reminded us of Lake Louise in that sense.
A bit after leaving that lake, we began to hear thunder and not long after, the rain started. Of course, I was stupid enough to not bring my fleece with me so I was stuck in my T-shirt. I was alright, and the rain later passed, and the sun came back out. This was perfect timing as we were getting to a peak on the Slovak border and I'm not a huge fan of standing on a mountain peak during a lightning storm. Anyways, the peak offered more amazing views, and it was back down the other side of the mountain on the way back 'home'.
With probably about 45 minutes left on our hike, and just as we were almost dry again, we start to see more grey clouds. Suddenly the clouds just opened up and it was pouring down on us. The were huge drops of water that quickly soaked us to the bone. Then came the hail. Pretty big pieces of them, that stung quite a bit as the hit my bare arm. We were happy to get back to the refuge, and quickly got out of our wet clothes.
This morning we had to get back down the mountain. The only problem was that it was raining, with no end in sight. So we trudged down, getting completely wet again. Then, as if to spite us, just as we could see the parking lot where the busses went, the cloud opened up again and let out all of it's fury. We were definitely not happy campers at that point.
But all is well now. We head to Slovakia tomorrow, and I'm really excited.