Playing in the High Tatras

Trip Start Apr 24, 2007
Trip End Jul 09, 2007

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Where I stayed
Bilikova Chata

Flag of Slovakia  , Presov,
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tue 22 May
Caught a morning bus to Poprad, then the electric train to the High Tatras town of Stary Smokovec. The Tatras are part of the Carpathian Mountains and make up part of the border between Slovakia and Poland. I had read that there was a bad storm in 2004, with winds reaching 140-180km/hr, that had damaged some of the lower forest, but I didn't imagine it would be as bad as it was. On the train up to Stary Smokovec the majority of the trees were knocked down. Luckily, it looked like most of the trees above the town were still standing.
It started to pour and thunder was shaking the place as I arrived, so I figured that was a good time to duck under an awning and grab a quick snack. Once the rain let up a bit I went to the tourist office to try and book a room for the next few nights. The lady who worked there had been to Ontario 2 years and was very excited to help me out. She phoned around to the places I wanted and to a few of her favourites to see if she could get a deal for me. She succeeded! She ended up getting me a room in a wonderful mountain chata for less than 15 a night!!
There is a cable car that goes up the side of the mountain from Stary Smokovec to Hrebienok. Hrebienok is a small ski resort in the winter and the starting point of some hikes in the summer. A quick walk to the right and I was at the Chata. Despite the grey skies, I was in heaven when I saw it. It's a log cabin/chalet building along a hiking path. It's the kind of place with animal heads, antlers and skins as the decor. I'm assuming the room has been freshly renovated, fully furnished with wood including the walls and floor. The best part of the room is the view. When I look out the window, all I can see is a valley of trees. If I squint I can almost see a small village down below (looks like one little light at night), but other than that all I can see is trees. I love this place.
I headed out for a little hike and it started to rain again, I kept on for a few more minutes but ended up turning back. I waited until the rain and thunder stopped, gave it an extra half hour to be sure and then headed back out. Was only outside for about two minutes when it started to sprinkle. This time I came prepared with my rain coat so I kept going. It started to rain harder and then the thunder kicked back in. Made it to the waterfall and somehow it seemed better because of the weather. The thunder and the, by this point pouring, rain made it seem so much more powerful.
Started to walk back and soon the hail came. It was coming down so hard that the hail was bouncing off the rocks on the ground. I had to laugh. Times like this I am glad I was alone; I can't think of anyone else who might enjoy hiking in a storm like that!  
On the way back I met a Czech guy who was coming up the trail looking for his friends who had said they were going to the waterfall. Since I hadn't passed anyone on my way back he turned around and walked back with me.  He found his friends in the pub. I went upstairs to change into dry clothes. My jacket is "water resistant" but definitely not waterproof, I was drenched! I headed back down to the restaurant in the Chata for dinner. The Czech guy (young and cute) was still in there with his coworkers (older). Chatted to a few of them for awhile while I waited for my meat and potato dumplings with sauerkraut. The food was great!
I got called back over to the other table, so stayed and chatted with them for a while longer. They were all working in Czech Republic and were in the Tatras for a convention. After a few funny comments made to embarrass their younger coworker, and a few warnings about some of the countries to come, they took off to catch the cable car back to Stary Smokovec.
I've found some possible trails for hiking tomorrow so early night for me. Fell asleep listening to the waterfall and crossing my fingers for some sun tomorrow.
Wed 23 May
An early breakfast and then I started out to hike the overly energetic route I had mapped out yesterday. I started on one trail heading west from Hrebienok that ran along and slightly up the side of the mountain to the next village. After about 2 hours, I realised the route I had picked would possibly kill me and since I'd rather not die today I got out my little hiking map and picked a new (more downhill) route.
I had wanted to go to Tatranska Lomnica anyways so I figured I would go back towards the Chata, past the waterfall and walk down to the town. Much better!  Tatranska Lomnica has two cable cars, one of which goes to the top of one of the mountains. Once in Tatranska Lomnica I found out all the cable cars were undergoing maintenance, so new plan again!
It starred to thunder and then pour so I ducked under the awning of a little food stand and had a ham and cheese toastee and a peach milkshake to wait out the rain. Only took about 20 mins. I went over to the Tatrabob, it's a downhill track where you're on a single sled, almost like a small rollercoaster where you get to be in control. It was closed due to the rain, but I was told it would reopen as soon as the track dried. Good thing the sun was out now! After a wee wander around time I returned to the Tatrabob and the track was nice and dry. Had my little ride (excellent) and then went to catch a train or bus back to Stary Smokovec. It would have been a bit of a wait so I figured I'd just walk the 7kms though Tatranska Lesna and Horny Smokovec back to Stary Smokovec.
Got into Stary Smokovec just as the thunder started up again. Got the cable car back up to the Chata without getting too wet. By the time I was back, it was already 7, so I went straight to the restaurant. Partially as well because my legs felt like they would give out if I attempted the stairs to my room.
Had a traditional Slovakian pork and veggie stir fry type dish served with a pile of rice. After my food and a well deserved pint were finished, I made the trek up the whole two flights of stairs to my room. First time seeing myself in a mirror all day and I couldn't stop laughing.  During this morning's hike on the first trail, I had one side facing the mountain and one side the sun. I now had a Sunburn that looked like the Phantom of the Opera. One side of my face, chest and one arm was burnt and the other was pale. Oops. Had a much needed and appreciated shower before going to bed at 9:00!
Wish I could stay longer, I love it here! I guess it might be for the best though. I don't know if my body could handle another full day of "chilling out" in the woods!
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