Where They Have A Town Called 'Horny Smokovec'..

Trip Start May 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Another day another country. Slovakia this time.

When we were planning this trip we had to decide between Czech Republic or Slovakia. It was a hard decision for us to make as Prague is arguably the prettiest city on earth and Slovakia is renowned for its natural beauty.

In the end (obviously) Slovakia won out as firstly we were in need of some fresh air time after a couple of weeks visiting pretty much nothing but cities and secondly we'd both been to Prague in the past. Boy are we glad we chose Slovakia and more specifically the High Tatras.

The Tatra mountain range borders both Poland and Slovakia and in fact runs all the way down into Romania we later learnt. In winter it's the premier snow resort of Eastern Europe and in Summer it swings into a hikers paradise.

Technically we were there in Spring but the snow had thawed in all but the highest passes so we figured we had a couple of days to unwind, do some walking and generally take in some fresh air.

We were blessed with glorious weather most of our stay and the village we were staying in, Stary Smokovec was all but deserted. We had an apartment to ourselves so we could cook in peace, have a few quiet wines and watch the world cup matches, including the first Australian game. Heaven.

Our first hike was a medium grade and took us up 1300 meters to the base of the first chair lift up the to one of the lower peaks. The walk back down along the river through the woods to town was something to behold until we reached what we thought to be a massive deforestation exercise. We could hardly believe our eyes, how could they do this ? Turns out however they had a hurricane through a few months previously and it had cleared swathes of land and wiped out many of the Chats (Chalets) in the area. Quite amazing as I have always believed that hurricanes only affect coastal regions.

The second hike was slightly larger. Ease yourself into it you fools I hear you say. No way, we're on a budget man. We decided to hike to the peak of a 2000 metre monster by way of 3 glacial lakes. The name of the peak escapes me but a couple of kiwis assured us that it was doable unless the weather closed in on us like it did them. We neglected to tell them that we had no gear apart from our trainers, jeans and fleeces but their enthusiasm spurred us on.

As the photos hopefully show, the hike up from the bottom lake (Strbske Pleso) sitting at around 1300 meters to the top lake (Popradske Pleso) sitting at 1500 meters was glorious. We tramped for about 15kms through dense forest but always with the peaks to the left, right and ahead of us.

From Popradske Pleso you hit the narrow switchback track to the top of the 2000m peak. The track in its highest point was covered in snow but we figured we'd have a crack anyway as it was a perfect day and only the middle of the afternoon. As you can see in the photos we didn't make it to the top as a couple of dutch mountaineers told us we'd never make it through the snow line in our 'suburban' clothes. They showed us their altimeter however which showed us at just over 1900 meters which we were pretty happy with. I think we're ready for the Anapurna Track now.

All in all a wonderful spot to spend a few days in the great outdoors. I've never been one to espouse the great outdoors but this experience has turned me. We loved it and we've vowed to do as much hiking as possible over the coming months, unless of course there's a beach nearby and a cold beer and chilled wine to be had.

Hope all is well on the home front.

Next pod, Bled - Slovenia.


Nath and Kat.
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