Tatry Mountains, Forest Rangers and The Shining

Tatry Mountains – Sept 10

Well it may not have been the best week, in terms of weather to head up to the Tatry Mountains, but I have never let weather stop me.  At least not during a race and this was a race of time.  My year off quickly coming to an end.  Plus my cousin was heading up to Strbske Pleso to finish some work.  So the timing in that sense was perfect.

However, coming right after an unexpected snow fall.  Shocking locals and tourists alike.  No more than two American tourists hiking up to Gerlach (2842m).  The highest peak in the High Tatra region.  Who went up in tights and light jackets, getting stranded and eventually freezing to death on the peak.  During my week here, they tried to figure out a way to get the bodies down while it rained on and off.  Truly sad.  After 8 days they finally got their bodies down on my last night in the area.

Anyway, my first day was pretty mellow.  Spending it in door the incredibly luxurious Kempinski Spa at Strbske Pleso.  If only I could afford the 450 euro 3 hour seasonal spa treatment.  Heading out to see the peak and head to the Kobila (restaurant).  While I sat by a cozy fire eating sulancy (potatoe gnocchi) with sugar, butter and walnuts it hailed fiercely for 20 minutes. 

Regardless of the looks of things I was optimistic the weather would turn around.  If not I would have some quite time in the forest and very muddy time on the trails.  My favourite!

Finally my cousin was done here work and we went looking for a place for me to stay.  I was thinking of something cheaper, by given the lateness in time, we headed to hotel Meir (peace) my uncles top pick.

We drove to Pribylina (small town) and then up, up, up 5 km to the very end of Racokova Dolina.   At the end of the road we found Hotel Meir.  A large cream coloured rectangular stacked building made in the 1970’s communist style.  I was a little skeptical about this particular choice.  However, once inside I found the nicest people and a super room, with a big bed and a separate sitting room.  Unfortunately, the Internet they claimed to have was dial-up and a machine with no USB port.  I didn’t  know those were anywhere anymore.

My first night there was a bus loads of locals, but after that I had the place to myself.  I an eerie feeling as  though I was in “The Shining”.  Only except for a kid on a tricycle, their was me on a mountain bike.  I wondered around the dark unlit, cold hallways whispering, “redrum”, over and over again.
 It felt so good to be near the mountains and in the forest again.  Seems to be a running theme throughout this year.
The next day turned out to be better than my optimism hoped for,  after about a kilometer on the bike I had to turn back to change into short sleeves and shorts.  Awesome!  Although, I almost froze on the downhill, I knew I had lots of climbing to do.  And I did. Choosing to forgo the signs and play stupid Canadian tourist if I got caught I took a mountain trail meant only for hiking.  I figured, what the heck, no ones around.  Since school started already the tourist season is totally dead.  Plus it wasn’t wet enough to ruin the trials with the bike.  About a kilometer I came across a bunch of men working.  They were cleaning up all the fallen trees from the storms from the week before.  One turned to me and said. “You can get a ticket for that, you know” pointing at my bike.
“What?”  I said.  Playing the dumb tourist.  “I thought I was on a bike path.  According to my map it is.”
“Well, you have a bad map.” he responded.
“It’s from Slovakia.  We can took at it, if you want?”  As I was about to get the map out,  I realized he was on a bike.  So I asked, “And you, why are you on a bike?”
“Humph!  Don’t you see who I am?”  I said, tugging at his jacket and trying to show me his foresters emblem.
“I don’t what that means.  I’m not from here.  I’m from Canada.”  I said matter-a-factly.
I couldn’t believe what how he responded.  He said, “Well you should have studied everything in Canada before you came here.”
Wow!  Shocking!  i just pulled out the map.
In the end he wanted to know why I knew Slovak so well.  I grunted something back.  Then he let me go with my bike on the trail without a ticket, but a final warning.  He said he didn’t know what state the trials were in and I may not get too far as I would have to carrying the bike over some sections.  I laughed.  “I think I can handle it”, I said.  Another guy added, “If you can’t come back and we can go for coffee.”
I pushed the bike passed them a little way up the trail and then got on.  As I started to climb over the rocks I heard one of guy say, “Hey, she knows how to bike.”
It was a good climb.  However, he was correct they were a lot of fallen logs.  Twice I left the bike and hiked some side trails that were completely covered in fallen trees.  Even back on a section of road, it was completely covered and I had to carry the bike.  I wished at that point I had my light sweet Svetlana (specialized safire mtb).
After I ditched the bike the second time and returned for it I knew there was no way I could carry it over that last section.  So I took a side trial completely covered in thick mud.  I wanted to get dirty and I did.  Only the ride back was along the road and the mud flung back at me the whole way.   Even the climb back up to Hotel Meir wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated.  Only had to get off once for about 20 meters.
The next day the weather didn’t cooperate entirely.  Regardless I took a hike.  First travelling along the fields where sheep were wondering.  Each with bells on, which sounded like a million wind chimes.  Could drive one crazy to be honest.  This eventually led into the forest and then I decided to climb to Holy Vrch.  Although it was about 5 degrees I heated up quickly on the steep incline and decided it was time to christen Slovakia with my new found naked running habit.  Incidentally, Holy Vrch, means Naked Top.
Also, headed into Liptovsky Mikulas for a day.  A small quaint town known for their torture chambers.
Last day headed to Stary Smokolvec and took the cable car up to Hriebenok and then hiked to Skalne Pleso.  Hear you can take another lift to Lomensky Stit, the second highest peak.  Right beside Gerlach, were the Americans died.  It was snowy up there and incredibly foggy, making it pointless to go up.  The clouds moved a few times to let the mountains play peekaboo with me.  Unfortunately never long enough for me to get a good picture to share with you.  As always the best pictures are in my head.  Speaking of that, the  drive home produced the pinkest sky I have ever seen.  It completely surrounded us and looked as if you were driving directly into a fire.
Definitely a place I can loose myself in.  However, may be better during the pick season where more is available and the weather is more predictable. I will have to return to try out the downhill scooter they rent on the top of some of the peaks.

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