|Date||Thursday 30 June 2011|
|Distance stage||26,5 km|
|Distance acum.||2449,5 km|
|Quality of signs||Okay|
|Quality of the hike||C (good): mountains, bushes, nice views|
I have travelled to Slovakia for a three-day hiking trip. After the disappointment of last time (more than one year ago!) I am now back in the middle of summer. No chances for any snow where I will be hiking this time! Last night I took the last bus from Brezno in Zavadka nad Hronom. It goes through a quite mountain valley, passing some small villages. Some of them have a very typical scenery: when the bus approaches the village it first passes one or two backstreets where gipsies live in houses without windows or doors. The next minute the bus passes some streets with regular Slovakian houses, followed by the centre of the village with a church or town hall. Then the bus passes again some streets with regular Slovakian houses, followed by again one or two backstreets where gipsies live in worndown houses. When I left the bus in Zavadka I smelled a very strong scent of flowers, coming from the gardens of the houses, and from the fields surrounding the village. It is clear that the air over here is so much cleaner than it is back home, that your sense organs give very strong impulses to your brain about what they sense. It’s a special experience. In the very early morning I am back at the Sedlo Oravcova where I had to quit the last time. In order to be able to find my way without problems I wait for the sunrise. At approx. 3.30am a huge thunderstorm crashes its way into the Lower Tatras, leaving everything shocked and wet.
The distance that needs to be covered today is long (including the section from Zavadka up the mountain to my starting point). Also the many meters climbing and descending will not make it easier. In addition the weather forecast for today is not so good. At 4.15am I start my hike, for which I have been mentally preparing for a long time now. Due to the thunderstorm and rain all the grass, bushes and trees are wet. The Trail follows a path that is very narrow. Passing trees without touching them is impossible. At 4.25am, only 10 minutes after my start, I am soaken wet from my toes up to my waist. Completely soaken wet! I do my best to maintain a constant pace. After two hours I pass a shelter that is situated just behind the top of the Vel’ka Vapenica. It is robust, dry and there’s nobody around. I take off my shoes and socks and try to get them to dry a little bit.
After the short break I continue my way. It starts to rain and the visibilty, which was okay so far, is getting less and less. The Trail follows the main ridge of the Lower Tatras, which looks simple on the map but is not so easy in reality. Many turns and curves, even with compass at hand, make it very difficult to find my way. Fortunately there are many signs, mostly on big rocks along the Trail, as well as on sticks of 1.5 meter height. The fogg gets thicker while I am climbing up to the top of the Orlova, where the highest section of this part of the Lower Tatras is situated. I follow the signs, not being able to see beyond 20 or 30 meters. All of a sudden I realize I have seen a certain rock with signs before. My compass confirms to me that, indeed, I am not going eastbound anymore, but west! I turn around and carefully make sure I stay on the right track. After the Orlova, at 1800+ meters altitude, the wind is blowing fiercely, the visibility is next to nothing, and the rain is pouring down constantly. I can follow the Trail without difficulty and when I pass a big rock I almost bump into two hikers that are going in the oposite direction. They are starteled as well and after a short “good luck” we continue our ways. The top of the Kral’ova Hola is right in front of me, I know, as I can see it on the map. Only four minutes before I pass the huge broadcast tower I start to see it through the fogg.
Funny that I saw it when I was 40 kilometers further away, but hardly today, even when I am passing it at some 50 meters distance! The wind (storm?) and the rain really make this a horrible place to be right now. After passing the top the road goes down and after a few minutes the Trail leaves the road and crosses some lovely meadows and fields. Lovely on a bright summer day, but today everything is wet and slippery.
I manage to find my way down, but I can not avoid for my trousers to get covered with dirt and mud. The closer I get to the village of Telgart, down in the valley, the better the weather gets. There is no more wind, and halfway down the mountain it stops raining. An hour later, around 2.45pm, down in the valley, the weather is almost summerlike, with a some clouds along the blue sky. Looking back up the mountain the peak is still covered in clouds, and it looks like there’s still a storm going on up there.
Telgart is only a very small village, so when I pass a very small grocery shop I go in and buy some snacks and food for tomorrow’s stage. I continue my way to Pension Telgart, which is situated directly along the Trail, and where I stay for the night. The owner of the pension gives me all the old newspapers that he has so I can try to get my shoes dry before the morning.