September 4, 2008
(7.29 km; 3 hrs 29 min; 408m ascent; 412m descent)
We were up at 7 am to get an early start on the day. First of all we went to breakfast. Matthew had the ham and eggs, while Paul and Rosemary opted for muesli and milk. Once back at the room we packed our bags, then went and checked out. We put our big packs into Matthew’s car and just kept our day packs.
We had planned a morning walk up to Hincovo pleso. The first part of the walk took us the same way we had gone to Rysy yesterday, but at the Frog Lakes junction we went straight ahead and then left across a creek. Up and up we went for an hour, until we crested a small ridge and saw the tarn. It was in a very lovely setting with very tall mountains coming straight down to two sides of the lake, and it was very pretty in the sunshine.
When we arrived, there were already about 25 people sitting or standing around admiring the view. We sat there for about 15 minutes, watching the people toiling up the switchbacks towards Kôprovské sedlo, then since we were on rather a tight schedule, we started back down. There were dozens of people coming up, if anything even more than the crowds who had climbed Rysy with us yesterday.
Back at the hut, we sat at one of the tables outside and had our salami and rye bread sandwiches. Then we climbed into Matthew’s car and drove back down the road. We had to squeeze by a couple of cars which were coming up, but surprisingly there was actually room to do that. We headed over to Štrbské pleso, which is a booming tourist centre. There we found the local supermarket and stocked up on lunch fixings for us and for Matthew, who didn’t have any Slovak money. Then we went back to the parking lot and organized our packs. We said our goodbyes and Matthew took off for Hungary.
(15.86 km; 3 hrs 57 min; 180m ascent; 697m descent)
Now we were about to start on our circuit of the Tatras. The only problem was, we didn’t know how to get to the trail. So we turned on the GPS and zoomed in until we could see the street we were on. We could also see the trail at the top of the display, so now we knew to go up the hill to the lake.
Our trail was the Tatranská Magistrála, the red trail running along the base of the Tatras, and our goal today was Podbanské, 15 km to the south-west. It was already 2 pm so we started off promptly. Across the lake we could see the two ski jumps which were built for the 1970 World Nordic Championships, and some ski runs above them. The trail went along the shore of the lake, then through some construction sites and out into the countryside. Here it climbed up a considerable amount, which was rather frustrating as Podbanské was much lower in elevation. However we were actually crossing a continental divide; east of here the streams flow through Poprad to Poland’s Dunajec River and into the Baltic Sea, and west of here they flow via the Váh and Danube Rivers into the Black Sea.
There was active logging taking place here, too. At one point we had to stop and wait for the logging machinery to pull three logs across the trail. This was frustrating as well. However soon we reached a level area which was the end of the logging operation and then started to go downhill. It was very pleasant in these woods and that made our spirits rise. We met a lot of hikers coming back from their hikes, but after we passed Jamské pleso, their numbers grew much smaller and soon we were walking alone.
Our route alternated between clearcut and forested areas and for quite a distance we walked along the same contour. In one of the clearcut areas our route started to plunge downhill quite steeply, which made both of us glad that we weren’t going in the opposite direction. The trail was marked throughout with little red-and-white flags painted on trees, and there was only one or two places where you could go the wrong way if you didn’t look carefully for the flags.
About 4:30 pm we reached Tri studničky (Three Little Wells), which was the junction of several trails. Here there were three well-built buildings. There was nobody here that we could see, but they were well-supplied with firewood so we could see that they were in use. From here the trail took us uphill once again for a bit. We plodded on for another 5 km, but it didn’t seem long before we were in Nadbanské and we walked down into Podbanské at 5:35 pm. Podbanské was much quieter than Štrbské pleso; you might even call it a backwater.
Unfortunately the Hotel Kriváň was a kilometre up the hill on the other side, but what did we care about one more kilometre? All the same we were both so glad to finally get there. We checked in and found out that our room 203 was up a flight of stairs. But what did we care about a flight of stairs? The room was very nice, much nicer than either of us had anticipated. We decided to have showers before dinner. The bathroom was small and the shower was actually part of the room, with the drain in the middle of the floor. The best part was the wonderful hot water!
Once cleaned up we headed downstairs to the restaurant. There were quite a lot of people already there, and it was immediately obvious that it was a buffet. So we helped ourselves to salad fixings, main courses, and desserts. Especially the watermelon. We didn’t know how much it was costing us, but it didn’t matter because we weren’t going to go anywhere else. The food was very tasty, although a few dishes were a bit salty, and because we could see what we were getting we didn’t end up with any surprises.
After dinner we headed back to our room to write our journals and go to bed early. Tomorrow’s hike would climb up to the crest of the Tatras and then climb down the other side into Poland; probably the most strenuous day of the trip.