“Easy” day across the Polish Tatras

September 6, 2008

(15.00 km; 6 hrs 48 min; 771m ascent; 614m descent)

Elevation profile
Google Map

Early morning at Hala OrnakFour of our roommates were getting an early start, and their alarm went off at 5:30 am. It sounded like a cuckoo clock. But they were quiet and didn’t bother us much. Today was supposed to be an easy day after yesterday’s hard day, so we slept until after 8 am. At about 8:30 am we went down for breakfast. Both of us opted for muesli, milk, bread, cheese and jam. The cheese was a soft cheese with small holes, and there was a lot of it. We saved most of it for future lunches, and also saved some of the bread and jam for today’s lunch.

Reception in the hutBack in the room we repacked our packs, then headed out. By 9:30 am we were on our way. Initially we walked down the road towards Kiry. We had lost track of the days, but today was a sunny Saturday. There were hordes of day hikers heading our way, and we were amazed at the numbers. Also on the road were horse-drawn carriages trotting rapidly with their customers, usually older people or people with young children.

Public transport in the national parkAfter about an hour we came across a shepherd with a large flock of sheep. The shepherd was an older man who seemed to be joking with the passers-by. He was wearing traditional Polish mountain folk dress, including canvas trousers with embroidery on the front. He was also wearing international standard rubber boots. The sheep were very strange-looking with curled horns, very long legs, and large furry feet.

Still herding sheepThe road paralleled the Kościeliska River as it wound its way down the valley. Soon we reached the junction with the black trail, the Ścieżka nad Reglami. There would be 11 or 12 kilometres of walking along this trail to our destination, Hotel Kalatówki. However, we hadn’t quite realized that there were numerous ridges and valleys running down from the high mountains, and that therefore we would be crossing all those ridges and valleys.

Nuns out hikingSo we started to climb quite steeply, until we reached another trail junction, Przysłop Miętusi (Little Mint Pass), where we came across a group of about 60 hikers resting. We sat at a table to eat an apple and some cookies and to enjoy the view. From here the trail descended into another valley before starting uphill again. Once again the trails were hand-made out of large rocks, which sometimes made it easy to walk on and sometimes made it more difficult.

Highwayman's chapelAfter a long and steep drop, we came to Dolina Strążyska, where there was a tea shop. It was now 1:15 pm, so we decided to stop and have lunch. As usual, this place was incredibly busy with all shapes and sizes of people.

One of the meadowsAfter lunch we found our trail again and, as usual, it went up and up quite steeply only to go down again. Fortunately there was a bit of wind in the forest, to cool us off on a hot day. At the bottom we met a group of four British people, so we chatted with them for a short while and told them about the tea shop. Then up we went again, but this time we knew from the map that it was our last up. This section of the trail passed along a steep rock face, and had several wooden bridges crossing deep gullies and also good views towards Zakopane. Finally we came to the top and had a nice view of the cable car that travels between Kuźnice and the top of Kasprowy Wierch, and from here we switchbacked easily down to the meadow and the hotel.

Crossing a gullyChecking in, we got our room key and headed up to our cute little room overlooking a meadow with cows and sheep as well as the cable car in the distance. (Why do we always have to climb two flights of stairs to our hotel room?) We settled in, then went down to the end of the hall to have showers. Our room had a washbasin, and underneath it was a big plastic basin which was ideal for rinsing out socks and underwear, so the next order of business was laundry.

View over ZakopaneBy now it was dinner time, so we went down to the hotel restaurant. Rosemary had a big potato pancake with goulash in it, and Paul had a sausage with mustard, ketchup, and horseradish. Both of us had carrot salad. It was all very delicious but as usual the main course was salty. But probably the high salt content was good for us, since we were sweating so much during the day.

Dinner!After dinner we retired to our room to write journals and to plan the route for tomorrow’s hike to Schronisko Pięciu Stawów (Five Lakes Hut). No matter how we worked it, walking directly there through the mountains would be at least seven hours over trails our book called “strenuous”. But a hiker we had met at Hali Ornak had told us that the road to Morskie Oko was not closed, contrary to the Polish newspaper article we had seen which said it would be closed for repairs starting on September 1.

So we went down to the reception desk and asked the woman there to call the Morskie Oko hut and find out whether the road was really closed. Luckily for us it turned out that the road was half open, just enough to get us to the moderate trail up Dolina Roztoki to the Five Lakes. This would work to our advantage, because we could then figure out the buses to Łysa Polana for our return to Slovakia on Tuesday.

It was decided, then. Tomorrow we would leave half of our gear at the hotel, travel by buses from Kuźnice to the Morskie Oko road, and walk up to the Five Lakes. On Monday we would reverse the process and arrive back at the hotel.

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