September 7, 2008
(13.06 km; 6 hrs 53 min; 1053m ascent; 631m descent)
Today was supposed to be our easy day, and also our day for checking out the bus system. Breakfast was at 7:30 am, so we packed what we would need for the overnight trip and then went down to eat. We both ordered the breakfast which included corn flakes, milk, bread, sliced meat, jam, honey, and butter, plus tea and coffee. As usual it was a large serving, so we made our lunch using some of the bread and meat.
We took the larger part of Paul’s pack and the smaller part of Rosemary’s pack. The rest we left at the reception when we checked out, for them to store until we returned. We headed down the cobbled path to Kuźnice, meeting busloads of walkers coming up. This took about 20 minutes. At the bottom of the hill we found the bus stop, where we got on a minibus which took us to the Zakopane bus terminal for 3 złoty each. This trip took about 15 minutes, taking us past some very nice-looking chalets. It also went past the roundabout named after Pope John Paul II.
Paying for the bus here was very uncomplicated. When you got off, you paid the driver. The driver gave you change if necessary. That was it. Anyway, from the bus terminal we got onto the minibus labelled “Morskie Oko”, which took us to the parking lot at Polana Palenica for 8 złoty each. It also stopped at Łysa Polana en route, which was handy because then we knew where we would get off in two days time.
By 9:30 am we had paid our 4.40 złoty park entry fees and started walking up the road with dozens of other walkers. The first part of the route took us gently uphill along the paved road. After about 45 minutes we came to Wodogrzymoty Mickiewicza, which is a series of linked waterfalls cascading down to the river below. Here was the “Road Closed” sign which indicated the start of the construction, and we turned right and started to follow the trail up Dolina Roztoki. At first we climbed quite steeply, but mostly the trail was well-graded. It followed the river for the most part, and it was lovely and shaded so that walking was very pleasant.
Soon we climbed out of the forest and came to Siklawa, a series of falls with pretty pools. Surprisingly enough the falls had a fair bit of water coming over them. Our trail climbed up beside them and before we knew it we were at the top of the falls and beside the largest of the five lakes, Wielki Staw (Big Lake). Our hut was located on the next lake, Przedni Staw (Front Lake), but this was only ten minutes away. What a beautiful location to stay!
We checked in and went to our room, which was #8, with eight beds. We were quite early, so we laid claim to two lower bunks. Then we went down to the cafeteria. For lunch we bought some tea to go with our buns which we had made in the morning. Sitting beside us was a young woman from Warsaw who struck up a conversation with us. She had spent some time in Ireland, but not surprisingly she didn’t know much about Canada. We talked to her for a while, then headed out to walk part of the trail to Morskie Oko.
Naturally this wasn’t a flat trail. The first part took us along the lake and then headed steeply upwards. The trail was well constructed, but was still very steep. At the top of this ridge we had a precipitous view down into Dolina Roztoki, then we plunged down into a rocky hollow where we heard a marmot whistling. Rosemary wasn’t happy about all the steep ups and downs, but persevered on the long steady climb around a shoulder, until suddenly we could see down to Morskie Oko and the hut on its shore. Behind it were Czarny Staw and the hulking form of Rysy, where we had stood only a few days ago. This view made it all worthwhile.
The return trip to the hut went surprisingly quickly, so we ended up back at the hut at 4:30 pm. We had to wait until 5 pm for the reception to open up, and then we had to wait again until the one and only key to our room was tracked down, but eventually it was found. We got our boots off, put on our cleaner clothes, and headed down for dinner. Rosemary had goulash with kasha (barley groats) and Paul had a delicious żurek (sour soup) with kielbasa. We both had Tatranska Szarlotka (apple cake) for dessert, and it was very good too.
After dinner we sat in the dining room and wrote our journals. But at 7:15 pm a priest popped his head out of the kitchen and announced that mass would be taking place there. (According to the sign by the reception, he was from the monastery at Wiktorówki, down near Polana Palenica.) So we cleared up the rest of our dirty dishes and went outside. Later we looked in the window and saw that the room was nearly full.
After 8 pm it got dark, but there were too many clouds to see the stars well. So we went up to our room and got our beds organized. There were two people sleeping on the floor of our room, and two more in the hallway outside the room. Most of our roommates went to bed around 9 pm, as did we, but there was a group somewhere who stayed up singing along with a guitar player. But fortunately they didn’t stay up very late, either.