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Tatra Mountains, Poland - sense of wonder still intact

Part I

I'm going to start this post about my 3 day hiking trip to the Tatra Mountains with a conclusion: I feel like it was the most epic thing I have done since my trip to the States in 2012. I have been to many places since then, flying solo or with company and I've had some great times, but one key element was missing all the time. And that was the ability to be completely overwhelmed, to be filled with absolute inner peace and to mentally embrace all the challenges in my life ahead with a stoic resilience. I guess I might have reached some state of mindfulness. It's unbelievable how amongst an insane state of physical exhaustion, my spirit was flying high in the sky. And I just kept going, going, going, feeling all and everything at the same time.

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Back to the start of the trip, I have decided to do it when I returned from Portugal in early September, hoping to explore that part of Poland before the winter. I hadn't been really impressed with any type of landscape here in Poland so far and I was curious to see the Morskie Oko lake and the mountains around. Heard only good things and had seen amazing pictures. I also wanted to do it alone because I believe this kind of trip is more transcendent if we are alone.

I also decided to do this trip in the cheapest way possible. I didn't want comfort or shortcuts, I wanted to endure it fully and completely, trying to be as close to a simple life as possible. In most of my previous trips, I often made choices based on comfort and never stuck to the budget. This time I wanted it to be different, with no easy way out. And so it was.

Sunday the 25th. I left Warsaw at 4pm on a crowded bus towards Zakopane which would arrive there at 11pm. For practical reasons, I had planned to sleep the first night in a hostel in the city and move to the mountain shelter located in Dolina Chocholowska in the early hours of Monday. I have to say that when I sat on the bus and realized I would spend the next 7 hours stuck there I wasn't really excited. My mind was full of noise, full of sadness and I started to wonder if I actually wanted to go on this trip, if I really wanted to be alone for the next 3 days and a half in the middle of nowhere. But quitting would have been too easy and I was determined to fight all those negative impulses which normally happen when our spirit is down and we are about to face an unknown reality. Then the bus took off, there was no coming back anyway! The trip was normal, nothing special to add except for the fact that the AC was right on top of me and blowing really cold air which almost got me sick in my throat. It didn't really help my overall mood to spend 7hours fearing I would get sick even before arriving and there was nothing I could do about it, stuck in a totally packed bus. Luckily I managed to not get sick!!!

As soon as most of people dropped off in Krakow and the bus got almost empty, that's when I started to feel excited! Night had fallen and now I felt I was going to the unknown, I was about to start exploring. There was no safe place to go to and there was no familiar faces to find refuge with, I was on my own and for the first time in this trip, I felt lighter, I felt in touch with life, right there. I had been missing that sensation. I couple of hours later the bus arrived to the main station in Zakopane. I put my backpack on my shoulders and walked to the hostel where I would be staying in a 10 bed dorm. The girl at reception was very friendly and gave me some tips about the trails I should do and other practical information for the next morning. I took a shower and went to bed as I wanted to wake up at 6.30am on the next day. That's when the first magic moment happened. I don't know how to properly explain it but I remember to be trying to sleep and realize there was a lot of noise in my head which suddenly stopped to give space to the most peaceful silence I could imagine in that room, where 5 other people were sleeping. I opened my eyes and I couldn't hear anything, no sound whatsoever. The amazing thing is that I just noticed there was noise in my head when the silence appeared. It was just beautiful, one of those moments you won't forget.

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Monday the 26th. The day started with a quick breakfast in the hostel at 7am before heading to the mini buses are located right next to the train station. The sun was starting to timidly show up in between the clouds and there was almost no one on the streets. Luckily I didn’t have to wait much for the bus and in a second there I was already on the way to Siwa Polana, the entrance point in the Tatra National Park closest to the mountain shelter I was staying in Glade Chocholowska. I knew that as soon as the bus would stop, I would need to walk for about two hours to reach the shelter and was with that sense of purpose that I started walking, with my two backpacks (a smaller one filled mostly with food to carry to the mountains). By this time, the sun was already glowing and those early morning rays were blissful and flooded me with energy. The way to the shelter was quite easy in a paved road which was accompanied by a beautiful water stream.

It was also very peaceful at that time of the day, only a few people walking the opposite direction to probably catch a bus to other valleys. I was very excited at this time, as I started to be surrounded by beautiful nature and I didn’t know what was ahead, I just knew I needed to keep walking.
I managed to make the way in less than two hours but I was drenched in sweat when I finally arrived to the shelter. I climbed the last steps, stopped at the entrance, threw my bags on the floor and started taking off my clothes to cool off. Then I took and moment to enjoy all the beauty around me and was so happy to realize I’d stay in this idyllic place for two nights! I was really amped up and barely couldn’t wait to start exploring the trails! I wanted to go up the mountain, I wanted to go high and marvel with all the promised beauty in front of my eyes. I couldn’t check in yet, so I asked for a map with the trails and sat in the breakfast room putting coffee in my canteen and planning which trails I would do and counting the hours needed to see if I would be able to finish it before nightfall.

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I decided to do the green trail all the way to Wolowiec (2064m) and then return passing by Rakon (1879m) and Grzes (1653m), using the blue and yellow trails to get back to the shelter. All in all, would take me around 5 hours of walking so it seemed doable for a first day, I didn’t know how the trails would be and how tired I would get. I left at exactly 10.30am, fully equipped.

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to be continued.... (maybe!)

Posted by ZackMeursault 12:29 Archived in Poland

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