Mountain Goats

Episode 4

Tip of the day
Do not take too much food to Nízke Tatry, there are lodges and cottages on the way, with great food to fill your belly.

“The next phase of our trail leads through the ridge of Nízke Tatry. The weather is crazy. Every SNP hiker is tested during his journey, depending on what he experiences from his environment. We are tested with weather. While we were trailing the east villages and asphalt roads the sun was shining and temperature hit the records this summer.Our walikng wes limited to the mornings and evenings. Now we walk through the mountains and we are tested with storms and lighting bolts.”

The morning before the ascent to Králová Hoľa was confusing. The morning rain and unfavorable forecasts threatened our departure from Telgart. Since we were supposed to be accompanied by Juraj and Danka, experienced tourists (who brought us all the food 🙏), we followed their advice and we did not unnecessarily delay the climb, as the weather was not supposed to get better for a few days. Just after 8 a.m we started the hike in a light rain and we did well. Fortunately, once we entered the path to the top, the clouds disappeared. We were prepared for storms and we got a sunny day. Excited, we hiked the mountain within three hours.

On the top, mysterious mists surrounded the transmitter that is built on the peak of the hill. We spent lunch time with Nika’s family. There were a lot of people, most of them regular 1-day tourists. We met a group of boys that came to hike the ridge of Nízke Tatry, the most popular part of the SNP trail. It starts in Telgárt and ends in Donovaly. You can make it in 4-5 days depending on how rushed you are.

We said goodbyes to the family, stocked the food in our backpacks and started a five hill long tour to the Andrejcova lodge. Few minutes after Kráľova Hoľa, the mists disappeared and sun started to shine again. Relieved, we lowered our pace and started to enjoy the views on the road.

In the Andrejcova lodge, we met several groups of hikers. There were almost 20 people. Some of them SNP hikers, some of them just to hike Nízke Tatry. After amazing cabbage soup and beer, a party started. Laughs and jokes were mixed with classic beer discussions. I was curious about the difference between sleeping in a cottage or a lodge. I realized it’s atmosphere. In the lodge we were all together in one room sharing common space, sleeping next to each other, drinking beer together. The landlord of the lodge finished the party with the last drink on the house. We went to sleep, a disadvantage of this place was that a lot of people were snoring. We were too exhausted to mind.

Tip of the day
Don't bother to buy a ring bell to scare off the bears. It won't help you and you should rather learn to sing.

“They say that time is relative. I say the space is too. In the morning each kilometer is so easy to make, One hour and we are almost in the middle of our day plan. In the evening, the last kilometers take eternity. The day does not want to end and I feel like with each step I'm farther from the finish line.”

The next day, we had a challenging hike in front of us, 28 km along the peaks to Čertovica. On the route we met the first foreign tourists since the start of our journey. The day was mostly calm, the storms circled the ridge but didn’t come close enough for us to get wet. However, the view of stormy valleys from a secure distance was amazing.

After a lunch break we started to come down from the peaks, the last called Homolka. Suddenly, there was something opposite on the sidewalk, just several meters away. It was a small cute ball of fur. The first time I saw it, it reminded me of a small puppy, but it was too big and far away from the village. As it approached even closer we realized it doesn't have stripes, it's all brown, it's a little bear. In a moment we turned around and started to run uphill, the opposite direction from the hill. We pulled out the spray on the bears and began to make noise. Additionally, we dialed our SNP friend Lubos, who was in front of us and Juraj, Nika’s uncle. We asked for the advice and hoped that the bear's mother would not appear. Aponi sensed a danger and started to jump on us from the fear, like we were supposed to take her from the ground (so much to our protector). After a few endless minutes, a bunch of three boys from Poland suddenly emerged from the corner. Relieved we started to make the noise together as a bigger group and we decided to continue with the spray in hand. If the boys hadn’t come we would still be on that hill. 🐻

The rest of the day, I bothered Nika with my singing but no more bears gave us a visit, probably because of the quality of my voice. We met an interesting mixed group of people at Ramža lodge. They gave us a bit of sausage and showed us where we could get some water. It looked like there would be a great party in the evening and I wanted to stay close to the people after the bear episode. However we had reserved accommodation in the mountain service house in Čertovica and we pushed ourselves to continue. Exhausted, we caught the rain in the last hour of our walk and entered our accommodation wet, stinky and tired. The house owner saw that we needed some emotional support after the hard day and poured us his home made alcohol Horcovica the rest of the evening. We also met our friend Lubos there and exchanged our experiences.

Tip of the day
Find a way to make your baggage light. After we received our stuff back in Donovaly, the struggle with heavy bags and back pain continued.

“It’s interesting how a new person that joins your group can boost your walking pace. Together with Nika, we have a very casual pace. We make a lot of stops on the way, but we walk almost the whole day. When a new person joined us for a day, we changed. We walked faster to keep up and the resting stops were adapted only to our dog. That way we made the route much faster.”

Despite mega bruises on our legs, we went from Čertovica through Ďumbier, Chopok to Ďurkova lodge the next day. This part of the ridge was easily the most beautiful, with the views from the highest peaks of Nízke Tatry. The route rewards tourists with stone cottages that offer refreshments and food. During our stay in Milan Rastislav Štefánik cottage a young man overheard our discussion about the SNP trip and gave us his protein bar for the tour. He said he has enough energy and we have a long route ahead of us. The gesture was very nice and made our mood for the rest of the day.

Final part of the track from Chopok led through stony mountains. We walked there in the evening when a lot of mountain goats started to appear on the peaks. Aponi was tempted to run after them so we had to use two leashes to keep her close to us. Even that didn’t work that well and we had to make a lot of stops to calm her down. We wouldn’t be able to continue if she were to exhaust her energy on those animals, and walking with a crazy dog through steep peaks was dangerous. These kinds of disruptions are what makes our pace on this journey slower than we wished for.

Fortunately, in Ďurkova lodge they took us in with Aponi even though we feared they won’t allow dogs inside. We met a great party of people there and got ourselves a private room on the first floor 🤪

We enjoyed the last day in the Tatras with another SNP hiker Michal. He had much better pace than us, but same as us, he wanted to get the package in the Donovaly post office the next day. Even though he easily outpaced us, he always waited for us at some nice viewpoint. He made us walk faster than we usually do, as the faster person in the group always motivates the pace of the rest. At the post office, the postman asked us if we had the car for that heavy package that arrived. 😂😅 In the end, we sent some stuff back home.