Episode 1

Tip of the day
If you talk with your friend, drink a beer or engage the head in another manner, the pain is more bearable and you will almost forget about it.

From the beginning of our journey, we knew that it was not worth planning more than a day in advance. Since we did not have time to prepare and pack in time (only a week before the start of the trip, we bought outdoor clothes 🙈), we broke our plan right away and started the trip one day later. We arrived at Dukla around 10 am. A strong wind was blowing there, creating a gloomy and dark mood. It seemed to us as if the war had just taken place a week ago. The atmosphere of this place was still strong.

The first few hours of our walk were solitary. Paradoxically, Nika and I didn't talk too much, even though we hadn’t seen each other for several months. Maybe we knew we would have the whole month to talk, maybe we needed to get used to the new way of life. I was fond of the silent walk. We walked through a forest that was bursting with different colors, with the predominant burgundy color of the fallen leaves. The only sounds we heard were the songs of birds, the creaking of trees, and the sounds of rattles we bought to intimidate bears. 🐾

After only 11 kilometers, our whole body started to hurt. First it was the upper back, then the ankles and then the arms. Probably those 15 kilos of baggage wasn't the best idea. The pain was unbearable. In the documentary movies about the journey, it was promised to us that the pain would not come until the third day, and no one mentioned the back pain 😅. I have to admit, I had thought we would have to return home the next day.

We spent the end of the day climbing to the Údolie Smrti (Death Valley), where difficult battles were fought during World War II. There are several tanks hidden in the meadow, to remind passers-by of the history of the place. We enjoyed beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. After that we stopped in the village pub, where we celebrated the initial kilometers with our first beer. We learned from the locals about the meadow near the airport where we could put up our tents for the night. Even though we got lost a few times, we finally found a place for a tent and exhausted, we jumped to the sleeping bags.

Tip of the day
Don't be afraid to ask the locals for water. They are nice and helpful and you can also enjoy a little bit of socialization. They can also advise you about surrounding area, e.g if 🐻 lives in the forest.

“It is said that the third day is critical. For us it was the second. Getting lost is the most exhausting experience you can have on such a long journey. Each time it drains your motivation, enthusiasm, energy and time. It will always take away your motivation, enthusiasm, energy and time.”

“We got lost three times that day.”

First time, we got lost in the morning while making our descent to Svidník. Even though we didn't get much sleep at night, our body was quite well regenerated and, surprisingly, we were able to continue. Aponi was up most of the night, sniffing the animals passing by. As a result, it took us almost three hours to pack up and start the walk.

Right at the beginning we had to climb to the top of the Čierna Hora. On the road there, we met people from the surrounding cottage area. They offered us water with a warning that we should take sufficient reserves because we won’t find more for a long time. Not even the river for Aponi. They gave us about 1.5 liters of mineral water and 2 beers of 0.5 liters each. We were glad for the water, but the climb with unexpected baggage drained all of our remaining energy. At the top, we had to take a long lunch break and drink most of the remaining water to relieve our shoulders.

After the rest, we headed down the hill to the village Kurimka where we managed to get lost for the second time. This time it was much harder. We were already exhausted by previous experiences when suddenly we were standing in the middle of the forest. There was no road in sight that we could take. It took us almost an hour to wade through the bad forest terrain before we were able to find the path using GPS navigation and mobile phones. When we arrived in the village, we almost crawled and again we were without water. Since there was no spring nearby, we asked for the water of an elder man standing behind the fence. He took us inside and his wife even brought Aponi some snacks for dogs 🐶

It was almost evening when we decided that we would do the final climb from the village to the meadow where we planned to set up a tent on the edge of the forest. Probably due to physical exhaustion, we took the wrong turn and invested the last bit of energy to hike the wrong hill. After a 15 minute walk, we realized that we had not seen any road marks for a long time. At that moment, it felt like someone had taken away our last hope for the rest we needed so badly. Again, it took us an hour to get back on track and find a place to sleep. At least the place was really beautiful. A long meadow in the middle of the forest, strawberries along the route. In the middle stood a large wooden house on legs overlooking the surrounding countryside. And then I found out that my ankle was swollen and it hurt like it was on fire. 🏕

Tip of the day
Magura is very exhausting hike to the top, take a lot of 💦 with you

The next day my ankle was still swollen and didn't stop hurting. It was difficult to assess whether we should continue and risk that the swelling would get worse. We hadn’t had experience with such a situation yet. I had fearful thoughts of having my leg amputated when we arrived at Devín. However, we couldn’t give up on the third day. Fortunately, Nika pulled out tapes that tied my leg and strengthened it. The pain persisted, but thanks to the bandages, I was able to walk.

When we put on our backpacks, we were pleasantly surprised. They weren't that heavy anymore. Consumption of our food and water supplies has paid off. The feeling motivated us to quickly hike the mountain in front of us (Makovica). In the village, we even managed to find a rich spring where we took our first foot shower after three days in the wilderness. 😅🧼

Another challenge on the way was a walk through a gipsy settlement. Because of Aponi, we were afraid of dogs who might be out of leash there, determined to protect their territory. Fortunately, there weren't many of them and one little boy even helped us catch a puppy that barked the most. In the end, we enjoyed the walk through the settlement. It was a new experience for us. People either ignored us or greeted us. It was lunch and the atmosphere was almost party-like. It made me think about their community life. In cities, many people live individually or just with their families. Sometimes, I feel like we're even looking for excuses so we don't have to meet our friends because we're lazy or exhausted after all day at work.

“13:00, Zborov, lunch, the sun is shining, there are no clouds in the sky and it is hot. Due to the weather and the terrain, our pace is relative. If there is an asphalt road and the sun shines, we walk 1 kilometer in 2 hours. If there is a forest road and we walk under the shade of trees, we manage 4 kilometers per hour. How long did the trip through Zborov take? 2️⃣🌞🥴“

When we finally reached the top of Magura, three hours were left until sunset and the final hike to Bardejov Spa was waiting for us. The plan was clear, we wanted to find an open bar where we could get a reward beer. When we entered one, I tried to ask the waitresses if we could sit with the dog in the garden. She noticed me, but she ran away from me as if I were some dirty homeless person (she wasn't that far away from the truth 🤣). I had to follow her across the whole bar and she still ignored me. Finally, the second waiter on duty allowed us to stay. It made me think about how often people draw conclusions from first impressions. I believe that if I came to that bar in a summer dress, she would even smile at me.

Due to a longer stay in the bar, we had to find a place to sleep after dark. There was a nice viewpoint towards the route to Bardejov. There we met Ondrej, another SNP tourist. He was the first SNP tourist with whom we spent some time and exchanged experiences. We were grateful for this unexpected company.