From Zakopane I took a bus to the bordertown Lysa Polana, then walked across the border into Slovakia and from there took another bus to the town of Zdiar.
In Zdiar I found my way to the Ginger Monkey Hostel and was warmly welcomed into this comfortable house. After having hiked 10 hours the day before all I wanted to do was relax. So I just sat outside on the veranda enjoying the sunshine, reading a Murakami novel and petting the dopey but cute hostel dog Wally.
The next day I got up early at 7am but since it was raining I kept delaying my hike. At 10am it finally seemed to be clearing up a bit and I started the hike. First I walked along a river, past deserted houses, hotels and skilifts.
After about an hour I reached the hut where you have to pay 1 Euro entrance fee to the national park. The woman there asked me if I really wanted to hike today. I said "why not?" and she "because there is supposed to be some heavy rain this afternoon" and me "how heavy?" and she "Well, heavy, strong" and me "will there be floodings?" and she "not that I know of" (she looks at my sneakers) "but it might be slippery" and me "yes, might be" and she "if you like you can pay the 1 Euro today and then do the hike tomorrow" and me "no, unfortunately I don´t have that much time". After thinking it over for a while I tell her that I would just keep on hiking for a bit and see what it´s like and in case that the conditions got worse I would turn back. I wave goodbye and disappear into the forest.
After ten minutes the heavy rain sets in, so the oracle was right. I quarrel with myself whether to keep walking or turn around but the problem with me is always that, once I got a plan into my head, there´s no way back for me. I had decided to climb that bloody mountain so that´s what I´ll do. Who cares about the rain? It´s just water after all. So I trot on. Soon the path gets steeper and stepper and I find myself panting for air. Every other bend I seek shelter under a big tree. In my mind, Bob Dylan´s harmonica starts playing.
"Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm.
This tune seems to wind my spring and I continue hiking. To my relief soon the rain stops and the fog almost disappears so that the views of Zdiar down below are lovely and I pat myself on the back for not having turned around. After a while I meet a couple who are also braving the elements. They are hiking in what seems to be their underwear. I don´t ask them about it but they probably do so as not to get any water on their water and windproof airlight breathable Jack Wolfskin trekking pants with integrated insect repellent and protection against UV radiation. They have hiking poles, out of their 60 liter backpacks hang two tubes from where they drink their purified water and, funnily enough, both of them are wearing sunglasses, the kind which have visors on the side to keep the sun out.
Just to remind you, the sun is not out at the moment... Of course, of course, I would have bet my life on that, of course they are Germans :-) For a moment we talk about the weather because that´s what Germans do when they meet. "it´s raining" - "yes, pretty heavily" - "yes, hopefully it´ll get better again soon" - "yes, we just have to send some prayers to the weather god" - "right, or just hope for the best" - "yes, hahahaha [not funny!], so where in germany are you from?" - "from passau" - "ah, from passau, blablablabla"...... - "so why are you hiking in your underwear?" - "well, we like to screw behind the bushes every now and then and figured it would be easier, faster to take off, you know" - "errrr, right..."- "okay, then, see you at the mountain top" - "okay, make sure you don´t stumble and fall and hurt your soft parts" - "Break a leg!" - "Mud in your eyes!"
Okay, enough about this episode.
I continue hiking. I didn´t expect it to be that difficult. It is quite steep at times. The height difference is 900 meters and it doesn´t seem to end. After a while there are no more trees but many beautiful flowers and the view down towards Zdiar and the surrounding valley is quite nice. Only a few clouds are scattered around and the fog rolling around the hills adds some kind of mystery to the scenery. I´m happy. After another hour or so I reach the saddle of the moutain at 1825 meters above sea level, have lunch and enjoy the view. But to my disappointment the weather up here is as unpredictable as its reputation and I can literally see the clouds and the fog come crawling up the moutainside. Before I know it, the rain is gushing on me sideways, the wind is intensifying and I am soon totally drenched with rain.
looking down into the valley
Still I move on to hike the last few hundred meters up to the top at 1933 meters. There I can´t see more than 10 meters, the fog and rain is so dense now, the temperature is at "damn it, I´m freezing" degrees, so I decide to start my descend.
The three hours it takes me to hike down, it never stops raining again. I pass by the German couple again. They ask me what the weather was like up there and I say "it´s sunny with 40 degrees, there´s a cocktail bar, and hot girls in bikinis are working on their tan beside the pool"...
The rain makes the tiny pathway turn into a little stream so that my sneakers get totally wet. Passing me are some more wet water birds in their ponchos. This time they are Slovaks and they also ask me what the weather is like up there.
at 1825m above sea level
I just show them my video from the top with zero sight and leave them with their thoughts of indecision. A kid is crying and I wonder why people torture kids and make them walk up steep mountains in heavy rain?
I keep on hiking and hiking, all the while clutching my camera in my jeans pocket, the only thing I´m worried about getting wet. Reaching the trees I realise that I actually enjoy hiking in the rain. Seeing the world weep, raindrops falling from leaves, the smell of wet air, the sound of renewal. Fortunately I have my mind to provide the soundtrack for situations like these...
"But there's one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me won't defeat me
It won't be long till happiness steps up to greet me
Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Crying's not for me
'Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothing's worrying me."