Kasprowy Wierch

We managed to get a mini bus from Zakopane to Kuznice today which was super good and shaved off 3km of walking! Woohoo!

This was a bit of a funny hike. Originally, we thought we’d go to a lake called Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy from Kuznice, but put in some more ascent to get to Kasprowy Wierch instead.

We took the blue path and then the yellow path (left hand side).

The first section of the ascent is in the forest. More rocky paths and more sore feet – yay! Before too long we were out of the trees for a our first views over Zakopane. (About 1300m – I was like woaaah we’re so high! It’s weird to regularly have been up at that level now).

Climbed up some more and back down to 1500m where there was a nice stone mountain house with restaurant and more importantly toilets. Did make Dan go in first because I couldn’t work out which door it was.

At this point we could either carry on as planned to the lake, or head up the mountain. I was skeptical, but the mountain won out.

Not to worry though! Saw a small lake with the remaining snow in the background instead.

Stopped for snacks with 55 minutes left according to the sign. In reality it was a fair bit longer.

From here onwards, the path got rockier and steeper and I wasn’t having much fun.

Looking behind at the path we’d walked was pretty crazy.

An English speaker offered to take our photo which was nice! I took one for a family earlier in the day, asking the question via hand signalling.

The top was pretty crowded because you can also access it by cable car. It still gave us some stunning views. It’s also right on the Slovakian border, though I don’t think I crossed into Slovakia this time. It was also nearly 1900m – a new high for me!

Having never been in a cable car down a mountain before, well, it was too nice to resist. Saved my ankles alot of pain on the steep bit of the descent, and means I can do more hikes in the remaining days.

Back in Kuznice, we finally tried Polish dumplings, which were really good but probably a bit much on a sunny day post-hike. Even still, we walked back to Zakopane, which is a nice gentle downhill.

I’m glad we did this walk, but now I’m really tired and have already had a little nap. I’m having the best time, it’s really awesome to have a large-ish hiking town so close to the mountains – and not having to hire a car was a huge win.

Intro to Poland

It’s my third new country of 2019! Pretty cool.

The day of travelling was long, left home at 3:15am and got to Zakopane at 7pm. This time, we’re relying on public transport which is kinda nice. Still learning to figure it out.

When we landed, we took the train from the airport to Krakow, where we had pizza because we were dragging around suitcases. We are coming back to Krakow for a day on the way back so will explore then. Took another train from Krakow to Zakopane – which was 3 and a half hours. There are buses too but we chose the train – it only cost £12 each or something stupid!

The little Hogwarts Express like cabins were cute! We got allocated seats next to some other British girls inter-railing. What’s the probability of that?

Really loving our hotel in Zakopane. It’s away from the main street so quite quiet.

For our first evening we walked into town in the drizzle. Zakopane is so much bigger than where we are used to travelling! I will take pictures when it is not drizzling. There are little stalls selling sweet treats, restaurants, bars, shops (so many sports shops!). Even in the rain it was bustling with people. For dinner we picked a cosy bar, where I had salmon with local mushroom sauce. Was definitely a bit rich but enjoyed it all the same.

Day 2 included a nice long lie in before trying some meats and cheese for breakfast. We weren’t sure what to do as the weather forecast included lots of rain. Settled on a nice roundabout hike to Kuznice.

It was a much more beautiful hike than I anticipated. You pay a small fee to access the Tatra national park. The paths are super well maintained, including the wooden bridges. There are plenty of information boards around with the park rules (one of the only things I’ve seen so far with an English translation). They really care about the wildlife – even well behaved dogs on leads aren’t allowed, and you have to stick to the paths.

The hike up was stunning, with water features, forests and mountains. It was really steep in places – but not too difficult. It didn’t rain for the first half of our hike – and was actually quite warm too, which I’m grateful for.

We reached about 1300m today, which isn’t bad going. And then the rain came (and one thunder clap – scary!) Learning from the drenching Sweden gave us, I put my waterproof trousers and coat on straight away. Was probably a good decision. Despite the rain, I still enjoyed the downwards section of the hike. The path straightened up (though it was cobbled so my feet are the tiniest bit sore now). It wasn’t long before we reached Kuznice, which seems like the start of most hikes in the area.

Having not had lunch, we had waffles! Tasty with chocolate Nutella sauce.

There were little cafés and a restaurant. Plus outdoor gear shops! And the cable car – which I think we’ll definitely take one day as it almost reaches 2000m.

If there is one thing I’ve noticed about Poland so far it is that pretty much everyone wears good trainers. All sorts of brands, all sorts of colours. Way more choice than anything I’ve seen in the UK. Might have to do a little shoe shopping whilst I’m out here.

We decided to walk the 50 minutes back to our hotel since we couldn’t figure out which bus to get. There are loads of little mini buses that take you to places! In future we are going to get the bus to Kuznice from Zakopane to skip the first part of the walk.

Not sure what we are going to do during the rest of the week, but I’m sure it will include lakes and mountains! Plenty of options – we are spoiled for choice.

Now for a nap before braving the busyness of the town again for dinner.

Col de Pause

Planned to drive up to Col de Pause but the road was closed (boo) so had to walk up.

Parked up in Serre and met a really huge mountain dog (I got back in the car – still shook up by my fave terrible twosome across from the gite).

Ate some nice ham and salami baguettes (thanks Dan) and set off up the rocky road.

Didn’t particularly enjoy the hike upwards – not really sure why. It was very beautiful though!

Took some little paths that cut out some of the road. Much shorter but much steeper!

Then we arrived at a little plateau, and decided to climb a small (but again, steep) hill to get some really beautiful 360° views. Even saw some vultures up in the sky.

Took some dorky photographs of us. Sat down and enjoyed the natural sounds around us – birds, insects, the river / waterfall running down the mountain. It’s the kind of place you can stay for a really long time as there’s no end of cool things to look at. And a straight line distance of 4km from Spain. Definitely not crossing over this time!

Met some people who had also walked up with their cute snowy white dog (a nice one!)

On the way down we saw a snake and a lizard (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wild snake before?). We got the beautiful views that had been behind us on the way up.

We’re in the Pyrenees!

In complete argument with my inner planner, we booked a last minute holiday to the Pyrenees. After waiting a day to hear if we could stay in our chosen accommodation, and having to try a second company to hire a car, we were all set!

Having had a couple of occasions of trying to sleep in the airport, or leaving the house at 1.30am to get there in time, we did the unthinkable and slept in an airport hotel. Even though we still had to wake up at 3:30am, it was totally worth it. Extra sleep = happy me.

From there it was no nonsense. Park the car, get on the bus, drop bags off that combined didn’t break the weight limits, through security, 5:30am breakfast, flight to Toulouse! (Thanks Ryanair for giving me the whole emergency exit row to myself – would have been nice to have sat with Dan who also had a row to himself 12 rows in front of me).The hire car proved no problem once we landed. Except it’s huge compared to what we normally get given! It does have a huge sunroof and in built satellite navigation so we can at least find our way to places!

We stopped at a little supermarket on the way, not realising it was closing at 1pm because it’s Sunday. We had half an hour and got a few bits and bobs for dinner. And then, pretty much 3 hours early, we arrived in Anilac, Oust.We decided to take a walk to the next village, Cominac, and got some spectacular mountain views, even with the overcast sky.We arrived back at Anilac to discover we’d been upgraded to a bigger gite as another family had stayed there the week before and it made sense not to warm another house.It’s so cute with the most amazing shower and heated floor in the lounge.

We cooked and ate dinner, read some, then decided to walk up the road a bit to get some phone signal.After giving the owner’s dog a fuss, Canelle (Cinnamon), we saw another tiny grey dog, who decided to bark at us, and attract it’s pal, a giant alsatian, who decided to chase us up the road with snapping teeth.

Tiny grey dog snapped at Dan’s ankles too!They abandoned chase and we got a tiny bit of signal at the end of the road. Then we realised we had to get back. Big dog spotted us but stayed in the garden of his house and we made it back. Note to self: some dogs are terrifying and don’t want to be friends. And sprinting is never a good idea after dinner.

Had an excellent cup of pukka’s relax tea (the irony is not lost) and went to bed in the cosy upstairs room.Here’s to avoiding scary Alsatians and seeing some beautiful sites.

Fjallraven Classic 2018 -Day 1 and the return

Day 1:

So it’s Sunday, we’re in Start Group 8 which sets off at 1pm. I wake up in my nice bed in Kiruna, sort my pack out, and go to breakfast. I feel a little bit like a did before sitting exams. Nervous. Particularly the ones I hadn’t prepped for too well…

One last toilet break, check out, and we make our way to where the buses leave from.

I’m feeling pretty nervous at the check in – there are so many people here that will be on the walk with us.

The bus leaves in half an hour. The good thing is I can look at all the different Fjallraven trousers colours and make up my mind which ones I want when I finish this hike!

And the coach arrived in Nikkaluokta, and there are dogs! We need one so I can sleep next to it.

We have 90 minutes until start time.

Weighed my bag, at 17kg. What. The. ****.

We have done the first few kilometres of the hike! Doesn’t feel too bad at the moment. I’ve got my waterproof on over my midlayer and though it’s a bit sweaty my bag fits a bit better with it on.

So the first 11km or so were great. Then everything kinda started to hurt and it rained alot and it was pretty scary to think we were walking 19km into nowhere with 91 left to go.

But I’m here at the checkpoint now, and what more can I do except breathe, and put the tent up after a big rest, and sleep?

Dan looked up the weather, and every day for the rest of the trail was rain, snow, intense gale force winds and below freezing temperatures. Someone even said that this was the fourth time he’d done the trail and someone recommended he turn back for the first time. (Later found out this was the worst weather in all 14 Fjallraven classics – a lot of people got helicoptered out).

So our other option is turn around and go back. And given day 1 consisted of a nose bleed, hyperventilation and being soaked through to my pants, this is what we have chosen to do.

I’m gutted, honestly. With warmer weather and less rain I’d have probably made it. The thought of camping in below zero temperatures later on makes me feel ill. I think it’s sensible to turn back and for us to enjoy what is left of our holiday. Maybe we will get to explore the Lofoten Islands which we didn’t have time for before. Or nip across to Finland for another country! All I know is feeling like this isn’t worth it.

Some people will say they have unfinished business with the Fjallraven Classic, but that’s me done. It really is a challenge, with unpredictable weather and relentlessly rocky paths. Much respect to everyone in Start Group 8 who finishes this year.

Having walked back 2km in the dark pitched a tent just before a downpour, and having my freshly warmed legs warm up my sleeping bag, I feel much better.

Day 2: walking back

Well proud of mine and Dan’s tent putting up last night – it got really gusty even though our position is pretty sheltered!

I walked 21km yesterday after only starting at 1pm with almost a third of my body weight on my back. That’s my furthest distance in a day ever, even with a small pack. And I actually feel okay this morning! (Probably thanks to Dan lending me his sleeping mat which has a better rating than mine so my feet and legs didn’t get cold).

Took my first big bag tumble, fortunately didn’t hurt myself.

I mean, it happens to the best of us!

This terrain is awful and though my backpack feels lighter I’m making more footing errors. Can’t wait to get back to Nikkaluokta whether that’s to camp or to get the bus back to Kiruna.

The scenery is lovely though (now we can actually see it without clouds).

My poor boots aren’t up for all this rock! My feet hurt. Alot. We’ve got 7.2km left of today. It’s honestly a beast. Decided to stop rushing for the bus and just camp at Nikkaluokta.

Looking through my photos when we sit down for a break makes me happy! We’ve been lucky enough to see this place, experience it, and in my case, nose bleed all over it.

Back at the strange wobbly bridge with 3.5km to go. It has been better on less rocky paths and it is nice that it is wide enough for us to walk side by side and have chats.

Made it back! Had a good sing along to Let it Go and Country Roads and we made it! My feet hurt but that is two big walks with my backpack and I’m so happy to be done!!!

Nikkaluokta seems to be pretty much in a different weather system. The sun is out, putting up the tent was actually fun and there is a shower and sauna.

And that’s it for my Fjallraven classic. I’m disappointed not to finish, but sometimes you just have to be sensible. Given I sit in a winter cardigan in the office air conditioning, I think we made the right decision.

Now to enjoy a camp and work out what we can do with our remaining days in Scandinavia!

An honest account of travelling in Norway

Day 1

It’s officially day 1. I’ve been sat in Heathrow airport since 10pm. It’s now 3.28am and I’m tired and miserable. Sleeping in an airport is not easy. Especially for someone who loves sleep and really likes it to be quiet.

The toilet seats are more comfortable than the actual seats. The cold floor is giving me an itchy bum even through my down jacket and midlayer fleece.

Honestly, I’m starting to think if this adventure thing is really my thing at all given I can’t even sit in an airport for 8 hours without being uncomfortable.

Made it to Stockholm for our connecting flight. Worked out how that works and have an hour to spare. Got some sleep on the flight too.

Made it to Tromsø! And my bag turned up! And the poles were still attached! On a bus at the moment to the city centre to get some camping gas.

Found camping gas and a map!!! Got another bus, now finally off the roads and onto paths. Time to find a camping spot.

We found a camping spot. It’s nice to be by a stream but there a bugs EVERYWHERE.

Tonight I am very emotional because I’ve had barely any sleep and it all feels a little bit pointless. Like, I have no aim right now. And I can enjoy scenery and all the stuff I love about the outdoors with a bag 10kg less heavy and a bed at the end of the day. The thought of camping until the 25th is just too much.

Day 2:

Slept all morning. Today we’re gonna go back to Tromsø. There’s a campsite so we are going to check that out. It’s kinda difficult to hike anywhere around here because everything is either road or really steep. And we have the classic to think about.

Did my business in some random mountain poo hut. That was fun…

Learnt how to filter water… again! Except I actually did some this time.

Made it back to Tromsø on the bus, got off a bit further off than we intended. Walked back into the centre and found the tourist information centre (where our bus will be tomorrow!). Decided there’s no way we’d be at the bus station at 6am if we camped over the bridge, so we’re in a hotel. (I’m very glad of this – feels a bit like giving up which sucks but there are plenty more days to do the camping thing. It’ll probably feel a bit more purposeful during the Fjallraven Classic because I’ll have targets to meet each day – and there will be lots of other people around doing the same thing.

Perhaps the lesson here is a schedule and less wandering.

Day 3:

Sleeping in a bed was just beautiful and it had only been 2 nights without one! We got up pre 5am and I’m currently at the bus station waiting to go to the Polar Park – the most northern zoo in the world!

On the coach, and there’s this really cute baby who is adamant that chewing the seatbelt is much better than his dummy. It’s really nice just to look out of the window and see more of Norway.

The bus drops us off at the polar park…well, 3km away anyway. We cover it pretty quickly, given bags and all.

I saw two bears! They were so adorable and fluffy.

I am really glad we got to see them and they weren’t hiding.

Sat down and had lunch – this polar park is so hilly and I ache a bit.

We wimped out again and booked another room in Narvik. Now to hope we get on the bus! It’s going to rain really heavily tonight. I’m just not into being cold and wet.

This isn’t how planned to do Norway but I just don’t see the point of being sad…though the hotel thing feels a bit like giving up again.

I just feel like with touristy things like the polar park, I’d enjoy it much more if I didn’t have to carry my bag. It’s hard to stand still with it on. Taking it on and off is hard.

I’m just hoping when Sweden comes around, I’ll only have 5.5 days and 6 nights of it ahead of me so I’ll feel a bit more determined to finish it.

Hopefully my next blog will be a bit happier. And honestly, I am enjoying some of this, like the country is so so gorgeous making the long coach journeys a treat. I’m just not sure I’m up for holidays that are this draining.

Until next time,

Rebecca.