Overseas Walks: Walking in the Tatra Mountains
We arrived into the mountain town of Zakopane, several hours drive from Krakow where we started our tour.
Zakopane is a lively Polish resort situated in the foothills of the Tatra Mountains: the winter playground for Poles if the massive ski jump leading down the mountain into the town had any significance.
The mountainous background prom- ised a walk with altitude.
We left Krakow early that morning and as we got closer to our destination the Tatra Mountains came into sight, we finally appreciated the adventure we had signed up to.
It is one thing to view the terrain on Google Maps from New Zealand but another to see the mountain peaks towering over the town, we could only hope our climbing days would be a little less daunting.
Our guide gave us a briefing on the National Park protocols, outlined our walking routes with maps for the next week before he departed back to Krakow with a promise to collect us at the end of our walk.
The first three days of our walking tour were to be spent in Zakapone with daily walks to different regions in the local area.
Our first day started badly. We were motivated to begin walking after lunch the day we arrived so we consulted our maps and briefing notes and set off for the first day of walking in the National Park.
The track lead out of the town from below the imposing ski jump, skirted Left: Great signage to help the trampers. Above right: A typical mountain chalet stopover. Below left: A welcome rest at the saddle. around the base of the hillside along a fence line above the town before entering the confines of the national park. The sun was shining and the scenery reminiscent of New Zealand mountain scenery, so we felt very comfortable and excited to be underway on our adventures.
“Over confident,” my friends would say!
Our map reading skills were a little rusty it turned out. We were distracted by a tramper offering us his tickets to enter the National Park at the first en-
trance we came to.
You pay an entrance fee to go into the national parks so we were happy to accept his offer We did not appreciate that there might be more than one entry point into the park which is why we ended up heading up a different valley to the one we had been directed to by our instructions.
There were a lot of local walkers in our vicinity as we set off along a forest track leading up a valley, with a small creek to one side and fir trees on the other. The route was well marked with coloured symbols and plenty of signage indicating the destinations in Polish. The tracks are well formed from rocks and scree which require careful scrutiny to avoid injury.
The day was warm and sunny and we were enjoying the trek. We had plenty of company as Polish families enjoy outdoor activities and the park was a popular holiday destination for families.
The track led upwards and required a bit more stamina than I expected for our first day but it was beautiful countryside and we were admiring the mountain views and sighting unfamiliar birds and plants along the way.
We were well along the route before I realised we had not seen the red symbols marking our route as expected but plenty of yellow ones. Maps out and a closer reading of the instructions showed we were heading up the Dol Bialego valley, not the Dolina Strazyska or the Malej Laki Valley trail, our original destination.
By the time we realised our mistake we decided it was too far to go back so we would soldier on. The map indicated