The call of the mountains


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Tatra love

As a kid, I used to love spending time outdoors. Whether it be along the banks of the river Trent, the woods of south Nottingham or the peak district, I loved it.
I would ride my BMX for hours at a time looking for great places to explore, then I would set off on foot along old train tracks or down forgotten farmer’s lanes. I discovered so much.
As I got older, (and we all do) I became more interested in cars etc. Suffice to say I didn’t go out as much as I used to.

Anyway as I got to my late 20’s I started reflecting on aspects of my life, I lived by the sea at that point and I kind of had an epiphany. My outdoorsy-ness was reborn. I had love for the ocean, the coastline; I started visiting the peak district again this time taking my son with me. I got interested in gardening. Most of all I kept thinking about wolves. I started to localize wolf populations; I read story books, factual content. By the time I got to my early 30’s I knew that somehow wolves would be a part of my life one day although the path is unclear.

So as it was, I read a book, the wolves of time. The packs of wolves were based around the Tatra Mountains. I had a friend who was living there at the time and everything kind of fell into place. I told her I wanted to find wolves in the Tatras and she invited me along to see the mountains first hand. I had never been to any mountains so jumped at the chance (and to be honest I was naïve enough to hope for a chance encounter with wolves).

2 months later I was being met in Krakow and taken to the mountain resort of Zakopane. Before we even got there (whilst napping) I got an elbow in the ribs, “look at the mountains” she said. I looked out the window and didn’t really see that much. Just lots of trees and white. Fog? Clouds? After the 3rd elbow in the ribs telling me to look at the mountains I decided to try and stay awake. I looked out the window yet again and sure enough…trees, white stuff. Fog? Clouds?

My eyes sprang wide open and I sat bolt upright in my seat, there was no fog! It was snow covering the peaks meeting with a pale grey sullen sky! I could just see the colour of granite now and again between patches of white. I WAS IN AWE! Every shrouded peak, every facet every slope called out to me. For the next hour I was to spend on the bus my face remained pinned to the window taking it all in. The architecture of the mountain houses, the snow, the landscape, everything!

It was somewhat of a downer that when we pulled into the bus station at Zakopane, the rain was pouring. I was there during the spring thaw, rivulets were full or overflowing and everything was grey and wet (apart from the mountain tops that still looked pristine white). We headed to her lodgings and we made plans of things to do whilst I was visiting. In the end, most of her plans involved sitting on the internet or watching TV because of the weather so off I went to explore this strange new place on my own. In the next day or two I got very wet and began to think it wasn’t even worth it. We went for a walk along the koscieliska valley and I revised my opinion, it was still damp, but the sun poked through and just the feeling of being surrounded by the mountains left me wanting more.

The next day, I went out alone just to clear my head. I was feeling a little under par for some reason. I intended to head for the high street and spend some money. Well I got no further than the market place, there is a hill which I thought would be fun to explore with the intention of catching the funicular train back down from the top. About half way up I was puffing and huffing and glad the weather wasn’t too warm, I was even glad when it started drizzling as it cooled me down a little. It took me longer to get to the top than it should have done as I took a wrong turn. I ended up in some-ones back garden. When I finally made it to the hill top, my jaw dropped. The view was amazing. I had clear sight of Mt Giewont and many other peaks. In that instant I decided I would come back a year later to conquer that amazing looking mountain. By then all thoughts of wolves had evaporated, the sights, sounds and smells of the polish Tatras was enough to distract me and keep me occupied.

When I got back to my friends lodgings I told her about my pledge to hike up Mt Giewont a year later. She was amused by the effect these rugged little mountains had on me.

And as a further incentive to return, I feel quite sure I saw two wolves or possibly wolf-dog hybrids (very common in this region, I saw some for sale for less than £100) which reminded me why I first come here. To find wolves in the Tatras. Slowly buy surely I’m exploring all the trails of the polish Tatras. Next up on the agenda will be the low tetras where I know for sure are wolves.