With a chilly mist still in the air, we left Krakow and pushed on south. The name of our destination, the High Tatra’s (the mountain range that borders Poland and Slovakia) had Bumblebee shaking in his boots with fear, especially due to the rain that was starting to come down as we left Poland. Luckily by the time we reached the mountains the rain had slowed, the sun had come out and thanks to Colin’s fine driving, the Bee had a smooth journey.
Not so, however, for some unlucky drivers coming in the other direction. As we came around a sharp corner we happened upon three young people staring sadly at their car which had slipped off a gravelly patch on the road and got stuck under some trees.
Colin & Liz to the rescue! Well, mostly Colin. A good couple of pushes from the lot of us and it was good deed done and we were off on our way. Needless to say they were very grateful and are probably still talking about that hairy Aussie lumberjack that saved the day (Colin was wearing a flannelette shirt and hadn’t shaved since Amsterdam). The remainder of the drive through the Tatra’s was truly stunning, very lush and green and every so often through the trees we would sneak a peek of groups of people steaming in the natural thermal baths the area is famed for. And though I’m not sure that we reached the 2500m above sea level Tatra peaks, we got some crazy views over Slovakia either way.
We wanted to free camp while we were in Slovakia, so we headed for the Liptovsky Mara (a reservoir that looks more like a very pretty lake) in the hope of getting a sweet spot down near the water. Our hopes were high as we saw tents dotted along the shore, and then a few caravans and campers too. Alas, once we pulled up we were told these areas were for fishing only and not for camping. I guess we don’t much look like fishermen. News to me, I thought my mostly nautical-themed summer wardrobe would have done the trick. Seems I still have work to do to look like a real salty sea dog.
Hopes dashed, but with the sun setting beautifully over the lake, we made for Mara Camping, a large campsite we’d already seen on our drive. The site was pretty dead being off season, and as such, the very nice reception lady charged us at tent prices so we decided to stick around for a couple of nights.
When we woke in the morning, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Cool, grey and drizzly, we gave up our dream of sitting lakeside all day and took a short drive to the Besenova Thermal Baths instead. The hot muddy water for these baths is taken from a source 1987m underground, at a temperature of up to 60°. Thankfully it cools on the way up and the hottest pool was a ‘mild’ 38°, along with about 8 other pools of varying heat so you don’t shrivel up like a raisin in the first half hour. We hung around at the pool for a few hours, where we were two of about 6 young people, in a sea of greying Slovakian retirees. Nice work if you can get it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon kicking about the area, but the weather wasn’t getting any better so it was hole up in the van, eat chocolate and watch Underbelly on the laptop time. The next morning was no better so it was time to get the hell out of dodge and head further south again, to Hungary. Though we would have loved to see more of Slovakia, it was raining so hard by this stage we were anticipating a landslide on some of the sheer cliff faces we were driving past so it was time to move on.