If you go down to the woods today… you’re sure of a big surprise!
Never has a truer word been spoken on this occasion. The plan: Get up and out for 4am, walk to Morskie Oko (not bus – Walk) go see the beautiful lake, climb up to Czarny Staw pod Rysami Lake, clamber back down, then get the bus back to Zakopane. Already this was a tall order, we knew that this was just over 30km round trip, one of the longest hikes we have done in one go. I’d spent the following evening googling the walk from Zakopane to Morskie Oko, guess what I found, NOTHING, Nada, Rien, Nichts, Niente not a jot, everyone it would seem gets on that mini bus from town. But undeterred, we set our alarm and after a slightly restless night dreaming of bears, we locked up the apartment and crept out the house before the sun was even up.
And so the adventure begins.
Martin had his trusty Nexus with him loaded with maps and the trail we were going to take that day. There was a bit of a walk to just get on the initial trail and so off we trotted.
Snag number 1 occurred approximately 10 minutes in… the path to take us onto the trail was not there. We were thigh high in wet grass, quite possibly trespassing on someone’s land, my feet were soaked through, trousers drenched and yet we kept moving forward, it would only be a matter of time before we hit the path surely?
No. No it was not! We jumped over streams, headed into a ridiculously dense dark forest (still no path), the place was completely silent and then didn’t Martin go and say it… “you know, if you were going to see a bear, this would probably be the place!”. So now I’m frantically listening for twigs snapping or looking for any movement whilst still trying to move forward. We had to scale up the side of steep hills covered in dead trees that we could barely move through, still hoping that we were going the right way. It was at this point we toyed with the idea of turning back, but that’s really not the holiday spirit, is it!
Yes, reckless I know, not the safest thing in the world to do, but it’s our adventure!
We climbed over, around and under fallen trees, and just when we thought we were never getting out of that dark forest, I could see the sky, and the end of the trees, woo hoo, it was all coming up roses now.
Snag 2: Nettle Gate we shall call it. We came out of the forest and were faced with a field that was at a 50 degree angle upwards, I was already soaked and threw all caution to the wind and started wading through this shoulder high foliage. When I say foliage what I really mean is a field of nettles, lots and lots and lots of nettles, nooooo, we’re adults, surely we’re not supposed to be stung by nettles! I’d shredded my unprotected legs, actually grabbed a nettle bush with both hands and still we pushed forth up that hill. Martin was almost to the top and made a lunge for the fence only to slide back down the hill a few yards and have to attempt it all again.
We found the trail!Oh but then we were free, free I tells ya! We climbed over the fence and crossed the road and we were on the actual trail through the national park. From here on in it felt so much easier. The peace that comes with seeing the red paint on the trees telling you that you are going the right way, bliss. The trail was empty and in the 4 hours we hiked through it we saw only 1 lone man walking in the opposite direction, I actually got a bit of a fright as all I heard was snapping twigs and heavy breathing and thought BEAR (I have an active imagination, I scare myself stupid with things that could happen… sharks are another of my ultimate fears so I don’t swim in the sea…). I have no idea why more people don’t take this trail to Morskie Oko, it is breath-takingly beautiful, the views you get when you come out into a clearing, the little bridges over the streams, the sun light streaming through the gaps in the trees to give the forest floor a magical shimmer, it’s gorgeous. It’s long, but it’s gorgeous.
We came stumbling out and off the trail about 6km from Morskie Oko to join the small amount of hikers on the actual road, for all those people who drove or got the mini bus, we must have looked a right state. All disheveled, nettle stung, almost dry trousers and staggering having been hiking for over 4 hours just to get to this point. I should mention about the nettles… my legs were burning and my hands had swollen to almost twice their normal size, ouch. We found a little waterfall where you could refill your water bottles and we washed our hands and legs and it was here I found I had a deep cut on the back of my leg (now a battle scar) which knacked when the water hit it! Thankfully the swelling went down pretty quickly after I washed all the nettle nastiness off my hands, but my legs still stung quite a bit.
We continued walking up hill to get the lake and what a stunning sight! It was still only 8.30am and was really quiet. We stopped, took a couple of photos and had a breakfast stop, we were ravenous. We sat for about 15 minutes then took ourselves off for a walk around the lake. I highly recommend visiting, it’s a place you’re not likely to forget. We got to the foot of the climb up towards Czarny Staw pod Rysami Lake and just went for it.
About 3 quarters of the way up there was a couple staring off into the hills and taking photos of something quite specific and me being extremely nosey had to see what it was. A stag, a beautiful stag, right there about 20 metres in front of us, nibbling on the grass and finding a shaded place to rest. What a sight to behold. We climbed to the second lake and the view back over Morskie Oko is sublime, turn around and you are faced with the ascent to the tip of Mount Rysy, which we are saving for our next trip to Poland! We jumped up onto a rock by the lake and just took a while to gaze around and rest out weary legs before making the descent back down.
This is where all the warnings you’ll have read on sites like trip advisor kick in. In July it gets crazy busy at the lake and there are crowds of people making their way up the steep climb while we were trying to get down, so if I had any word of advice it would be to get there as early as you possibly can. After about 10/10:30am, that’s when your crowds arrive, there is little room to move on the Morskie Oko lake as people spread out for photos or to sunbathe, lots of kids, grandparents, teenagers, you get the picture, it’s busy!
It was another 9km back down to the bus parking station, many people where going past us in both directions on the horse drawn carts, those poor poor horses were struggling going up hill, staggering, swollen tongues lolling, WALK people, WALK! When we got to the main entrance and car park we piled into the little mini bus and it was about half an hour back to Zakopane and only 10 Zolty each which you pay when you get off the bus. After we got off the bus we had the arduous task of the walk back to the apartment which was another 20 minute walk on our poor weary legs!
We finally got back home about 3ish and had time to reflect on the day. AWESOME, it’s the only word I can think of. Was it hard, yes! Was it a little scary, yes! Did it forcefully eject me from my comfort zone, heck yes! Will I remember this for a long time to come, undoubtedly yes!
I’m glad we did it, but honestly, next time I’m getting that mini bus as I want the energy to get up to the top or Rysy next time!!!