Saturday, 22 August 2015

Fish, Chips and Slovakia. Part 3 ... The Descent.

Time for some reflection ...

We had hiked up the mountain for the best part of nine hours and it was time for a little rest and relaxation. 
 A lake, reflecting the lush green scenery, was the perfect setting. Lending itself well to the 'rest' lodge and cafe. They had a typical Slovakian menu, clearly boasting... soup and dumplings, sheep's milk cheese with dumplings, soup made from sauekraut and sausage, chicken in sauce with dumplings and jam pancakes. I opted for a 'plain' pancake.

When it arrived, sadly, I responded with, "Oh no!". My pancake had been covered in red jelly and fake, fluffy cream... plenteous amounts of it. Furthermore, the pancake was cold. I had asked for a fresh, plain pancake but it had been dressed with food bling. I was hungry and felt disappointed. "Shall I take it back and change it for a plain one?" Asked Maria. I uttered, "Yes please". The second pancake arrived, again, dressed to kill. "No!" I was really hungry now and feeling quite frustrated and tired. Twice, we had asked for a plain pancake. I went back to the kitchen once more and tried to politely explain, but it went down like a led balloon. I received despondent glares. So, to that end, I went back to the table with my tail between my legs. I didn't have a pancake. I munched on some crisps ... silently. 
"It's how they do the pancakes here", Said Maria. In a down-heartened tone, I replied, "I only wanted one without all the fluff, that's all. How difficult could that be?"
The pancake encounter was soon banished with the thought of our descent. This triggered yet another concern, which took precedence over my hunger. I had mentioned sudden changes in weather, previously (part 2), yet something far worse was imminent. Sundown. We still had some daylight left, however, so we began the final part of the hike down the mountain.

There were more glorious scenes to feast our eyes on. The scent of moss smelled damp, delicious and earthy. I was intoxicated by what lay ahead.

Folding landscape

Before the meadow

Green forest

Growing up

White flora

White butterfly

Mountain lake

We put our best feet forward and upped the pace. Daylight was drawing in. The mountain was quiet with only the stream running forth beside us. It was alluring and peaceful.

The path turned in to a rocky artery, moving under the feet and throwing the ankles in opposite directions. It was hard walking for some time. The quiescence was overwhelmingly effecting my senses. I was feeling as sharp as a pin but my curiousity began to wonder about the animals roaming at dusk. Was the noiselessness telling us more about what lurked ahead of us? The stillness had become eerie and I began to feel nervous or even, a little skittish. 

Maria continued, confidently, but was silent. Moreover, her body language said a lot more than she was letting on. I felt her tension. "We need to walk faster, it's getting dark soon!" She proclaimed. Then, right in front of us, just as the sun dropped some more, was the mouth of more forest. It appeared like the foreboding path of wilderness. "Are you sure we're safe?" I whispered. I turned back to see our options and the mountain seemingly echoed my looming fear.

Sepia mountain

The quiet

Eerie peaks

We asserted forwards and in to the woods. It was necessary to keep moving. This was truly an awakening of ancient adrenaline. It rushed through my body like the river of life itself. I grew two inches in height and pushed through the darkening air with real fright in my veins. The pace quickened and my ears were on high alert. Like a lynx, I was listening for danger. My breathing became shallow as fear embraced me with its over powering arms. I tried to stay calm and think positively. The forest was getting darker and more dense. 

Thick forest

We were right in the thick of it. Dare I even say... we could not see the wood for the trees. I was scared. The silence dispersed as every sound in the forest became morosely amplified. It spoke to us. Then, something brushed my head ... a bat. He was quite large and I trusted that he was sent to guide us through. I may have mentioned it to Maria, as a means to negating the volume of tension. 

Furthermore, just at the last hurdle, we both heard a deep, disgruntled, growl. Followed by a huffing noise and some snapping twigs. We were not alone. I believe, emphatically, a bear had been agitated.
It was only at that disquieting moment, when an opening showed dusky light filtering through, that the relief was practically tangible. We had survived the forest. 

The end of our descent was near. The nerves were exchanged for laughter and the power of nature had marked us both. I turned, once more, to gaze back at the wondrous mountain and unforgiving forest. Then, I came to understand. It was staring me in the face ... trust, courage and forgiveness. Thereupon I looked up and smiled.

To be continued ...

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