A beautiful, windless spring day of cloudless skies, snowy mountains – and scary steel ladders. Because, in the middle of more delightful cycling, I did a remarkable metalwork-assisted gorge walk in Slovenský Raj National Park. A bit intimidating, but obviously I never thought of turning back. Largely because you can’t – it’s one way only.
The morning view of the Tatras from my guesthouse Velux window was gorgeous, and I cycled out into the glorious morning with a spring in my step. I must find out where that spring came from. Possibly the one missing from my hub dynamo that’s stopped working.
Some decent stretches of new cycle path alongside the river, and some busy main road, got me to Poprad. I stopped here in 2019 just before starting my Polish End to End, in Zakopane just the other side of those mountains.
I didn’t have time then to visit Slovenský Raj, so I put that right today. I rode down country lanes to Hrabušice, the gateway village for one of the most popular walks in this dramatically gorged landscape: the canyon of Suchá Belá, which means literally, ‘safe but not the definition of safe used by British Health & Safety professionals’.
I left my panniers in the stewardship of a camping lodge, who assured me Suchá Belá is done easily by families every day, but just to check, I was insured wasn’t I…?,
I started up the safe and easy trek. Within five minutes I was scared and ready to turn back, convinced it was dangerous and difficult.
However, I heard some children’s voices behind me, so I thought I’d better carry on, and in any case, it’s one way only, so I had no choice.
Of course it turned out to be massive fun and I enjoyed it a lot.
There’s a lot of ironmongery here: chains to use as handrails, steps protruding out from sheer rock walls, vertiginous ladders you wouldn’t trust to get you into a loft, and precarious, rickety-looking (but solid) wooden boardwalks with gaps easily wide enough to swallow a misplaced leg.
It’s a two-hour show of spectacular waterworks and geology: caves, falls, whirlpools, and chimneys you can barely squeeze through – no challenge to a cyclist used to getting through A-frames on Sustrans paths, of course.
I was a bit disappointed when the route levelled out to the spring head at the top of the hill, but coped with it by having a picnic lunch at the summit shelter. From there it was an easy and pleasant trek back down to my bike via some forest roads.
From Hrabušice to my accommodation in Spišská Nová Ves there’s a new cycle path – so new that a mile stretch of it is still gravel, waiting to be tarmacked – but most of it is there and not only very useful (shortcutting two sides of a triangle) but also wide, smooth and scenic, with the Tatras still in the background.
As with beer and diacritical marks, when Slovakia does cycle paths, it really does seem to do them properly. Some of England’s 333 councils could do well to take note. About 333 of them, I reckon.
Spišská Nová Ves is famous for having the world’s biggest lens-shaped main square – no, I didn’t know it was a thing either – and I enjoyed a glass-shaped beer or two in it, admiring the fine old buildings in the sunshine, before checking in to my apartment for the evening.
Tomorrow’s a day off the bike: bus day trips, walks, admin, laundry etc. I think my bottom will be grateful.
Miles today: 30
Miles since Záhorská Ves: 282