Saturday 22nd July
We were woken up by the sound of Lex panting today; it was a hot morning, and all 3 of us needed to immediately get out the car, AKA the solar oven that we sleep in. However much I love hot weather, it does make living in the car uncomfortable. And there are no showers when you wild camp! Things were starting to get stinky.
Having almost exhausted our supply of sad Baltic canned goods, I sent Morgan into the supermarket this morning, with the challenge of “try to get some tasty, healthy food which won’t go off the second we put it in the hot car.”
Morgan spent so long in the supermarket, I finished my novel, then started reading a book about whether “living Danishly” was the secret to happiness, and had got so far through the latter book that I’d started planning our new life in Denmark, when Morgan finally emerged with a bag full of very carefully considered ingredients designed to invigorate the palette.
I explained our new life plan to him as he packed his procured items into the boiling furnace we call home, and recalling Denmark’s cold climate, Morgan agreed instantly.
That being sorted, we continued driving south. We saw the huge forks of lightning splitting the sky open before the storm actually hit. Then, we were pelted with rain so heavy I couldn’t actually see the road, as ominous crashes of thunder filled the air.
“I can’t hear Stephen Fry!” shouted Morgan from the back seat, where he was sitting with Lex.
“WHAT?” I bellowed in reply, over the thunderous noise of the storm.
“I – CAN’T – HEAR…” Morgan started to shout back, but I interrupted him
“WE’RE IN SLOVAKIA!”
“SLOVAKIA! WE JUST CROSSED THE BORDER!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.
“Oh” came Morgan’s surprised reply. “Well, that explains everything.”
The landscape had become steadily more mountainous throughout the day, and we were now up in the High Tatras mountains. As far as we could tell, the scenery would be stunning when the storm let up and we could see more than two feet in front of the car.
The rain had finally stopped by the time we arrived in Strbske Pleso, a pretty lakeside town with a strong dislike of vowels. This meant it was baking hot again, and we were sweating as we parked the car and faffed around trying to find our possessions in the chaos that is the boot.
“I’m finding that lake and jumping in it!” I declared, to no-one in particular. Lex, fortunately, didn’t seem to hear.
It was already mid afternoon, so we contented ourselves with a gentle stroll around the lake, saving the proper hiking for tomorrow. This helpful diagram even informed us exactly what the mountains would look like if there wasn’t a layer of cloud still obscuring them.
I did indeed jump into the lake at the first possible opportunity, despite the fact that none of the other visitors seemed remotely interested in swimming. The water was divine, cool enough to be refreshing without freezing you to the bone. I really didn’t understand why I was the only one swimming. Maybe the lake’s filled with parasites, or whirlpools, or sea monsters, and everyone had been staring at me thinking “well at least this will pacify The Monster until the next stupid English tourist goes swimming…
The distant rumble of thunder started up again whilst I was still in the lake, wondering why no-one else seems to appreciate swimming an appropriate amount, and why Morgan was calling me a ‘nutter’. Deciding it was probably time to move on, we headed back towards the car, while planning our dinner in the hope of improving on yesterday’s grey mush. We passed a sign advertising home cooked pizzas with a lake view.
“The problem is…” I said hesitantly. “We won’t be able to cook once this storm starts.”
“That is a big problem” agreed Morgan, also spotting the sign. “Maybe…”
“Pizza?” I agreed before he’d even finished his sentence, and we immediately turned around and settled into a cosy, dog-friendly lounge overlooking the lake. Which was beautiful for about 5 minutes, until the heavens opened and the view was entirely obliterated by rain, illuminated only by flashes of lightning.
“So far Slovakia is the land of Thor” observed Morgan, in a pleased tone. “Thunder and mountains!”
Luckily, this storm also eventually passed, so after dinner, we headed back to the car and found a pretty, secluded lay-by to call home for the night.
After sunset, I spent time writing in the car whilst Morgan disappeared on some kind of side adventure. It was only when I looked up to see him dancing around in the dark like a firefly high on sugar water that I realised he had been just outside the car all along. Turns out, Morgan had set his camera up on a tripod and was having fun with long exposure photos, spelling out our names in the air with his torch. The mad dancing was just a fringe benefit.
Later that night, as total darkness enveloped us, the stars came out to play. It was the first time we’d properly seen the stars on this trip, having spent so long under the endless days of Scandinavian summer. The milky way was clearly visible, and nebulous star dust filled every corner of the night sky. Seeing the stars always fills me with an enormous sense of well-being, and I spent a happy, if slightly existential evening contemplating the billions of stars across billions of galaxies across billions of universes until my head hurt.
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