After breakfast we drive through the city and make the relatively short drive to Podbanske, which is located in the foothills of the Tatras. We'll check into our accommodation, a ranger's guesthouse, which is essentially a base used by researchers, government officials and dignitaries who visit the National Park of the Tatras (TANAP). This park was established in 1949 and encompasses a protected area of flora and fauna, as although the park has been recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1993, and although the range is relatively small 25km wide by almost 80km long there are 25 peaks standing over 2500m offering some fantastic and dramatic treks, as well as a host of wildlife.
After check-in we collect our packed lunches and then begin our first walk. Today's walk takes us along one of the many tourist trails within the park. It's an excellent walk to stretch the leg with the possibility of finding bears although the focus of today is definitely on the walk and the beautiful scenery. Unlike other bear watching experiences we spend time looking for bears as opposed to waiting to see bears who approach an area where food has been left. Whilst bear viewings cannot be guaranteed we would be extremely unlucky not to see bears during our 3 days in the park. Sightings may be at a distance and so binoculars are essential.
Heading out from Podbanske, the trail heads west through forests, and briefly joins a sealed road heading into Kamenista valley. The road quickly turns to a path as it follows the stream up through the forests. After an hour or so, the trees are left behind and the valley opens up, with a patchwork of dwarf pine and berry bushes creating an ideal environment for foraging animals including bears and red deer. The path follows the stream high up the valley, to a saddle, on the Polish border, with magnificent views in all directions before heading back to our accommodation.
We'll have dinner in our guesthouse, and then depending upon the weather conditions we will drive into the park for an late afternoon / early evening walk. A short drive will take us into the heart of the park, and once there we will take a gentle walk along 'bear valley'. On this walk we get some great views of the valleys and avalanche slopes that have become home to the bears, some of which we will explore further in the coming days.
Today's 18 kilometre walk is expected to take approximately eight to nine hours with a total ascent of 850 metres and descent of 850 metres.