Key lessons learned and trip summary:
- Emergency shelter (Refugio) at the La Polarda peak (2180 m.a.s.l.)
- Midpoint of the trail reached (the border between southern and northern hillside crossed)
- Free overnight camping at La Roza camping site
We’re waking up to grey. It seems like it’s 6 am while it’s actually 8 am. „It’s morning already“, I announce. „Happy birthday!“ It’s Thomas’ birthday today! We will have to celebrate somehow. Probably we’ll make something fancy for dinner – for instance a tasty outdoor dish from Sea to Summit instead of artificial instant pasta of unknown origin and content. Perhaps also the tiny bottle of Tatratea (strong Slovak liquor), that I have been carrying the whole time, will serve its purpose today. It was supposed to rain tonight but the rain only started at around 5 am. It rains during the packing of course, so we must pack a wet tent. We start by ascending and so we get warmed up rather quickly. The weather is damp, thick fog surrounds us and it rains or drizzles constantly. Non-stop. All the time. All the fucking time. It’s getting annoying I have to say.
Every cloud has a silver lining, right? Since there’s nothing to see today, we make almost no stops and move forward. We freeze when filtering the water and become warm again afterwards. We freeze during the lunch and become warm afterwards and again and again. Due to the weather conditions, we chose to have a lunch in the emergency shelter (Refugio) which can be found on the peak – La Polarda. The official stage of the trail ends here as well.
There are a couple of similar shelters on the trail. Typically, it is a stoney cabin intended for an overnight stay when needed. There’s usually a fireplace. Do not expect a cozy hut though. It’s more like a military bunker. When we entered the place, I immediately wanted to get out again. Once white, now dingy walls scrawled over with doodles, messages and swear-words. Wooden table, that has probably witnessed a lot, all covered in dust. Garbage. But the worst thing of all – hundreds and hundreds of tiny dead bodies (of caterpillars? worms?) in short some sort of creepy-crawlies piled up in every corner of the room. I almost lost my appetite. Well…. Bagger’s can’t be choosers, I guess. At least we have a roof over our heads. We are in 2000 m.a.s.l. and it’s raining cats and dogs outside. Well, not exactly cat and dogs but the hailstones of frozen snow. Anyways, it’s enough to make one want to hide somewhere inside.
Before we reached the shelter, we were considering staying in it for tonight. That’s no longer an option now. No way! We can only get out and continue. There’s a long descend in front of us now. “How are you enjoying your birthday?”, I ask while the cold raindrops keep falling on my face. “What a dream day, right?” At least we will make you an epic memorable photo.
We’re walking through a nice pine wood and here it comes again. My leg slips on the slippery needles and I sprain my left ankle for the SECOND TIME! I fall to the ground and can’t fight back the tears and the rage. What an idiot I am! I tighten up the bandage that I already have on that ankle and continue. It rains steadily. At around 5 pm we would like to set up a camp already. But there’s no place to do so. We are either in a narrow wood too close to a path or on the path itself. In any case there’s no flat spot that would be out of sight. According to the map we should arrive to a campsite – La Roza in 5 km or so. Google says it is opened non-stop (24/7, 12 months of the year)…Mmmm…weird. But what if there is a pub? That thought fills us with such enthusiasm that we set a hot pace and rush ahead.
We sing, make up random nonsense rhymes, cite TV commercials on the way. We’re probably going crazy already. That’s what 5 days off-grid do to you. We encounter a pond with a drowning frog. We save her. That’s like a fairy-tale scene. It’s a pity that Thomas refused to kiss her.
La Roza campsite is a pleasant surprise. It’s also the end of another official trail stage. There is no pub and no one around but there is a toilette and running water. Furthermore, there are camp tables, barbeques on which setting up a fire is prohibited (#makessense), playing field and jungle gym for kids. All is free of charge and available through the whole year. The camp was probably established together with the trail. We also appreciate its strategic location – there is a small town called Abrucena just 5 km down the road. We plan to go there tomorrow in order to resupply. Given its proximity to civilization and the parking possibility at La Roza, it could be considered as an additional suitable starting point for the Sulayr trail (even though it is not an official one).
We got the whole camp for ourselves. After a long time, we eat like humans – at the table. We make a delicious chicken dish loaded with protein from Sea to Summit and prepare our special recipe – „Magical mountain potion“. It’s a black tea mulled with Tatratea liquor and few secret ingrediencies and it is supposed to give us strength for the second half of the trail. Yes! Today we crossed the notional border between southern and northern hillside of Sierra Nevada and so we have reached the midpoint of the trail. Yeeeey!