Topographic love – by Justyna

16 Apr

Topo love 1

I met Michal in Romania, trekking through the Fagaresh Mountains. It was August 2003. It was meant to be a week long summer hike, through the ridge to the highest peak and back down. Tents, views, sore calves and the sweet, sweet mountain air. Of course it wasn’t that at all. There was a freak change of weather, it started to snow, temperatures plummeted, nights fell below freezing, putting up a tent became painful and finding the mountain trail almost impossible. Visibility fell to about two meters. If I had had any greater knowledge of the harsh European mountain weather conditions then, I would have crapped myself. But I was oblivious to the fact that it had all become very dangerous and continued to rub Akileine ointment for my bad knee, into my feet for the purpose of keeping them warm (as all our hiking boots had soaken through with all the snow and began to feel frozen). There was a Hollywood moment though that Michal later admitted was the clincher for his sparked interest in me. The wind was billowing, the snow pounding down hard, it was day four of this winter hell, we were all tired and unsure of how far we had left to go, and apparently I, with great determination and semi-frozen fingers took out the topo map when no one else would, and motivated us into action. There was also another moment when I had to do a number two behind some rocks on top of the saddle, having my butt nearly flash-frozen by the icy wind, but I don’t think that quite clinched anyone’s moment.

Topo love 2

Michal then visited me in Australia in January 2004. We were still at this stage, not a couple. Within days of his arrival I took him to Kanangra Boyd national park. Backpacks packed with three days worth of water, a tent, a topographic map, compass and some nuts, I wanted to show off my amazing Australian bush and its hardcore remoteness. He was suitably impressed. I wanted to show off more when he suggested we trek back through the gully floor, by agreeing to the incredibly stupid idea. Like me in Romania, Michal had no idea about the dangers of the Aussie bush or the uncompromising character of Kanangra (although I did tell him about those Newcastle uni students who died there whilst canyoning), but I should have known better. We studied the topo, aligned the compass and began the descent. What appeared to be a four hour traverse down, turned into a thirteen hour nightmare due to the dense foliage, massive rock-face drops, vines, flies, leeches, impassible terrain etc. I reckon it was actual hell, especially for me as I was soberly aware of the consequences – lack of water and lost in a remote national park that no one would ever find us in. Michal though was the positive, logical foreigner. And as a result provided me with a Hollywood moment clincher. We had pitched our tent on a bit of flat land we could find in the narrow gully. The night was a horrendous ordeal of weird sounds, barks, hissings and the thought that we would never get out of there, ever. When we woke at 5am the next morning, Michal optimistic we would get to a suitable gradient to climb back out, having studied the map and compass thoroughly, I was a bit of a mess. I was determined to walk but refused to eat as I was so nervous and stressed that I could not keep any food down. Michal (knowing that on an empty stomach I would be a liability), made me sit on a rock, whilst he pulled tiny morsels of bread, small enough for me to chew and not gag, and actually fed me. Yup. I sat there on a rock and was hand fed tiny balls of bread by a dude I wasn’t even sure then I was that keen on. But he knew how to read a topographic map. And that’s why we got married.

Topo love 3

Kazek recently was taken to the mountains by Michal for some day treks (whilst I de-phlegmed the baby son in hospital). Apparently our 2 and a half year old is quite the highlander goat. There was an equal ratio of piggy-backing and actual trekking. He also followed the trail with his finger on the map Michal carried. The seed has been planted.


4 Responses to “Topographic love – by Justyna”

  1. mischb April 17, 2012 at 1:45 am #

    tee hee hee! i still remember your miraculous return from the topo love 2 trip! glad to hear kaz is already a hiker! xx

  2. Tabitha April 17, 2012 at 3:10 am #

    This is awesome. I love your (many) stories of near-catastrophic holidays.

    • Karen April 17, 2012 at 7:33 am #

      Yes, this a post of epic goodness. I fully appreciate that those experiences must have sucked at the time, but I love reading the stories.

  3. Beth April 17, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Totally awesome! You are on fire Justyna! You had me on the edge of my seat for Topo love 2 and I know how it ends, so that is saying something!!

    Those little bread balls! That frozen crapper! You guys are keepers!

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