Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Friday 10/2: Hike and Piantballing

Friday morning, after the party, the four of us were by far the happiest people in the hostel. While everybody else nursed hangovers, we set out on the River Walk: Take Two. This attempt was more successful, and we actually made it to the trailhead without too much distraction. It had rained the whole night, so the road/trail was thick with mud. I think somebody told us that it's a cross-country ski trail during the winter. We followed it along the river and through the woods. We passed Slovakian lumberjacks in the forest. Maybe I've been sheltered my whole life, but I have never before seen Slovakian lumberjacks. It was almost religious. A good friend of mine once educated me on the Evolution of Manliness. He told me it goes like this: Caveman, Barbarian, Viking, Pirate, Lumberjack. Now you can understand, and appreciate, that to witness lumberjacks in their natural environment is to witness the culmination of millions of years of evolution. Amen.

The trial eventually twisted up higher into the mountains, and opened onto a giant field, Sound of Music style. We stood at the top of a grassy hill and wanted so badly to roll down it, but the grass was soaking wet. The soaking wet grass wouldn't normally have stopped us, but washing machines are scarce, dryers don't exist, it was freezing cold, and we brought hardly any clothes on the trip. Instead, we did the next best thing and jumped around like fools, taking pictures in front of the mountains. Also, a mushroom fight.

The trail looped back across the main highway, and connected with another trail. We hiked past the paintball field (argh! We were within five minutes of it yesterday!) and into another, thinner, forest. Our trail, which was supposed to loop all the way back to the hostel, quickly petered out so we blazed our own. Everything sort of dead-ended, so we sat on a log on a grassy hill overlooking the town, and pretended to be a Jamaican bobsled team (If you've never seen Cool Runnings, please do so immediately). When our bums were cold and sore, we ran straight down the hill and back into town, through somebody's backyard/farm.

Jess and Camille walked up ahead, while Jessica and I walked slowly back home. We stopped to play on a rope swing over a creek. The swing was tied between two trees, with a small piece of wood in the middle to sit on. The wood wasn't even secured; the weight of your bum held it in place. The swing was on a steep incline, so it was a bit tricky getting to it, but once you sat down it swung far over the creek below. With the town below my feet, it felt like I was flying through the yellow and red-leafed trees.

We made it back to the hostel with just enough time to turn around and gather our group for paintballing. We made the trek through the town the way we just came, and found the paintballing place with no trouble this time. The field was on top of a hill overlooking the town on one side and with a view of the mountains on the other. Not a bad location for our first time paintballing. This was hardly a commercial paintball arena; the place had one small sign indicating the company, and no building or office at all. A German guy met us there in a car and brought out boxes of equipment and clothing from his trunk. We put on scrubby pants and army jackets over our clothes, and left our stuff in the make-shift lean-to. The field was full of bushes, trees, wood barricades, and ditches. I know hardly anything about paintball, but this field seemed to be awesome. We played 4 guys against 5 girls, all hostel guests/staff. None of us had ever gone paintballing before, so Slovakia was a pretty fantastic place to try it out. The first round, the girls soundly slaughtered the guys, but after that we were pretty much toast. Please note that most of these guys were huge, burly, Australian beefy men. They made for quite the formidable enemy.

By the time we finished, it was freezing and almost dark. Since we arrived at the hostel, we had been giving the owner a hard time about not making good on the flyer's promise of free hot chocolate. He told us he would get some, but it never happened and just turned into a running joke. So when we finished paintball and started on the cold 45-minute walk home, somebody jokingly said, "Hot chocolate sounds sooo good right now." Jimmy, one of the paintballers, volunteered to run back, stop at the market, and have hot chocolate waiting for us by the time we all got back to the hostel. We thought it was a joke, but he was quite serious and took off running. When we walked into the hostel, Jimmy had homemade hot chocolate waiting for us on the stove. We each got a mug full of the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. The stuff in Poland was delicious, but Jimmy's hot chocolate was something else altogether. The town doesn't sell hot chocolate mix, so he bought bars of dark chocolate, melted them on the stove, and made his own concoction. We now call him Saint Jimmy.

More people arrived at the hostel that night, including two girls who just came from Greece. By this time, there were 23 people in the hostel, and nearly all of them were Australian. We all went out for pizza together, and completely packed the restaurant. The two girls had Australian accents, so I was pretty shocked to learn that one was from...San Jose, California! She graduated from college and has been travelling for 15 months, mostly bartending. The Australian accent is pretty much inevitable when you travel that long, because Australians are everywhere and are probably taking over Europe one hostel at a time. She went to Willow Glen high school, and I went to Piedmont Hills--same school district at the same time. We know some of the same people. Of all the places in the world, I ended up in Slovakia sharing a room with a girl from San Jose. Small world.

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