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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Moving to the "Island" of Ostrov

This year turned out to be kind of apocalyptic after all. Tumultuous changes turned new leaves, and I moved away from Poland. Spring was slow coming, and the bitter cold left me impatient for it's arrival. I needed a place to live, and in the humble life path I had become accustomed to living the slacklife, I was unable to rent a flat somewhere. Somehow, the idea of moving to Ostrov seemed like a good one, and my good friend Pino at Autokemp Pod Cisarem welcomed me with open arms and work to keep me busy until the warmth arrived. It was bitter sweet to pack as much gear as I could carry into my two Deuter backpacks, hit the road with my thumb and finally see the sign of one of my favorite places on earth; Ostrov. 


The camp was waiting as simply and beautifully as I remembered it, an old pub that is as outdoor-punk as I am. 

My room was a shared one with the other seasonal employees.

Pino had plenty of work for me to stay busy with, helping him mill wood, varnish it and repair the cabins. I enjoyed this work, laborious but with lots of learning involved.

After a day of labor in the cold Spring, coming inside to a warm fire and good goulash was as much as I could ask for.

Besides working and trying to highline, I found extreme joy in exploring the still Wintery landscape all around me. The forest and rocks were so incredible in this scenery, a magical and unreal universe.

I experienced my first completely solo highline mission during this time in Ostrov. I had a non slacklining friend visiting from Ireland, so she came along, however rigging and walking was completely up to me. It was so liberating to be solely responsible. I had to organize and sort gear beforehand to be sure as not to forget something, then upon arriving at the towers of choice I needed to climb up both sides repeatedly to complete the process of slinging the towers, making the anchors, dropping the lines to the ground, tying them together, pulling the line up and tensioning. 

A local family with a vacation home in Ostrov have a daughter who slacklines named Hannah. She was eager to try highlining and I naturally jumped at the chance to potentially get more girls in to the sport. She learned the chongo (sit start) on the highline! It was incredible! After several good tries she called it quits, but I think if she is ambitious she would be a great highliner!

I left this line up (called For Sure Highline, 18 meters in length, I nabbed the first ascent) for days, enjoying the ability to take a short hike up and highline at will. I walked in various leashes, trying to come back to highline shape after a big break. The rigging involved about 12 meters of slings on one side (the anchor shared with NarcoBaron) and 10m on the other side. Both sides are accessible without rope.

Ankle leashes are one of my favorite ways to walk highlines, and as you can see I had a blast doing it on this one!

I had a feeling while rigging this line that it would be a soloable one, and after a day I had the pleasure of walking it with no leash. There was no one around, I was completely alone. The cold Spring kept most tourists and climbers away, so I only had the natural sounds of the forest for company. It was beautiful. I was at my own will completely, with no one else around to distract me or for me to be concerned about. 

The solo was perfect, one of the easier ones which reminds me why I find such joy in the experience. I was stable, smooth, in complete control of my fear and my muscles. My thoughts were clear and I could fully enjoy the full man walk. Thanks to a borrowed GoPro I was able to capture it. 

Sometimes fellow highliners would come on the weekends and install their own lines, which was always great for me! I could roll out of bed, stroll up to an already rigged line, and have a walk! On one such occasion my Czech friends came and rigged a 47 meter line in Himmelreich area, which I had never walked before. They finished late in the day so I was unable to walk it, and I had to depart the next day very early. I swore I would wake up at 7:30am in order to walk the line, and no one believed me as apparently I have a reputation for enjoying my sleep (who doesn't?) I am stubborn and enjoy saying "I told you so," therefore I did wake up early, had a tea and took Pino as company to walk the highline. 47m in length is no joke, and I was pretty rusty after my break, so I was unsure of the outcome. In addition, it was freezing cold with snow! I hiked up to the line, climbed the chimney of rock to get to the anchor, and in multiple layers quickly took off my socks and shoes. My feet were not happy to greet the bitter cold, but I was determined to walk the line. 


It was a fight but I managed to walk the line first try both directions! Thank you Pino for the photos. 

In my spare time I strolled around the vacated area, exploring several of the empty houses. Here are a few photos of the haunted looking places, houses I dream of restoring.

So, Ostrov became home. I traveled away often but every return was comfortable, and I think I will be returning to Ostrov for the rest of my life. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. 

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