The bus ride was over 4 hours, stopping at all the towns along the way and looped through windy twisty valleys – following the beautiful, normally clear but now chalky blue with recent rains, River Soča for the last 45mins or so.
When we arrived in Bovec, we were impressed with the mountains all around, some still with snow on top. Nina commented on how few people there were about, compared to similar Alpine towns.
We picked up our key for the small apartment we were going to use as a base, from café Jo Jo and had a coffee there while we waited for a shower to stop – and that was the last of the rain we were to see for the rest of the weekend – despite a ‘showery’ forecast and some ominous looking clouds. The apartment was a 15 minute hike – and it wasn’t immediately clear which one was ours. We eventually guessed by the tourist rating outside the door. We unpacked and headed out for another meal in a restaurant, vowing to cook ‘at home’ the next night.
After collecting leaflets from the Tourist Office, we looked at hikes around about and opportunities for kayaking and rafting on the Soča. Nina was also interested in climbing places for a future visit. Bovec is all about adventure – with at least a dozen companies in town offering rafting, kayaking, mountain bikes, zip-lines and climbing expeditions.
We decided on a longer hike on Saturday, Kayaking or Rafting Sunday morning, with another short stroll, maybe to a waterfall on Sunday afternoon. Monday morning was for mooching, knitting, painting – before catching the bus back.
I also bought a new pair of shoes – the old Karrimor Hiking boot/trainers having not only detached their uppers from their bottoms, but developed a hole in the sole too. They’d been comfy but were now only fit for the bin. The new trainers were vibram soled Hi-tecs – at least it was a brand I’d heard of, and they seem fairly lightweight to wear.
Saturday morning, we headed back to the Tourist info to buy a map and get more information about the hike to the Fortress. There was a young chap in the office who cheerfully outlined the walk we’d planned – “No problem” he said, “Only take 4 hours – just follow signs saying B4”. Nina bought a map that was a bit small scale at 1:45,000 but seemed clear enough.
Everywhere I went to book kayaking said they weren’t taking folk out because the river was too high and fast after the rains (I tried a couple of places). One woman said it was because they didn’t want any swimmers. I was disappointed but thought it fair enough. It’s difficult to gauge someone’s paddlng ability by what people say also: some people overestimate and some are competent but underestimate their ability. So we booked rafting for Sunday morning. Then we set off.
The walking was fine, although there were streams missing from the map that evidently existed on the ground. Then we reached a scree slope where there was an obvious cairn but nothing after that. We tried straight across – no path the other side. We tried turning left (as the leaflet from the Tourist Office said to do) and climbed up really high, dislodging stones and boulders as we went – it was really quite tricky! We got great views of the valley below but didn’t find a path. We also got the gorgeous aroma of wild herbs – thyme, rosemary etc – as we floundered over plants which reminded me of Greece. We saw a small plane dropping off para-gliders and Bovec looked like toy-town way below. We even tried following what looked like an animal track across the scree and downwards but it soon petered out. Nina got increasingly frustrated with the map. At this point, with visions of wondering around the forested slopes all night, we gave up and turned back. We’d spent over an hour clambering about that scree slope.
There was another trail branching off the trail we’d come up on, to somewhere beginning with a V and with signposts 3b so we took that one. The track got narrower and narrower with a steep (I mean STEEP) drop off to the left. Nina was quite relaxed and blasé about the drop – with all her climbing experience. I used to be blasé about heights – but my imagination was playing havoc. The track was even undercut at one point. Even Nina said it was best not to hang around having a conversation at that point. Gradually the trail came down in altitude and the consequences of a slip or a trip less disastrous. We saw goats (and heard their bells) in the distance and soon popped out back where we’d started.
When we got back to Bovec and went for the well earned beer (and to buy the makings of supper) I popped into the Tourist Info Office to explain what had happened. It was the young blonde woman from the night before. “Oh yes” she said in a thick Slavic accent in response to my query about the missing path, “ I never tell people to go that way – EVERYBODY get lost. Since landslide 5 years ago, even locals get lost. They say they fix but, no, still no path. Everybody get lost every summer”. You’ve just got to laugh.
No one else had booked for rafting, so we had to pay a surcharge – but we got to go in a ‘mini-bus’ of a raft, instead of a bus of a raft – with our own guide to steer us. The river looked quite hairy at the ‘put-in’ but soon calmed down into a pool/drop routine very similar to the Middle or Lower Dart. It was quite full and fast flowing – but nothing that I haven’t kayaked before. The guide pointed out the highest waterfall, and warmer tributaries (the Soča is about 8-10 degrees) and pointed out the beaches and good places to swim and chatted climbing pitches to Nina. The River Soča is paddleable all summer long – unlike British rivers which are winter only, unless they are man-made or dam controlled. WE both relaxed as we floated down the river and I loved that Nina had a big grin on her face the entire time.
I asked if we could ‘surf’ a wave and our Guide agreed that there was a good wave not long before we got out – but he gave us instructions on what to do if we swam. I didn’t realise until afterwards that Nina didn’t have a clue what this meant and she was completely thrown when we turned around and faced up river to get on the wave. We stayed on the wave for nano-seconds and the boat filled with water – but it was good fun!
After the paddle, we set off to find a waterfall – not the highest but very respectable (though I was almost fooled into thinking the source was the waterfall at first). It was called Slap Virges and is interesting because it’s divided into two – a forked fall, if you will. This was a pleasant circular walk and included a stroll through a few beautiful wild flower meadows. The steep and pointy mountains all around make for a spectacular backdrop. One can believe Slovenia is the most forested country in Europe when you see Bovec.
We decided not to do battle with the stove again (it had taken AGES to try and get pasta to boil the night before and in the end we’d resorted to using the microwave) and eat out – going back to the same place as before, as there didn’t seem much else open on the Sunday evening.
Monday morning we went to visit the museum but, to our chagrin, it was closed. So we mooched happily. I even did a daily draw and Nina had sewn up a twin to Welly and also sewn on Welly’s leg a bit more firmly (she’s feeling much better, thankyou).
We nearly missed the bus as we got lost running up a few dead ends – but all’s well. Back in Ljubljana, after the fabulous weekend, I retrieved Rowenna while Nina took a stroll up to the castle. Then we went for a last celebratory meal – traditional Slovenian, even though we’d not intended to eat Slovenian style. Nina had gnocchi and goulash, I had wild boar. We shared a pudding and starter. It was a good end to a lovely mini-holiday away from the bicycle for me, and for Nina, away from hectic family life. It was great to catch up on Lustleigh gossip too.
Nina set off early the next morning as the airport shuttle went at 7am. I got up to see her off – but then went back to bed until 9am! Thanks for a GREAT weekend Nina! (And I mislaid my knitting needle bag – DUH – I think I put it in the green bag with the broken seal and it fell out whilst I was riding along. Or something. Update: Sonja and Jon from Ljubljana found the bag in their car, where I’d dropped it! They will send it back to me, when I have a forwarding address).