Our Slovenian Road Trip

After almost two weeks of working in the lovely Sustainability Park Istra I was lucky enough that my stay coincided with a Slovenian road trip. The first plan had to be cancelled due to bad weather, but my hand went up like a shot at the prospect of an adrenaline fuelled Canyoning trip and the chance to see the reputedly beautiful Soca valley.

Day 1

I bid farewell to my newly adopted volunteer family and 10 of us squished into 2 cars bound for Kobarid. I was in the teeny tiny car with 3 other volunteers, Julia, Heleen, Yasmine and Janez, our host. The benefit of being in the teeny tiny car was Janez, without prompting, acted as our in-car Slovenian tour guide.

We got a brief outline of the Yugoslavian separation, the 10 day war in Slovenia (little boy Janez was glad because he got 2 days off school!), and the low down on why the Italian neighbours like to hop over the border to attend one of the many Casinos in Nova Gorica.

The scenery was fast changing as we left the hot, Mediterranean forested hill tops of Hrvoji for the turquoise rivers and stunning Alpine mountain scenery of the Soca Valley.

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We dropped Yasmine off in Tolmin for her paragliding experience and rushed off to the outdoor centre in Kobarid. We got our kit and headed off in the mini bus to our gorge, witnessing more spectacular mountain scenery with white limestone rock towering above us.

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We slogged 20 minutes up hill, fashioning our wetsuits into makeshift backpacks to avoid sweating to death, and plunged into the cool, mountain water. It was the most delicious and refreshing drinkable stream water I’ve ever tasted. What can I say? Canyoning is so much fun and a little bit terrifying. We leapt from rocks into deep and not so deep pools. We slid forwards and backwards down naturally formed chutes, we used via-ferrata style rope systems to move safely over wet rock. The highlight for me was sliding down into a cave-like space and then popping out through a narrow hole only to be greeted by a slide so high and fast they used ropes to slow you down. Like I said, terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.


We headed for a well-deserved pizza in a cafe by the Nadiza River. For some reason, instead of driving (because we hadn’t had enough excitement) we decided to walk 1 km upstream in the river to our swimming destination. This turned into a beautiful but epic walk and we were glad to catch the last of the sunshine by the calm pools overlooked by a picturesque bridge.

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The owner of the Canyoning company had kindly let us pitch our tents in his private field. We had fresh spring water to drink and a nearby bar where we could drink Lasko beer and enjoy the mountain view. The campfire was lit, expertly laid by our in-house boy scouts Gaj and Miha, and we played ‘never have I ever’ whilst gorging on Nutella.IMG_0088 (640x480) DSC04472 (640x480)

Day 2

Another early rise and more Nutella, saw us leaving the Soca valley and winding our way up the never-ending Vrsic pass (1611m). Unfortunately one of the volunteers was unwell and the twists and turns of the hairpin alpine highway did her no favours. Despite this, it was an enjoyable ride as the teeny tiny car battled its way up, this way and that, while we gawped at the dramatic alpine views.

A lot of the pass had been built by Russian prisoners of war during World War One, and there is a Russian chapel on the site where many were killed by avalanche.

We parked near a mountain hut and began our ascent of Mojstrovka (2366m). We set off at 9am in an attempt to avoid the heat; still my poor Welsh body couldn’t handle the 30 plus degree heat. Janez insisted we drink water and eat biscuits as often as possible to keep up our energy, I didn’t argue.

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At a natural break in the mountain, half of the party decided to call it a day while I joined the hardcore crew who continued up the mountain. After demoralising scree-skating, we took the clean ridge line which made walking a lot easier and satisfying. As we neared the top, the Slovenians in our group treated us to a rendition of the national anthem (including a tribute to the strong and beautiful Slovenian woman) and a song about Triglav, the country’s highest peak. I tried to sing the Welsh national anthem but realised I only knew 2 lines, whoops.

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On the way down Janez encouraged us to try some scree-running. The key is to lean back, take small steps and dig your heels in at an angle. We ran, jumped and surfed the small land-sliding gravel all the way to the bottom. It’s probably not so great for erosion but such fun!

Back down the pass, we headed for the Pericnik Waterfall where you could walk behind it, witness the sheer power of the water, enjoy the rainbows formed by the spray and get soaked by it in equal measure. Then on to Janez’s parents mountain hut where we would spend the night. We settled in, some went foraging for wild mushrooms. I sat in a meadow and wrote my diary to the gentle clunk of Alpine cow bells. That evening we ate, relaxed and played games.

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Day 3

Eggy bread for breakfast and a quick tidy of the cabin. We set off for Lake Bohinj where the crazy ones in our gang threw themselves from rocks into the water. We bid farewell to Dori at the bus stop who was heading back to Budapest.

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We drove onto Lake Bled and walked up the forested hill for stunning postcard views of the lake, castle and Slovenia’s only island. The others decided to swim out to the island while a few of us bobbed in the clear waters, sunbathed and fought with wasps over watermelon.

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We faffed around looking for somewhere to eat and settled on a Mexican restaurant. We didn’t have much time to spare as we had to be at Skocjan Caves by 5pm for the last tour. We rushed off to our destination and made it with only 4 minutes before the tour left. Due to its Unesco World Heritage status, the caves are a no photography zone much to Valentine and Eleanora’s ( the resident paparazzi) dismay. The caves are 5.8km long and reach a depth of 250m. First we came to the Silent Cave full of stalactites and stalagmites. It takes 150 years for them to grow (by calcite deposits) just 1cm. There was one pair nearly meeting but had at least 50 years to go before joining up into a rock pillar.

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We entered the larger Great Hall with veils of rocks hanging from the ceiling, piles of bat guano and rock formations resembling church organs and waterfalls. These formations were eerily lit and glancing onward you could see the path dimly glowing into the distance, snaking its way towards the vast space of the Murmuring Cave. It wasn’t too noisy as the Reka River was low. You could see the evidence of flooding on the path and could imagine this mighty underground gorge full of water. Peering down from the 45m high bridge crossing, shrouded in gloom and surrounded by alien stone formations you could believe you were at the centre of the earth or on another planet.


We headed back to Koper which marked the end of our wonderful roadtrip. I was dropped off at the hostel to embark on my travels to Croatia while the others retreated back to the hills to prepare for the forthcoming literature festival being hosted at Park Istra. I felt sad to leave the volunteer family but happy knowing I had new friends and we had experienced so much of the beauty of Slovenia together.

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By Rosie McConnell