Wednesday 2nd July, 2014
I had heard that the bus to Bohinj goes 20 past every hour. I am all set to go by 8.20am except there are no staff members about to unlock the door to the terrace where my sneakers are airing. Tres annoying. Albeit there is no one about except 12 18 year old British girls that are passed out on every surface of the common area having arrived at an odd hour I’m assuming. I awkwardly crunch on my muesli among a sea of sleeping ‘beauties’.
At 9am a staff member shows up. At 10.30am, after getting off at the wrong bus stop and asking four people for directions I think I am standing at the bottom of the track that I want to conquer. There is a gondola in operation up the mountain and the guide told me yesterday that I could walk up the corresponding ski piste. One of the kind people I had asked told me that the track is called Zagarjev Graben and it was marked. Thank god she wrote it down – always get them to write it down!
It wasn’t signed with the name of the track, but it was marked as a walking track with the familiar red and white circles every few hundred metres. The only other piece of information I’ve got is again from yesterday’s guide who said, when the track forks, take the left because otherwise you will go all the way around the mountain.
The initial traverse is not steep, but long, taking me far right of the gondola. After my experience in Montenegro, I was expecting to zig zag all the way to the top and not really lose sight of the gondola. After half an hour, the track still hasn’t turned and I am convinced I am on the wrong path. But, it’s going up, I’m getting a workout and I’m surrounded by bush so I’m happy and proceed regardless. Within this time the only sign of human life comes rumbling down the mountain in a trank (that’s a truck-tank).
As I walk I constantly imagine how my surrounds look in the winter and envision happy kids flying down this path and the trees on either side overloaded with snow.
I really should have made the most of this half hour while the going was good. I round a bend and see what I’m in for (not that I knew it at the time) for the remainder of the journey. It’s damn near vertical and the gravel underfoot is made up of rocks of all sizes, but mostly stones that would fit in the palm of my hand. These factors make it tough going as I take one step forward and slide a few inches back. I end up kicking my foot into the gravel to try and get a good hold. After scaling a particularly challenging 50 metres and giving myself a mental back pat I pass a mountain biker on his way down. I point upwards and say “gondola?” He nods and repeats the turn-left-at-the-fork mantra. I ask how long and he shrugs and says “I don’t know, I like coming down! But maybe an hour”. Saweet. The next step is taken with renewed confidence and purpose. Up and up I go hearing only the crunch of gravel and the chirping of birds. The sweat is dripping down my face and dropping off my chin. After a while I see a couple above me that I guess are about my parents age. I catch up to them within 20 minutes and exchange a brief hello.
Soon after, the spits that have been spitting start getting that much spittier. Did I check the forecast yesterday? Yes. Did it say there would be a thunderstorm in the afternoon? Yes. Do I have a rain coat in my bag? No.
I switch my pack from my back to my front in case the skies suddenly open and I need to protect my electronics inside. This actually makes a lot more sense anyway because gravity is now on my side, so should I lose my balance which I have a couple of times already I am more likely to fall forwards than backwards, that’s how steep we’re talking. I look at the mountains behind me. They are in a fog of rain. I reckon I’ve got 20 minutes at the most before I too am engulfed. At least I have forest on either side of me. I scan my brain to see if there is any information stored in the ‘how to build a bivouac’ section from my form 1 camp. Nada.
I trudge on, a little quicker this time, and hope for a miracle.
My prayers are answered. The sun soccer punches the rain in the face and carries me in its warmth for the rest of the journey. Thank. You. Sun.
My only other human contact is another couple in their late 50s on their way down the mountain with their beautiful dog. I ask them how much longer they think I have to go and they estimate about half an hour.
I continue with renewed zest and a packet of gummy snakes. For this last stretch I am envisioning victory; getting to the top and seeing a bunch of people in the restaurant, some standing outside watching my gruelling final steps. There are cheers and high fives and a comment thrown out there about how I’m crazy for doing this.
In reality, I reach the top and see a bunch of people with their backs to me admiring the 360 degree view. I stumble into their midst, awaiting applause. Nothing. I take a few snaps for myself and walk a short distance to the restaurant. It is filled with chatty rugged up folk enjoying a warm meal. I’m a blatant stand-out with my active wear and salty face but I could have been invisible. I am filled with a sudden urge to jump up on a table and scream “I WALKED UP HERE PEOPLE!!!” But of course I order a bowl of chips and eat it in deflated and exhausted silence, watching the happy families around me.
I take the gondola back down and head to the cafe to ask the details of my trek, still not sure that I went up the track that yesterday’s guide told me of. I discover that the mountain I just climbed was called Vogel and it is part of the Julian Alps. The starting point of my trek was about 520 metres and the end point around 1550 metres. It took me 2 hours and 15 minutes. I also ask directions to the Savica Waterfall. I’m waved a direction and told it’s only 2-3 kilometre walk.
I’m not sure if this woman had her facts wrong or if my body was just so exhausted from the morning or maybe it was because the waterfall was also at the end of an upward climb, but it takes me at least an hour to get there, maybe even an hour and a half. Had I known what the terrain was like before I embarked I definitely wouldn’t have done it. The only saviour was that I could get on the return bus at a much earlier point than anticipated so I was spared the majority of the return walk.
I chill back at the hostel before meeting two of three of my favourite Aussies at a highly regarded local pizzeria. I inhale the majority of a huge vegetarian pizza and take the rest home in a doggy bag having planned to meet the girls for adventures tomorrow morning before my train goes.