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Fratarica Canyon

The hotel was hot. I don’t sleep well when it’s too hot, and it was too hot last night. We tried opening the door to let in the amazingly cool and fresh air from outside, but it was so noisy that we had to close it. Maybe leaving it open and loud would have been a better choice, but instead we suffered and didn’t really sleep more than about 4 hours each. That’s a terrible record for our first night here after a full night of not sleeping on the plane. So we’re going to have to solve something for tonight. Hopefully there won’t be as many late loud parties tonight since it’s Sunday. We’ll see.

Starting Early

We got up this morning to views across beautiful Lake Bled with the Bled Castle looking down onto the little church on the little island in the middle of the lake. Those views didn’t last long, because we were in a hurray to meet up with our guides to go canyoneering. We were supposed to arrive at Altitude Adventures by 6:45, but our hotel stubbornly does not serve breakfast until 7:00. We called the guides to let them know we would be late so we could eat a quick breakfast before heading over. We sat in the lobby waiting for the breakfast doors to open at 7:00. Lots and lots of senior bus tour people were also waiting. Call me crazy, but if most the people staying at your hotel have to wait in your lobby because they all want breakfast sooner than you’re willing to serve it, you’re doing something wrong. The doors opened right on time and we rushed in. The spread looked really good, but we mostly scooped up big helpings of eggs, bacon, cheese, pastries, and other fun things. I honestly don’t remember all the things they had or even the ones I ate because we did it all so quickly. Jim was the fastest. He filled his plate then snarfed it down and was out the door by 7:05 or so. It was pretty amazing. The rest of us were also very fast, but nobody was as fast as Jim.

We expected to be the only clients today, but that’s not how it worked out. It rained ten out of the ten previous days here and the canyon guides have been unable to take groups down the canyons because of the high waters. But still, there was only one other couple going with us today. The high water levels also meant we couldn’t do the “ultimate/extreme” adventure we had planned. Instead we did the next best thing, which turned out to be pretty fun.

To my surprise, the canyon was pretty far from Bled. We drove up into the mountains and before too long found ourselves in Italy, driving past really crazy looking ski resorts. Eventually we cut back into Slovenia and dropped down into the Koritnica valley and the town of Log pod Mangartom. The adventure guides brought all our gear and we suited up in the parking lot and started our hike. Our gear included helmets, wet suits, neoprene socks, canyoneering shoes, etc. The wetsuits were 7mm. SEVEN MIL. That’s crazy thick and it made a moderate hike at altitude into a pretty serious workout. But we knew we would be going down a canyon and walking, rappelling, sliding, jumping, and swimming in the extremely cold waters coming off the glaciers and newly fallen snow in Fratarica Canyon.

Hiking and Canyoneering

We started our hike by crossing the Koritnica River, which wasn’t raging, but was deep enough that it pushed against us as we crossed. Fratarica stream dumps into the Koritnica right there and we turned and hiked up along the stream into the canyon. As we hiked up along the stream, we saw a few waterfalls and wondered if they would be among the rappels we would do on our way back down. And yes, they were, including Parabola Slap (“slap” means waterfall in Slovenian) that we saw not too far into our hike. The recent rains and high water had changed the canyon in significant ways. One of the big changes was the depth of the pools below each fall. In my naiveté, that seemed like the logical conclusion: the higher water would have pushed harder to clear debris out of the pools. I was so wrong. The higher water did push debris downstream, but it dropped it off in the very pools I thought would be made deeper. Instead they had been made shallow and filled with gravel. This wasn’t too big of a deal, but it meant some of our cliff jumping and sliding down waterfalls would have to change into short rappels to keep us safe.

I haven’t done a lot of canyoneering. I have only been rappelling a few times in my life, but I do think it’s fun, and it’s especially fun when water is involved. We worked our way down the canyon as a group, which took quite a long time… much longer than it took us to hike up. Many times, we went down directly in the waterfalls. These were usually small and manageable, but at some point we came to the big waterfall (Parabola Slap) we had seen on our hike up. The water was pounding where it does a free fall of 48 meters (160 feet). Each of us went down that waterfall. Our guides didn’t want us to lose our grip while dealing with the pounding cold water, so they wisely lowered us down through the falls until we hung between the falls and the cliff. It was pretty amazing. The water never felt colder than on that trip down those falls. I got momentarily slowed down before the overhang and my wet suit filled with the cold water. It was pretty comical because it sort of ballooned up and then drained out my feet holes as I hung behind the falls later on.

The bottom of the canyon had quite a few more falls and fun sections than I anticipated and we were all pretty tired by the end. Then we had to make our way back through Italy and the same winding mountain passes that had brought us there. We made it back to Bled in the afternoon and set about finding some of the famous Bled Cream Cake to sample.

Walking Lake Bled

After sharing a round of dessert, including some world famous Bled Cream Cake, we decided we had to walk it off before finding dinner, so we walked the trail around the entirety of Lake Bled. That added another 3 or 4 miles of walking to our tally for the day. The timing of the walk was really good. The sun was starting to get low and the light was really pretty. The clouds were somewhat clear and we took way too many shots of the church and the island and the castle.

Eventually we made our way back to the beginning where we walked around in search of food. We asked our guides for suggestions; we wanted to try some traditional Slovenian foods. They suggested we hit the restaurants of Ljubljana instead of Bled. That wasn’t an option for us, but they gave us a few options in town as well. We walked another 2k or so before finally finding one that was open on Sunday night. We ate at a place called Central, and it was really great.

After dinner we hit the pool complex at our hotel. They had several pools, multiple hot tubs, and a waterslide that guests can use for free. They also have saunas and an entire wellness center that you can pay to use. We stuck to the free zones and had a good time until they closed up shop around 9:00. We went up and showered with big hopes of sleeping well tonight with the door open. So far, so good. It’s quiet outside for now.

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