Kranjska Gora / 31 August 2019
I woke up feeling quite refreshed after eight and a half hours of good sleep last night. We weren’t such eager beavers about leaving early today and sauntered down to breakfast at about 7AM – we still were the first ones there, though others soon joined us.
Tina’s brother Gregor was at the front desk today so we stopped to talk to him about today’s hike, especially as Tina had said he’s the one to talk to. Gregor was indeed a treasure trove of information and advice. He not just showed us, on the map, what to look out for, and told us about little landmarks that weren’t in our notes, but also took us outside to point out where exactly we’d be heading…a green meadow…high in the mountains…far far away. This triggered some nervous laughter…it was very high up, and very far away. Gregor said that we’d be going past that meadow then a bit higher up to the first waterfall before making our way down again to the town of Spodnje Rute. From there we had the option of taking a short bus ride back to Kranjska Gora, or to hike it. It was reassuring to have a bus ride option at the end of today!
We asked Gregor about the second waterfall – he said that it was challenging and steep. The best gauge would be to see how we found the hike to the first waterfall – if we found it tough, he’d advise not doing the second one. Sounded like good sensible advice to me.
I was keeper of the walking notes and maps today – used the ‘cap-keeper’ clips to clip the waterproof sleeve to my backpack so my hands were free; S commented that it was the ‘unaccompanied minor’ look. For today, the main signs we needed to look out for were those pointing to Srednji Vrh (waymarked ‘2’) and Gord Martjulek (waymarked ‘5’).
The trail today quite quickly started to wind uphill. A fair bit of the uphill trek was on asphalt with little tree cover, and despite the early start, we were soon hot and perspiring. The winding mountain road afforded good views of Kranjska Gora as we climbed away from it – we stopped frequently to admire the view and for water breaks.
The uphill climb under the relentless sun continued for what seemed to be ages, though in reality it was probably less than 2KM. We eventually reached an expanse of green – the meadow that Gregor had pointed out this morning! There was a brief respite as we walked on flat(ish) ground past the beautiful meadow and several little log cabins. We lingered a while here on ‘portrait mode’ – it was August 31st today, and exactly 41 years to the day when S and I had met (in the Seremban mosque…but that’s a whole other story). Anyway, we thought some portraits to commemorate the date were in order, so that’s what we did, courtesy GC and her iPhone.
The brief respite was just that – brief – for we soon got to a wooded area with a very clear Sredjni Vrh signpost, pointing us upwards into the woods…so up we went. Hiking Lesson #1 was employed and it still worked for me – though we did have to stop for breath every so often. Today’s slope was far steeper than yesterday’s.
The trail took us through the woods, and for much of it was quite narrow and peppered with random roots and rocks – which meant it was ‘eyes down’ walking. We eventually got to a point where it looked like the trail ended. Ahead of us was a small crevice, and another steep slope with no discernible trail; on our right was a steep muddy slope leading down to a tractor-marked even more muddy track. That track led to what looked like a 45-degree Extremely Muddy uphill slope which we couldn’t see beyond.
We re-read the instructions and backtracked a short bit and were standing there wondering which way to go when a couple of hikers, a British couple, came our way. They too were headed to the waterfall, and assured us that according to their directions (the directions in their heads obviously, since unlike us they seemed to carry no written instructions – in waterproof cases or otherwise) this was the way.
As we further contemplated whether to take the slope with no obvious trail, or to somehow get down to the muddy road then up the Extremely Muddy uphill slope, another hiker and her two kids appeared over the crest of the Extremely Muddy slope (and on cue, “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes…” started up in my head). She confirmed that that was the way to the falls.
So we had to make our way down the slope on our right – with great care, and relying heavily on the hiking poles – and then up Extremely Muddy slope – which we all did rather well, even if I say so myself. After this, it was back on the trail waymarked ‘2’ and more steep uphill climbs.
We soon heard sounds of water and came to what we thought was the waterfall – well, it was somewhat of a (small) waterfall, but checking our instructions, we realised this couldn’t be THE waterfall that was the target for today. Nevertheless, it was a pretty stop, and we put our packs down and had a little rest.
There still was quite a way to go to the actual waterfall – much of it still uphill. Our trail then took us past a lovely farmhouse and sheds – it looked like it was a working farm but there were no humans in sight, which felt a bit strange. We eventually got to the farming settlement of Srednji Vrh – again no humans in sight – this was now beyond ‘a bit strange’. The homes looked lived in, fresh flowers in the windows, the gardens well maintained, cars and bikes parked in the front – and not a soul in sight.
It was then downhill for about 2KM on the tarred road according to the instructions, till we got to a ‘rocky archway’. Along the way, we passed mountain homes – what a view these homes had (though we still hadn’t seen a single occupant). Going downhill on tarred roads was hard on my knees, despite the knee guard and the hiking poles – so these photogenic homes, and stunning vistas made for some very welcome photography stops.
It seemed like we had walked far more than 2KM, and still no signs of aforementioned rocky archway. I was beginning to think the distances in our walking instructions were measured ‘as the crow flies’ and weren’t the actual walking distance via the interminable hairpin bends. However, this time we were sure we were on the right track, and just had to keep walking…till we finally turned a bend, and there was the rocky archway.
The next 3KM or so was ‘town walking’ as we got to the valley of Gozd Martuljek, and the little town of Spodnje Rute. We had been walking for 6.5 hours and were way behind schedule as the instructions said it should take about 3.5 hours up till this point. But first things first – lunch! We found a bench to sit and have our lunch; I wolfed down the ham and cheese sandwich the Miklic had prepared for us…too hungry to care that it was exactly the same lunch as yesterday.
The first part of the walk from Spodnje Rute to the first waterfall was relatively easy. We eventually got to the gorge where the path narrowed as we walked following the river. Here again the water was crystal clear and beautiful. On part of the river bank, we came across a multitude of rock stacks or cairns – I wondered when people started building them, and how long these stacks had stood.
Just when I thought it’d be a nice easy walk on flat ground to the waterfall, the climbing began again – initially via wooden stairs (where we met the British couple from earlier; they were on their way out after seeing the waterfall – how did they get here so quickly??) and then via stairs cut out of the earth, and then steep uphill climbs till we reached the viewing platform and the Slap 1 – the lower waterfall. We just had to put our packs down for a while, catch our breaths and take in the view.
As we stood on the viewing bridge, I spotted in the distance some hikers climbing to the second waterfall – they looked tiny as they made their way up the sheer mountain-face. I pointed them out to S and GC, and noticed a familiar glint in S’s eye…yes, she was thinking about it. I’d barely completed this thought when she said, “Shall we try?” Before I could open my mouth to reply, GC said, very matter-of-factly, but in a tone that broached no argument, “No.” I thanked God that it was she who said it and not me – as my tone often broached argument…and we might well have ended up those specks on the mountain-face. S did say something under her breath about the hike back from the second waterfall being ‘easy’ and ‘through beautiful meadows’ (quoting from the notes) – but by this time we were making our way down the same way we’d come up, and I don’t think she got a response from either GC or me.
Back on flat ground, we followed signs that pointed to the bus-stop as we thought we might take the bus back. Gregor had given us the bus times and also the number for a cab in case we didn’t manage to catch the rather infrequent bus. We had time to spare (according to the bus timings that Gregor had given us) and so we slipped into a little restaurant at Zgornje Rute (“Bikers Welcome” a sign outside said…does this mean that bikers aren’t welcome in places without this sign?) for a lovely cold beer and some cake.
We wandered over to the bus stop with 15 minutes to spare, then realised (from a schedule pinned at the bus stop) that the timings were different for Saturdays – we’d missed the bus, and had an hour’s wait. It was scorchingly hot, so we went back to the restaurant and asked if they’d help us call for a cab – they did, but the village’s one taxi was otherwise occupied. S suggested walking back – this was met with another ‘No’ from she who broaches no argument…so we sat and had orange juice and conversation for an hour before heading back across the road to the bus stop.
Thankfully the bus showed up and we settled down for the ride back to Kranjska Gora – which took all of 10 minutes (“See, we should’ve walked” said you-know-who). It probably took longer for us to walk back from the Kranjska Gora bus-stop to the Miklic.
Back at our apartment today, as we did yesterday, we ended up flat on the floor, Tratac roller and FTI balls making the rounds between the three of us. It was quite a rush, having done today – the instructions said it was a 19.2KM walk that would take 6 hours 40 minutes without stops, with an ascent/descent of 660 metres. My Fitbit recorded it as 20.82KM, 31 869 steps, and we’d taken about 10 hours (including the almost 2-hour wait for the bus).
Dinner was once again at the Miklic. Some very yummy mushroom soup in a mushroom-shaped bread container was on the menu.
But the highlight had to be dessert, the ‘Miklic omelette’ – a gigantic souffle-like ‘omelette’ filled with berries and cream, sprinkled (generously) with icing sugar and pretty much covered with lashings of jam and the lightest, freshest cream I’ve tasted. We all were slightly hysterical when it was served – the size of it…the calories…the sugar!
Post-dinner we dragged ourselves up the stairs (well I did, anyway…I was feeling my legs today) to pack. Tomorrow we’d be leaving the lovely Miklic to hike to our next destination – Bohinj. From the walking notes, it looked like our toughest day (today) was behind us…or was it?