Sunday 1st September 2019
It was a later start this morning as our driver (the same driver from Ljubljana – Milan) was picking us up only at 10AM. We finally went down for breakfast at ‘normal people’s time’, and had time to take photos of our apartment, and photos with Tina and Gregor before goodbyes were said and we were on our way. Milan dropped us off for today’s hike at Rudno Polje – which our notes said was the start of “an epic two-day climb” to Mount Triglav (a climb that was not on our agenda).
We were in high spirits – today’s walk was a mere 14.5KM and was expected to take 4.5 hours according to the notes – so maybe 6.5 hours for us. After our very long walks the last two days, this would be ‘easy.’ I (we?) somehow missed the line in the notes that said, “If you are getting tired near the end of this walk (when you pass through Srednja Vas, where Taxi Jager is based), you may be able to request a ride on to your hotel (if Milan is available)”…this rather casual mention of “tired” and the suggestion of getting a cab for the last leg of today’s hike should’ve set some alarm bells off.
But all this was on hindsight; the sun was shining as we set off from Rudno Polje, oblivious of what was to come, and raring to go. GC was today’s unaccompanied-minor map-reader and the signs to look out for today were Srednja Vas and Stara Fuzina.
We made good time, and just at about the 1-hour mark, in perfect sync with our walking instructions, we passed the ‘cattle grid’ (which had directions to either a wedding or an anniversary celebration), and the little wooden chapel – exactly as described in the instructions.
Well-fed, healthy looking cows and a lone bull grazed (on the green green grass of home); the cows were protected from us, and vice versa, by electrified wires that outlined the perimeter of the cows’ ‘meal zone.’ The bull, strangely, was outside the wires and right by the trail – fortunately, we got past safely without any drama – much to S’s relief, I’m sure.
As we wound our way past pretty meadows and farm buildings, a little boy, not more than four or five, skipped past us, his mum a few paces behind – as he went by, he cheerfully called out, “Dan” (the abbreviated form of Good Day) to each of us – what a polite kid!
At the 4KM mark, we got to a restaurant, the Koka na Uskovnika. Its outdoor tables were filled with hikers (little kids in tow, some firmly fastened to their parents’ backs) and cyclists (who were drying their perspiration-soaked t-shirts on the grass, as they downed their beers). We decided to sit a while for a drink – the Lasko was becoming a fast favourite.
It looked like today’s forecast for rain might indeed be correct, as dark clouds started gathering – we decided to get a move on before the clouds parted. Our next landmark was a crucifix and a path leading through a dairy farm. The crucifix was obvious, the dairy farm not so much – there were farm-like buildings but no signage in sight – or any cows, for that matter. With the “crucifix on our right” we were to follow the gravel road for just over a kilometre before turning off into a forested short cut.
Once again it felt like we’d walked for ages and once again I was convinced that these were ‘as the crow flies’ distances. Just as we were wondering if we’d taken the wrong path at the crucifix, a young couple emerged from the forest some distance ahead of us. We were on the right track after all. We stopped to chat for a bit – they were from California – and as we set off on the 300-metre downhill path, they said, “It’s very steep…”. Steep downhill paths are not my favourite thing – this one comprised loose rocks camouflaged under dry twigs and branches…also not my favourite thing. However, after the gradients of the last two days, this path wasn’t too bad at all, though much concentration was needed to place my foot where the hiking pole was, and to ensure that at any one time, I had three points firmly grounded (Hiking Lesson #3 – via on-the-job training).
At the end of this path, we were back on the part-asphalt, part-gravel road with its many hairpin bends, heading downhill – the 2.2KM in the instructions began to feel like 22KM on the hard surface, with absolutely no shade, and constant pressure on my knees. I don’t know how many hairpin bends we ticked off on that mountain road. We could see the town of Srednja Vas far below and I wondered how long it would take to get there. Given the silence and sparse conversation, I guessed that all of us were conserving energy and willing this stretch of the hike to be done with.
As we walked, the sounds of La Cucaracha wafted from the valley below. When I first heard this song eons ago, I wondered why anyone would sing about a cockroach. Today, I was still wondering. La Cucaracha done, the warbler started up quite plaintively on Santa Lucia – and once again I was transported to another time, to a simpler time where one’s sole responsibility was to ‘study hard’ and ‘do well in school’, and where fun meant holidays with my cousins at my grandfather’s house. For reasons that escape me, I used to call one of my cousins, Santa Lucia. She is long gone now, having died right after she completed medical school. As the heat assailed me from above, and bounced back up from the asphalt below, I found myself having a ‘what is the meaning of life’ moment.
At some point on this penance-like walk, a young couple with their little dog overtook us. A few bends later we caught up with them – their dog had sat down in a small patch of shade, tongue hanging out, refusing to move further, resisting all their cajoling. After this I didn’t feel so wimpy.
We had one more steep ‘loose-rock’-ed shortcut to traverse and then a path that was more a non-path through some rather thick undergrowth – we stamped and stomped our way through…just in case any snakes were out and about.
The next landmark was a wooden balcony overlooking the town. We stopped here for lunch…yes, ham, cheese and rocket sandwiches. S wondered why we hadn’t just got some supplies from Kranjska Gora before we left (probably because we couldn’t manage walking anywhere else after we got back from the waterfall yesterday?). My tolerance for ham and cheese sandwiches (and the Milka choc) is obviously quite high as it all still tasted good to me.
A few large drops of rain began to fall, slightly uncertainly, as we finished lunch and I decided to pack the camera away for now, as we left our lunch spot for the final downhill stretch for today, to the town of Srednja Vas. The next few landmarks were easy enough to find – a cemetery and a church. As we walked through the church grounds, the rain started coming down – thankfully we already had our rain jackets on. We sped up – in my case, as much as my creaking knees allowed – and got to a little restaurant, the Gostilna Pri Hrvatu. The rain was quite heavy by now so it was an unanimous decision to stop there for coffee – and dessert (the dessert decision was a majority one, not unanimous – no prizes for guessing who was the hold-out). The dessert turned out to be a big hit…with even the hold-out tucking in.
The rain went on for a good hour or so, with no signs of stopping anytime soon. A decision was made to put on our rain gear, cover our backpacks and get back on the trail, if we wanted to get to Bohinj before dark. We were soon back in wide open meadows, on a tar track, rain coming down hard – I was very pleased with my (old) Marmot rain jacket and my (new) rain trousers – the latter very lightweight and very waterproof. The earthworms seemed to be out in full force on the track – many seemed dead…death by drowning??…as they certainly didn’t look crushed. [I later looked up this phenomenon – earthworms do indeed come out when it rains. They normally absorb oxygen through their skin, and when it rains, the waterlogged soil makes it difficult for them to get their oxygen – causing to them to literally ‘come up for air’. Some articles say that they ‘get lost’ once on roads or tracks, and die before they can get back to the soil – real or fake news, I don’t know.]
Then the lightning began…between us, we tried to remember what we’d read…the one thing we remembered was that if the time between thunder and lightning was less than 10 seconds, we’d better take shelter (and not under a tree). We also remembered the no mobile phone rule. My camera was in my backpack, and there were so many dramatic photo possibilities as the storm clouds rolled low over the mountain peaks, rain pelting down over the Studor hayracks (unique to Slovenia and used for drying hay), the occasional little shrine by the road.
But just as I was about to risk taking my phone out and switching it on, there was a huge clap of thunder (which triggered the “one one thousand, two one thousand…” in my head) – and a flash of lightning barely 4 seconds later. This was followed by similar thunder-lightning pairs, all less than 6 or 7 seconds apart. Yikes! There we were in this wide open meadow, lightning practically upon us. We all sped up, creaking knees or not, while staying a good distance from each other…that was the other thing we read – spread out. I initially thought it was because lightning was less likely to strike us if we weren’t clustered together. The actual reason was rather less scientific – it was so that if one person was struck, the others can get help. The random song lyrics going on in my head at this point was…you guessed it…’thunder and lightning, very very frightening…’
A few minutes of half-jogging later, we got to some sheds storing farm equipment and decided to duck into one of them. With all the metal in that shed, I’m not sure if we were actually safer in there; just to reduce the (individual) risk slightly, we ‘spread out’ as much as possible in the little shed.
We waited there for a good twenty minutes or so, continuing to time the lightning, till it was well over ten seconds away. The rain was still coming down in buckets as we stepped out of the shed. This was a pity as this part of the walk would’ve been really pretty – through the meadows, an Icelandic horse farm, a dairy museum and a 19th century farmhouse museum – the latter two required a detour, which we decided not to take as it was close to 5PM by now and we still had some way to go. But then again, I thought if it had to rain, this was probably the best place for it to do so, as the terrain from here was flat and on properly tarred tracks. It wouldn’t have been very funny if we had to come downhill or navigate steep slopes in this weather.
From here it was a relatively easy – but long – walk to the little town of Stara Furzina. The countryside was beautiful and as the rain slowed to a light drizzle, before stopping completely, it looked like everything had just been freshly laundered.
By now we were about 7 hours into the walk…so much for an ‘easy day’. From Stara Furzina, it was pavement-walking and according to the instructions we should’ve reached our hotel after 1KM. But I am sure we walked far more than a kilometre with no hotel in sight. At a junction (which actually pointed to a carpark), we stopped to ask a couple if they knew the way. They didn’t but Google-Mapped it for us – and we were pointed in the carpark direction.
Long story short, that was one way to get to our hotel – the longer way. By this time we were exhausted. The path took us through a tree-lined path which opened up near Lake Bohinj. It was stunning – and exhausted or not, out came the cameras. The golden light of the setting sun on the lake was simply beautiful.
We finally stumbled into the Hotel Jezero at 7PM, 8 hours after we’d started out today, 33 137 steps and 21.64KM later…we must’ve made some wrong turns! But we made it – before dark.
Our luggage had been left at the front desk. We were not amused when our request to send the bags to our room was met with an apologetic, “We don’t provide this service, ma’am”. We were even less amused when we heard that we had to manoeuvre stairs to get to our room. The front desk staff may have either felt sorry for us – or he was worried that one of us was on the verge of making her views heard. Whatever the reason, he offered to help us get the bags past the stairs at least.
Dinner was at the hotel right after we all had showered and were feeling vaguely normal again. The hotel itself was quite ordinary – and definitely not the Miklic. This was a large hotel, the kind that welcomes busloads of tourists, (and cyclists, and hikers). Our room was comfortable enough, and the buffet dinner (which came with wine and beer on tap!) decent.
Over dinner, we decided that we’ll be rebels and not follow tomorrow’s instructions. We would take it easy, explore the little town, do a short walk around the lake, maybe go for a massage…my knees approved.