Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Perilous Road (Slovenia) (Nathanial)

Croatia led beautifully into Slovenia, all rolling hills, more hot sunny days and mountain roads any biker would kill for. We are heading off to Lake Bled, another recommendation from fellow travellers, as well as a mate of mine.

We were driving deep in the 'Land of Forests' all saying how gorgeous the scenery was when the tarmac just ran out and turned into a dirt road! After double checking with the sat nav that we hadn't taken a wrong turn, we had a decision to make; can the van make it? Being the eternal optimist I put all faith into the van and we pushed on, although it was a very 'squeaky bum' journey.

This is the main road!
Not looking down

Thankfully we didn't see any of these 
We managed to avoid bumping into any of the bears that the road signs were warning us about and managed not to slide off the road, even when a tractor came screaming round a corner the opposite way (as far as tractors scream that is). The dust thrown up from the road came rushing in through the windows which we had to shut quickly, although not before a fine covering of dust had spread itself throughout the van. After driving what felt like most of the day, the dirt track finaly merged back into tarmac. Amazingly, through all the juddering and jolting and wobbling of the roads, the wall units are still up. There were a few moments I was expecting them to come crashing down with all the food we have crammed in them.

Before we go to Lake Bled, we are stopping off at the 'Postonjska Jama' caves for an explore.

The campsite we arrive at reminds me of a 1970s cold war survival camp site. It has a hexagon shaped central block with the toilets and washing facilities etc, which goes underground for parts of it. There is a small pool next to it (too cold to swim in though whilst we were there, although Alfie tried) and the camping area is spread out over different levels through a forest. I kept expecting James Bond to fly through at any minute and assassinate the camp site owner for being a cold war spy.

The caves were much the same as any other caves - we have been to a few now, the only difference with this one being that we had to catch an underground train to see the best parts as it is twenty kilometers in length and we were only seeing five.

It's funny how memories work; being on the underground train immediately transported me back in time to when I used to work down the coal mines, the cool damp smell helped too.

We had our 'grand tour' with interesting facts about Russian prisoners of war building bridges down there, and caught our train back to the surface.

Since the Nineties, the caves still receive around two hundred thousand less visitors a year due to the Yugoslav wars.

This sign was near the exit of the caves, please use your imagination re what the orange man is doing???

After our visit to the caves, the weird camp site, and surviving the 'Land of Forests' we still had a lot of miles to do and more mountainous roads to travel. Interestingly enough, as we drove through Croatia, we still saw evidence of battles in certain towns in the shape of buildings with bullet holes in them.

As we were on our way to Lake Bled, the heavens decided to open up. This turned out to be quite a challenge as the van is far too overloaded and these roads are incredibly steep. We have regularly been driving up and down 12% inclines, even going as steep as 16%! But when they go on for miles the van does suffer, in particular the brakes, even with the new brake pads I put on it in Italy.

The van didn't like these signs

As we drove through the mountains the front wheels were struggling to get a grip and they ended up spinning all over the place. This is no fun when you can see a hundred feet down the mountain side which has no barrier, and a passenger who needs to take medication to stay calm on normal mountain roads.

The van wheels were constantly spinning out going up hills and the rain combined with the weight of the van meant the brakes were locking up going down hills. Nothing much gets me particularly worried, but I have to say, I was now. I wasn't going to show my fear to Beth and the kids, I felt I had to be the face of confidence and calmness, but  definitely had the 'paddling duck syndrome' thing going off.

It rained all the way to Lake Bled, but we made it in one piece. After the last couple of days driving over dirt tracks and skid courses, I was looking forward to exploring on foot again.

Lake Bled
And from another angle

Lake Bled is lovely, we had a couple of days riding round the actual lake, but our exploring was broken up with showers. The campsite is surrounded by mountains which are covered in trees, it reminded me of the film 'The L
ast of the Mohicans'.

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