Overwater Underwater – Part One

Two separate water-based experiences stand out during our trip: one on the mightily beautiful Soca river in Slovenia (supplementary to our day’s fishing, reported elsewhere) and the other just offshore from an also previously-reported rocky coast a mere jink around the corner from Rovinj in Croatia.

So, which would you prefer first? The Soca river? Well, that’s serendipitously handy, since that’s what you’re getting – in the form of a spontaneous rafting trip, advertised during our stay at Kamp Klim and hey, the beauty of our rambling lifestyle is that we don’t need to be anywhere particular tomorrow – and 10% off – so why the hell not?

A short trip up the green-wooded, steep-sided, river-carved valley to a delightful pull-off from the snaking main road, and a warm greeting at the imaginatively-named ‘Top Rafting’ where we could join a downriver raft at one-o-clock and yes, it’d be fine to hang around (literally) until then as the surrounding stream-bordered gardens boasted a number of hammocks which we, as Pioneers Of A Certain Age, fully avoided, brewing tea in the van instead, as-you-do.

It being end-of-season-mid-week, it turned out that only two other crew members would join our boat, a twin-hulled inflatable to be piloted by Ziga, a Slovenian student who’d spent his summer paddling tourists to their anticipated doom on a fast-flowing and boulder-strewn stretch of the Soca – which appeared to have been designed and built for the purpose.

We therefore joined two young cycling, travelling, camping millennial ladies from Antwerp, Belgium to be driven up-river in a rattling minibus towing our little Minion-coloured raft. This was then manhandled into a particularly wide, slow-flowing and innocuous-looking stretch of water, while we donned our wet-suits, life-jackets and helmets, so as to look especially fetching for our Don’t Fall Out Of The Boat safety briefing from Ziga.

And off we serenely set. Scenery? 10/10. Gently unfolding river-canyon? 10/10. Unspoilt, gloriously sun-splashed tree-lined valley? 10/10. Guide & company? 10/10. Oh Lord, bloody great boulders in the middle of a curvy stretch causing water to foam and churn narrowly past on either side? 10/10.  Woooooo-hoooooooo! “Forward!” “Back!” “Stop!” shouts Ziga variously from his commanding position perched at the rear of the raft, manfully leaning into his paddle to steer his now-expert and responsive crew safely through the boiling rapids and over the jaw-dropping transparent green depths of this forever-surprising river.

As a diversionary entertainment from all this intrepid pioneering, we paused half-way to join a couple of other rafts, one of which had been upturned and pulled up onto one of the numerous giant rocks to create a novel water-slide – from which (your author became alarmed to realise) we were each expected to launch ourselves (for fun, apparently) into the flowing depths, which proved just a little on the c-c-c-c-c-cold side. This however didn’t deter the Navigating Troutess, who then led the charge by delivering herself in several athletic postures down the slide until we were recalled to duty and set off on the next leg of our waterborne adventure

“Safety!” shouts Ziga, at a point where the raft becomes jammed sideways by the current against a house-sized boulder and – like the crack, highly-trained team of Marines that we’d been become in the past forty minutes –  we responded as instructed by all piling into the rear-base of the raft, in the process knocking our brave Captain Ziga from his perch, off the back of the raft and into the swirling waters. Thankfully, this can’t have been either a unique nor surprising experience for him since, within seconds, like a cartoon character, somehow he was back in the boat.

Oh, how we laughed! Although I’m not so sure he was that amused, since the photos of this particular episode from his helmet-mounted Go-Pro never made the cut into our album of photos supplied (for a small extra fee) at the end of the trip. And then we went sub-aqua. Or at least her Esteemed Worshipfulness The Peerless Knumptying Navigator And Chief Troutess did.

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