Slovenia Soca Travel Notes - April 2006
Three fairly local to HPP East Midlands based paddlers. Simon Slim Turnbull, Chemical Ollie Miller and Cautious Dave Parkin.
We flew Easy Jet from East Midlands to Venice at a cost of just under 100 return per person. If we had booked a month earlier we could have flown for less than 50! Other options are to fly from Luton or Stanstead with EasyJet or Ryan Air. As we are HPP local paddlers and live near Nottingham East Midlands (EMA), we didn't want the hassle of driving to Luton or Stanstead, paying for car parking etc, so opted for our local strip.
Easyjet staff seem to be very switched on for charging extra for the boats at both EMA and in Venice. We had to pay 15 per boat at EMA and 25 Euros in Venice.
Our flights with boats therefore came out at approximately 130 each. As stated above, if we had booked a month earlier, when we first started talking about it, we would have saved ourselves 50!
Lesson No. 1: Book early as possible to get the cheap seats.
We packed all our gear in our boats and they averaged around the 25 Kg mark. Our Paddles went in one paddle bag. We also took small rucksacks as hand luggage on the plane. I wore my walking boots and coat, onto the plane and packed some Teva sandals for loafing around. Walking boots are ideal footwear for Slovenia in early April, the sandals not so. Yes we all probably took much more than we really needed.
Initially we shopped around on the Internet for car hire, but struggled to find a car hire company to allow the car to be taken from Italy into Slovenia. Just about every company stated in their small print that the car could be driven in the EEC, but would then exclude Slovenia. This is very odd, as Slovenia became a member of the EEC in 2004. In the end we resorted to ringing the car rental companies to get quotes. We found www.carrentals.co.uk to be very helpful and their prices very reasonable. We opted for an estate - it cost more, but was comfortable for three, with two boats on the roof and one inside plus all the gear. We used an inflatable roof rack (Handirack) that worked really well - especially as the car turned out to be a brand new Renault Migane Estate and came fitted with roof rails. The Handirack fits really well to cars fitted with roof bars, and even when one of the inflatable bladders decided to leak, the inflatable rack continued to perform really well. At Venice airport, on the return trip, I was worried that the rack may have damaged the car roof (a weeks worth of road grit getting under the bladders and causing scratching etc), but there wasnt a mark to be seen.
The cost of the car for the week was 230, plus an additional 60 at Venice on collecting the car to cover the insurance excess. The standard insurance excess was 600!! So paying the extra 60 is well worth the piece of mind, just in case you do damage the car.
So thats 100 each on the car hire.
Petrol, or Diesel in our case was cheap in Slovenia. We filled up once in Slovenia 30 and a 20 top up at Venice Airport to leave the cars fuel at full. Without detours (see below) the trip from Venice to Cezsoca would have been around 130 miles.
We stayed at an apartment in a village called Cezsoca about 2 miles from Bovec. This was picked fairly randomly from the Internet being close to the river. The apartment itself was a bit disappointing - very basic, but it did have fabulous views of the mountain (Kanin), and was incredibly warm. Nice dry kit each morning. The cost for this was 45 Euros a night. ie. 10 per person per night
Lesson No. 2: We should have telephoned the Tourist information office in Bovec to organise our accommodation. The Tourist Office will not only organise your accommodation for you, but will even negotiate a good rate for you! Ring +386 (0) 538 96 444 www.bovec.si
The staff in the Tourist Office all speak excellent English, are very friendly and exceptionally helpful. When you do arrive in Bovec, you will need to visit the Tourist Office to obtain paddling tickets. The season was late in 2006 and when we were there, the second week of April, we didnt require any tickets, but check with the office as there are hefty fines if you are caught without tickets. The office also sells excellent maps of the area and postcards too!
Cezsoca is and is very much a locals village on the banks of the Soca. It is very quiet, has a shop, a bar and restaurant, and the Prijon shop near to the river. Bovec is a little busier with a couple of small supermarkets and a choice of bars/restaurants. All very quiet and peaceful.
Lesson No. 3: Make sure when printing off route instructions that your navigator realises that you have printed on both sides of the paper. This could save much time getting lost/stuck for an hour or so in the local rush hour traffic around Venice airport.
Lesson No. 4: Autostrada (Motorway) signs are green in Italy, so don't go following the blue signs.... Also printing the route instructions in colour can save needless confusion.
Lesson No. 5: Don't trust the Michelin Route finder regarding the border crossings. Yes, monsieur Michelin got us to the border crossing OK, but forgot to mention that it closed at 17:00 each day! This was a pity as we were only about 12 km from Cezsoca at this point, Cezsoca/Bovec being just over the border from Italy. Instead we had to make a 100km diversion to the 24hr border crossing, in the dark, rain and snow, without an Italian map! (Well-done Dave for navigating us through Northern Italy)
Lights are required by law to be on in daylight when driving in Slovenia. A great law but then I am a Volvo driver
The Soca at Cezsoca.
The People, Food and Culture:
The people are all very friendly and welcoming. One day we saw lots of people (young and old) on the roadsides picking up rubbish. I asked what was happening and was told that they were having a "national cleaning day" - As tourism is their biggest asset - they have Cleaning days to smarten the place up for us, the tourists. English is also widely spoken. Bovec has many companies offering outdoor activities. The ski resort is Sloveia's highest at 2202m and consequently has a long season. In the summer Months, Mountain biking, Mountaineering, paragliding, kayaking, rafting and walking are well catered for. Having said that, this area is completely unspoilt. How long this will remain so though is anybodies guess. Another point worth mentioning is that we were told there was no crime in the Bovec area! How true this was, we don't know, but we didn't have any problems, but kept to the usual sensible precautions.
Food is cheap and more importantly the beer Union is not only cheap, but very good! Slovenian Chocolate is also very cheap and good too, so makes an ideal present for family and friends back home, if you can resist not eating it all.
Our days tended to be, Breakfast at the apartment, paddle a section of the river for a few hours, then head for a restaurant in Bovec, near the Tourist Information office called Letni Vrt or in English Summer Garden (http://slo.letni-vrt.com/). It was usually well into the afternoon by the time we got to the restaurant. But it always seemed to be open, generally catering for the Skiers coming off the mountain. Recommended to us by the Tourist Office, we would also highly recommend it. A huge pizza, and I do mean huge, with a couple of beers cost around 10 Euros. We would then do some local exploring of the area, shop for some local bread, cheeses, milk, beer etc. for super/breakfast, and then head back to the apartment to sort out our kit ready for another day.
We took Euros with us, as everywhere took Euros. Cash machines dispense Tollars, and stamps bought at the post office can be paid for in Euros, but strangely the change is given back in Tollars.
Bovec was right on the front line in the First World War between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarians. Consequently there are many First World War artefacts such as forts, preserved trenches, monuments and cemeteries in the area. There is a good model in the Centre of Cezsoca showing the positions of the respective sides - it is hard to imagine that the front line continued up and over (2000m) the sides of the mountains. Conditions must have been very harsh and quite dreadful.
The beginning of April was possibly a little bit early, but then in 2006 the season was late. The water is amazing (especially when you paddle at HPP week in week out). After rain it becomes milky in colour, but soon clears. It was so clear on the upper parts of the Soca/Koritnica, that youd think there wasn't enough water to paddle, when in fact it is probably a good few feet deep! Very good for fish spotting - if you like that kind of thing. As for general wild life, we saw loads of Dippers, Herons and various birds of prey. No Bears though.
For Shuttles, we approached one of the local rafting companies who arranged for a driver to meet us at our selected location/time. The cost for this was 10 Euros. Contact the Bovec Rafting Team (www.brt-ha.si). However, we met a couple of English lads who were doing the same with another company and were getting charged 20 Euros!
The water in April is fairly cold. So you are best off in a dry cag. For those of us that paddle HPP all winter, it won't bother you, as you are probably a hardened white water paddler anyway!
When you get your paddling permit from the Tourist info office - you will be handed a map showing all the access/egress points. The access/egress points generally have a car park and information board, showing your location, grade of the river and a large-scale version of the map. There are exceptions to this - ie. Bunkerj (A place with a lot of first world war bunkers) There is a lay-by, but no sign. We eventually identified it by the bunkers, having driven past it twice. It was also confusing as we believed there was no kayaking above the village called Soca, but on a trip up the valley we still found kayaking information boards at various points. Best check with the tourist office in Bovec before paddling as there are fines for paddling where you shouldn't.
The river levels whilst we were there were just under a medium level, which is a good nice level.
The Bunkerj section.
I opted for Snowcard insurance at about 40. The others also had similar insurance (Endsliegh and BMC)
What it cost:
So for the week long trip to Slovenia for three cost us each:
Car hire 100
Food and fuel 100 (Generous)
Spending money 50 (very generous)
Say a total cost of no more than 500.
Next time, we will use the tourist office to organise our accommodation, book our flights earlier and possibly hire a smaller car. You could easily do it for less than 400!
If you want a great cheap, excellent paddling destination, then this is the place for you. We will certainly be going back again.
Approach to Zmucklica Gorge.
Below Zmucklica Gorge
The Bunkerj section.
Slalom section after heavy rain.