That lovely little boat ride on Lake Bled wasn’t the only aquatic experience I had in Slovenia. I also figured that while I was out there, in the most outdoorsy country I knew, I should go the whole hog. Why not try my hand at some white water rafting?
If you know me, you’re almost definitely laughing right now. For those of you who only know me through these little rants and musings I post online a few times a week, I will just take a moment to inform you that I AM IN NO WAY SPORTY AT ALL.
I am the girl who told her sports teacher that she had rabies, so she couldn’t play netball that afternoon. Or ever.
I am the girl who ALWAYS fielded in right field, because most people were righties and would hit to the left.
And I am the girl who got a D in lacrosse. I think you automatically got a D just by showing up. (I also remember my mum getting really angry about that D. Not at me, but at the sports teacher. ‘What do you achieve by giving a girl a D in lacrosse?’ A long memory, that’s what.)
But white water rafting sounded fun. Strangely enough, I also had some experience with it all; I’d been white water rafting at the age of ten, just outside the town of Cody, Wyoming. I survived that – and I looked quite chuffed with myself in the photos – so I figured I could do it all again. Seventeen years later.
So off I went with a few of my colleagues, most of whom are big burly bus drivers who deemed the Grade III rapids as a bit of a relaxing little paddle. I was smart, squeezing myself in between them. I figured if I got to go in their raft, I’d hardly have to do anything. It was a truly excellent plan.
So I was feeling pretty dandy with life when we pulled up to the banks of the Soča River, quite possibly one of the bluest rivers you’ll ever see. It was a cool day, so not only did we squeeze into wetsuits, but also jackets, gloves and booties. Every bit of skin was covered, bar our faces. The Julian Alps were still covered by snow, so that water was going to be bloody freezing.
And that’s when I started getting a bit nervous. I looked around at the bus drivers (who were at that stage fencing with their paddles) and then the random old couple who had been put with us. They’d been telling me of all the mountains they’d climbed and that they’d just trekked the length of Hadrian’s Wall. Then I looked down at myself.
That was actually a bit tricky. My shoulders are tiny in comparison to the rest of my body, so my life jacket was impossibly high and hovering around my neck. Due to my shortness, my knee pads were closer to my ankles than the joints they were supposed to be covering.
I gripped my asthma puffer a little bit harder. But before I had a chance to say, ‘Uh, guys, how about I be the photographer?’, we were picking up the raft and hauling it to the shore.
It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I mean, I was there were so many sticks and stones on the ground! And it was uneven, and tree stumps were always getting in the way.
All the drivers were too fast with me and I had horrible visions of tripping over and having the whole raft pass over me, trodden over like a spectator at the Running of the Bulls. It was way too much for me and my little wetsuit-material booties.
I was scared. Not a funny, oh-this-might-be-interesting-but-it’ll-be-a-good-blog sort of scared, no, I’m taking about an oh-my-God-what-was-I-thinking sort of scared. I had that horrible, churning feeling in my stomach, the type that makes you swallow a lot and clear your throat almost continuously.
Thankfully for all those involved, pretty much all of my problems evaporated as soon as we hit the water. Yes, it was even colder than I could have imagined, but it was just so incredibly beautiful.
Best of all, I didn’t find it hard at all. (It certainly helps when you share paddling duties with a burly Slovakian, Hungarian and Pom. Let’s just say nobody noticed when I stopped paddling.) I even found it fun.
We paddled hard over rapids and sat back and relaxed in the calmer parts, sometimes leaning over to scoop up a drink. We even stopped a couple of times to get out and swim, and after getting over the initial shock of the cold, we’d lie back and let the current take us downstream. I enjoyed myself so much that three months later, I signed up for the same trip again.
This time, the rapids were bigger, the weather was warmer and my confidence was up. Not only did we stop for some swimming, but we also were encouraged to leap off a rock and into the water below. Thank God my sister was there, or there was no way that I could have done it.
Oh, and both times I volunteered to carry the paddles back. I’d learnt my lesson. No way I was lugging that thing uphill!
I went white water rafting in April and July last year (and the conditions were much better the second time around). On both occasions, I went with 3Glav Adventures through their full-day trip to Triglav National Park (which I’ll be writing about soon). Pictures in this post are a mixture from both trips.
There’s quite a few tour operators in Bled that offer rafting trips, and I can totally recommend the guys at 3Glav. (You’re more likely to find them in the George Best Bar than their office.) Bring your bathers (swimsuit, swimmers, togs, whatever you call them) with you; they supply everything else.