Wow, what a shock to the system. After a month in the Slovenian never-never land we hit the urban life.
Simplicity in life is good for the mind, and in our case, the body. Each day on the trail we woke, ate breakfast, and left. We knew exactly where we were going, approximately how long it would take, where or what we would eat, and (in Slovenia) the people we’d see (aka no one). Every day had a clear goal, and every day we achieved it. Pretty healthy boost to self-belief and confidence really.
Life on the trail was good. I was never bored – how could I be, we passed new scenery with every step. I ate only what my body needed to. I feel light, spritely and guilt free. I ran for 10 hours a day – I was stronger, thinner, fitter than ever. The only stress we encountered was the threat of the European Brown Bear. Something we were totally oblivious to until we were told by a hunter that he “preferred foxes because there were so many bears in Slovenia hunting them isn’t a real challenge”.
All good through hikes must end though. Actually that’s pretty vital to fit the definition of “through-hike”. This one ended in the rather uninspiring seaside town of Ankaran near the Italian border.
Our plan was to slowly traverse across Northern Italy, researching sourdough bakeries (aka tasting endless loaves of bread) for our future lives as master sourdough bakery owners until we hit Antibes in France. We changed from travel by foot to travel my train – you know, how normal people cover large distances.
Our first night in Italy was in Trieste, population ~200,000. So it sounds obvious, and given I grew up in New Zealand’s biggest city you think I would have thought this before, but ALL there is to do in cities is eat and shop, oh and I guess work (not applicable). This is especially true of Italian cities.
Our outdoors clothes didn’t cut the mustard amongst this polished contingent. I could feel the social expectation to update my wardrobe. Every window was filled with disposable (but not always cheap) clothes and endless useless knick knacks. Given we still had tiny bags and had worked out our existing wardrobes would last another ten years we decided not to partake, but this really left little else to do. With endless marketing, friends in the latest double denim, and the threat of boredom I can see why the locals were popping in and out f these shops so often.
With no shopping to fill our time we started to eat. But after the three variations of healthy Slovenian bean soup (ranging from 4-7 Euro) the 20 Euro plates of pasta were hard to swallow. There is also only so many times you can eat lunch (two or three seems to be the maximum). We ended up passing the time sitting on a pier, staring out at the sea, the most natural element we could find. Yes the architecture was beautiful, but it couldn’t surpass the mountain tops, it was a poor consolation prize. When did cities, brimming with people, become so lifeless? I started to doubt my lifelong ambition to be a ‘city girl’.
We had similar revelationary moments in Venice. I have only seen so many people in one place before twice. The final of the rugby world cup at Britomart, and the christmas sales in Rome. But what was everyone looking at? The canals were pretty but the personality was gone, all the locals had fled the swarms of tourists, taking the good food with them.
We had three days in Turin, bored out of our brains. In a city you need to entertain yourself, while on the trail it’s a given. I have always eaten for entertainment, I could literally see myself getting fat as we ate to fill in time. The food was delicious, but if I stayed in Italy any longer I would have become the feared European Brown Bear.
Jeff and I concluded that we have a better time in the rain forest than the concrete jungle. So our current plan is to not resettle in Auckland when we head home but instead to give somewhere like New Plymouth a try. Quite a surprise given I had always assumed I would stay in Auckland, and have to date been totally adverse to any other option. I guess I can chalk this up as one more thing I learnt about myself on this trip that I never would have worked out otherwise.
Written by Rosie
The Slovenska Planinska Pot
A lesser known long distance trail that traverses the width of Slovenia. The trail is only 400km long but is effectively a peak bagging route with long stages and difficult ascents, often via ferrata which we will probably skip. The trail starts in Slovenia’s second major city – Maribor, traverses the Kamnik-Savinja alps, kisses the Austrian border, proceeds to climb almost everything in the Julian alps including Triglav (2,864m), before tailing off into the Adriatic coast near Trieste in Italy.
An epic final day to wrap up the trail, 52km from the countryside to the coast. We started early with our headlamps from Divača running through a dark bush covered trail but soon emerged into rolling hillsides. The prescribed duration for this stage was 2.5 days and we can tell you, it’s not a particularly encouraging to see waymark signs stating that you have 11 or 13 hours to go! But the times dropped quickly through the day. There was only one summit over 1000m, Slavnik, providing terrific views to the Adriatic coast and south to Croatia. The descent down to the coast took us through a few attractive villages before finally winding down through vinyards to the unattractive and uncerimonious finish line of Ankaran. The nearby, picturesque seaside town of Piran provided a more suitable end to our Slovenian adventure.
Distance: 52km in 10.5 hours
Difficulty: Ultramarathon! Not a huge amount of ascent, but 52kms is 52 kms!!
Also published on Medium.