Wilderness DiaryDiary of a Wilderness Volunteer

A trip to Wilderness

Ziva Alif

Last week I was super excited for the first team trip to discover some Wilderness out of the office. This time, we didn’t go very far from home – I mean my own home, Ljubljana. We went to Soča river valley, one of the jewels of Slovenia. As the area is rather far and inaccessible from Ljubljana, I have wanted to go there on a trip for a few years now and never quite managed (two hours of driving one way is a veeeery long distance in Slovenia, as the country is so small that you get to Croatia, Austria or Italy in a bit over an hour from Ljubljana). So, on Thursday morning I got up at 5.30 am in Ljubljana, sat in my car and drove over to Kobarid through the Soča valley.

Beautiful rivers in Posocje

In Kobarid we were going to attend a Students for Rivers Camp that aimed to connect young passionate river conservationists. I arrived to Kamp Koren a bit earlier than the rest of the team, so I used the time to explore the surroundings. Soon I discovered that the camp was situated right above a beautiful river, so I went down to admire it. The river was so loud that I started singing loudly a song that was in my head, knowing that even two meters away, no one would be able to hear me. Despite the fact that the camp full of people was just a handful of meters away, I was alone by the river, and it felt like civilisation was far away. At the same time, the river’s strong current reminded me of how powerful and big nature can be and how insignificant we really are. 

Students for Rivers Camp

Soon, the team arrived and we went to listen to the presentations on river conservation and activism around the world. Especially interesting was a presentation on the declines and hybridisation of marble trout due to other invasive trout species in Soca river. A Slovene team of researchers put a lot of effort in selectively breeding “pure” marble trout and release them in the river, which led to the increase in the proportion of marble trout from 5% to 20% of all trouts in the river. However, there are additional problems for the fish in Soca, namely there are many barriers for their movement (dams), the majority of which they cannot pass. This is against the European Freshwater Directive and action is needed to remove the dams or make them passable.

For lunch we drove to a bakery nearby to have a typical Slovene meal: burek. For the record, burek is not Slovene, it’s Bosnian, but we have adopted it with pleasure, and it is one of our favourite fast food. Interestingly, it is something we always buy, never make ourselves. But it’s good regardless, if you know where to buy it. (The shop where we got it in Kobarid is NOT where you’d want to buy it though, a word of warning!) 

After lunch we went back to the camp and attended an interesting brain-storming session about how to empower river conservationists and connect them with the academic world. It was nice talking to such passionate young people full of ideas and enthusiasm for change.

Later on, we headed to our campsite in Bovec to set up tents and then went for dinner to a nice pizzeria nearby. The evening was well spent as an opportunity for the team to hang out together informally and have some fun together.

Exploring Prealpi Giulie

Next morning, we were all excited to visit the Prealpi Giulie Nature park. Nick volunteered to drive that morning, for which I was very grateful and happy once we started driving on this steep and winding road wide enough for just a single car. We were very lucky to have met only a handful of vehicles, as otherwise the drive would be even more interesting in a bad way.

The landscape of Prealpi Giulie is absolutely amazing. We stopped at this small church to admire the fascinating view. The region is also interesting from a cultural point of view – in Resia, a form of Slovene is spoken which is very different from the standard language to the extent that it may be considered a separate language. Indeed, when I was reading some boards written in Resian (that also has a different manuscript than Slovene), I was struggling quite a lot to be able to understand it. Apparently, only about 1000 people still speak it so it’s quite a small minority.

We then went for a nice hike in the park where we saw a beautiful waterfall, nice beech forests and found some forest strawberries (my favourite fruit!). Although a short storm caught us, we did not mind it too much and stayed rather dry under tree crowns. After the hike we drove further to meet the park director for a coffee and visit the lovely museum of the park’s visitor centre. On the way back, we stopped on a mountain saddle to have dinner in a small restaurant. The place was heaven on earth – delicious home-made food at a lovely house covered with flowers in the middle of the mountains, with no one else around. A place of peace where you can forget all your worries while swinging on a swing.

Climbing higher and higher

On Saturday, we had a long hike in Triglav National Park ahead of us so we got up earlier and drove to the starting point in a small valley. From there, it was a four hour hike up to 2050 m high hut. The hike was very enjoyable with nice views and perfect weather, but as it is always tiring to climb 1400 m of altitude we were all very happy when we saw the hut in front of us. There, we had some delicious food (pasulj and goulash) after which I felt reborn, fuelled up with energy again. We started exploring the meadows surrounding the hut to have a nice view on the lake just beneath it, to find some nice edelweiss and we even saw an ibex in the distance! However, at one point you always have to leave the alpine paradise and go back to the real world in the valley.

On the way down we stopped by another beautiful lake, entertaining ourselves with throwing stones as far as we could. The walk down took us another good three hours, but it was easy walking down and it soon became a routine, enabling me to completely shut my brain off and get lost in the rhythm of my steps. At last we arrived to the car at about 7 pm all rather tired after having walked 21 km. We then drove back to our campsite, stopping to see an amazing gorge created by Soca river on the way.

Before heading back to Tamsweg we drove to one last nature reserve that we wanted to visit, Riserva Naturale Val Alba. Despite the very short visit we were all impressed by the majestic landscape and the apparent absence of human influence – pure wilderness. Equally, it was nice to stretch our legs before the 2.5-hour long drive home.

Overall, we all had a great time at the trip as we saw many beautiful natural areas. After all, the reason why we all work for European Wilderness Society is because we love wilderness and want to protect it, so who wouldn’t enjoy a fun trip to wilderness then? Equally, it was nice to spend some informal time with the team and to get to know them better, as both me and Jonas have only joined a few weeks ago.

Can’t wait for a new Wild adventure!

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