Finally. It was one of those moments when things you’ve been trying to make happen for months just click together within a single phone call. »Tomorrow?«, »Sounds great!«, »6:00 AM?«, »Are you nuts?!« So started our perfect day. My long-time friend and a photographer Anže Petkovšek, whom I’ve been given a promise to teach him to SUP, finally sitting next to me in my camper van. We were slowly sipping a wake-up coffee, talking about our past adventures … ready to add another one to our list – a SUP one!
Soon we left the main roads behind and started to lose ourselves on the fairy-tale side-roads winding towards the south of Slovenia, to the Kolpa River, driving in no hurry to enjoy spectacular views of green pastures, wooden fences with cattle, the morning forest … The van loaded with air SUPs, photo gear and in the back seats two of still half-asleep Anže’s friends, Eva and Maja, who also wanted to discover the beauty of stand up paddling. It doesn’t get much better for the start 😉
I knew it was going to be quite a task for me – scouting for new locations on the Kolpa River for our Slovenia Grand Circle Tour and also teaching three people to SUP. Well, the latter shouldn’t be a problem, since I’ve taught many and I knew my companions were all sportsmen. I was more concerned about the river, since I haven’t been to this part of Kolpa before. The reports were good, the forecast was perfect … but you never know, nature is always full of surprises. So, the deal was to go with the flow, easy and carefully … as long as everyone is feeling safe and comfortable, having a good time, we are doing the right thing.
After a few-kilometres drive through the narrow Kolpa River canyon we reached our destination. The canyon widened just enough for a tiny settlement. It seemed as if the nature itself would have pushed the heavy, steep slopes apart just to add another spice to its wild garden – the mankind.
The place felt unbelievably quiet. You could only hear the silence around you. We checked the river. It was wide and slow, almost still, and the entrance was good with some massive tree roots forming the natural steps into the river. A perfect learning spot. We inflated our SUPs and hit the water. After a half an hour everyone felt confident enough to take a journey down the river. My first task accomplished. We loaded our backpacks and let the river do the paddling.
After the first curve we fell under the magical spell of the place. If before you could hear the silence around you, now you could feel it coming from within. The majestic nature was holding us in its arms. We were walking on water spilling over its fingers.
In a short while we heard the river for the first time. We were approaching the rapids, so I paddled forward to check the situation. The rapids were nothing more than some smaller rocks scattered over the shallow water, so we just stepped off our SUPs and pushed them over a few meters of the shallows. The water was cold, the stones slippery and the rubber-neoprene shoes proved as a good choice.
What followed was a wide, lazy river, promising an easy paddle for the next few kilometres. But that was soon to change as we were greeted by quite a few knots of head-wind channeling through the narrow canyon and winning the battle over the current which was taking us downstream before. For a while we had to engage in some serious paddle to beat the wind and reach a more sheltered section of the river. The rookies turned out to be excellent paddlers 😉
It was about lunch time and we’ve already had a great part of our route behind us, so we fancied a short stop at the Croatian side of the river. (Another interesting thing about the Kolpa River is that in its 290 km long stream it also marks a great part of the Slovenian-Croatian border.) We tied our paddle boards to a wooden pontoon and got seated in the grass of our river-view »restaurant«.
In the next few hundred meters of paddling we arrived at a river dam, made of rocks stacked about 1,5 m high. It was once used to channel the water through the mill, which today rests abandoned at the side of the river. We used the rocks as the stairs and carefully descended over.
The remaining part of the river was a nice and easy paddle on the almost still water, a few times interrupted by the rapids which we by-passed either on the land or over the rocks. Soon we landed at the final destination of our water trip. A nice privately owned cafe welcomed us in the shades of the trees on the river bank.
Five hours on the water… we were tired but full of impressions. Cold beer and local desserts were more than earned. Our mission was more than accomplished – fresh stand up paddlers confident and enthusiastic about SUP, a fantastic part of the Kolpa River discovered, new friends made and many fantastic photos taken. Great thanks to Eva, Maja and Anže for taking a part in this adventure! definitely one to be repeated soon.
– Marko, Sup Slovenia Discovery