Imagine screaming at the top of your lungs as you leap into a 47 meter-deep canyon. It feels like a roller-coaster ride on steroids.
The first part of this experience was climbing up a waterfall for up to three meters, and then, for a moment, just hanging there, on this vertical drop, with nothing but several ropes keeping you suspended some 44 meters above ground.
We were adventuring through Fratarica, one of the most beautiful canyons in northwestern Slovenia. The hike had begun with my neoprene suit tied haphazardly around my neck, as if I were wearing a cape made out of black blubber.
Just as I was catching my breath, our canyoning guide, Katja, pointed out a stone cliff behind her that was about 50 meters high, with a small hole at the top through which a slim waterfall was gushing. It terminated over jagged rocks in a pool of white water.
“That,” she said, gesturing to the grandeur of the tall falls, “will be the highest part of canyoning today.”
All four of us on the trip gave each other a long, terrified look, then shrugged off our fears as we continued our hike into Fratarica Canyon.
We were in Slovenia’s Triglav National Park within the Koritnica River Valley. Deep in the heart of the Julian Alps, the mountains had provided us a snow-capped background of beauty throughout our one-hour drive from Bled Lake.
“Canyoning is all about going down,” Katja said cheerfully.
And, “We’re going down this canyon in several ways.” These were: swimming, walking, jumping, sliding, and abseiling (otherwise known as rapelling).
Our wetsuits were the long-sleeved kind, a thick 7 mm, as the waters could be as cold as 8 degrees Celsius. We got into our harnesses that looked like big yellow shorts, held together by a lot of sturdy threading.
Katja had two bags of ropes. To begin, you must remember that when approaching a drop, you stay 1.5 to 2 meters clear of it, until you are decently roped up. Some of the more difficult, taller falls were already equipped with heavy chains and hooks deeply embedded in the rocks, probably put there some time ago by the more hard-core, well-seasoned adventurers, like our guide.
Each drop I stood before became a lesson in life, every jump an opportunity to combat your mind, to set your fears aside.
Some were baby gorges that involved sliding into a pool of cool turquoise water, as shallow as one to two meters. Intermediate drops were about five meters to the bottom, and there were more frightening canyons that involved falling into what felt like oblivion for about 10 meters or so.
Once we found ourselves at the top of that 47-meter drop, all that was left to do was to focus on what was at hand.
We already trusted our ropes, the harness, and even ourselves. All we had to do was go.
So I went.
Read the full length of Lily Fen’s Slovenian escapade inside Asian Dragon Magazine’s September-October 2015 issue. Grab your copy from all leading bookstores nationwide or purchase the issue from the Asian Dragon Magazine App, free to download on Google Play Store, iTunes, and Amazon.
[Photographs: Lily Fen]