The Day I Slid Down a Waterfall: Canyoning in Slovenia
Twelve feet doesn’t seem like that much does it? It’s the width of my living room. Twice the height of my last date. Four metres. Sounds so small until you’re standing at the top of a waterfall and someone is telling you to go ahead and jump into the pool below. You look down and think “Naw uh. No way.” Except you paid to do this. Two people have already gone ahead of you. “Six year old children do this,” your guide says unhelpfully. If you don’t jump the only options are to admit defeat at the first test and turn back or be lowered down like a sack of potatoes. You overthink it until the shame and embarrassment of the alternatives overwhelm you and you leap.
I’m not sure why I thought canyoning would be fun. I hate having my face underwater. I hate getting water up my nose. I’m always worried my contact lenses will float away. When I went surfing and would fall off, I’d always come up sputtering and gasping, inevitably inhaling water in the process. I don’t even punt my face into a shower stream – that’s what face cloths are for. So jumping off waterfalls and sliding down natural waterslides? Sure, why not?
I’m the bravest person in the world when the activity is in the future and the pictures look pretty. I’m lured in by the siren’s call of “You can’t do this at home! Think of the adventure.” But once I’m actually standing on the edge of a precipice and looking down, I’m really just a big wimp. A wimp who’s also too stubborn to back out. So I leap.
Canyoning is the art of getting from the top of a canyon to the bottom following the flow of water using whatever means necessary: walking, jumping, sliding, climbing, abseiling, swimming, or even zip lining. It’s popular in Slovenia with multiple companies offering different routes around the Triglav National Park area.
Nik, our guide from OUTdoor Slovenia picked up myself and three others in Bled and took us to the starting point in the park. Is there some sort of rule that you must be young and good looking to be a tour guide in Slovenia? I was four for four now, ;) It was a chilly 11C when I stepped off the bus in Bled and I shivered to think about the temperature of the mountain river. It warmed to a sunny 16C by the time we started and I needn’t have worried.
Before you start your canyoning experience you suit up in a two-piece wetsuit and Neoprene booties. They won’t keep you dry but they will keep you warm. Getting into the wetsuit itself was murder on my manicure and I definitely broke at least one nail. My canyon-mates thought it was pretty amusing that the “high heels blogger” was going canyoning. What can I say…I’m well rounded. If you’ve never worn a wetsuit, it’s akin to putting on a full body compression sock. It took a lot of wiggling, pulling, jumping, and tugging to get myself situated. With our booties and hoods pulled up, we looked like a pack of Spider-Man-style superheroes setting off into the woods. If you’ve never hiked in a wetsuit…I don’t recommend it, but it’s a necessary evil to get to the top of the canyon. To go down, you first have to go up, right?
Tip: have your swimsuit on when you get picked up. The only place to change otherwise is a portapotty and trust me, that’s not fun.
Nik explained all the things we’d be seeing on our trip: two jumps, a few slides, ropes to climb, pools to swim, rock faces to descend. The first obstacle…that 12′ jump. I stepped into thin air, plunged fully into cold water, and came up spluttering. Of course, I inhaled water as I gasped dramatically for air after surfacing. I flailed to the edge where a hand reached out to help me up. The only way out of that pool? A face first slide into another one. Underwater again? Don’t wanna. But I did and came up sputtering again. Graceful, I am not.
The slides were fun. Most weren’t very long and for the ones that were fast we were tethered and slowed down. I somehow still ended up hitting the bottom of one shallow pool butt first. Thankfully there’s lots of padding there. I also enjoyed abseiling and found I was somewhat competent at it…until I lost some footing and spun elbow first into a rock wall that is. I guess I just wouldn’t be me if I came out of the experience without a few bumps and bruises.
FYI: getting out of a wet wetsuit is just as much fun as getting in. RIP nail tips.
The scenery in the canyon is pretty stunning and I never would have seen it otherwise. Bits of our trip were fun. Bits were a bit scary. Almost all of it forced me to push myself at least a little. My canyon-mates were awesome which made the whole experience enjoyable. Nik later showed us parts of the other canyon they use, which has more jumps, ending with a 30′ jump over a waterfall. Nope.
I’m really glad that I went canyoning in Slovenia but until I can get over my face in water issues I’m not sure I’ll be signing up for that other course. And that’s ok. I pushed myself, met cool people, and had some fun. I’m just sad about that manicure.
Would you ever go canyoning in Slovenia?
- Company: OUTdoor Slovenia
- Location: Hotel pick-up in Bled area. Bus from Ljubljana leaves every hour starting at 6am and costs 6.30€ one-way.
- Length: 3 hours
- Cost: 60€
- Gear required: Swimsuit, towel
- Restrictions: Must be at least 10 years old and 150cm tall.
Be sure not to go canyoning without travel insurance. In case an injury means you need to cancel all or part of your trip, travel insurance will help you when you need it most. I recommend World Nomads as travel insurance for canyoning in Slovenia.