I'm not too shy to admit I previously had no clue about where in the world Slovenia is located. I guess my 8th grade geography skills aren't what they used to be.
Being an American in Amsterdam, however, you're not really expected to be too geo-savvy, but I was surprised to learn that even my European counterparts were equally map unfriendly. Apparently Slovenia conjures up borders with anything from Russia to Poland, according to my colleagues.
In fact, Slovnia is situated between Italy and Croatia. A mountainous country with access to anything from exquisite beaches to breathtaking natural landscapes - the country is a sleeping beauty.
I spent the past weekend in Bovec, a two hour's drive outside the country's capital, Ljubljana. The area is a basin in the Soča Valley below the Kanin mountain in the Julian Alps.
Bovec is basically an adventure traveler's wet dream, boasting anything from rafting, kayaking and hydrospeeding to mountain biking and hiking in the emerald blue, freshwater Soca river. Now, I'm not the sporty type, and I'm certainly not one for outdoor adventures, but I was offered the opportunity to join a canyoning expedition by the Bovec Rafting Team Director, Adis Hrovat, and I couldn't resist.
Maybe it was Adis who convinced me it was the ultimate experience, or the gentleman I met from Britain who advised me, "never pass up an invitation, especially when abroad," that gave me the psychological push I needed, but at noon on a sunny Sunday in October, I set off to the Susec gorge for my most extreme outdoor adventure experience.
Canyoning is a type of travelling within canyons that involves jumping from cliffs into river pools, or sliding down waterfalls to make your way down a mountain.
Because I was a last minute addition to the trip, I was grouped with a crew of lovely Italian men, celebrating a friend's 30th birthday with a trip to the gorge.
We layered up in wetsuits and protective gear, and set off on a 25 minute hike up the mountain side.
Now, if you've ever worn a wetsuit and been hiking, you know that sweat is locked in your suit, and you can literally feel it rolling down your arms and legs. It's a unique feeling.
As we got higher and higher up the mountain, that gorgeous blue-green water was literally calling my name, and I was about ready to dive in. But our first stop wasn't a dive at all - it was a 3-meter leap into a churning pool of crystal water.
And this, my friends, was just the beginning. For nearly two hours, the Italian crew and I lept, slipped, swam, and climbed our way down the mountainside. The finale being a 12-meter waterfall slide to the bottom - the tallest canyoning slide in Slovenia.
From my side of the falls, this looked like an impossible challenge. But I stood by, shivering from the cold 12 degree river - or from nervousness, as my five journeymen showed me how crazy and cool this drop was.
Between screams of joy and fright, I watched each guy make the descent, huge smiles and thumbs-up shot back to me.
The guide, a forgiving and experienced local, assured me that I didn't have to make the drop, he could walk me to the bottom safe and sound. "No girls ever do this drop," he told me.
Looking down at my five male adventure counterparts, I wasn't going to chicken out.
Arms crossed and legs locked, I took the slide. While part of me squealed with excitement, the other screamed in panic - the freefall as just long enough to realize how far and fast I was plunging.
I crashed into the water, pausing; a moment of sheer relief at surviving, and then swam to the top. Greeted with five smiles, thumbs-up, and whoops of congratulations - we made it!
I don't think I'll ever have the courage to do anything like this again, but I know that the gorgeous Soca river and the fantastic people there will tempt me again someday with new and more challenging adventures - and I could never turn them down!
BOVEC RAFTING TEAM
T: +386 5 388-61-28
M: +386 41/338-308
Address: Mala vas 106, 5230 Bovec
View Larger Map