We left Chambery to start a very long driving day over the Pt St Bernand pass into Italy. After hours of driving in ever increasing temperatures we ended our day eating pizza at 10pm on lake Iseo, a lake half way between lake Como and lake Garda. Italian camping was novel: it seemed that privacy was low on their list of priorities with tents and caravans squeezed up close and very personal. The view we had of the lake as we were waking up was stunning though and more than made up for the close contact, and watching the ducks fish for their young over breakfast was a noisy treat.

The clunk we had experienced in France had become far more pronounced in Italy so we decided to try again with local mechanics to get it fixed. This time the mechanic actually looked underneath the car, it seemed promising. We sat in a shady corner of a local garage as Meccanico Denasi  climbed into the pit, cigarette hanging out of his mouth and proceeded to shake every part of the undercarriage. After a few minutes he beckoned us over… as I headed over to see what was wrong he managed his best English yet … “no, let me show me the man”. I get the impression Italian ladies do not fix cars!

After a visit to Landrover in Padova to confim meccanico Danesis’s diagnosis it was officially concluded. We needed to replace the differential. After an afternoon in IKEA’s pleasant air conditioning and cheap wifi area we had arranged a garage and parts to be shipped from the UK and were feeling hopeful. Italy had proved to be the hottest and friendliest country so far, with endless offers of help and prayers for our ailing Landy. We headed off to Slovenia content that all our plans would surely come together. We decided to drive at sunset this time to avoid the 42 degree heat that we were measuring in the footwells of the car during daytime driving, it took just a few hours and we entered Slovenia under cover of darkness to the sounds of Billy Connely (and John) singing something about wellies.

We were entering Slovenia in the Western part of the Julian Alps and as we passed a deserted border point in the mountains with the silhouette of castles on the moonlit horizon it felt a little like going back in time. The road to Kobarid was only 20km long and tree lined for most of this length, the village itself was tiny and very quite. It was all a stark contrast from hot and busy northern Italy, and very welcome. We found a campsite just outside of town on the banks of the river Soca, it was a km or so down a rough track through woods, and the burning lanterns to mark the way added to the surreal old fashioned feel of the place. It did feel like we were finally moving into new territory and brought back the excitement for the trip we had we had been losing with all of the organizing we had been forced to do so far.

Slovenia is stunning. We were surrounded by peaks towering 2000m above our camping spot in a wooded valley. The river soca is a crazy turquoise colour with rapids and big meandering stretches cutting impressive gorges through the valleys. Sat on our first evening to a BBQ of sausages and other meats, we planned our first wander into the Triglav national park and the mountains. After consulting the map we decided we should try our local peak, Na Krn (the pointy bit on the phote below - taken 500m up our descent). It was an impressive 2260m in height but only about 10km away so it seemed achievable. We got up early the following day and started a cycle ride up the start point of a walking trail 4km away.  It only took about 500m of the 10% incline to remind me that I am unfit… a broken foot and 2 weeks of driving had left both of us a bit less than prepared for the steepness of the incline of all Slovenian mountains. It took us 11 hours to get up and down again, John spent a lot of time sniffing  flowers as I limped up the track behind him with heat exhaustion, and he spent a lot of time sniffing them on the way back again as he ran and skipped his way down and I carefully picked my way along the path trying not to rebreak anything! It was all worth it at the end with stunning views and a nice chat at the top with some Slovenian women who thought we were insane. It was a lovely day out and taught me an important lesson; 2000m up is a lot harder than it looks on a map!

A few more days of swimming in rivers and cycling around the valley and we headed to the East of the Triglav park. We decided to head off on another wander, but this time we opted to stay in a mountain hut at 1700m to allow us a bit more time to enjoy the views. The Triglav Lakes valley was beautiful. It was another heavy slog up one of the more challenging routes; a cliff face with steel ropes and ladders to bridge the truly impossible bits, combined with some scrambling and the occasional blessed traverse. Our fitness had improved a bit by this point and we headed out very early to avoid the heat so it was a really lovely ascent to the valley. There are 7 lakes in the valley, surrounded by craggy peaks, pine trees and meadows full of flowers. We spent the night in a mountain hut in a dorm room after an afternoon of snoozing by lakes and exploring. We were unfortunate enough to be lodging on the same night as a large group of very enthusiastic Slovenians who got up just before 5am. Enthusiasm has its place and personally, lights on and singing in the dorm at that hour is one step too far! The lights were switched on after the lady in the bed below attempted to pack my foot into her rucksack, it took a swift kick back to persuade her to stop trying!  Sadly the following day there was a forecast of thunderstorms, so we cut short our route and headed back down the mountain before we got caught out.

We had arranged to have the car fixed up In Ljubljana, and a phone call on Tuesday confirmed that miraculously all of our parts had been delivered to the correct place on time. We have now spent the last few days enjoying the sights of Ljubljana, eating more sausages and tasty cottage cheese dumplings, swimming in the campsite pool and planning our next steps on the trip. Tonight we may have another evening of films under the starts in Ljubljana castle and tomorrow… Croatia?!



Slovenians are an immensely friendly and relaxed people who seem to still appreciate the incredible natural beauty around them.

There is a small change crisis in the country.  We cannot make a purchase without a request for a smaller denomination. Expertise in finding the most efficient exchange of coins and notes is breeding a nation of accomplished arithmeticians.















Last Updated (Thursday, 27 August 2009 16:34)