With Dugme around Triglav

During my second six days trip around Triglav National Park with my friend Marko, we drove a round trip around the Park. The best way to do this was to rent a camper van and sleep in the camps on the way since we didn’t want to stay at one place and then travel every day to the new location. We decided to rent a camper from Balkan Campers which are offering some amazing vans. Well, they don’t have a new van but 30 years old VW Westfalia oldtimers. From the first sight, I knew this was a perfect way to travel around the Triglav. Marko agreed and we rented a van with a plan of sleeping in the camps during the day and photographing early in the morning and late at night.

author: Marko Iličić

We arrived in Ljubljana to collect our white VW T3 called “Dugme” for the next few days, guys showed us around and left us on our journey. The funny thing is that I have never drove a van before, especially not one without power steering and strange gear placement. It was quite challenging to drive around Ljubljana and at one stoplight I had to use the handbrake to start easily. So we were driving towards our first camp for the night, but something was smelling really bad. People were bypassing us and waving at us and we thought that they were waving because of our cool van. At that point we knew that choosing the Dugme was the right choice, it was so cool and it attracted everyone’s attention.

But the smell was getting worse and worse. At first, I thought it was from the clutch but we are now driving in the same gear for a few kilometres and the smell is only getting worse and we are getting afraid that something is burning inside of the van. One thing you need to understand, when sitting in the T3 it is like sitting in the office chair. You are placed very high, your arms are high on the wheel and the gear shift is also very high and there is no reason to look down on the floor where the handbrake is located. Yes, the handbrake was lifted from the stoplight and we were driving for at least 15 kilometres with the handbrake on. That is why people were waving at us because it was smoke coming out from our back wheels. So, instead of fast and furious, we were slow and smokey.

After the wheel burning experience, we arrived at the camp Kamp Koren near Kobarid for the night. Unfortunately, we arrived late and the reception was closed, so we slept in the parking lot in front of the camp. In the morning we could still feel the smell of burned brakes, as a matter of fact, it smelled through the whole trip. We planned the whole trip, so we knew exactly where to go each day and approximately at which camps we can sleep at. That morning we went for a hike to the nearby Kozjak waterfall along the Soča river. I know that I already said how amazing the Peričnik Waterfall is, but the Kozjak waterfall is something completely different. I would dare to say that it is the most beautiful waterfall in Slovenia. The hike from the parking, along the Soča river all the way to the waterfall is amazing. We crossed small or larger bridges a few times and then at the end of the path, we came to the very secluded waterfall which is carved into the rocks. It’s almost like it is hiding in a cave, and until you enter it is not possible to see it in full glory.

author: Marko Iličić

Next stop on our trip was a town called Bovec where we planned to stay there for two days and visit a few places around it. Bovec is like a Bled in terms of tourists but with an age difference. In Bled I noticed a slightly older population who wants a relaxing vacation, while in Bovec there are mostly younger people eager for adrenaline adventures. If you are looking for a good starting point for hiking, kayaking, canyoning, skydiving, offroading, fishing and etc. Bovec is a place for you. It is packed with tourists!

Fields around Bovec
Virje waterfall

Waterfall Virje is located a few kilometres from Bovec, and as Bovec itself, it is very popular and visited. We went there two times, and the first time we couldn’t photograph anything because it was crowded so we decided to come back early in the morning.

Virje waterfall

The next day we were there just after sunrise, and we were surprised to see that we were not the first visitors. There was a small group of people already swimming in the small lake beneath the waterfall. It seems there are even crazier people than photographers when it comes to waking up early in the morning. Either way, we managed to take a few photographs and take a swim in the ice-cold lake. I was surprised by the people jumping in the cold water while it took me almost five minutes to get used to it. The water was really cold, but the temperatures were crazy high throughout the whole trip and every refreshment was welcomed.

Mangart saddle

Later that day, after visiting the Virje waterfall, we went with our “house” on top of the Mangart Pass. It is a mountain saddle at an elevation of 2072 meters and the road to it is a bit scary and amazing at the same time. While driving to the top, we had to turn on heating at maximum to keep the engine of our 35 years old Dugme at a reasonable temperature. Marko was enjoying the view and I was constantly checking the road for upcoming cars and the engine thermometer.

Once on the top of the saddle, it was all worth it! The view is amazing, on one side the Mangart in all his glory bathed with the sun, on the other side are valleys which are slowly sinking into the shade of the sun that sets for the mountain peaks. In the distance, we could see Lago di Fusine in Italy which we planned to visit, but in the end, we didn’t have enough time for it, so we left it for some other time. We were at Mangart saddle late in the afternoon and I wanted to stay and sleep there at the top, but the wind was very strong so we were afraid that it would break our pop-out tent on Dugme. To avoid trouble, we decided to go back to Bovec and sleep in the camp.

We arrived late in the camp again and the reception was already closed so we slept in the parking lot for the second time. We tried to sneak into the camp to get a shower, but everything was closed so we didn’t have any other option than to take a “shower” in the camper.

author: Marko Iličić

It was interesting to see that almost all the parking spots were full in front of every camp. It is almost like people came to the camp on purpose too late so they can sleep for free in front of the camp and then get going in the morning. I can understand them because it is forbidden to camp inside of the Triglav National Park, the rangers are patrolling the places where campers are sleeping regularly. Nobody wants to take a chance with that, and camps are affordable so there is no point of sleeping illegally outside of the camps. Well, sometimes you need to break a law, unfortunately, we didn’t have other options.

Slemenova špica

The plan for the next day was to go from Bovec to Slemenova Špica over the Vršić pass. The idea was to wake up at 2 am, drive to Vršić Pass, leave the camper there and then hike to Slemenova Špica before the sunset. But the problem was that the entrance at the camp is closing at 10 pm and opening at 7 am. That means it was not possible to leave a camp during the night and we can’t get to Slemenova Špica before sunset, at best we can be there around 9 am, which is too late for photography. We decided to leave the camp just before the closing at 10 pm and then drive to some secluded place in Bovec to sleep in the open until 2 am. The plan was good, we even found someplace on Google Maps where we can hide for a few hours. Sadly when we arrived there, it was already full with other campers and there were people outside drinking, listening to music and we decided to move out and start driving towards the Vršić Pass and we hoped to find someplace to sleep on the way.

While driving towards the Vršić we stopped and asked the locals where we could park and close our eyes for a couple of hours but they were all saying what we already knew, it is forbidden to sleep outside of the camps. So we moved on and after a couple of minutes of driving we arrived in front of the market and I noticed they have a large backyard with some delivery vans parked there. We drove straight in the middle of them, got to sleep and nobody bothered us.

The road to Vršić pass is sightseeing by itself. It is the highest pass in Slovenia, built for military purposes in the 19th century and it was improved in 1915 by Russian prisoners by whom the road is now called Russian Road. The road itself is amazingly built, it has 50 bends and a part of the road from the top of the Vršić pass to the Kranjska Gora has preserved bricked bends as it was built in the 20th century. Along the road, there are a few monuments celebrating war history and even a wooden Russian chapel.

Vršić pass is connecting Bovec with Kranjska Gora, it is a historic road and a lot of hiking routes start from the top of the pass. Because of that, the traffic is really heavy and it is necessary to be careful around the bends.

author: Marko Iličić

Slemenova Špica is a must-go location in Triglav National Park. It is a short hike from the parking, but the hike offers amazing views on surrounding valleys and mountains. Marko and I were hiking up to the Slemenova Špica during the night, so we didn’t see much of the landscape. Only when we were coming back we saw how amazing it was. I visited Špica two times, and the second time we were hiking early in the morning and we had amazing light with clouds so we had plenty of opportunities to photograph on the way.

Once there, there are plenty of opportunities for photography. The plateau beneath the summit is a wide mountain pasture with an excellent view on the Jalovec mountain. Also, you can find three small holes which are collecting water but they were empty when we were there. Špica is very popular among locals and tourists and a lot of people come there during the weekends. It is one of my favourite spots in Slovenia so far.

After leaving the Slemenova Špica, we drove to the Gozd Martuljek and settled in Kamp Špik which was the best camp during the trip. The camp is newly built, very clean, well organized and luckily it was not full. The view from the camp is mesmerising, it was enough just to sit in front of the camper, enjoying the view of the Špik mountain. I can easily see myself staying in a place like that for a few days. It is a whole different type of vacation compared to sleeping in Airbnb and I like it a lot. The best part is that whenever you get bored of someplace, just find another camp and move to it. Also, it is a good way of travelling for photographers because you can always be very close to your planned location for photographing.

author: Marko Iličić

While we were out of the camp photographing, on the parcel next to us another VW T3 camper arrived. Actually, they parked on our parcel and were very close to us, so we felt a bit uncomfortable about that. When we arrived back at the camp, our new neighbours knocked on our camper with the beer. At that point, we forgot about the parking too close and started to hang out with them. They were a couple from Germany with the dog, and they were travelling from Germany to Romania. The girl was born there and they are visiting her family every summer. They don’t go directly from Germany to Romania but every summer they choose a different route on which they can visit other countries. Their camper was a military passenger van which they bought and transformed it into the camper by themselves. This gave me an idea to do the same, to build a camper from a passenger van which I would use for my photography trips.

While we were in the Špik camp, we visited Peričnik waterfall of which I wrote in the first blog and after that, we drove to the Bled which was the last stop on our trip. Going to Bled was maybe a bad decision since all camps were full and we had to sleep in one that was very big and not maintained very well. Since it was August, the Bled was full of tourists, the traffic was crazy and Marko and I already visited Bled before,  it was not high on our priority list. Looking back we should have stayed in Špik camp and explored the area around it, visiting a few spots that we didn’t have time to visit. We stayed in a camp near the Bled for a day, relaxed for a bit and went to visit Radovna valley and Vintgar Gorge which didn’t disappoint this time either. 

The next day we packed our things and drove back to Ljubljana to return Dugme and catch a train to Zagreb. It was an amazing six days of driving, hiking and photographing Slovenian landscapes and we only saw a bit of it. We had a few more places on our list to visit, but we didn’t have enough time to visit them all. At least we have some locations ready to be explored for the next time. 

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