Updated: May 24, 2021
In the hot summer, which we chose for a three-day hike along the Roška hiking trail, it rained almost every weekend. And then when people on duty at the “sky taps” decided to rest, we had to work. "Obviously the stars are not aligned for us," was the conclusion after a two-month exchange of hope and despair. Dreaming of days of peace, forest baths, chatting and silence in mid-August, when the nights for sleeping outdoors are not too cold, has been replaced by a gloomy mood. But we barely caught our complaining breath, when Tomaž's call interrupted us.
Our guide, who is apparently also a meteorologist in his spare time, predicted an unexpected late August heat wave, and we were already in a hurry with preparations, packaging, and logistics. First of all, it is necessary to provide hectoliters of drinking water, which is practically non-existent on the way through the karst world. A joker named our first outpost Luža (a puddle), but the name cannot be relied on, as the water from the well is useful only for showering. We were determined not to drag the tent, as there is a canopy under Luža and Podstene, under which we could make a bed. We will only bring winter sleeping bags, which we will drive to both points in advance with most of the food and water. And a few things to change into, flip flops, a headlight, a mini gas cooker and a map of Kočevsko.
When the dawn of the first day cracked, (I'm exaggerating a bit, but it sounds nicer than saying we started at nine), we captured the historic moment by taking photos at zero kilometers. The calm surface of Rudniško lake, formed in the area of a former brown coal mine, reflected the sky without a single stain. Since it did not predict any (later) upheavals, it swung us into a comfortable and carefree step. Crossing the 64-kilometer hiking trail in three days isn’t overly difficult, but if you’re not exactly a masochist, it doesn’t hurt to prepare with at least a few preliminary hikes. Preferably in long pants. I became convinced of their advantages after the first entanglements in the bushes, which scratched my bare calfs.
“So, let's go to Roška!” Tomaž invites us and after a few steps he starts to deviate from the planned path. Only a few kilometers from the lake are Željnske caves, a natural refuge where people sought shelter 20,000 years ago. And because we are still completely rested, we obey without resistance. Even I, who can only be taken into the cave by Mrs. Death, come closer, as these are not classic caves, but half-open caves.
After seeing the first wonder, we are back on the trail marked by a green bear paw on a round white background.
We go across the meadows along the cart track and soon the edge of the forest announces the setting that will accompany us in the coming days. All in all, more than 90 percent of Kočevsko is covered with forest, in which, in addition to large carnivores, there are also bambies, foxes with bushy tails and, yes, snakes.
Paths and macadam roads wind to the Pugled-Žiben forest reserve past the Stari Breg, where only one family persists today. Coexistence with nature is disturbed by uninvited guests from the state forests that feast at the expense of the last few stubborn farmers or to be more exact, their property. For a long time, at least 80 years, no one has persisted on Pugled. There, the remnants of an abandoned Gottscheer village struggle to peek through the greenery that increasingly envelops the hundred or more-year-old stones of former German homes. Today, only the descendants of the Kočevje Germans don’t walk past them indifferently, with their dewy eyes passing around the extinguished hearths. For most others, the scenery which will present the ruins surrounded by lush bear garlic as photogenic as possible is more important. Pugled is most beautiful in spring, when the view of the sea of whiteness spreads from a slightly shaky bench by the church wall. Kočevje's “cherry copy” is no less picturesque than the Japanese original, which regularly attracts tourist crowds to the Far East. The special energy that reigns in Pugled does not give a hint of the fierce battles that took place during the Second World War right here, where the poet, essayist, playwright… Miran Jarc also found his last resting place.
After an hour of history and a snack, we head on. Actually uphill, as the last two kilometers, at least it seems to me, lead to the sky. Up, up, up. And up again.
Just as an attack of cursing strikes me, the slope suddenly flattens out and from there it’s only a throw to the first stop. I'm already thinking about how I’ll enjoy a cold shower from the well, lunch and peace… actually a loooot of peace. When we arrive, I go to the woodshed, where we carefully! saved supplies the day before, which I now pull from heavily perforated bags. “Well, Chief Bigfoot, so much about your scouting skills,” I think of A. when I pull out bread, milk, a bag of coffee, butter… To cut a long story short: everything is eaten away except the cheese. “What kind of modern mouse is this as it seems to like coffee and cookies?” I look at A. angrily, while he stoically (which makes me even angrier) replies: “Biscuits were home-made…” Then - did I already mention that A. always has a plan C? - he starts calmly pulling from his backpack a spare first aid kit of food. When I’m fed, I feel more like myself again.
In the evening, Tomaž offers us accommodation in a hut and we are happy to accept. Sleeping under the stars no longer seems so romantic to a person if a fox circles around the fireplace all afternoon, even if it is a beautiful and obviously quite confident example of a forest dweller. Let’s go to sleep, I think optimistically, but as soon as I close my eyes, I hear the rustling of bags. “Damm, what is it again?” “Nothing,” says A. “How nothing? Why are you making those noises?” “It’s not me. And if it's not you either, it's probably a mouse”, he grins happily. And really. Until dawn, with its tireless scraping and running around the room, a small monster keeps us awake, since it’s full of energy from the huge amounts of sugar from our bags that it had previously consumed. Today I don't remember whether we or it lost strength first, but the fact is that the morning finds us with our eyes firmly closed. When the sun shines on our glued eyelids a few times, we give up and drag ourselves to the yard.