— Second post related to our Road Trip to Croatia —
Are you familiar with “Choose your own adventure” stories?
Wikipedia: “Choose Your Own Adventure is a series of children’s gamebooks where each story is written from a second-person point of view, with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character’s actions and the plot’s outcome.”
One of our latest overland travel adventures could easily inspire such a story.
Don’t miss the end!
Trust your GPS?
It all starts one morning in Kočevje, Slovenia. Your first destination for the day are the infamous Postojna caves. Your GPS, for which the route settings are optimized for “trucks”(commercial, not expedition trucks), calculates 2 routes:
Route 1 – Recommended: According to your GPS this is the most optimum route for trucks. It includes major roads and a highway. But it is almost double the distance than the alternative one.
Route 2 – Alternative: This seems to be the most direct route to Postojna and still entails major roads.
When you decide to follow Route 1 you will encounter the unpleasant situation of paying toll. Of course this is not something you particularly like. So route 1 is discarded quickly.
Lost in Translation
But still, following your GPS blindly is not that exciting. Instead you talk to a local and tell him about your plans.
Using hand gestures, paper and pen, and a few broken words in German and English (and far more Slovenian words) the local guy explains that a little detour from Route 2 will bring you to an area that, according to him, you just need to see. What this place really is about gets lost in translation. However, you do understand this detour will be a dirt road – the magic 2 words! Without too much hesitation you decide to follow his directions.
Lucky you did! Half way the dirt road your co-driver suddenly yells “STOOOOPPP”!
What the hell?! When you survey your surroundings, you don’t see anything out of the ordinary. Yes, the wide dirt road seems rather new-ish (yellow sand instead of darker dirt you are more familiar with), but other than that you just see trees and bushes.
Why did you need to stop?
You step out of the truck and follow your co-driver to the edge of the road. Then you finally see it. Right there next to the road, the ground drops at least 50m. Wow! At the bottom you see cave-entrees and….a few people! This means there is a way down. Let’s do some exploring.
Aside from hurting your fingers – by trying to hold on to a cave wall when sliding off some slippery rocks – exploring these caves is definitely a fun adventure. No entrance fee, no guide, just you and your friends feeling young explorers again. Isn’t this what fantasized about as a kid?
Around noon, and with the weather changing from sunny to drizzle, you reach your first planned destination for the day: The Postojna caves.
Video: Entering the Postojna Caves (sorry for the bad quality)
This day turns out to be a huge success and around 4PM you are ready to hit the road again. Once more the question is which road you will follow to reach your next destination, Bled. The “Optimum” route, aka highway, with estimated arrival in 1 hour OR the “Scenic” route, which you have put together yourself with the help of a few maps and apps? Be aware, one of your friends explicelty points to all the “curves and turns” on the map of that scenic route.
With 2.5 hours before nightfall, the scenic route wins.
Slovenian Alps by Night
It turns out that the scenic route goes up and down the Slovenian Alps. Numerous hairpin turns and small roads are tackled. Shortly before nightfall you are still far from your destination and talk to your friends about what to do? There isn’t a good place to set up camp for the night so you decide to continue your ride to Bled.
From this point forward, the outcome of the story depends hugely on which team/truck you’re joining: Team Terratrotter or Team Dave? (Of course we love them both, but “wow” did they have a totally different experience of what is to come).
Joining Team Terratrotter?
You are driving a STEYR 12M18 with disk and engine brakes. In addition, you have a tablet with 3 navigation apps.
When the night starts to fall the view from the driver’s cabin is mesmerizing: Purple-orange sky and misty Alpine meadows. Only a blanket, a burning wood stove and a hot choco are missing from this scene. You try to spot some more wild life than that single carefree frog jumping ahead of you.
It’s truly relaxing.
“Oo, watch out for those deer, dear!”
Fog is hanging heavy over these Alpine roads when the last ray of sunlight disappears. With the help of your co-driver announcing each turn in advance – “Left hairpin turn … right 90º … ” – it is rather exhilarating driving down these roads. Exhausted but with an overall feeling of contentment you arrive in Bled.
Totally unaware what took place in the other truck.
Joining Team Dave?
You are driving a DAF Leyland with drum brakes. You have no navigation apps and your GPS turns out to be extremely unreliable.
These Alpine roads are a challenge for you and your truck. To spare the brakes, you have to drive slowly and play a game of on-off braking.
When night falls you notice your windshield is fogging up. F*** this means the windows have to be rolled down (remember Fall is already here and it’s rather cold so high in the mountains). And since you don’t have a navigation app you have to count on your eyesight only. Can’t get worse you think?! You are sooooo wrong. All of a sudden it’s pitch black.
Right there on that foggy dark alpine road you’re stranded without headlights. TRIPLE F***!!!! You try to reach Team Terratrotter by Walkie-Talkie (CB still needs to be installed in your truck) but it turns out that the batteries are dead and you don’t have spare ones with you.
Cellphone? No reception! ARRGGGHH! Your co-driver hastily tries to figure out what is wrong and eventually discovers the fuse jumped. After popping the fuse back in its place, a cry of relief, the headlights are back on. What a hellish ride!
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