I was thinking about different ways of seeing Cornwall (see ‘at Lamledra’), and then a strange place in Slovenia (see ‘at Vodnikov Dom’).
If you don’t like plants, look away now.
The time is early July. In fact it was two days before Brazil were taken apart by Germany in the World Cup.
Down the steep and in places tangled slope from the refuge, Vodnikov Dom, lies the basin of Velo Polje, big field.
Velo Polje lies in the hidden valley, and the refuge of Vodnikov Dom is half way down: this is the view from the summit plateau of Tosc.
It’s an almost level sunken valley where cattle graze the flowery turf in summer.
You might expect to find a lake, but the water drains away through the limestone. As you walk up the valley, though it’s hardly ‘up’, you come to a low wall which spans it, and on the other side of the wall the land, more stony now, reaches to the top.
Further on another wall makes another terrace. Then the valley narrows and rocks, with larches among them, come down to make a little gorge, which is spanned by a third wall, this one much higher, built like a dam, and on the other side of that, up to its brim, is a white, barren plain of level limestone scree.
Then you see a glint of colour, you look closer, you wander to and fro, and you begin to realise that you are walking through the most spacious rock garden: some plants have yards and yards of pure white – it looks more pinky in the photos – all around them. Like in Cornwall, you need to get down on your knees. The rain had stopped, but it was still overcast and a bit grey and misty, which probably made it easier to take photos – easier to see, it would have been dazzling on a bright day. And again because it was a dull day, and I hadn’t started on the walk till the middle of the afternoon, I wasn’t drawn on towards the dim peaks which surround the upper valley. The small world at my feet was compelling, and seemed like a whole world to itself. Here are some of the flowers, which all normally grow on steep, high places:
Beyond the stone lake the valley narrows again, becomes turbulent: big lumps of scree, snow patches in the hollows, young larches smashed. And more tiny patches of yellow:
This rock is an island. Although even here there are a few broken larch twigs, annoying the gardener in me. (“I’d rake the rubbish all away/And give them room to grow”.)These are the flowers:
The sun had just begun to shine weakly, just enough to pierce the flowers of Primula auricula
Nearby, these gentians were growing through fallen larch branches
Some of you will remember that this is where I lost my bearings, lost my walking stick, but retraced my steps using the sequence of photos as a guide, and found it.
I recommend this walk to my contemporaries, it’s easy and lonely and exciting. You could spend a whole day wandering around, and never be more than two miles from the refuge, where the best evening meal is Jota (j like a y, a long o, a filling stew/soup with sausage.) You can have your own tiny room in the refuge. This is the view from my window; the cliffs of the north side of Tosc. You can lie in bed, or drink a beer or coffee downstairs and then go for a walk when the rain stops. I don’t see the sense any more of marching on from A to B to C to D, whatever the weather.
They reckon 30 minutes back to the refuge. I’d say an hour and a half. Someone was doing a trek from Ljubljana to Nice, the No Border Trek, for refugees. There’s another way to see the landscape, the atlas view, as a series of culturally and linguistically related areas divided between nation states which some of us can simply walk between, a mountain ridge as international boundary without customs post or fences, Schengen plus our friends the Swiss. As an American resident in Germany the No BorderTrekker was able to travel without let or hindrance from Slovenia, to Italy, to Switzerland, back into Italy, back into Switzerland, and into France. The policing of these borders must be subtle.
You notice that our sponsors are everywhere. Mercator is a chain of supermarkets. Procter and Gamble you’ve met before.