Last month as part of my new job with National Geographic, I went to Hungary and Slovenia to check out one of Nat Geo's newest Adventure Trip, and even better, my mom got to join me! As a kayaker, anytime I go to a new country, I am always looking for what new rivers I can paddle. I had always heard about the beautiful emerald green waters of the Soca river in Slovenia and knew that I had to stay a couple extra days to check it out.
On the NG tour, we crossed over the Soca just in time to see some kayakers paddling by
After finishing up with the group tour, my mom and I rented a car and drove to Bovec, Slovenia where we based for the following days to kayak the Soca. Our first stop in town was to go by Alpin Action, the local kayak shop, to pick up our rented kayaks. If you are ever in Slovenia looking to kayak, this is the place to get in touch with. They have a huge variety of kayaks for rent, all in great shape and will even provide you with an inflatable roof rack which works perfectly if you just have a rental car without racks. And even better, they were a great source of beta for us and even worked to hook me up with some local boaters to paddle with on the sections too difficult for my mom to join me. I highly recommend them!
The rental car loaded down with boats on the inflatable racks!
The night we arrived in Bovec, it had been pouring down rain the entire day and I was beginning to worry the water was going to be too high for either of us to kayak. The emerald-green waters of the Soca had turned brown. Thankfully though, we woke the next morning to a beautiful blue bird sky and were hopeful the water levels would drop enough to find some good sections to paddle.
My mom enjoying the blue bird skies of Bovec from our hotel balcony
First thing in the morning I snuck out with some local boaters, Tony and Deborah along with an old Chilean friend Momo (who I was happily surprised to learn was living in Bovec at the time) to check out the water levels and paddle the Bunkerji section of the Soca down to the Prijon shop (the online map I'm using seems to suggest that also included the Kršovec, Zmuklica, and Sotočja sections). It was mostly class 3 with a harder rapid or two thrown in the mix. All super fun.
Waiting on shuttle at the Take-Out
I then quickly headed back to the hotel to pick up my mom to head out for her to get on the water. We started off going down from the Prijon shop through the Čezsoča and Boka sections, all class 1-2 but absolutely beautiful and a great warm up.
Mom and I putting on the Soca
After class 1-2 stretch, my mom said "that was it?" so I decided we needed to step it up a notch and headed back upstream to a part of the stretch I had done that morning. I promised my mom we would be putting on below the hardest rapid (which was true), but I had forgotten about one of the other hard rapids which we happened to put on just above. A little nervous, my mom put on and styled the rapid in question, ferrying across the river and away from the big ominous looking rock. The section was continuous class 2/3 and my mom did great. She was smiling from ear to ear when we took off, but I think it was a 50/50 split between smiling cause she had fun and smiling because she was happy to have made it to the takeout safely.
Soca River Selfie
After giving my mom her fill for the day, I headed back out again to check the Srpenica 1, Srpenica 2 and the slalom sections of the Soca with Deborah. The water level was still on the high side, but these class 3/4 sections were tons of fun with big waves all over.
The next morning, the water level had dropped a bit and my mom and I decided to start off on the Čezsoča and Boka sections again, as the upper stretch was a bit low. The water was beginning to turn back into its beautiful green color, and it was another blue sky day making it the perfect time on the water. We practiced a few moves, caught some eddies and generally just enjoyed being out there. The beauty of the Soca lies in more than its water color, and I was very impressed by how scenic it was being surrounded by the Slovenian Alps.
My Mom on the Soca
That afternoon, my mom offered to run shuttle so that I could paddle the Cataracs, the hardest (by far) stretch of the Soca. Labeled unrunnable in many guide books (more so to keep people away than it actually being unrunnable), the stretch is filled with class 5 moves and enough sieves to keep you on your toes, making it for experts only. The water had dropped down just enough that Tony and Momo felt the section would be good for us so off we went. It was that perfect mix of scary and fun, and I couldn't have asked for better guides.
After the Cataracs, we paddled out on the super fun and friendly class 3/4 Otona section down to where my mom was meeting us. After taking off the river, it was time to drop off the boats and say goodbye to the Soca, Bovec and all our new friends, as my mom and I headed back to Ljubljana (the capitol city of Slovenia), to catch our flights home the next morning.
Momo and Tony arriving at the takeout after our Cataracs/ Otona paddle
While my entire experience in Slovenia was amazing, and especially getting to paddle the Soca, the best part was being able to get on the river with my mom. My mom has been paddling whitewater for a few years now, and we've had lots of good days on the water together, but there was something extra special about doing it in an international destination that neither of us had been to before. I felt like I was able to give her a little insight into what I've been doing on all my kayaking trips over the past 10 years, and why I love traveling to kayak so much. It was obvious by how much fun she had both on and off the river that that won't be our last international kayaking trip together!