We left Lake Bled and headed off towards the mountains, feeling a little apprehensive of the journey ahead, we were excited as we knew it was going to be amazing, but at the same time we had 50 hairpins to conquer in a day (25 up and 25 down) in our 27 year old van, we hoped for not too much traffic and the roads not too steep.
The first part of the drive we had amazing views of the mountain range as we drove through the valley, already a stunning drive and we hadn’t even reached the pass yet. A little further on and the turn off for the pass was ahead of us, the road headed straight between two giant mountains and we were nervous and excited at the same time, luckily the road so far had been quiet and we were glad we decided to come out of season.
Our first stop was the tranquil lake Jasna, only a small lake, quite shallow, but the colour of the water was something else, really beautiful, emerald green and the surrounding hills and mountains made it look picture perfect again with the Autumn colours and so calm and relaxing, we wondered around the lake taking far too many pictures and watched the fish splashing around, while Charlie couldn’t keep his eyes off the ducks. One side of the lake there was a wooden watch tower you can climb up, we all climbed to the top and enjoyed the view for a while, before getting back on the road in search of the next stunning sight.
After a fair few hairpins going up, gazing constantly at the fantastic views all around us, we stopped at the Russian chapel. This was a very unique little wooden chapel which stands alone surrounded by the looming mountains, it was built in memory of the Russian prisoners who died on the pass whist building the road in 1916 after an avalanche, the chapel and surrounds are an absolutely beautiful sight.
After a stop for lunch about half way up the pass again in totally stunning surrounds we continued to the highest point feeling pretty happy with the vans performance and grateful that the road wasn’t as bad as we thought. We went for a short walk to a lookout area and contemplated spending the night up in the mountains, but decided against this as it was very cold and we only had a few days to see the Soca Valley before it had forecast rain for a week. We continued onward down the other side of the mountain pass.
We only had 2 hairpins to go when we smelt a really bad burning smell, we pulled the van off the road as soon as we got chance and realised the brakes were smoking quite a lot, the road down was a lot worse than the road up, with the hairpins steeper and not so many opportunities to pull off the road and take a break. We needed to let the van cool down before we could continued, the brake fluid was actually bubbling. After about half an hour and we had to pump the brake pedal to get the pressure back, we were back on the road and made it down the mountain in one piece. An excellent day, if a little scary right at the end.