Strange Winds in a Strange Land

Upper Pivka valley is a strange, a bit remote, and a very beautiful place.

A kite aerial view to the southeast across the Pivka valley towards Mt. Snežnik massif

Stretching from the village of Šembije at the edge of Mt. Snežnik massif north towards Prestranek and Rakitnik, and ultimately the Postojna basin, the Upper Pivka valley is a world of hydrological wonders, famous for 17 intermittent lakes that appear after heavy rains and disappear back into the underworld in times of drought.

A view to the south towards the upper end of Pivka valley

Those 17 periodic and mysterious lakes – from south to north like pearls on a string: Šembije lake, Kal lake, Lan lake, Bač lake, Kljun’s pond, Big hollow, Little and Big Zagorje lake, Little and Big Drskovec lake, Parje lake, Radohova lake, Klen hollow, Palčje lake, Petelinje lake, Krajnik’s hollow, and Jeredovce lake – are a great kite aerial photography target, especially now when the play of water coming out and going into the ground is at its best.

A view to the north with Mt. Nanos and Postojna basin

The waters of Pivka river and the lakes come from the fantastic Mt. Snežnik – the Snowy one – massif that acts as a barrier between the Inner Carniola and the gulf of Kvarner. The 1796 m high peak is the highest mountain in Slovenia outside the Alps, and it blocks the warm and moist air coming from the sea, trapping the clouds and forcing them to dump the water they carry.

Mount Snežnik – meaning ‘the snowy one’ – aptly covered in snow, rises above the village of Trnje

The water falling on the limestone karst of Snežnik massif goes underground and erupts mostly in numerous springs at the massif’s edge near Ilirska Bistrica, forming the river Reka. Yet a substantial amount of water flows north and springs out at the impermeable flysch outcrops of the Upper Pivka valley, giving birth to the river Pivka and feeding the intermittent lakes.

Low sun exposes the old meanders of now tamed and caged river Pivka

Pivka itself is moody and meandering – or, better, it was, until it was tamed and caged into an artificial channel that winds along the valley bottom. From the air one can still see the old meanders that once carried the waters towards Postojna Cave.

These meanders and fossil streams look cool, but our main kite aerial target was one of the lakes, the second largest in the Upper Pivka valley, called Petelinje lake. With the mean surface area of 0.74 sq. km it is the most persistent of all the intermittent lakes here, retaining water even after all the others dry up.

The strange intermittent Petelinje lake lies just beyond the tree-covered ridge. Mt. Trojica – Holy Trinity – rises beyond the depression

But it was not to be. We, or better, our kites, faced one of the most bizarre wind conditions we’ve ever encountered in our KAP adventures. The wind was going good, 10-15 km/h with gusts up to 20 – but only up to some 100, 150 meters above ground! Above that level the air stood still …

Here is the lake – this is the fourth time we tried to get a kite aerial photo of it – still unsucessful …

Usually it’s just the other way round: the wind is soft near the ground and picks up the higher one flies. This time the kites flew gracefully up and up, until they acted like fish out of the water, losing lift, hanging aimlessly and miserably at the edge of the wind some 150 m high.

Old course of Pivka river

No amount of coaxing – at first we thought we got into a turbulent layer that one has to breach by force – helped, and again (this was our fourth KAP here) we were left dry. Even the most beautiful winter sun and the golden meadows around Pivka river couldn’t really lift our spirits, and somehow dejected we were changing kites, adjusting bridles, pulling the line , even running – to no avail.

Snow persists on the bottom of the now defunct course of Pivka

Yet as always, when one comes home and checks the photos, one discovers that even if the main target was not captured, there are many cool things to be found. That’s the advantage of a place such as the Upper Pivka valley: it is beautiful and interesting everywhere!

Strange shapes on the ground that bear witness to a rather tumultuous hydrological history of Pivka valley

The shadows and the light revealed ancient landscape of Pivka river – once wild, now tamed daughter of the Snežnik massif, whose adventures get even more interesting as she disappears into Postojna cave some 10 km upstream from here, emerges at Planina karst field, goes underground again and finally springs out at the edge of Ljubljana Marshes as Ljubljanica. So we had a cool KAP session after all!

Self portrait of the intrepid KAPers

Kite aerial photos shot with Nikon P330 on The Spark, The Venerable Blue, and The Hang-On Rokkakus.

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