Cave of the Sežana river Reka (Jama Sežanske Reke)
We were very close to taking the Italian route again and bury our promise of visiting Slovenian caves, which we had made during our trip to Budapest. The promised crowd in the Skilan cave would surely be an impressive experience, but too horrific to make a nice memory. And since we had had our fair share of tourism, the Cave of the Sežana river Reka proved to be a great opportunity. We had discussed photographing it several times, but something always got in the way. This time, we had plenty of time on our hands, the water level of Reka was low, and the weather forecast very mild with high temperatures and no wind.
The area between the Caves of Škocjan and the spring Timava has excited many explorers so far. Even back in the 19th century, extensive research was performed to find a cave that reached all the way to Reka, due to the need for drinking water. Even later and up until now, the discovery of a cave which would lead to Reka, was marked as the achievement of a lifetime. Most cavers explore this area only because of Reka, but generally they are separated from it by a depth of at least 300 meters of hard work.
The Cave of the Sežana river Reka (JSR) has a lengthy history. The entrance is situated near the village Orlek by Sežana, where Claudio and Stojan (JOSPD Trst) spotted three meter high pillars of steam in a small sinkhole during the winter terrain check up – more than a decade ago. The pillars were rising from the earth without any connection to the cave, which was definitely interesting. Only a few weeks later after a long period of rainfall, when Reka was rising in the underworld, they noticed a strong murmur in the same sinkhole, which proved to be a big discovery. At the edge of the sinkhole it was quite windy – more so than the usual cave draft.
Claudio and Stojan dug a crack a few centimeters wide in the earth, and widened it each day. In one year, they managed to discover a few small shafts and widen meters of hopeless cracks. In the meantime they were losing the draft and finally landed before an imposing rockfall, which provoked some pessimism in them with its instability. In ten years, they tried to follow the draft at least a hundred times, but it all proved to be in vain and done without any real motivation.
During this time, they were also joined by cavers from Ajdovščina and Sežana. They brought some fresh impetus with them and the cave finally started to subside. They managed to successfully stabilize the rockfall with a building frame and eventually reached the level of Wadaleaks over a series of shorter levels, measuring at 43 meters of depth. It was followed by drops of differing depths with narrow passages, which they expanded religiously and arrived to the parts where the murmur of Reka could already be heard. Finally, the stopped in front of a window, beyond which there was only the blackest of darkness and a 67 meters deep level. Reka was very close.
When they finally reached it, they found a rope in the hall, which turned out to be hanging from the Abyss in Stršinkna Valley, the entrance of which is found 300 meters to the west. This cave is explored by the cavers of Sežana, who reached Reka in 2003 and came to the same hall as the researchers of JSR eight years later. This was the interesting way in which two groups of cavers, from different clubs, reached the same cave and a new caving system was made, but it is not the only case.
The fascinating descent to the first dunes of Reka did not leave us indifferent. Due to the water in the air of the mud dunes in the great hall, we were separated from the riverbed of Reka by another 50 meters of depth. From here, the view was one of the most beautiful in the cave, despite the general fogginess caused by the lighting of cavers lights.
After the next two descents, we finally stepped into the riverbed of Reka, which was getting lost between the slabs of stone. In the inlet lake, we delighted over the sight of the proteus and prawns and thought about a diving research, which had already taken place here. Diver Simon Burja swam over 250 meters in the syphon, but did not manage to reach the dry parts of the cave.
In the downstream part there has not been any diving research yet. Here, too, it is possible to have a boat ride across the lake, but we were more impressed by the densely scattered rudists across the walls of the outflow, which we admired in even bigger quantities in abysses during the way back.
Soon we said goodbye to Reka and took care of photographically documenting the levels leading to the exit. After four hours, we emerged into the dark night full of impressions of the immense efforts of the researchers, and due to the late hour, were left without a well earned pizza. Those who deserve praise, however, are Bole, Mojca, Alex and Lisette, who lightened and posed in this beautiful cave.