We were slightly unsure just what to do. The weather, undoubtedly, was going to play a part. Cloud hung over the Dolomites, as, I guess, it does on most mountain ranges most of the time. It would preclude us from heading up to the spectacular heights and seeing what was pencilled in as “must see”.
So, as we chatted with the Americans over breakfast and we’d gotten past the part where they apologise for their president, they told us of a waterfall walk they’d done that garnered our interest. Cascate de Fanes was the name and it was on the “B” list I’d conjured up. The good news was that it was down low in altitude; well, by Dolomites standards anyway.
Our newly found friends had done most of the main things and still said that, as a walk, they probably enjoyed this one as much as any. Again we looked outside. There appeared no hope of a break so we decided to go, after packing up some meagre rations and fluid of course.
We had instructions on where the falls were and the carpark was just before a big U-turn. Trouble was, we’d only seen a minor pull-up place when we actually reached the U-turn and here was a large carpark. We figured the instructions were a little confused so, after parking at the U-turn we alighted and headed off into the pines. We really had no idea exactly how far it was going to be or what to expect.
The thickness of the forest slowly eased and we glimpsed a mountain cloaked in misty cloud before descending to where the trees had been stripped from a high bank and the rubble from a landslide was all that there was all the way down to the river about 100 metres below. Grasses were just starting to add some green but the harshness of the off white gravel was what dominated the scene. There was nothing pretty about the river, it was stark and ugly.
The trail led us to higher up the stream where we eventually crossed it, working out that this wasn’t where the falls we sought were to be found. We came across a post with five directional signs and worked out that none of them were pointing to exactly where we wanted to go; so we chose where four of them were pointing and went down further into the valley.
Then, suddenly, Lorraine shouted out. I looked and, to our great surprise, there was a snake on the trail. I only had a couple of seconds to grab a shot of what turned out to be a viper asp that apparently is poisonous, to what degree we still know not.
Next came a meadow with a log cabin in the middle of it and a cute drinking station fed by natural water. It was a wooden affair that rose above a trough and the water…..well, let’s face it, there’s nothing like H2O from a clear mountain stream.
We started to notice some wildflowers and reached the next sign which mercifully had our destination on it. Lorraine, getting a little tired, said we’d give it ten minutes before turning back but it seemed we’d already exceeded that when the trail degenerated into climbing over tree roots, something I’d really only come across in Tasmania before. While it drained your energy, it kept you concentrating and it wasn’t too much further when we heard the magic of falling water. It was all uphill here until we broke out from the forest and there before us was the magic of Cascate di Fanes.
It was on the opposite side of the canyon we now stood on the edge of and, as waterfalls go, it was definitely worth a look. It roared out of a chute before bouncing off a rounded rock shelf and then disappearing into the abyss below, all 120 metres of it. You can actually get in behind the bit where it comes down the chute but that would have involved a whole mess of stuff we weren’t going to do today.
There’s a seriously steep trail that descends into the canyon and you can work your way back up precipitous trails to the other side or, if you’d parked at the first carpark, you can come at it directly from that side. It’s also part “via ferrata”, the fabled trails where you have to hang on to a chain or wire so you don’t fall and kill yourself. There are lots of them in the Dolomites and, if you’re not good with heights, you won’t be going there. They’re narrow, somewhat dangerous and downright scary.
We took our shots, chilled out on some seats and ate our rations while we soaked up some of the atmosphere. It’s a lovely walk with something worthy of seeing at the end and made the whole escapade that much more enjoyable on the way back when we even started noticing wildflowers all over the meadow. On high the sky was slightly breaking up and the mountains were revealing their jagged profiles, exuding a power that belied their fragile nature.
It had been a special walk, the kind that leaves you feeling a warm inner glow when you’ve finished and you look forward to sitting down to an Italian restaurant somewhere and reflecting on the experience.