Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting PKNEWS to 80360
Penryn pensioner explorer's latest exploits in the frozen north.... Bears!
9:00am Monday 19th August 2013 in News
Penryn explorer Tony Clarke has embarked on a three month adventure which is taking him to the frozen north of Scandinavia. No stranger to globe-trekking, the 67-year-old has been keeping Packet readers up to date on his exploits with regular updates.
In his latest piece, he recounts his encounter with a bear – or was it? Read more in his latest instalment he has entitled “The Bumpy Road to Slovakia (with bears…)”
Whenever I travel, I always try to find the natural, out-of-the-way place: where not a soul comes by, no voice can be heard, no music playing, no engines revving. Just the humming of bees, the swish of the grass, the blue sky overhead - a place where I can spend some time alone.
On this journey, the place I found is Slovakia. It’s a land of beauty, soft and silent, and on this particular sunny day it was shining. I had driven high up into the mountain where the slopes were covered with huge pines, following a gravel road made for loggers, not to be found on any OS map.
I could hear a stream cascading to the valley below, and eventually I saw it, and pulled over where the stream met the track.
It was a Monday and that’s washing day. The sun was hot and the stream was clear. I pulled out my laundry bag: three shirts, trousers, socks, pants, a towel, not so much. I took out my wash bowl (no washing powder, of course – I learnt when I crossed the Sahara never to use it in natural springs). First I gave myself a good wash, then started with the scrubbing brush on the shirts.
It was then I heard the low growl.
I looked up, and listened hard. Had I imagined it? I looked around but saw nothing, so back I went to scrubbing. Then I heard the growl again.
Now the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. A bear? Are there bears in Slovakia? I didn’t know – unlike in Scandinavia there were no signs to warn visitors. If a bear, would it be black, brown, large, small?
I carried on with my washing but now it was dunk, look, plunge, look, rinse, look again. I tried to remember the bear training I had had in Canada, but my mind went completely blank.
Was it stand your ground? Or lie down? Or was it don’t run? Or make yourself as big as you can and then run?
I abandoned the washing, pretending not to panic, and hurried back to the Landrover, the towel over my back to protect against the blow flies that were biting. Then I told myself firmly to be a man, not a mouse, and back I went to the stream: washing and looking and looking and washing fast, fast, faster still. Then up the bank I leaped – and there, standing between me and the Landrover, was my bear.
It was about two foot high. It had a tail that wagged. My bear was – a dog.
That evening we became life-long friends; my ‘sausage dog’ ate five of my six bangers before disappearing into the trees.
Very early the next morning, a flat-bed truck skidded to a halt next to the Landrover, sending up a cloud of dust over my still drying washing.
On the back stood the dog. His tail was wagging the body, the body wagging the head. Two men in camouflage unfolded themselves from the cab and asked, ‘You see bear?’ ’Bear?’ I gulped: "I heard something, but I thought it was your dog".
They said: "Many big bear here: three, four hundred kilos, very bad now, aggressive. Wolves too.’"
They had seen me drive into the forest the previous day, knowing that I wasn’t there to poach – bear skins are worth thousands of Euros. They invited me to have coffee at 'the station', a small log cabin that somehow housed all six wardens.
The coffee progressed to apricot brandy, and by the evening, with a log fire roast, we all enjoyed five litres of my wine and another drink that gave me a splendid headache in the morning. When I asked what the meat was, the response was a finger to the lip and a drunken grin…
My travels can be tough, and often they are dangerous, but on occasions like these such notions are put aside – instead, these words come to mind: exciting, memorable, utterly privileged.”
Comments are closed on this article.