Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sunday 30 January - strange marauding beasts

I'm sitting here in the armchair, absolutely roasting in front of the open fire in the kitchen.  Classical opera is playing in the background, snow is still on the ground, and my tummy is warm and full with chicken and mushroom pasta, tomato salad, olive oil and washed down with red wine and grappa, all fresh and locally produced.  We've just been outside for one more look and marvelled at the silence of the star encrusted skies, the silhouette of the mountains on the horizon, and the little twinkly village lights dotted around the hills.  Every now and then the sky is illuminated with flashes of distant storms and a dog or owl breaks the otherwise total peace.  It's going to be very strange being back in Horsham tomorrow.

We did have a good day, clearing up and cleaning ready to go.  Its nice to be leaving the house happy and smiley awaiting our return in April.  There are logs in the basket and kindling drying, all ready to be thrown on the fire as soon as we get back.

OK bear, show yourself!
Everything was packed by mid-afternoon and the sun was trying to break through an otherwise watery sky, so we wrapped up and went for a long walk into the hills in the still deep snow.  We hadn't gone far before our footprints merged with those that shocked us both.  They were huge.  About three times the size of a large dog, big furry bits were definitely surrounding them and there were obvious long claws.  Bear.  Without any doubt.  Indisputable.  Local, brown, Marsicano bear.  So what did we do?  We followed its prints.  All very well whilst we were following it, but a little unnerving when he disappeared off into the trees.  Was he now circling around to attack from the rear?  But even if he had gone for now, there were always the cinghiale (wild boar) tracks to entertain my far too over-active imagination.  Or those dog prints that looked suspiciously like wolf?

A strange marauding beast
 And so we carried on our walk into the Abruzzo wilderness, with me struggling with the depth of the snow and looking over my shoulder every couple of minutes, or peering into the trees, keeping a watch for ambushing wild animals.  KP, on the other hand, with his legs twice as long as mine and with nothing like the kaleidoscope imagination that I have been blessed with (thanks mum), just covered the ground effortlessly, blissfully oblivious to the dangers of any marauding beasts.

After a while, both getting a little nervous about which track is the right one to Roccamontepiano, and running the risk of getting lost in this white covered wilderness for ever, we decided to hanger left and work our way back towards Garifoli and the way we came.  We started to feel a little more confident when we came across some human footprints.  We must be nearing civilisation, which was good news.  Unless, of course, the footprints belonged to some deranged axe murdering mountain man, or we turn the corner and find the snow all churned and turned a blood red sort of colour.

I'm sure its this way
Either way, we were definitely more confident and walked along with a spring in our step having fun trying to work out who the footsteps belonged to.  Was it one person or two?  Not a dog walker, as no dog.  Someone out shooting maybe?  Eventually, as the path widened, the walker became two.  No longer single file, but walking side by side.  A big person and a little person.  The bear prints returned, not good news, but then if he's tracking the other people he won't be hungry when he finds us.

The track started to look familiar.  I'm sure we've passed this point before?  Yep, we definitely have.  Oh my God.  We're back where we started.  How the hell did that happen?  If that's the case, which it clearly was, then the footprints we've been following....

The big person, and the little person...

Me thinks Khimo-sabi and Tonto need a bit more practice before they're wilderness trackers.  Best stick to the day jobs for now, huh?

And so we wandered back to our cosy little kitchen, an early supper and an early night, all packed and ready to go early in the morning.

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