It was an exceptionally hot summer afternoon. Many hours had withered away since I had left my last night’s refuge in that corn field somewhere near Bacau, by dawn that day. Through many towns and villages, and immense extents of fields, I had traveled by the means of revolving my bicycle’s pedals. And then, I was regarding all in awe the easternmost portion of the wild Carpathian Mountains rising haughtily towards the sky and swelling steadily in my view as I was approaching them.
Behind those mountains laid Transylvania, the bewitching land of vast, pristine mountain ranges, medieval villages and castles, Dracula, and the largest population of European bears outside Russia. And that’s exactly where I was bound to. Great loads of liquid had been perspired out of my pores. It was afternoon… now the dusk had occupied the skies… and after every sharp curve, there was still another following every straight section of the acclivitous, drifting road.
Being erected and letting my entire weight fall upon the adjusted in the lowest gear pedals I was moving forward in no higher than walking speed, one pedal at a time, breath after breath. I was exhausted. The only thing I could fancy was a cup of tea and a warm dish followed by a long and heavy sleep in black-out fashion. But I was determined to reach the ridge of the mountain first, so to secure my morale high for the next morning, knowing that the only thing I’ll have to do after breakfast and packing will be to take a seat and let the gravity lead me down to the Transylvanian plains.
A wonderful view I got to marvel at as I finally made it to the ridge right on time to witness the sun plunging behind the theretofore hidden to me west horizon. I was surrounded by a far-flung mountainous wilderness. I could perceive no sign of human civilization anywhere nearby. It was rest-time. I alighted and started to push the bicycle along a muddy path first, and then deeper through the enchanting conifer forest until my ideal spot to render home for the night was found.
I pitched my tent and took advantage of the dim remaining twilight to prepare my dinner while the sky, the silhouettes of the tree boughs, and everything else around was gradually merging into each other until it ultimately got integrated into an outright, unequivocal blackness. It was time to sleep.
Nestled cozily inside my sleeping bag, I slept like dead through the first portion of the night. And in such a state I would have remained until dawn’s advent, if it wasn’t for an unexpected visitor. A loud, threatening cry reverberated all of sudden out of the night silence of the forest. The very instance I got aware of my senses, I found myself aghast, my body flung up in a mechanical fashion, permeated by a freaky shudder from skin to marrow.
Alarmed by his keen olfaction, a shepherd dog took notice of me and scurried towards my part for inspection. He obviously wasn’t happy about my presence there. He was out there, in the murky night, circling my tent, barking and howling ferociously, unmistakably not well-intentioned towards my person. He sounded really pissed off. Any attempt to soothe him would clearly be futile. I immediately grasped my knife and stood in readiness to confront him in case he was up for forcing his way into my tent. But he didn’t dare. And nor did I dare to break my way out of it and try to drive him off. In some few instances I pretended to be doing so, pulling abruptly the first part of my tent’s zip and yelling at him as being about to attack, he would withdraw for a few meters, only to return closer and further irritated the next moment. This situation went on for a period which must have lasted for at least two hours. I was tired. And I assume he also was. The whole thing had grown weary. It was getting clear that something decisive had to be done if we were to ever escape that deadlock. I was getting mentally prepared to finally break my way out for real and oust him away by any means necessary. But then, something completely unexpected occurred…
Hush! In an unsuspected moment the dog’s voice faded into the ambient dispassionate stillness. A stillness that remained so for some few dull seconds until a fuss of creaking, trampled-upon twigs resounded out of it. And the next moment, the dog, without saying anything, sprily vanished. I had a new visitor. Someone was approaching me from the distance. And it was someone huge, I got to perceive as the creaking grew louder and louder until there was no doubt left: such a fuss could only be produced by a bear.
I stood quiet and still as a statue, clandestinely breathing, trying to come up with a good idea for what I could possibly do if she was coming for the tent – without much success – as she was getting closer. One after the other the agonizing seconds were succeeding one another, until the agony reached its climax at the point I could hear her wheezing right outside my tent. And then, relief… the wheezing died out and the creacking was directed towards the distance in the front area of my tent.
I was well aware of the many bears roaming around that forest, and I had taken my measures: hanging all my food from a tall branch some 20 meters away. That was definitely where she was heading to now. The twig-creacking ceased, and a branch-breaking sound took its place as I perceived my visitor trying to climb the tree and not in a so kind manner get hold of my food without asking.
I tried hard to refrain from the temptation of lighting the torch and having a glimpse of what she’s up to, in fear of provoking her, but I could not resist. I lit it, and very slowly turned it towards her. She halted for a second. Then, she turned her neck back in a startled manner. Her eyes flickered brightly in my torch’s light. She stared at the light bewildered for some short, and so exciting for me, moments. And, finally, in a calm, unstressed manner she turned back to her front and started ambling away. It took her a few steps and she was lost into the darkness. Feeling very grateful to her, both for driving my previous annoying visitor away and keeping her temper, I was free to reassume my sleep.