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There's Bears In Them There Hills
Submitted by Tiffany on 5 June, 2009 - 15:26
So what the hell was I doing, sleeping out in the open halfway up a Georgian mountain, several hours walk from anyone and anything?
I had gone on a two day hike through the Lesser Caucasus mountains of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park. things had not got off to a great start when it took me an hour from setting off to actually finding the Park entrance, this hour of effort had involved a cast of dozens including a couple of orthodox priests, journeying in four different vehicles and walking almost two kilometres.
In my defence I would like to say that the dagger on the dashboard of the van I hitch-hiked in was actually closer to me than to any of the van's other (male) occupants and I was ready to use it only if provoked. I don't htink they were too traumatised as they waved me off along the trail.
After several hours of walking - and although not a fast walker, I am a steady one and can put in the time, I didn't seem to get anywhere very fast- mainly because the first part was all uphill and I gradually realised that I was not going to reach the overnight hut. I put my feet up for a think about it and idly plaited some long grass stems together as I had no string with me and that Brownie training all those years ago did instil something into me. The route onwards was an unknown quantity and also I was going to have to backtrack over this same route for the return leg in the morning.
I decided to cut my losses and looked around for somewhere to camp. I didn't have my tent as I had expected to sleep in the hut - recommended (I later found out) due to the bears and did I mention the wolves yet? I wasn't too worried by the lack of a tent and I descended from the high mountain meadows (which were a bit exposed) to the forests and found a cosy spot under some pine trees, I was just setting things up when I noticed some ominous scratch marks on a nearby tree trunk. On closer inspection these turned out to quite possibly be bear claw marks - well what else is about my height, has sharp claws and likes to scratch the bark off tree trunks?
I made an executive decision to move camp - quickly and as far away as possible. I had been told that the bears here are nervous of humans, well I didn't want to test that theory and anyway since the Alskan bear incident I'm nervous of bears.
Further down the mountain I found a suitable spot, the main issue now being that the track was on a very steep slope and the only flat piece of ground was the path itself- all of 24 inches wide- in fact just broad enough for my sleeping mat. I made sure I was uphill from some trees so that if I rolled over in my sleep I wouldn't be tumbling to the bottom of the 100 feet drop.
I pulled out my piece de resistance - the waterproof jacket I had borrowed for the hike. On closer inspection it had turned out to be more of a cape that converted to a ground sheet- perfect for my purposes.
More to come later...