Saturday, 12 May 2018
April 26th Close Encounter of The Bovine Kind
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April 26th, 2018
Cloud builds during the day and light rain in the afternoon follows a sunny morning
Awake at 4:55 a.m. I type up some notes and head off to find out whether the small track that goes via the cemetery does lead down to the valley floor. This would save me having to descend down to the hydro-electric station and start from there the long push up the steep dirt road. The track seems fine, a little steep in places and a few rocky places to negotiate but good enough to drag a bike over. I decide to give it a go. I remember doing just this when, back on the first, 2010, Biking Birder adventure, I chose to push the bike for four miles along the clifftop above The Giant's Causeway in Antrim, Northern Ireland. The views from up there were spectacular, both looking down to the causeway and across the sea to the Mull of Kintyre and the island of Islay and the fact that I had to lift and carry the laden bike over many a fence and push for hours didn't detract from the pleasure gained from seeing such a wonderful view.
After walking it for an hour I can see that it does join the road I need to be on to go higher so I turn back to go and pack and have a little breakfast. A very small, old man stops me by the cemetery and asks me whether I would take his photograph. I of course say “of course”. He then goes through the cemetery gates and stands by graves stacked two high. “These are my Mama and my Papa,” he tells me. I am humbled and tell him that I will email the photograph to the son of the shopkeeper, Hose.
Packed and ready to set off, I am feeling extremely chipper that I have found a route that I can bird along and save me a couple of kilometres of pushing. I have breakfast at the cafe and am soon descending the donkey track, as I think of it and the world is great.
After half an hour of progress down I stop to look at a Cinereous Conebill and BANG! A huge bull has hit the front of the bike, throwing me backwards. The bike lands on top of me and the bull tries to hit me once more with it's head. I hit it and scream abuse! The bull carries on hitting the bike and I somehow scrabble out from underneath and jump off the track into the bushes. I then find a way along back to the path but about fifty yards away from where the bull is.
He by now has managed to get one of the back panniers stuck on his horns and is tossing his head about. I am obviously shaking and wondering what the hell happened, where did he appear from and how am I going to get the bike when it is a metre or so away from what is one angry bull?
A young man appears with two horses in tether. I tell him what happened. His name is Anderson and together we try to distract the bull enough so that we can drag the bike away from him. This we manage to do but there is still the ripped up pannier to retrieve. Another man, Pieres, and the three of us take everything off the bike and take it through the bushes as quietly as we can, piece by piece, beneath the path and out of sight of the nasty vicious animal. The bull by now has decided to take up station on the path and is standing there looking for his next victim. No amount of shouting, stick waving and abuse can shift him. Luckily this means that by having Anderson and Pieres distracting him from above the path, I can carefully retrieve my pannier and get it with the rest of my things further down the path from the bull, towards the road. Now out of sight of the bull but still very nervous that it may suddenly turn around and come along it, I quickly put everything together on the bike the best I can. The back panniers, a set of three, one that should rest on top of the back rack with two hanging bags,one on either side, has been torn in two and the other pannier is ripped along one edge. I manage to hang two from the rack and place the other, the one that contains my small laptop, on the top of the sleeping bag and tent as securely as possible. I wonder if it is OK? I wonder if I am.? My left arm seems pretty painful and my legs but at least I am alive!
Still shaking I carry on, after having crawled up a bank to look over and see where the bull is. A young lady is leading a donkey down the track and I notice that she takes the animal off the path and descends into the bushes as we did to bring the bike down. Obviously Anderson and Pieres have warned her of the bull. How long it will stand there I don't know and don't care to find out. I am off. I have given what Soles I have in my pocket to the two men and just want to get going.
I get to the road eventually and start to think of the other times I have been close to death. I count seven times as I push the bike up a rather steep section of rocky dirt road. Seven times, two to go, if I was a cat. Memories of a lorry crash on a wet, drizzly evening on the M6 at Walsall, West Midlands when I was twenty one years old. That should have got me harp playing. Another crash in a forward somersaulting car into a peat bog in Northern Scotland on January the first, 1991. Definitely a 'meet thy maker' moment once more survived. Just eight months later, the memory of a crumbly cliff in the Pyrenees that I should never have attempted to climb but did stupidly. When stuck I managed to crawl crab-like to the safety of the tree covered left side. Another miraculous survival.
Suddenly there is tarmac, beautiful smooth tarmac. There is a hydro-electric plant and they have put lovely, gorgeously grey tarmac down for their vehicles. Maybe my luck is changing. The road may be steep but at least there is a gorgeous surface to push the bike up.
It doesn't last. After yet another barking, snarling dog attack, rebuffed with flailing leg threats, the tarmac ends and it is back to the stony, gravelly, dusty, bumpy surface. Drat! At least there are some birds for me to stop and watch, identify and photograph.
Mourning and Plumbeous Sierra Finches are common and with the Mourning birds, very vocal. Occasional small groups of siskins have two new birds amongst the commoner Hooded Siskins, Black Siskin and Yellow-rumped. Cincloides begin to be seen frequently two, both White-winged Cincloides and Bar-winged. Who cares about an attempt by a bull to gore you to pieces when there are birds to be seen, fantastic mountains to wonder at and a steep road to negotiate?
By mid-afternoon I have pushed only a few miles north of Huanza but feel tired and as rain begins to fall I find a spot to pitch my tent beside a dry stone wall, do so and relax listening to the sound of the falling drops on the canvas. It has been a very tough day. My left arm has been pretty useless in pushing, hence the lack of distance. I lie there though in my little blue tent and think about how supremely lucky I was that the bull didn't kill me. Undressing and climbing into my sleeping bag, I find that my upper left arm has an immense purplish bruise on it from where the horn must have hit me. My right leg is also cut and badly bruised in places from lower shin to upper thigh. I think that is from the bike landing on me. I even find a few cactus spines in me that I didn't know about!
The rain gets heavier and despite the early hour I fall asleep. Just another day of a Biking Birder completed.
Green Year list : 146 birds average new birds to list per day : 5.62 birds
Distance pushed : 7.74 miles
elevation : up 2,952 feet, down 1,280 feet
altitude : 12,874 feet