Red squirrel in tree

Red squirrel in tree

Today I encountered a battle of wits between a stray cat on the ground and a red squirrel in a tree. The cat hissed and the squirrel sounded it’s alarm call. For such a tiny creature it really made a racket. Last time I heard such a sound was whilst hammock camping in the forest. There was a squirrel nest atop one of the trees to which my hammock was fastened and a pair of squirrels screamed at me and rained down nuts and leaves. In the dark they sound scary…

Brown bear attack

Brown bear attack

Over the last few weeks I’ve learned that the bear range starts much closer to mine than I’d previously believed and just over a week ago this was confirmed when a 61 year old tourist, just over the border in Poland, was killed by a Eurasian Brown Bear. The attack took place near the town of Olszanice, which is 40 miles, as the crow flies or the bear walks, from mine.

http://www.teraz.sk/zahranicie/polsko-medved-muz-umrtie-utok/102644-clanok.html

A bear’s range can be anything from 60 sq km to 2600 sq km. While Poland has less than 100 bears, Slovakia has approximately 1000. I guess that scat I found earlier in the year might have been bear after all….

First frost

First frost

This morning I awoke to a beautiful scene. Frost covered everything. The temperature has now dropped well below zero at night and winter has announced its presence. All the car windows were frozen. I have a feeling that this winter, 2014-2015, will be long and cold. Life becomes much harder in winter but we’re rewarded by the occasional stunningly beautiful moment which makes it worthwhile. ¬†Winter really let’s you know you’re alive.

Forest cabin

Forest cabin

This is a cabin we stayed at last weekend in the forest above Svidnik, East Slovakia. It’s owned by the regional forest office and is situated on Black Mountain. The hill is renowned for the bandits who used to inhabit it centuries ago, and also for the number of German soldiers who died there during the war.

Despite being deep in the forest it was silent, creepily so. Apart from one owl which called for 30 seconds, the rest of the night was without animal or bird activity. It was like a blanket of silence had been thrown over the area. Ordinarily, the forests around here produce a cacophony of sound once darkness falls. Not at that cabin… I was pleased when dawn arrived.

I guess that part of the forest remembers the dead.

Motorcycle ride and repair

Motorcycle ride and repair

Today was the first chance I’ve had in over a month to do some repairs to my Aprilia Pegaso 650, Feisty. It had taken me months to find a replacement rubber intake manifold for my carb and I’d been preparing for visitors, plus the weather has been awful. Despite the freezing temperatures and it taking almost an hour to get her started, I took Feisty to a friend of mine in a remote village where he and his father could help me change the part.

I dressed in full leathers and Long Johns and it was still cold. The road there was stunning, with autumn colours, winding Carpathian single roads around forested hillsides – through bear country. Erik and his father spent all day taking her apart, replacing the manifold and doing some maintenance in preparation for winter. I’m extremely grateful to them for giving up their Saturday, again, to help with my bike. Why Italians make their bikes so complicated I’ve no idea – even the smallest task becomes an arduous feat.

I then rode on the backroads to my house with the sun shining and the icy wind biting my extremities. Feisty can now, finally, go up to 6000 revs and I could feel the huge difference in power, acceleration and speed, and it made me feel good to be alive. Back in black and on the bike. Sometimes life just makes you grin….