Buddha on Land Rover

Buddha on Land Rover

The reason I didn’t buy a Land Rover in the past is that I’m a firm believer in the Second of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. They’re called wisdom for a reason. Now, my Earth-bound materialistic self is paying the price….

I just had to make a meme in case I ever forget about it….

 

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Trip to the Tatra Mountains

Trip to the Tatra Mountains

We’ve just got back from a few days break away in the Tatra Mountains in North Central Slovakia. Thankfully, it wasn’t having the same weather as we have had for the last few months. The air was clear, cold and bright rather than damp, foggy and swampy – although we do have a lot more snow than there. It sort of felt like Spring.

We stayed at a friend’s Pension (another post will cover that) in the historic mountain ski resort of Stary Smokovec. On Saturday there was an international ice sculpting competition up the mountain at Hrebienok so we talk a wander up the muddy rock track to check it out (we came down on the road as it was way too slippy and dangerous to descend). My legs are still aching as I’m out of condition. The wind roared and really ripped my ears and face.

It was good to get away from where I live for a bit. The Tatra Mountains have many foreign visitors and the resorts are expensive so it was nice to see a change in cars and fashion. I like the bush but sometimes a bit of luxury is called for.

The photo of the bin with paw prints on it is from outside my friend’s pension. In October last year a mother bear and her two cubs (brown bears, called Grizzlies in the US) tore up the outside of the bar, including their leather furniture, so they now have a bear-proof bin. The sow was using the metal security as a back scratcher. Two policemen, who came to scare the bear away as it was clawing up the place, ended up being chased away instead. It’s a really dumb idea to approach a mother bear with cubs…. My friend says there are often bears wandering along the road outside their place at night and she will let me know when they start appearing again so I can go and photograph them – preferably from the safety of the balcony.

 

Here’s a video of what bears do to non-bear-proof rubbish container:

 

As for my Discovery, Vlochka, she has led me to believe that the Land Rover adventure thing is all about whether the car will start or not, or if it will actually get you the whole way home or break down. After she didn’t start yesterday (I was supposed to pick my wife and kids up from the wellness centre at Hotel Kontakt), I spent many hours with my friend’s partner trying to work out what the problem was. Alternator? Starter? Central locking? A short or loose connection? The air conditioning? The new radio? And then she started. I really need to take her to the nearest city to a Land Rover dealer for some proper diagnostics. At present, she’s just not what I’d call reliable. Immense fun when she is working but not exactly stable. She sort of reminds me of a spoilt, pretty gold-digger – If I’m going to ride her then I’m going to have to spend a lot of money on her first….

New year, new wheels

New year, new wheels

It’s been a while since I last posted and a lot has happened.

Thanks to the new wood stove we could stay at the house over Christmas and New Year at a livable although not comfortable temperature. New Year’s Eve was minus 15 Celsius and that was hard going. The stove now allows us to be be able to live, should the need arise, without mains connection.

My brother and his girlfriend have left Slovakia after spending almost 8 months here. They gave it a good try, first at his hill fort and then later in a rented apartment, but it’s a harsh environment to get set up in financially and bureaucratically. I wish them the best back in the UK.

Finally, the snow has come after only a couple of fleeting earlier visits. We spent several months in dense fog, mud and rain with no sunlight and that was utterly miserable – and completely different to the true winters we’re used to. We’re currently expecting minus 20 and below.

As usual, my family celebrated Slovak Christmas on the 24th, English Christmas on the 25th and then Ruthenian Christmas on the 6th of January (their New Year’s Eve was this Wednesday).

Finally, I have a Land Rover – a Discovery Mk2 TD5. I’ve wanted a Land Rover since I was a toddler, albeit a LWB Defender, but Discovery was always my second choice. Because of what I actually need it for, the Discovery seemed a much better idea. It’s taking a bit of getting used to – when I’m driving I’m half shaking with nerves and half grinning from ear to ear – as I’ve been driving a low powered saloon for the last 6 years. I still can’t believe I’ve finally got one, and it’s mahoosive.

Just getting the car was an adventure in itself (buying a  car or house out here can be problematic to say the least) and saw me taking a long pre-dawn bus ride through small bush towns and through snow draped countryside, dealing with scary dodgy blokes in big cities, going from police station to police station… but I finally got it. Just need to change the clutch now.

Today, after returning on isolated bush roads from Bardejov, where the boys and I went to buy a new stereo for it, I got to see just what the Discovery is capable of. I hit a  bad patch of ice coming out of a sharp bend and the car slid this way and that with me fighting to rectify it and slow it down. I really thought it was going to flip and then go crashing down a hillside into trees but i managed to swing/slide it across the road into a steep, snow filled ditch on the other side. We came to a stop, in shock, nose facing downwards and with the right rear wheel up in the air. Having come off icy and snowy roads into ditches in several different cars over the years out here, i suddenly realized that the Discovery is way too big to be pulled out by the average passing car and would need a tractor from a nearby village some several kilometres walk away. And then I thought why not see what it can do? I told the boys to stay in the car to weigh their side down and then I put it into low and reversed. It did so, without any effort whatsoever.

I was stunned.

The Discovery reversed on 2, maximum 3, wheels, out of a deep, steep, snow filled drainage ditch. I put it back into high and, with heart still pounding, we drove carefully home on the icy and snow-covered remote roads through the hills. I’ve had way too many adventures with it over the last two days to fill me for a while. For now, I’m content to just watch it from the window.

I’m hoping that this year is a good one and will bring some positive, forward, momentum. And money 🙂