I was a tired optimist, sitting in the rain on New Year’s Eve, looking for bears. It was the third day in a row where clouds covered the view from the hill, disabling me from doing anything but cooking food and eating. Every now and then, the landscape below would become clear, lighting new hope. But for the last days, nothing had been seen but a hummingbird that accompanied me for a few minutes by the tent.
The newly elected president of the village was my guide, and we were passing time by talking down on the president before him.
“He believed we are looking for gold up here”, I explained in halting Spanish.
President Edward laughed and said something that I, unfortunately, couldn’t understand, but it was clear he agreed about the ex-president’s failure.
“Donde! Donde!” (Where! Where!), I continued, gesticulating with my arms. “It is just raining here”.
But he was celebrating New Years down in the village, and a couple of hours I was sitting under the shelter alone, cooking a beetroot stew. The rain had finally stopped and I could almost feel a little bit of sunshine warming my hands. In ten minutes, the fireworks would be lit back home in Europe. I scanned the landscape, and finally, I had a bear for New Years! It was walking up a hill, digging up roots and foraging on plants. I watched the bear until the last rays of sunlight were gone from the valley, and then returned to my cooking. Everything was burnt to ashes, but I didn’t it mind much – it was my second dinner anyway.
My first New Years Eve dinner
However, the rain fell upon me again quicker than the night. It was cold, and I had nothing else to do than to crawl down into my sleeping bag and study Spanish. I was already looking forward to the next New Years Eve, to celebrate it with Julia and Lima. I missed them.
The New Years Eve bear – seen 23.55 2016 – 00.20 European time!
I called Julia to talk before I would go to bed. As the first signal came through, the outside of the tent lit up from a quick moment. “Hi Wille,” Julia said on the other end of the line. I held my breath, wondering if someone were standing outside my tent.
“Hi Juli,” I said in a low voice. “I miss you”.
I explained what just had happened. While on the phone I looked out of the tent, rejecting the idea that someone was there. But as I went inside the flash of light came back. But it wasn’t a person, it was lightning.
At first, I was relieved by this insight – a person shining a torch on your tent from the outside while you are all alone on a mountain could have been plagiarized from a horror movie. But on the other hand, sleeping on the top of a bare hill under a thunderstorm is anything but safe.
I had to make a decision whether to walk down to the village or not. Once the storm comes, if it comes, it would be too late. I started packing my sleeping bag and camera, prepared to leave the tent and my other things behind. But then the rain lightened again. I stopped packing and looked at the barometer on my watch. No storm warning had been signaled and based on that I decided to stay. Instead, I started packing my electronics. My camera, the phone, the tripod, the lenses, batteries, the drone. I took it all and dumped it under the shelter 20 meters away to at least be as unlikely to be struck by lightning as possible. Then I laid down in my sleeping bag again to get warm again, and it didn’t take more than seconds to fall asleep.
I woke up with head ache and a sore throat. I couldn’t see a thing in the tent, so it was obviously still night, I reasoned. I had to urgently drink something. “Shit – I must have missed the New Year to call Juli” I thought. I lit my watch. It was 23.59 – there was still time. I called her up and we wished each other, and ourselves, good times.
I wish all of you readers a good New Years as well! Hope it will be a year with lots of wildlife and adventures for all of us!