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Night of the Beast

I awoke the following morning, asked for directions at the village petrol station, and cycled the 20km or so into the nearest town. Sweden immediately felt much friendlier and less shy than Finland, with people asking where I'd come from and where I was heading to. Finding a bookshop, I bought maps, sat in a cafe having breakfast and planned my route down to Stockholm. Much of the cycle was through lovely Swedish countryside - a really beautiful route through green, mossy forests, rolling countryside with old wooden farmhouses, and past still lakes.

I'd now passed four run over snakes, three of which were poisonous black adders, on the trip so far, which, in addition to Carita previously warning me about all the dangerous animals I might just be lucky enough to encounter in Scandinavia's wilderness (bears, wolves, lynx, wolverines...) was giving me pause for thought about camping at night. There was of course little other choice, however, so as darkness fell I found a field and camped at the bottom of a valley.

I lay in the tent trying to fall asleep as things rustled around outside. This was fairly normal, but as the rustling became louder and closer I began to wonder if it was rats looking for food. Often, lying in the darkness in a field with nothing between you and the outside world but a nylon sheet it's easy to feel threatened but I tried to put these thoughts out of my mind, rolled over, and tried to get to sleep. By now I could hear the footsteps getting closer - obviously it was a larger animal outside, and I felt my legs going tense with nerves. Suddenly, it was right outside the tent, right next to me, and began sniffing the tent itself. I shouted out a growl to scare it away, hoping it was possibly a deer, but it didn't move. Instead, it stopped sniffing, paused for a few seconds, then answered me back with a loud, aggressive snarl. I froze, and was just about to fill my pants with terror, when, after another few seconds, I heard it's footsteps as it ran off.

I was very tired from cycling all day and I really didn't want to pack things up and move elsewhere. I wished I'd remembered to bring my Swedish sim card as my phone wasn't working at all if I needed it. I went outside, had a look around, and tried to calm myself down. It was pitch dark by now, and the stars were shining brightly in the sky. A fog had fallen in the valley, giving the place a spooky appearance so I got back into my sleeping bag, and once again tried to sleep. Quickly, the rustling footsteps came back. I made lots of noise and flashed my camera to try to scare them away but they never left for long. After another thirty minutes I decided that I had to move.

Exhausted, and really just wanting to sleep in peace, I packed up the tent and my bags, got on the bike, and cycled up towards a farmhouse I'd passed on the way. The fog was so thick that I could hardly see anything as my headtorch lit up the air in front of my face, making me feel even more nervous. I wondered if I should just keep cycling and get well out of the area, but it was so dark that finding another place to camp would be almost impossible, so I put the tent up close to the main road and the farmhouse, thinking that the occasional traffic might keep whatever it was away.

As I pegged the tent out and unrolled my sleeping bag I heard the snarl again and again. It seemed about 300 metres away from me, back down towards the valley. Even though I grew up in the countryside it was a sound I'd never heard before. Once again, I climbed into my sleeping bag, and finally managed to get to sleep. In the morning when I cycled off I noticed the number of the bus service on the local bus stop. 666

Here's a recording I managed to make of the animal mp3 456kb, which Carita reckons was either a wolverine or a lynx (leopardsetc.com sound sample)


Sounds like Pandy (our cat) coughing up a furball mate :-)

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