In August I had two weekends where I had days off to explore. Instead of staying in the city, cleaning the flat and getting organised like a sensible adult, I ran off to the hills. As on my previous adventures to San Michele, I got early morning trains from Porta Nuova, and got off wherever I desired.
There were two main difficulties in my adventures. First, I only had google maps to go on, which is clearly not designed for walkers, let alone walking in mountains. Second, even when I did know where I was going, I made mistakes. Thus I ended up walking along a busy dual-carriageway without a sidewalk two weekends in a row. The first weekend it was entirely my own fault. I had mapped out a day hike from Bussolino, heading south into the Orsiera Rocciavre Park and then east towards the next train station and Turin. I got off the train a stop too early, however.
As a result I was several kilometres further away from the park and on the wrong side of the motorway which cuts through the centre of the valley. Two and a half hours of my walk were devoted to trying to find walking paths, and when I did I re-planned everything. The first signs I found were ones I had seen often- signs for the Rome to Santiago pilgrimage trail. Following these I got further into the hills, where I finally found a map and some regional trails.
It was a pretty lonely journey, characterised by conversations with myself and the thigs around me. I talked to the trees, the flowers, the cows, even my camera. I walked and talked, wondering if this was a taste of the kind of loneliness people on long solo treks feel; a mixture of tranquillity and impatience for something unknown. My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a branch snapping. I froze. Whatever it was froze too. I stared into the trees, suddenly a lot more alert. There had been something moving, taking careful steps through the leaves which are already on the ground, heralding the turn of the seasons. It made the first move- a few more steps- and a very obvious pig grunt. The shadow I could see moving was a wild boar.
My experience with boars is pretty limited. I have fed them in our local wildlife park in Germany since I was a child, especially liking the small striped offspring they get in the spring. Whenever we talk about those boars, my granddad retells the story of when my sister threw the food we were giving them so forcefully, her bracelet went flying into the enclosure with it, which led to the wonderful image of a gown boar wearing a plastic bracelet around one stomper. The boar always made me nervous though. Boar can be aggressive- you never feed them like you would a horse, you always drop the food in the enclosure and watch from a safe distance.
So faced with a wild animal, no metal fence between me and it, I was not really sure what to do.
I don’t know if I thought to my few experiences herding cattle, or if the Junior Ranger training in the Grand Tetons kicked in, in either case as soon as I realised it was a boar and that it was moving (in which direction?) I raised my arms and yelled at it. “I AM BIG AND SCARY!!!”
I was big and scary. It hightailed it, crashing through leaves and sticks, scrambling to get away as fast as possible. I took my chance and did the same, running up the trail, yelling. It must have been a hilarious image. Me- charging up a hill, backpack bouncing on my back, waving my arms, shouting: I’M BIG AND SCARY! I’M BIG AND SCARY!