Camping in the firing line

Turns out wild/stealth camping during hunting season doesn’t prove for the most restful of nights spent in a tent.

About 20 minutes after I had finished eating my beef bolognaise and was about to start thinking of the first of several deserts and snacks I usually eat throughout the evening, I noticed several very powerful lamps in the field next to the woods that I was camping in.

I guessed it was probably hunters, ‘lamping’ for their quarry (dazzling animals with bright lights causing them to freeze, allowing you to get a clean shot at them).

After a while the lights seemed to diverge in several directions some I could see, others I watched flank my camp, then they all vanished.

A good hour or so passed, I daren’t make a sound. I couldn’t turn on my head torch or use my phone, watch, GPS tracker, iPad, or charging device…anything with a screen lights up my tent like a big green disco light in the woods.

Another hour or more passed and very heavy rain meant I couldn’t hear anything (if there had been anything to hear) but I figured if these guys were trying to catch deer, (I’d spotted deer tracks earlier and seen two run to the woods) then there shouldn’t be any sound to hear…they were waiting.

Very cautiously I unzipped my tent just a couple of inches, and peered at an angle through the opening so that there was little chance of their light catching my eyes. The lamps had gone only to be replaced by intermittent ‘firework night’ displays of semi-automatic rifle fire lighting up the sky either side of my camp.

I was already desperate for the toilet, but no chance. I would be stepping out of my tent to do so and as I’m not much taller than a roe deer, if my eyes appeared out of nowhere in the woods, there’s a good chance I would have been mistaken for a target!

Very hungry and tired from running 30 miles that day but wide awake all night…not fun.

The next morning I finally left my tent at day break and very slowly striking camp in a very tired state.  I came out of the woods and noticed a hunter’s hide about 40 metres around a bend. There was a track to the side of it that snaked behind the woods I was camping in and another hide across the field.

It was very scary and very stupid; I now make sure I check around the bend before I make myself comfortable!


Outrunning the Russian Mafia

My experiences with the Eastern European leg of my journey have been eventful to say the least. I have been persistently barked at and chased by crazy dogs, but have also been offered protection by an off duty Russian policeman.

It was on my second day in the beautiful country of Latvia, (which in my eyes has a huge resemblance to Exmoor) I was flagged down by a man. At first I was quite bemused as I had no idea what he wanted from me and as my Russian is non- existent and his English about the same, he eventually took out his police ID and I assumed for some reason, I was in for a telling off! This wasn’t the case, it turned out he was on off duty Russian policeman chasing Russian Mafia in Latvia!

After lots of miming and a long ‘conversation’ later, I understood that he was trying to tell me he thought I had a strong/good heart to run this way (I had run past him and his colleague a few miles earlier). He then warned that the Mafia were in the area and proceeded to give me the phone number for his station in Moscow and then his own personal mobile to use if I ever needed help whilst in Latvia.

He then kindly offered me a drink, but I still had 20 miles to run! I didn’t fancy the heartburn that Vodka would give me, I feel bad that I turned it down now!

Finally he pointed to his heart then mine and said ‘Maj sa dobre’. My understanding is something along the lines of ‘from my heart – be well!’

It did put the incessant aggressive dogs to the back of my mind for a while. It also made me run like had a rocket up my behind, I didn’t want to be trespassing on a field that belonged to the Mafia!