We’d met Rick from Germany on his much modified BMW R100GS just east of Kansk when we’d stopped to remove a broken chain-guard from Alan’s bike (mine had broken in the same way several days before). The roads were now a combination of sand, gravel and mud but we were still averaging around four hundred miles per day and should actually reach Irkutsk ahead of schedule, ……. unless it rains.
I rode into the forest in search of a rough campground before returning to the road and leading Alan and Rick towards a good piece of land about half a mile from the road where we’d be totally out of sight. (Rough camping, even here in Siberia, is best done well away from the attention of others). We collected wood from the forest and quickly started a ‘smoky fire’, which helps to keep the giant man-eating mosquitoes away, before pitching tents and turning our talents to cooking. We eat pasta and fresh bread washed down with beer and freshly squeezed cok (fruit juice) that we’d purchased a few hours earlier from a roadside vendor. Being careful not to let any of the local wildlife join us, it’s almost 1am and still light when we damp down the fire and climb into our separate tents to sleep.
That night we had our first, and hopefully last, encounter with the Russian Black Bear. It’s something that we’ve joked about since leaving Volgograd but had never really expected to happen. At first I heard and felt the movement of a large animal, ….. followed by the sound of heavy breathing just behind my tent. It was taking its time, moving slowly around the camp, .. sniffing and prowling, probably intrigued by what it had found. For a good ten minutes I lay still and silent, watching it’s silhouette against the wall of the tent and trying to remember what the difference was between Black and Brown Bears, ….. which one climbed the tree to eat you and which one just knocked the tree down down to eat you?. Eventually, and thankfully, it lost interest in the three malnourished travellers and went off in search of tastier treats.
In the morning I’d expected both Alan and Rick to laugh at my story, ….. but they’d been awake, they’d heard and seen the same things and had been just as terrified as myself. It’s great that we’ve encountered the famous Siberian Bear, …… but unless all future bears are wearing blue duffel coats, … then I hope it’s an experience not to be repeated.