That time I had to punch a Wolf in the Face…
An excerpt my blog about cycling across Europe
I left Istanbul and headed for the coast and the weather was miserable. Visibility was poor and thick mist hung in the air covering everything with moisture. I quickly came to realise that i wasn’t as unfit as i had previously thought — just a little podgy round the middle. I was also reminded of the amazing hospitality of the Turks outside of the major cities. I was constantly invited into various homes for Cay or a meal and was often offered a bed for the night which i had to usually refuse because it was way to early to sleep.
Mechanics huddled round a stove beckoned me over to warm myself by the fire. Bakers would run out of the bakeries to offer me a seat by the oven and a small loaf of ‘ekmek’ (bread) for free. In return i would entertain them my story with help of a small globe and my digital camera loaded with photos from Europe. I would be asked if i was carrying a gun and after answering “No” i would be ‘tutted’ at. One baker offered me his rather fancy looking shotgun and after saying “no, but thank you” he asked “why?”. I told him that he needed it more than i did. Throwing his head back and laughing he walked over to several places in his shop and pulled out a series of guns of different sizes. I was told that most people along this stretch of coast were “packing heat like Dirty Harry” — something i would be very thankful for…
The days since leaving Istanbul have pretty much blended together but one day, or more to the point evening, has stuck in my mind more than any other. Below is an excerpt from my diary regarding this particular day.
‘At the end of a long days ride i passed through a small village and decided i need to grab some food and water as i was running low so I wandered into a local bakery to buy a loaf of ‘ekmek’ for that nights meal and was, as usual, asked to sit with the owner and drink Cay. The allure of a warm fire and the lingering scent of baking bread meant i couldn’t really refuse. After a 30 min conversation about my trip using a combination of sign language and small sketches in my notebook. Noticing that the light was dying i bid farewell and headed back to the bike. As i approached my bike i heard the one sound i hate when cycling — a growl.
I spun to locate the origin of the growl and noticed a large dog headed slowly in my direction. I did the usual trick of shouting loudly which usually sends the dog away. This pooch however didn’t even flinch. I shouted loudly and flung my arms to try and scare it. It had no affect. I decided to just jump on the bike and start pedalling to get away, after all the dog appeared to be limping and looked rather old so surely i could out run the thing. I began to pull the bike away from the wall it was leaning against, but this only angered the dog even more and it started to snap at me. As the dog drew nearer and nearer i started to grow nervous. I threw the loaf of bread i had in my hand past the dog thinking that that was what the dog was after. It barely took any notice at the free food.
The dog was growing nearer and i was stuck between a large wall and my bike and the only way out was towards the dog. Just when i was really starting to panic the angry canine jumped up and placed it’s front paws on my panniers and drew it’s head to the same height as mine so i was staring straight at it’s bared teeth. As the dog snapped at me wildly i duck and dived out of the way — several years of working with some quite dangerous birds at a local zoo has left me with fantastic reflexes. I managed to land a couple of well placed and timed ‘punches’ which i used to put a little distance between me and the snapping fangs.
From my right i heard a shout from the Baker. I quick glance showed that he and everyone from the local Cay cafe was watching. What weren’t they helping?! Surely they must see i need help! The baker ran back into his shop and returned with a shotgun. He fired a shot in the air. The dog flinched for a second but continued it’s attack moments later. The baker ran over and hit the dog in the back of the neck with the but of the gun. Nothing again.
Then it happened. A second shot rang out and the dog hit the floor. The baker had shot the dog. I stood for a moment in shock looking down at the now lifeless mutt. I looked at the baker who calmly broke the shotgun. A crowd gathered around; all eyes were on the dead dog.
I climbed out from behind the bike and sat on a large rock drinking Cay brought to me from a the owner of the Cay cafe. I was in shock, after all a dog had just been shot in front of me. As i sat replaying the event s of the last minute in my mind i saw a local farmer crouch, inspect the dog and mutter something to the nearest person. I can’t remember the exact word but everyones faces started to change from curious and jovial to confused and serious. The baker began telling me this word with a look of shock on his face. When they realised the word meant nothing to me (after being repeated for over 2 minutes) they jumped on the phone, spoke to someone and told me to sit and wait.
I sat looking at the the dog feeling sorry for the thing. I can’t bare to see any animal being killed and felt guilty that it had to die because of me.
Then a young lad came running from up the street. He was about 13 or 14 and spoke some english. He introduced himself in the text book way then began a conversation with the farmer. I look of shock grew over his face and he turned to me and said one word.
I felt the blood drain from my face. He pointed at the dog and repeated the word “Wolf”.
I questioned him “You mean ‘dog’?”
My eyes went from the boy to the crowd, who nodded and repeated the word “Wolf” and pointed at the lifeless animal. I was in shock. Had i really come literally face to face with a Wolf? Had i really been attacked by a Wolf and survived!?
That night i slept at an elderly couples home and they explained (through mime and pointing) that they believed the Wolf to have been elderly and due to it’s obvious injury and age, was pushed out from it’s pack and left to scavenge for food. Why it attacked me of all people i don’t know. I had seen children playing in the streets 30 minutes earlier and take some comfort in the fact that it was i, who could defend myself to some degree, that was attacked and not one of the kids.’