I live in the middle of nowhere. Well not literally, but close enough for a gal who grew up in a big, bustling city. The village we’ve moved to has 1745 people (1747, now!); we’re surrounded by forest and mountains, and from what I can tell more neighbours have cattle and horses in their backyards than I’ve ever seen before.
Our amenities in town include a bank, a teeny ‘grocery’ store that’s open from 7:30 – 12, and the Gemeindeamt. The Gemeindeamt is one of the most endearing things I’ve discovered about Austria so far, you have to register with your local town-ship when you move to the country and after doing so we received a letter in the mail from the mayor (including his available hours to chat!), and a cute little hardcover book with the history of our new home. Awesome-sauce! And that’s all there is for miles and miles. Oh, except the nightclub(!) that is ten minutes in the other direction – I have yet to go there as Boots isn’t a big fan of ye ol’ disco…
But I digress, there aint nothing around this little village, so in order to get groceries or a regular dose of human contact (and I use that term loosely as I can’t actually TALK to anyone yet) I walk to Wörgl – our nearest actual town. It’s just over a half hour away, down the mountain on a little road, through forests and over a river (a little longer on the way back with all the uphill-ness!). It’s a walk I enjoy thoroughly and now that I know which way I’m going (unlike the first attempt where I went the wrong direction and a subsequent hour out of my way), it’s easy as pie. BUT, it’s January and so the sun sets obscenely early and in order to ensure I’m not wandering up a mountain in the dark I’ve been uber-conscious to ensure I head back with plenty of time.
That is until yesterday.
I decided to treat myself for a coffee and a few cigarettes at a darling little café I’ve found and wile away the hours writing (yes – you can smoke inside some of these places! For fellow smokers, I’m sure you can understand my joy!). Well, I got extremely caught up in said writing and before I knew it, I looked out the tinted windows and saw that the sun was no longer shining through. Oops. I awkwardly asked for the bill, and high tailed it out of there.
The sun was just beginning to set and turned the sky a beautiful pink which complemented the blue and white mountains magnificently. I power walked up the road, out of breath and a little sweaty after the first two turns and then into dim forest; a little creepy, but I could still see and my not-so-trusty flashlight was at least providing a small, warm, yellow circle in front of me and hopefully deterring any cars that might have been driving down from hitting me. So far, so good. But, by the time I left the first patch of forest it was completely dark. And I don’t mean night-time in Toronto dark, I mean full-on countryside, no lampposts, no light to see your own shadow with, d-a-r-k. My heart rate way above where it should have been I barreled onward, anticipating the last patch of forest I had to go through and hoping that I wouldn’t pee myself with fear. Urination was avoided, but holy shit did that half a kilometer scare the bejeezus out of me; remember the old Disney Snow White movie, where she’s running through the forest at night and it’s all creepy trees with eyes, and branches reaching out to grab her? Well, that’s what it felt like. Every rustle, every twig snapping made my breath inhale sharper and I couldn’t get to the end of the path quickly enough – I didn’t quite run, but I sure speed-walked as quickly as my wee legs could carry me.
And there you have it – this gal who’s traveled all over the world, met a bear and a puma, hiked through and slept in various jungles and forests, is over the 30 year mark in age and has done some pretty adventurous things has nothing when it comes to walking alone through forests in the dark. Needless to say, I’m going to learn how to take the bus.