My children have always been disappointed that they haven’t been able to scare me. Hiding behind doors and leaping out, or creeping up behind me and then jumping on me has no effect.
But I admit to having been a bit scared tonight. Soon after 11pm I decided to go for a walk around our pretty much deserted campsite, planning to wander down to the riverside. As I walked past a raised earth bank, I heard a rustle and what I thought was 2 exhaled breaths from the belt of trees just beyond (see photo above taken later). My immediate thought was ‘Wild Boar’ - or 'Sanglier' as the French call it - and I stopped and listened, but there were no further sounds.
Had I imagined it? I knew that I had to check it out, just in case, so I proceeded to slowly walk up onto the top of the bank, quietly making my way step-by-step along the level and grassy top. It was almost completely dark, so I jumped when I disturbed a large animal in the wood right next to me. There was a loud rustle of leaves and I heard the sound of its feet as it crashed through the undergrowth to my right. It was obviously much too heavy and cumbersome to be a deer.
I stood stock still in the darkness, and waited. Eventually, I heard the sound of the animal about 25m to my right. I cupped my hands to my ears, magnifying the sound of the rustling leaves and snuffling. That was pretty awesome, but it became particularly scary when the Wild Boar, for that’s what it obviously was, slowly made its way back close to where I was standing. I stood there, my heart pounding in my ears, tempted to retreat, but determined that I would remain there whatever….though I had no idea what ‘whatever’ might be! Wild Boar are said to be potentially dangerous, especially when alarmed. The French sometimes hunt them with dogs kitted out with Kevlar vests, so I felt particularly vulnerable dressed in a light shirt and shorts!
The animal must have been less than 10 metres away from me now. I couldn't see a thing, but I could hear it snuffling and blowing, together with the sound of the saliva in its mouth as it chomped away, cracking acorns from time to time. I felt a real sense of numinous awe…a feeling of the unknown as I waited just a few metres from this strange beast, imagining its heavy bristly frame and large tusks. Any moment, I expected it to suddenly walk right up to me or, worse still, rush at me with tusks bared…but I persuaded myself that it’s this kind of wildlife encounter that I dream of, and so I forced myself to stay where I was, though it was all I could do not to turn and beat a hasty retreat!
It truly was the scariest quarter of an hour of my life.
Was it a convenient excuse to decide to slowly back away and then hurry off to fetch my DSLR and video camera...at least to try to record these amazing sounds for posterity? Probably, if I'm honest. Back at the flat I reassured Carole that I would be ok, with more outward confidence than I actually felt. But I did return...only to find the Monsieur le Sanglier had moved on. Nothing moved, except the massive 9" toad pictured below, a grotesque alien shape in the half-light of a lamp.
I returned to the flat and wrote up the experience in my notebook, my hands still shaking with the buzz of it all!