It was just another day of my stay in Grenoble, a city in south-eastern France, at the foot of the French Alps. I downloaded a trail onto the GPS and was off to the mountains. A 30km solo mountain ride with 40% climb, 5% flat and rest downhill. I slowly pedalled higher on loose soil and gravel. It gets exciting as for any hiker after a certain altitude, the views become fantastic, untouched nature, chirping birds flowing stream and so on. This trail to the vencors just outside the city of Grenoble was challenging but was extremely rewarding. The trail gradually took me to middle of nowhere as I always wanted. I stopped by a beautiful lake to get some rest and refresh. It was clear and still, I could see the perfect reflection of snow capped mountains and the sky. I didn’t have the slightest idea of the passing time.
It was around 7.30pm, I was still on the mountains. The sunlight was fast fading, along with the thick cover of the deep woods and cloudy sky made it darker than I expected. Animals get quite homely as the night falls and at this altitude I should have realised that things can get a bit overwhelming. I moved on and now the ride turns even more interesting as I find a fresh carcass of a deer. I made sure that I still have my knife under the seat. My notion that European woods are safe with no aggressive carnivores turns out to be false – [panic level -10%]. Now just before writing this blog, I googled “wolves grenoble”. Holyshit! they are there and there have been in the news for killing cattle.
I constantly hear something moving in the cover of the thick bushes. I learned not to panic by telling myself that they were harmless rabbits or squirrels or rats and probably I was true, but not all the time! The setting sun, roosting birds, cloudy sky made me feel uncomfortable especially the fresh carcass of the deer. I had absolutely no help to reach out – no mobile network, dying gps and bad weather just like another creepy Hollywood movie. I was not enjoying the downhills for I was already was in panic as it started to rain and temperature dropped [panic level -40%]. The trail was getting more difficult and technical for a beginner like me. The downhill gradients were far beyond what the traction could help me stop. Clumsily I made my way hoping huge boulders and slippery roots. While traversing the second rocky incline I freaked out beyond what words could explain. It was not a boulder or the huge drop I had to jump, I heard something barking and grunting[panic level -90%]. All I could say was this time it’s no puppy and there were no hikers or dogs nearby. I didn’t even have to courage to look back, I pedaled harder while trying the best not to fall off the mountain. I ran out of luck as the terrain got rockier and slippery. The bike took a hit and I was thrown off the bike on to the rocks. Helmet saved my ass!(not literally) Bike fell in the incline. I have been already pumped up by the brutal grunt, all I had to defend was a knife which was placed under the bike seat. I jumped into the incline with no second thoughts and as I rolled down the incline I managed to get hold of the bike and we dragged along together for short distance. Meanwhile I frantically searched for the knife. I hear swift footsteps but see nothing. I knew that I had no other option than to face it. Discovery channel comes in use as I remember from a documentary, be it a dog or a wolf if you run it will trigger the predatory instinct and it will hunt you down. I clanged on to the knife formulating an attack strategy[panic level -100%]. As I waited my arms and legs felt tied up and powerless. I did notice the soiled bleeding wounds but they were numb and I had no pain. The sound vanished but I was still pessimistic. Thoughts like wolves hunt in a pack, foxes are shy and boars can charge for no reason etc. flashed. The situation turned less intense, I stuck the knife on a root and untangled the bike and fixed the chain. I was ready to continue down the mountain. I felt like being watched, trust me that feels bad – very bad in the stomach! I tucked the knife in the glove and started the descend. The trail was challenging and exactly what I wanted, for a man being watched by wolves it’s no pleasure. I maneuvered rocks faster than I should have or the suspension could have handled, inevitably falling down several times.
Finally the sight of tarmac was such a relief! Now I had the peace of mind to estimate the damage. Bruises were nothing compared what it could have been :). Well, now when I look back it was a real adventure and I want to do it again but probably with little more safety gear, flares and wolf fighting lessons from YouTube 😀 – YOLO (you only live once).