THE sun hasn’t yet risen above the eastern Alpujarras. The air is cool and fresh on the slopes of Sierra de Lujar. I lock the van and clump off up a track that leads, eventually and hopefully, to a high and remote farmstead above the pine forests. Behind me, the Sierra Nevada – the highest peaks in Spain – lift themselves from blue shadows into the dawn sky. They fill me with expectation. It’s going to be a memorable day . . .
Around the second bend in the track, and probably less than three-hundred metres from the main road to Orgiva, I enter a clearing full of shapes. These grey and black shapes are moving in the half-light; they are grunting and blowing; trampling the undergrowth.
Wild boar. This should not be happening. Alarm and confusion. I have blundered from the real world into a land of horror fantasy. These primaeval beasts are the stuff of nightmares, aren’t they, not animals indigenous to a modern European country?
And they are, to a trotter, every bit as terrifying as the boars depicted in fiction: great pyramidal spines; tufts of coarse spiky hair; powerful shoulders; stiff tails; unearthly noises.
Still confused and alarmed, I merely stand there watching, though aware I have strayed into a dangerous and potentially fatal situation. The boars, their foraging interrupted, move briskly up the track and into the trees, how many I don’t know because I am too stunned to count – perhaps a minimum of twelve and a maximum of twenty, some medium-sized and the rest big. And big is big.
Again I am alone. Peacefulness. What do I do now: proceed through the forest or return to my van? I have disturbed a herd of wild boar and they have retreated to darker places. They have given ground. Is that how it works? Do wild boar seek the shadows rather than confrontation?
Thoughts racing. Last year a Guardia Civil officer was killed by a boar. Gored to death. That’s a policeman with a firearm and trained how to use it. I have a pair of telescopic trekking poles from the camping shop in Richmond and a French penknife.
But my decision is made for me, because I become aware that a large dark shape has detached itself from the herd and is drifting purposefully through the undergrowth to my right. Rearguard action.
It’s a shadow in the shadows and it halts behind a tree, perhaps twenty metres away. I can make out half a head and an ear protruding from the trunk. In other circumstances this might appear comical, like a child attempting to hide. But this is a wild boar protecting its herd, on its own turf, in its native environment – and it’s watching me.
I retreat down the track a few paces and cast a backwards glance. I see the boar turn and vanish into the undergrowth. That’s the last I see of it – but not the last backwards glance I cast before regaining the main road.
I toss my gear into the van. Still in a state of shock I wonder what to do next. A walk to the high farmstead is out. It’s still only 7.15am. But – and I know this isn’t particularly fashionable – I have a Plan B.
To be continued . . .
FROM WIKIPEDIA: Actual attacks on humans are rare, but can be serious, resulting in multiple penetrating injuries to the lower part of the body. They generally occur during the boars’ rutting season from November–January, in agricultural areas bordering forests or on paths leading through forests. The animal typically attacks by charging and pointing its tusks towards the intended victim, with most injuries occurring on the thigh region. Once the initial attack is over, the boar steps back, takes position and attacks again if the victim is still moving, only ending once the victim is completely incapacitated.