Bear baiting

About two months ago now, I got bollocked by an over-equipped octogenarian at the top of a mountain in Yamanashi. There was a whole gang of them actually, already at the top of the mountain when I got there. A genki bunch they were too and, by the looks of it - what with stoves, cooking pots and condiments all about them - seasoned and skilled mountain-top feasters.

It was really nice of them to reach out across cultures and offer to share their food with me, and I gratefully accepted. Delicious it was too.

One of their number was sitting a little way from the others. In fact, at first I didn't realise he was with them. As I looked around for somewhere to sit, he udged up and beckoned for me to join him on his bench. We talked mountain stuff while we ate; the view, the weather, other great walks nearby, then a little about Scotland, where he'd walked some 50 years before... fascinating stuff and a real connection I thought I'd made... until we all got up to leave.

There was a rigmarole on the other side - packing away and strapping the cooking pots to one jolly fellow's backpack, and one kind-faced but overly-insistent old dear, forcing off the last remaining slices of stogey homemade sponge cake - but my neighbour wasn't in a rush. In fact, he was watching me... carefully. I was taking a last couple of photos and packing up my bits and bobs and shouldering my pack:

'Where's your bell?' He said.
'Bell? I'm not with you, mate.' I replied.
'Your bell... your fucking bear bell. Your bell for when you meet bears, you fucking idiot. You are so going to die on the trail, you fucking day-tripper.' I imagined he then said.

He might well have done; the way he was talking to me, the vitriol he suddenly spewed (and at a speed that lost me) and the way the others were all looking at me as he did so certainly made me feel like an idiot. Then suddenly they were all shaking their bells at me. It was a bit freaky to be honest... like an outtake from Cocoon 6: Asian Invasion or something.

Anyway, I made my excuses, thanked them all for their kindness and their guidance and shot off down the mountainside with my tail between my legs.

Within 24 hours, I was the proud owner of a bear bell... and, although I looked hard on the nearby racks in the outdoor store, I could not find the other type of bell I needed. The one to protect me from elderly, overly-equipped, busy-body, climber, zealots.




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