Dobra

Nick had told me
about the Dobra Valley
how no one had ever gone down it
and come out alive
how he had tried by himself
a few years previously
how close he’d come
to starving
during an epic escape
he needed a chum
so down we went

we had ropes
supplies
training
but the first big challenge
was a waterfall
way taller than our ropes
we picked our way
down the side
hundreds of metres
of scree
one false move
and pfft

after that we were committed
neither of us imagining
we could go back up
so on we went
after some nosh
and bravado

the valley narrowed
there was time
for photos
so we thought
but the river dissappeared
around a bend
between vertical walls

it was hard to choose
but we swam

stupid

the rucksac took me under
should’ve taken it off
there was not enough strength
to get back to the surface
as my breath gave out
he hauled me up
by the scruff of the neck
and there I was
worrying about another waterfall
beyond that bend

both of us scared
and exhausted
we forced our way on
down a broadening valley
at one point seeing
human footprints
our eyes always craning upwards
for any possible escape
the sun dipped low

the walls narrowed again
water quicker
blacker
another bend
we both knew
we were not going to make it
not this time

we backtracked
feeling desperate
but there
in the failing light
we saw a barn
way up high
that had to be an escape

forcing through brambles
heaving steep and loose
scrabbling up moss
it was night
by the time we flopped
over a little wall
into a meadow
we laughed and cried
with relief
the little cabana
would have a loft
full of straw
we could sleep in

a bull

yes a bull
came to have a look
it pawed the ground
tossing its head
just like a cartoon
my last bit of adrenaline
sped my wobbling legs
over to the barn

I looked back
to see how Nick was getting on
he sat where I left him
the bull bellowed
but Nick bellowed back

“FUCK

OFF!”

to my astonishment
it did

after a night of space-blankets
shivering
dehydration
blood-loss
and straw beasts
nibbling at us
we hitched back to our base
the local Guardia Civil
were surprised to see us
having told everyone
that the last two people
to give it a go
had never returned

Hughie, Dobra Valley, 1989