Boris and Me by Sandra Walker
So there we were, my husband Robin and I, cycling down the coast of a still-knit-together Yugoslavia, when the wind began to blow. Ah, said some friendly Italians in a camper as they shared a bit of their roast rabbit with us, it's the Bora, the north wind. It will blow for at least three days.
Winds are the bane of a cyclist's life. There is a law which states that the wind will nearly always blow in your face, its strength in inverse proportion to the steepness of the hill you are toiling up. Only rarely will it blow from behind you, and that will be when you are going downhill and approaching terminal velocity. Even more, mountain winds cannot always make up their minds which way to blow, and the Bora gleefully surprised us from all quarters.
All that day we battled the wind, hoping the Italians were wrong. Boris, as we now called him, swooped around us, one minute behind, scooting us along too fast for comfort, the next batting us sideways towards the sea with mindless malevolence. With cliffs towering up on the left, the land dropping vertically to the sea on the right, and frequently nothing in the way of safety railings between a cyclist and perdition, we chose to ride on the left-hand, the wrong, side of the road. Buses hooted at us, unaware that their slipstream could knock us over the edge; motorists waved us kindly towards the abyss.
Round one particularly savage corner, I came to a dead stop, the wind like a wall ahead of me. Robin was out of sight so I got off, holding the brakes tightly, but even so Boris blew me backwards against the rocks. My bicycle ended up on top of me. I couldn't move an inch, so I concentrated on the fact that while I was pinned to the cliff like a butterfly in a glass case, I was in no danger of being blown into the sea far below.
When Robin came back to the rescue, we decided enough was enough. There was a small town ahead called Karlobag, easily as pretty as its name. We would surely find a safe place there to camp for the night and wait out the wind. We were to learn a few more things about Boris.
For Boris was not a wind as one understands winds. Boris was a katabatic wind. He did not blow. He fell. And because he fell, there was no shelter from him. We stopped behind a barn, and he came over the top and fell onto our heads. Like a great mass of cold water falling down a mountain he flowed into every corner, every crevice, and sure as hell round, over, under and through every puny tent in his way.
We found what, without Boris, would have been a sheltered camping spot - tucked into the corner made by the high wall of the road into town and a sturdy building - and went in search of food. For some reason there was no bread in Karlobag. We had to pay and they gave us a ticket for the following day. So we dined on dishwater and marbles (hearty soup and dumplings on the packet), followed by a mixture of green peppers (flat tin with a key - wouldn't you think that was sardines?) and coffee with baby formula. What with one thing and another, hunger, Boris doing his damnedest to rip our tent from its moorings, and the expectation of being cast shivering into a wet night, we did not sleep like babes.
So hungry the next morning we could have chewed the guy ropes, we galloped down to redeem our bread ticket, and got a lump of yellowish cake. Qu'ils mangent ... You couldn't cut it - it crumbled to bits and we ate most of it with a spoon. It must have been a Karlobag special, because we got decent bread elsewhere. Hungry as we were, three days of it was a bit much. Three whole days. I wonder if whoever said, 'Time expands' was marooned in Karlobag at the time.
The Italians had been right. Boris was still with us two days later, but by then we'd had enough: of Boris, of Karlobag, of crumbly cake. We packed up and headed south. Boris tried to blow me into a ditch - a last ditch effort? - but I was ready for him, and he gave up and let us go.
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