Bialowieza National Park 07/05/2016
To all those people who know Tracy well sit back and hear a story never heard before. Tracy was awake and out of bed with a cup of tea in her mitts at 3:30 in the morning and ready to go out walking. Why? To track down and hopefully see some of the few European Bison left in the wild.
We took a cross-country route across Poland and at last started to get a real feel for this country and what makes it tick. It is still grass, this place is covered in it and everywhere you look it is being mown, strimmed and collected by able-bodied men in cap-sleeve T-Shirts and an ever present fag. As you get closer to the Belarus border you will notice the cap falls off the T-shirt to be replaced by straight vest and medallion. It is like being back in my youth. The other amusing thing in driving around Europe is the place names that seem funny to us Brits. Here is one:
I’m doing my best to look like one
Once a centre for hunting this national park which straddles the border with Belarus is home to Wolves, elk, boars and the magnificent European Bison. These woolly wonders were hunted to extinction outside of zoos but since have been successfully reintroduced back to their ancient home. From the 54 held in captivityin the 1920’s they have now borne over 5,000 offspring with 650 here in this park of 1,200 Sq Miles. The park is the largest and most important remaining primeval forest that once stretched across the European Plain.
There are 3 ways to see the Bison here at Bialowieza; in the zoo, go on a three hour walking tour that leaves from the visitor centre every hour or leave one hour before sunrise with a private guide. We chose the latter. We should point out that the best time of year to see the Bison is in the winter and the worst time is August when they never come out of the forest to feed in the meadows.
The only real chance to see them is at sunrise when they leave the forest to graze for a couple of hours before returning to the cover of the woods. Do not bother with the normal walking tour as you will see diddly-squat. So at 3:45 we picked up our English speaking guide, Joanna and headed off to hunt Bison. Not Buffalo, especially those scrawny, flea-bitten Mozzarella giving things you get in Italy. These are Europe’s largest land animal and they are truly wild.
The first thing Joanna informed us was that it was foggy and we would struggle to find any of these land based giants.
Not good for spotting Bison
Before I forget; you have to use your own transport and so we were Bison hunting in an 8m long shed in camouflage evading white with blue stripes. Never mind we trusted Joanna and we were soon out of the van and walking through the fog in temperatures of -5°C. Our first stop near the town of Bialowieza revealed nothing, nor the second or third places we stopped at. By now the sun was up and although the fog was starting lift our chances of seeing Billy Bison were diminishing fast. We then saw what we thought were bales of hay but then through the binos we could see steam rising and knew we were on to something. Cautiously we approached and saw two young males sleeping in the morning sun.
Like all young men
Just like over-excited school children we followed our guide getting closer and closer until we were about 50m away. At this point they rose up and started to give us the eye. They were watched our every move before getting bored, having a bite to eat and then left back into the forest.
Only 50m of grass between us and the biggest animal in Europe
Watching us watching him
This is one of life’s best moments. Certainly the best experience we have ever had doing this motorhoming lark. Much better than any town, temple or mountain range. Unsurpassed. We also saw some birds
We also saw some deer.
And an Elk. For this you will have to zoom to see it. We could but then we had Binos
Look over the green bush
We also saw another Bison and beautiful forests and lakes. A truly memorable day and the pressure is now on to beat it. But don’t worry I have a cunning plan. We will leave you with some other photos we took.
On the Move
Love to All