Medieval pilgrims had two saints looking out for them, St John (Jakob) and St Roch (Rochus). Me too, except mine are named Stefan and Rothko. The good news is that I’m alive, nothing is broken, and I have my wallet and passport intact.
Here’s the bad news. I was walking the section from Zvikovec to Liblin (which you now have my permission to bus around until they get this track rerouted). Already, coming out of Chlum, the track had made a very steep (steps required but not universally installed) descent to the Berounka and (pull yourself up by the tree roots) ascent. The next descent started off typically, then the track ducked into a wood and became both unmarked and poorly maintained. I was trying to match up my gps track with the faint and intermittent traces I was seeing on the ground. Meanwhile the slope was becoming steadily steeper; lots of side-slipping and fetching up on well-rooted trees. Suddenly the trail and the ground under my feet disappeared. So this was an uncontrolled, on-my-butt, slide down a forested ravine, about 15 feet I would estimate, something like a 60 or 70 degree slope. This left me messy but functioning at an almost-dry brook. The gps track and the faint traces on the ground led up the other side, so I climbed up a bit and then the ground gave way a second time for another 15-foot slide, back to the brook. The brook channel started looking like the safest route, and I could see the river below me. So I was successfully following it, until I came to an almost dry waterfall, about 8 feet. Somehow I managed to pick my way down it with no further slides and reached the river bank.
My heart sank when I realized I was trapped by the riverside. The rock walls came down to the river both upstream and downstream. The only way out was going to be by boat. Meanwhile, although I was thoroughly scraped up on the extremities, there didn’t seem to be any medical emergency.
No head contact at all, nothing deep enough to require stitches.
Let’s see what my options are here. I could call home in the US, have them relay my gps coordinates to the Embassy in Prague … That could take a day or two. I could call my new friend in Vienna, get her to contact Czech emergency services in English … That wasn’t sounding promising either. My host last night spoke English pretty well, had boats, and I had his phone number in my guidebook. Could I get the iPhone to make a local call? Yes!
As it turned out, he was the head of the local fire and rescue unit. It required the remainder of the afternoon, all the way to sunset, to get found (river makes many bends and don’t ever underestimate the value of having an article of day-glo orange clothing to wave around) first by the on-foot team and then by the boat squad. Then his wife, who just happened to be a nurse, did a fine job of soap and water wash, Betadine scrub, and dressing application. Then they fed me dinner and tucked me into bed. Truly I am lucky to be in one piece and have connected with such caring people.
I’ll be here two nights, planning on bed rest and then seeing how comfortable and mobile I am. Best case is knocking off the rest of this week, bus-train to Germany and pick up walking there for two weeks. Worst case is changing air return to sooner, train to Paris to collect my luggage, then fly home.