Cycling downhill on tarmac, cold and fast. Tom and Joe are ahead somewhere; I am alone.
Suddenly 2 dogs the size of small ponies leap out at me, barking ferociously, snapping at my heels, tugging at the back of my bike, getting in front of my wheel. Snarling growling, eyes hungry, they mean business. I stop, raise a threatening arm – but these are the tough guys, they aren’t fooled or daunted by my posturing – and as soon as I’m back on the bike they’re at me again. This time they pull my bike to the ground! I’m furious, yelling, kicking, shocked by the nastiness and bigness of these creatures who will not let me past.
I escape, legs and bags intact…. But a few hundred meters on, it happens again! This time there are 4 of them, a little smaller but just as nasty and just as intent on not letting me pass. They are in front, behind, on both sides. I’ve never been afraid of dogs but there’s a first time for everything. I’m angry now and determined to be on my way. I scoop up stones and begin hurling them at my attackers, meeting violence with violence. Another first.
I used to quite like dogs. That was before I travelled through South America by bicycle. Now, although I may retain respect and even affection for a few individuals, I have to say that they as a race do not endear themselves to me.
The ferocity of south American dogs has to be seen to be believed. It’s not unusual to be surrounded by a group of 5 or 6, barking defeaningly, jaws slavering, lips curled back in a growling snarl, eyes alight with evil intent. They are way, way meaner than the Central American dogs and take their guard-dog role in life far too seriously. Tom says it’s cos they are better fed; he may have a point there, as the sickly skeletal animals in Central America were heart breaking. Whatever. These are dogs with attitude.
As I say, I’ve been pulled all over the road when they’ve gotten hold of my panniers, and even pulled off my bike. In Colombia I was bitten! I’d had a mouth to my heel a time or two before – thankfully on days when I was wearing shoes rather than sandals – but this was a full on, deliberate, whole jaws around my ankle closed mouth crunch. My leg hurt for hours and I had multiply broken skin from the brute’s teeth, and bruising. Then in Peru, Tom got bitten – and he wasn’t even riding his bike, but standing in the street looking for a tienda! Nice thigh bruise. Nasty experience.
I have it on good authority that the dogs of Chile have an entirely different attitude and are actually friendly and adoring! Bring it on.