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Published: November 20th 2008
Rhodoppis in the background
The shiny, silver metal drill bit pushed against my right leg, pressing into the skin just below my knee, and the burly Bulgarian doctor turned his face to me and cheerfully said:
'Radio, Musica? Yes?' Bulgaria - March 1997
Looking around the room at the cracked paint, the box of tools of on the floor and its wide window with a view of the crisp blue sky and the tops of the dusty mountains, i was suprised to see a small radio next to me.
'Why not? OK.' i agreed.
You dont argue with a man built like this guy, especially when he has a drill positioned against your shinbone and is ready to drill a hole through your leg.
The nurse walked around and clicked on the tiny plastic brown box that was the radio. Like the television in the soldiers' sentry post where i spent the night last night, there was no need to tune it in - there was only one radio station and only one television channel in Post-Communist Bulgaria.
The theme tune music of a 1970's sitcom squeeked out of the radiobox and I took a deep breath as 'Doctor Buit-like-an-Ox' began to
drill a hole through my leg.
The pain at first started on the skin like the familiar pinching feeling of a piercing. I knew it was coming and breathed out to breath the pain away.
Doctor Ox had explained what he needed to do to me - make a hole in my leg and weights off the end of my leg to take the pressure off my smashed pelvis.
Ok i said. What needs to be done must be done.
Then he explained that there were no pain-killers in this hospital.
But we could go down to car park of the pizza restaurant in the town centre where a guy with a red Skoda may have some we could buy.
No thanks - It had been a weird enough week already and my friends weren't about to start a dodgy drug deal with a member of the local mafia.
The high pitch whining of the drill lowered as it entered my shin bone.
The ache became more like the uncomfortable, inner body grind that you feel in the dentist chair.
With the tinkling music and the growl of the powertool shooting deep into my leg, i turned my head and looked out of the window at the mountain range in the distance, trying to see the white snowy peak of the mountain that was to blame for all this.
Golyam Perelik was responsible for all this. Responsible for me queueing in the grumpy Bulgarian Embassy in London, responsible for me flying to Bulgaria, eating stewed pigskin, being stuck in a remote hut for days on end, driving ex-soviet tanks, snowboarding in heavenly powder and facing freezing death before being dragged to this blown-out, broken down 5th floor hospital room to have an ox of a doctor hang weights from my leg with easy listening playing in the background.
But i couldn't see Golyam Perelik. It is the highest peak in the Rhodoppi mountain range that seperates Greece from Bulgaria and at 2,191meters, the peaks are low and rolling, with almost graceful, feminine curves and peaks, unlike the great thrusting, phallic Alps, further north in Europe.
Perelik hid herself from view as the Doctor Ox threaded a shiney silver wire through the hole below my knee and the weights began to gently tug on my leg.
How did I end up here?
Well, it all began with a map...
part 2:Dead Leg II - Map to a Secret Snow Paradise
Smolyan, Bulgaria, 1997.
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