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Signposts (part 1)

It was a daunting sight. The ground of the forest was strewn with boulders, some the size of
cars, others as big as houses. Copses were growing on them, the pines sending their roots over the edges into the ground so that they looked like octopus arms gripping stony prey. Through the trees we could see the shining white rock where the whole mountainside had slipped.

"I'm cold," I moaned. "Let's go back to the hotel."

"You know this is our last chance." Mike stopped briefly to catch his breath. It was not only the cold and the rain beginning to seep through my jacket. From the moment we'd begun our walk, a nasty feeling had been dogging me. We shouldn't be here, not today, not in that weather.

"Let's give up. We won't find it in that rain."

Mike gave a dry laugh. "It's a flower for goodness' sake. They don't take it inside in bad weather."

We'd come to Switzerland because a botanist friend of Mike's had told him about rare orchids that grew around an old landslide near ...
... the village of Goldau. One particular variety was still missing in Mike's collection. The site was a natural reserve and the orchids on the list of endangered plants. Scientists from as far as Japan came here to study the flora. Like us, they were roaming the terrain. Not to mention the hiking families and classes on school trips.

Any moment we could bump into a bunch of people. For Mike, the possibility of getting caught only added spice to the adventure.

"Why can't you just take pictures like every decent collector?" I asked, pushing back my rain hood to see better. "If they find us out …"

"Then we'd better take care," Mike snapped back. "We've been through this. I've got my hobby, you've got yours."

I did Macramé, which was hardly comparable to travelling to various countries to steal their rarest plants. On the other hand he'd never actually forced me at gunpoint to go with him. I also loved the thrill, the wonder of discovery and the beautiful landscapes. Normally, not even bad conditions could diminish the joy of the hunt.

On this trip, however, the gods were not with us.
(To be continued)