On my return from the ascent, I passed four teenage urchins sitting by the side of the road opposite the shack. Their matted hair and grubby clothes suggested labourers on a break or the ingrained grime of the hopelessly impoverished. One asked me the time.
I heard no response to my answer. This was largely because my ears were blocked with wax and filled equally unhelpfully with the high-pitched cacophony of tinnitus. But some sixth sense compensated for the conventional one and I found myself wheeling around to find the whole feral pack lunging towards me. A hand circled my throat and I glimpsed a crude paint-encrusted knife in his grimy mitt. My elbow flashed out instinctively and caught him a glancing blow on his jaw while deflecting the blade away. I lurched onto the road putting a passing car between us before sprinting down the centre of the highway. But then… I noticed several figures ahead descending the slope of the hillside shack and fanning out across the road.
I was surrounded.
After several bad seconds, the scary scenario dissolved as quickly as it emerged. The figures ahead drifted away to some unrelated purpose, while the footsteps behind me receded into silence. Like a lazy pack of lion cubs looking for an easy kill, my opportunistic muggers had quickly given up on the slog of the chase. While flushed by my escape, it felt a bit too easy. A few minutes later, I flagged down a passing police car and made a perfunctory complaint. As muggers went, I told them, with a hint of disapproval, these were clearly bungling amateurs.