The group spends the next two days hiking through the forests of Silesia, using only the sun to navigate by.
They make fair progress during this time – fair, but not excellent. The forest is not vast – rather it seems to be a strip of land remaining wooded varying from one to two miles wide. Quite often they find that they need to doubleback on the route to avoid leaving its confines and on several occasions carefully have to cross some roads running north to south as well as taking care to avoid some small villages cut from the forest. On occasions, Bob who is scouting ahead, drops and frantically signals for everyone to get to cover as he spies someone on the path. Fortunately, however, they are just local Silesians and there are no signs of any Nazis out here in the middle of nowhere.
As they continue, they look for anything that may be edible. The forest proves to be less than bountiful, however, as they find little more than berries to supplement their fast diminishing stocks from the Red Cross Parcels.
By the end of the second day, the party members are starting to get irritable. The bikes have been slowing them down and are heavy to push. To make matters worse, the weather that had been fine since they left Stalag VIIIB breaks mid-afternoon and so it’s starting to drizzle. It seems as if this journey has taken forever, even though they estimate that they are probably covering less than a dozen miles per day.
It’s late in the afternoon now and there is plenty of talk of ‘ditching the fucking bikes’ when Bob signals to everyone. They know the drill now having done it more than half a dozen times already. But then they see that Bob is beckoning the others to some up and join him. Leaving the bikes where they are, they cautiously come up to join him.
“Looks like we have run out of forest now,” he says.
The others looks around too in the fast disappearing light and see that he is right. They are at the end of a wooded peninsula with open fields and buildings in the distance. Just 50 yards away, however, is a small cottage in a small compound which also contains a barn. They can also hear the occasional clucking of chickens.
Lodd’s eyes go all dreamy.
“Barn with roof,” he says. “No rain. Soft hay for to sleep on. Roast chickens and fried eggs.”
“Not so fast, Lodd,” Piotr says. “The cottage is in good condition. It does not look abandoned. And, as I said before, we cannot trust any of the Silesians not to turn us into the Germans.”
“I agree that we should exercise caution,” Bruce says, as usual.
“Let’s just keep watch on the place for a while,” Bob says.
As twilight falls, Piotr’s hunch was right, as a dim light comes on in the cottage. Someone is in there.
“We just need to wait here until we see the lights go off,” says Bob. “Then hopefully we can sneak in the barn. As long as we are away again early, they should never know we were here.”
The wait seems to take forever, especially in the rain which has increased in force drenching everyone despite the forest cover. But after a few hours, the lights in the cottage eventually go off. They all wait another 15 minutes in the hope that the occupant or occupants are now asleep.
“I’ll check it out,” Bob says. “Cover me.”
With the others all covering the cottage, Bob stealthily enters the compound, scuttling among the trees. Silently he opens the gate to the picket fence and tiptoes to the barn. With relief, he finds the door is open. He gestures to the others to come – one at a time.
One by one they follow Bob’s route to the barn until they are all safely inside the barn with Piotr, the last to arrive, silently closing the door behind him.
Sure enough, there are chickens here. Wringing their necks will probably start them squawking, but there everyone is able to get a day’s worth of food in eggs from them. Fried eggs will have to wait for another day though as they are afraid to start a fire inside the barn for fear of waking the occupants of the cottage. Instead they eat more of the rations from the Red Cross Parcels. It’s late now and they know they will need to get away early in the morning before the occupants of the cottage are up and so those not on watch go straight to sleep. The soft hay beneath them sure beats the forest floor and so they are asleep in an instant.