Sunday, 30 May 2010
Whenever anyone says i probably cant do something, why does it always make me more resolute to do it?!! Where does that come from?!! The gauntlet had been lain down by Harry last night suggesting Anita and i wouldnt make it today and the challenge must have been set subconsciously as i woke up this morning full of beans with feet raring to go! Having said that, i have felt like that a few mornings last week but it isnt until the ceremonious boot fitting happens until i realise that whilst most of the body and the mind are willing, the feet just arent co-operating!
This morning was different however and my feet felt the best they have done since day 1!! Whooohoooo!! Celebration!! We had a lovely breakfast, i had fresh blueberries and strawberries with my bran flakes as well as my poached egg and beans, so we were fully fuelled before walking down the lane to the bag drop stop where we unfortunately managed to completely interrupt Sally & Dave's cooked breakfast (SO SORRY!) whilst they so kindly squeezed both our bags into their sporty Audi TT boot to take on to our B & B in Tomintoul.
We strode on through Bridge of Nethy, agreeing to stop at the next hotel or cafe stop ..... but it never just arrived or materialised!! We walked and walked and walked and about 17 miles later, we still hadnt passed one single open place where we could stop for any sort of refreshments!!! Anita had a mild sense of humour failure around the 14 mile mark before having a second wind when she started jogging intermittantly to relieve the pressure off the soles of her feet!!!
I really must stay that we had the most delightful hostess Christine at our Strathallan B & B who absolutely couldn’t do enough for us! After a lovely breakfast, we nipped into Inverness to pick up some extra plasters and T-shirts and by the time we had hobbled back, Christine had the taxi waiting for us to get us to the beginning of our day’s walk which allowed us to miss all the Inverness streets & the beginning of the horrid A9.
As we got out of the taxi, the skies continued to cloud over and a few miles into the walk, the drizzle commenced followed by the pouring rain. In spite of our good start (in the taxi!), we really began to flag up the hills and our pace just got slower and slower. Anita’s pack wouldn’t sit comfortably and both our feet were still causing problems. We listened back to our BBC Radio 2 performance which went out today at 11.30am and hoped we didn’t disappoint anyone with our performance!! Anyway, it made us laugh, walking along the lanes in the Highlands, sharing the headphones in the teeming rain!!!
After a short rest stop at 6 miles, in a disused bus shelter, munching on an apple and an oatcake, we agreed to rejoin the A9 and see if we could get a lift to a lane a bit further down the road as we still had a long, long way to go….. We stood just near a lay-by and after sticking out a thumb for 15 minutes in the absolute pouring rain, Anita managed to chat up a Highways worker in a large white van, Ian, who was kind enough to take us right to the front door of our next B & B – The Boat House in Boat of Garten.
Our room was nice and again we were blessed with a lovely hostess and her cutie daughter Mena, baby rabbit and Poppy the dog! Anita and I have a lovely double bed tonight but having been camping buddies in Nepal, I think we will manage this challenge! (As we are both hardly able to move once we stop, I am sure we won’t be bumping into each other much in the night!!)
After lovely hot showers and hair wash, we wandered down to the local Boat Hotel, and ordered some fabulous hot bar food & wine and sat next to the crackling log fire for the next 3 hours watching the original steam engines go by!!!! Whilst snuggled on our big leather sofa, we idly chatted to a lovely couple SAlly & Dave from Dundee who were away for a night off from their 2 year old - in amongst the conversation they very kindly offered to take our bags on tomorrow to Tomintoul!!! How could we be so lucky to find another wonderful offering!! We celebrated with a 3rd (or was it 4th?!) wine and by that time needed to stagger up the lane again to get back for an ‘early night’!
On our return we got speaking to Harry our host here about our route tomorrow, and he thinks we might be overly ambitious thinking we can make it to our next B & B in one day even without our packs on!! We said we would sleep on it over night and assess the feet situation in the morning but if the weather is still terrible and our feet no better, then we may take him up in his offer to drive us to Tomintoul and then for us to do a circular walk around the local trails….. lets see what magic sleep can do ........
Friday, 28 May 2010
Thursday, 27 May 2010
A whole cooked chicken later - £3 bargain!! - i reached the B & B again after another quickstep shuffle! I have now made some alternative plans with HeadQuarters down south to get a bike brought up next week for me to make up some mileage up that way and give my feet a bit more time to recover! It arrives Tuesday with the children!
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
The options seem to me to be the following
- Carry on existing route - I have decided this is too dangerous
- Go home now! - this would be such a shame as i have everything booked and i am sure there is a better option!
- Re-route - possible option but i still have all the accommodation booked and would therefore need to get to each nights stop by a different & less direct walk and so i think the additional mileage would make this option prohibitive
- Travel to each destination by public transport and once checked in, walk from the B & B and do a scenic circular 'walk in the country' and that way i can decide on my mileage each day and still see a good deal of the local countryside (& possibly even more!) as it wont involve just seeing the main road!
I have therefore chosen option 4 and i will endeavour to cover as much mileage as possible at each place to equate to my previous planned distances getting from place to place....
It has been a hard decision to reach today and maybe not all the roads would have been this treacherous to walk along but planning this all in the safety of my office in St Albans, it was very difficult to visualise or know these things...
I am sorry if this is a disappointment to anyone reading and following my Blog. I have made this decision for my own safety and because i do have a number of friends joining me and i need to be responsible for their safety also. I hope that my deviation of plans will allow me to continue enjoying my journey and allow me to meet as many wonderful people as i have so far come across!
Returning back to today, i did still keep up my mileage of the day and covered off nearly 18 miles as per the schedule. Halfway through the day, my blisters really came back with a vengance and it wasnt until i rocked up to my beautiful B & B and peeled off my socks that i discovered my feet covered in lots of blood blisters and fluid filled pockets under all my previously dressed plastered blisters! (Sorry for the details and graphics but i wanted to share my miserable feet!)
I relaxed in a hot bath for 1/2 hour contemplating my day & my decisions before limping up to the Pharmacy and asking for some over the counter remedies .... i now have some lovely yellow iodine spray to ensure no infections follow on and another box of plasters to save my socks from the bin!
The B & B i am in this evening is Blar Mhor and it has such welcoming Rhodedendrons at the front, that it was quite spectacular looking at the entrance from the road.
I will probably look at getting my first bus after breakfast in the morning and get to Tain and decide on a plan of action depending wholly on the state of my feet and toes! I am most disappointed that my naive invincible bravado presumed i would walk this with ease! Whist the rest of my body does so far seem to be holding up, i had never anticipated the blisters situation or the road dilemma. Still, it all happens for a reason and i would much rather be here to write about another day and change the plasters than not! 70 miles covered in 4 days isnt bad for a beginner ... lets see what day 5 brings!
Monday, 24 May 2010
I had a reasonably good nights sleep and woke bright and early for a nice breakfast of porridge and poached eggs/beans/toast. Mrs MacDonalds lovely Tormore Farm had this amazing ivy loveheart on the end of the wall of her house which has apparently been there since 1904! At 106 years old it only needs trimming a couple of times a year (its a shame most bushes cant make do with trimming that infrequently!!) but it certainly goes to show what you can do with a bit of stray ivy!
My right calf was very tight today and matching my blister for discomfort but a mile or two into the walk it had eased up and i didnt need to reach for the Tiger balm. My pack felt extremely heavy today and i became increasingly weary with each step and wondered when it was going to start getting easier? My dispondency was matched by the drizzly day (yet again! whilst the rest of the country seems to be experiencing a heat wave no less!) and it was very hard trudging along the A9 with hardly any pavements.
I was walking against the traffic as pedestrian rules suggest however at one point traffic from behind me (on the opposite side) whizzed by so fast with one car overtaking a lorry that the gust of the passing car swept me right off my feet into the verge and it took about 10 minutes to feel brave enough to recommence walking. I have also had more than my fair share of hills to climb today, one which went on for over 2.5 miles and seemed to never end. By the time i reached the other side i was very tempted by the signage indicating an Escape Lane but worried that it didnt tell me where i was escaping to..... not that i really cared by that point!
By the time i reached Helmsdale Youth Hostel, i was very tired and rather low in mood ..... :( It was only when i began unpeeling my socks off that i realised i now had blisters on my blisters and even a blister on the compeed covering one blister!!!
I decided there and then that i needed to take action and seperate out the very things i definitely could do without! It is funny how 3 days of carrying something suddenly makes you acutely aware of its level of importance and how vital it is for my everyday existence!!! I therefore laid all my wordly goods out on the bed and made a pile of yes / no / maybe! It was funny to see how my view on items which i had previously described as 'crucial' had now changed to 'completely unnecessary & superflous to manoevres'!!
4.1kg later, i wandered down to the Post office, and with the invaluable help of Elizabeth the Post Mistress, I sent it all in a box to Mike's - the best £9.58 i have spent today! It means that not only am i over 1/2 stone lighter each day, but i wont have a battle of the zips every morning before i have even taken my first step! Hoorah!
I celebrated with a Magnum (!!) and bought my tea from the local Spar to heat up in the hostel kitchen. I am in an 8 bed dorm (thankfully NO BUNKBEDS!) and the only one staying in the girls side tonight! There is no bath here but the shower was nice and hot and i spent about 20 mins just warming up and washing my hair.
I think another early night is in order and i am relishing packing my (relatively) compact rucksack in the morning and seeing if the lightened load will match my mood!
Sunday, 23 May 2010
I had woken at 7am to be sure i was on the road by 8am for my first long day and after the largest bowl of Scottish porridge i have ever seen, i was too overwhelmed to manage my cooked breakfast! My hostess at the Brown Trout was good enough to package it up in foil for me later on my walk and thankfully she did as it turned into my lunch as there was nowhere enroute available for this meal! (note to myself: next walk, plan around Pubs for lunch!)
Saturday, 22 May 2010
At last the preparing is over, the talking, the trepidation and the planning! Only thing left now is to get on with it and just put one foot in front of the other! SIMPLE!
I slept pretty well alone in my 4 bunk dorm and started the day by wrestling with my rucksack trying to cram in everything i had been carelessly bringing along as extra twiddly bits in a carrier bag! It was a battle but it did all fit although i wasnt expecting to break into a sweat before leaving the bedroom!
I was wished Good Luck from the fellow guests i had met and then Charlie took the photo once i was all ready to set off! His final parting words once he'd perused my map seemed a little disconcerting (G*D that is a souless terrible road that just goes on for miles and miles and miles!!) Hmmmm!
However, nothing could dampen my enthusiasm for this momentous day 1, even the drizzle that gently fell from the skies as i began my walk....
I was fine with the map reading today and felt perfectly safe on the empty roads... in fact my biggest problem was the number of people i kept bumping in to who wanted to stop and chat!! I certainly didnt want to seem rude and welcomed the conversation but had one eye on my Garmin and timekeeper, knowing full well that my average miles per hour were dropping through the floor with each conversation i had!
Still, the whole journey is what i came for and part of that is meeting all the lovely people on the way.... Today i met Morris Puttinger, a charming spritely 80 year old/young gentleman who updated me on all his blogs and historical sites he is writing about!
Next on my country lane was a lone cyclist who slowly edged closer as i walked towards her! 'She' turned out to be Brigid, a wonderful 75 year old lady who was on her last leg of cycling up from Lands End!!!!! Wow! How impressed was i?!! She went to get me out one of WI toffees but we got so caught up in her journey & conversation that it went completely out of our minds sadly... She had stayed in the place i was walking to this evening so after updating me on how to flush the loo in Room 3, i congratulated her on such an amazing feat and cracked on with a few more miles, hoping i will also be as fit and as adventurous in another 30+ years!
I alternated between listening to my radio, checking out the scenery and talking on the phone which worked wonders on keeping my spirits high. My next lady i met was Jane and again she was at the end of her travels and i felt inspired to find another fellow walker ...... she was on day 76 and luckily had her husband in a support caravan not too far away so she hasnt had to carry much on a day to day basis - i asked if he was for hire but she didnt think he would fancy turning around to head South with the same task! (Shame!)
I finally trekked into The Brown Trout Hotel in Watten, just past the Lake, around 2pm with my first 15 miles under my belt! I was very relieved to find my room all ready to check in to and spent 10 minutes peeling off all my extremely soaked clothes!! It took a further 2 hours to finally leave the room long enough to venture downstairs for a hot bowl of soup and 2 pints!! (soda water & lime!!) in a pub full of (Scottish - surprise surprise!) locals and dogs! I havent had to divulge my English accent much so far and am not always sure of the reception for Southerners so far North but i must say that all i have met so far have been most welcoming!
I can certainly say i have enjoyed Day 1 and feel very pleased it is out of the way and i am started. I am sure i will be incredibly stiff in the morning in my feet, legs and back/shoulders but hope i will harden up as the days and weeks go by. Off to lay down (again!) and prepare for Britain's Got Talent .... need to keep some creature comforts and help me feel at home!
Friday, 21 May 2010
First night yesterday at the Inverness Youth Hostel and it was quite a novel experience! Shared a room with 4 other female buddies in our 'dorm' and as i arrived last i got a top bunk! Ugghhhhhh! Not a choice to be repeated as it was a right pain to keep shinnying up that ladder, especially at 3am in the morning! We also rather (in)conveniently had a coach load of 100 french students staying next door and i had forgotten how noisy that volume and nationality can be!
Still, .... noise, top bunk, snoring roomies and a new bed aside, it wasnt a bad first night. One of my lovely room companions, Carol, donated a Scottish £5 there and then to Grove House for my walk so i felt very heartened to have such generosity shown before i had even started, especially from a complete stranger.
I shared my Sultanan Bran breakfast with Rosemary from New Zealand (on route home via Dubai...taking 10 years ....) who looked a little woeful on her travels but i couldnt stay long enough to hear all the details as i wanted my day to cheer up somewhat so hurried out towards Wick Station and off for my last train journey.....
Stopping briefly via Morrisons, where i collected todays lunch and tea, i caught the 10.38 train of 2 carriages and rather fewer people than on yesterdays Kings Cross to Inverness. I didnt have to share my 4.5 hour journey with anyone else on my table so spread out all over it with my magazines and maps to do my last final bit of planning!
Once at Wick, there was a 1/2 hr wait to get the (school!) bus to John O'Groats, about 16 miles away. I waited with 2 fit tattooed rugby lads and their bikes, as they are also starting tomorrow on their own charity cycle to Lands End - only difference being they will be at their destination by next weekend and i will only be nearing Inverness! They plan to cover 120 miles each day / me only 20'ish! So hence the time delay on my travels! (shame i couldnt fit in a pannier but no chance at this late stage!)
I got dropped off outside my Youth Hostel at 4.20pm with the school children, only to find a large 'CLOSED' sign on the front door!!! CLOSED??? Closed for what? The winter? The Spring? The Summer? Or Closed just to me for this one day?
Well, it was closed.... until 5pm so i had a 40 minute wait in the drizzle whilst i phoned home to speak to the children and hear they are having a brilliant day of sunshine! Typical! After checking in at 5pm with Charlie & Nancy (who actually are just standing in for Jules!) i realised that i was still 3 miles from JO'G and that tomorrow morning i would need to do a 6 mile round trip to get there for a photo before i even got my day going ... hmmm....
So i decided to get this walk started EARLY and begin today by marching (without my pack, well it was just a warm up!) to John O'Groats to officially wave the flag! I took around 40 mins to reach the hallowed spot but was absolutely AGHAST to find that only a post was in the ground and no official JOG signpost was to be seen except one against a cafe wall! I later discovered that there is a man who OWNS the sign and he takes it home each night and doesnt get there til 9'ish for the tourists when the Ferries come in!!! Sacrilage! I really thought that famous sign was a National Treasure! Alas! It is not! (I feel a Facebook campaign coming on .... perhaps there is already one out there for me to sign?)
Anyway, i had to seconde the bus driver to take some happy snaps as proof of my presence at JOG and then he was kind enough to give me a lift back to the Hostel for free! I had a big bowl of soup for tea and was pleasantly suprised to learn i was sleeping solo in my dorm for 4 so I have settled in for an early night with my electrical appliances all on charge, after rearranging the contents of my pack 3 times!
Looking forwards to tomorrow with anticipation and energy and hope i feel the same in 24 hours! WATCH THIS SPACE....
Thursday, 20 May 2010
Well after a mighty big Pancake Party for my send off last night, i packed the final few bits in my ever expanding 'day' pack (its officially up to 10kg now!) and left for the station for the beginning of my journey Northwards to the starting point for my walk....
After a rousing hot chocolate send off at St Albans (you may be noticing a chocolate theme developing?!), i met my intrepid traveller of a mum at Kings Cross who was there to send me off with a proper royal wave!! I think she was more concerned that i may not get on board the train at the last minute and instead divert myself off for a months Spa retreat in Penzance, but she was reassured that i was on board as she saw with her own (newly treated!!) eyes that i was really going!
The train journey was brightened up by my first conversations with 'new people' that i am sure will be many along my journey! The Strutt & Parker 'Train boys' gave me many kind words of encouragement & helped me feel more positive about my challenge ahead, but it took all my will power not to disembark with them at Edinburgh and stay on board the train for the last 3 hours up to Inverness where i am staying tonight! Their evening sounded way more fun than my first night at the 'Youth' Hostel but i hope i will be pleasantly mistaken!
I will be so excited when i am back in Edinburgh in around 2.5 - 3 weeks as i will have covered most of Scotland at that point and will have my first DAY OFF to look forwards to in the beautiful city! Bring it ON!!
Gone (ok not completely gone, but slightly hiding away) are the excited thoughts about what a wonderful 'Walk in the Country' it will be and instead they are replaced with trepidation and worry about how good my iPhone sat nav will be when i need it most! My wonderful house buddie Adriana gave me a fab solar charger for my phone and the rest of my electrical store, so i will be monitoring its 'robustness' and let you know if i can recommend it! (i wish it were powerful enough to charge an electric scooter with as it may have widened my transport options for the future?!)
And as i head further into these Scottish Highlands, i am looking more and more nervous here in seat C43 as the MOUNTAINS are looking ginormous and the landscape more and more moonlike! Oh HECK! i can even see snow!! Where is my woolly scarf? Oh yes, i remember, no room to pack it!
Ok, but JOKING ASIDE (!) i am looking forwards to my travels and hope you enjoy my journey with me..... i do see it as a (Massive!) adventure to tell the children and grandchildren and whether it ends in success and completion or an unexpected detour along the way, its all part of lifes rich tapestry and reminds me that its not necessarily about the destination but more about enjoying the journey.
Thursday, 13 May 2010
I can now manage 1 before lunch, 2 mid afternoon and if i am really diligent i can squeeze in another after dinner!
So, if you thought this blog would just be jammed packed full of training tips, info on the route and B & B's, i am sorry but its not! It will cover some of those things when i get going but for now, its a stark bleak update on how unprepared i am really feeling ahead of the big O-F-F next week.
And just in case you wondered how i plan to celebrate my departure tea with the children - i can reassure you and let you know its a full on PANCAKE PARTY - American pancakes smothered in chocolate Nutella, strawberries and bananas and as many as children, grandma, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunties can eat!
Monday, 10 May 2010
I nearly fell back into bed this morning as soon as i had put both feet to the floor, aghast that a teeny tiny little walk in the country could have such reverberating adverse repurcussions! Pre yesterday i would have told anyone i was already 'fit enough to get going today ho ho!' but since this morning i am having serious second thoughts!
Not that i have any intention of cancelling / delaying / postponing or rescheduling anything! All bar 3 nights accommodation are now reserved and apart from not being able to face the thought of re-booking anything, i am adamant that THE SHOW MUST GO ON with or without my aches and pains! (although i must say it would be preferable without them!)
So i have now packed an industrial sized tube of Ibrufen Gel, alongside my industrial size deodrant and am just keeping my fingers and bunion free toes crossed that it lasts long enough to get me through the Highlands to the nearest Boots as i cannot afford to carry more than one tube due to strict weight restrictions! (self imposed by me obviously - even my nail clippers have been downsized to a mini pair!)
Sunday, 9 May 2010
Today was my Practice walk and Berkhamsted seemed a good a place as any to try my first walk with my heavily laden backpack (8kg!) and as they had kindly arranged their Bluebell walk to coincide with a free day i had, it seemed rude not to make use of their marked route!
We arrived in time to start at 10.45am with a bit of drizzle and overcast skies but it was good not to have heavy rain as that would really have put a dampner on my ever growing enthusiasm!
After a somewhat sleepless night worrying about how it would feel to carry my full bag, i was pleasantly surprised that i had not keeled over after the first 4 miles when we reached Checkpoint number 1. Unfortunately (or not?!) the Steward advised us that our 18 mile route followed the Pink signs which we duly did, until we found we had missed out the entire 6 mile add on and so were in fact on schedule for only the 12 mile route! OH, WHAT A SHAME!??!
We therefore commiserated in the local Greyhound Public house over a pint (of soda water and lime!) & hot bowl of chips before getting back on track for our last stretch! I was surprised to find we had covered about 13 miles over 4.5 hours which was a bit slower than i was expecting but i was pleased to be managing my pack and make it back home for a hot bath!
11 days and counting ..... not sure if i am counting down or up but its approaching and i am one step closer to leaving slightly more prepared i think!