A Travellerspoint blog

Arthur's seat - thistle do nicely

I've made it to Edinburgh! Very emotional cycling towards the city and then spotting the castle in the distance - I was born here but left as a wee baby. The Scottish really do use the word "wee" a lot. So my one man tent is a wee tent - so it's fine for me to pee out of the front flap in the middle of the night!
This morning I cycled over to Newhaven road where mum+dad lived when I was born. To see the road and then cycle along the promenade that they would have walked me along in my pram brought a tear to my eye. At that moment I missed them both - I felt sad that I couldn't ever talk to either of them about their time and memories here in Edinburgh.

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So - what's happened since the last blog?

On my rest (rainy) day in Shrewsbury I went in search of healthy food. I found an amazing place called "plantkind" - I bought a large salad box stuffed with amazing healthy goodies+felafels. Vlad (the owner) was so impressed with my bike trip he also gave me a massive bowlful of Lebanese chickpea moussaka - such a kind man and the food was absolutely delicious!

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The next morning (as all mornings) I woke early (6am) and found it difficult to leave my warm sleeping bag and put on my slightly damp and sweaty cycling clothes and pack up. However, once sat up it's now become pretty automatic to get everything packed up into the panniers and loaded on to the bike. That's when I have my 1st breakfast (usually a couple of hot cross buns and a pint of green tea. I was making my way to Warrington and tried using Google maps in cycle mode - I was highly impressed! I can even turn the phone screen off and it becomes "sat nav" - a sexy voice tells me where to go next. It took me along loads of cycle paths and then along a canal path for miles. Not so impressed when I'm directed along a path with a flight of stairs!

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I now use the sat nav mode for most of the days cycling. I camped outside of Warrington in some toff's mansions grounds and typically they were the most expensive site yet visited!
I charged my phone in the local pub "the Cock" obviously I had to drink a pint of the local ale - then got a free pint as the barman poured one too many pints for another customer (he cocked up). Result - though it was only lager!

Next day the route to Preston included miles more canal paths - sounds ideal, but in practice getting through the many many gates along the path meant a lot of lifting the bike as it was too big to fit with all the luggage attached through the gates - I was very concerned about injuring Harry (or is it Henry?) the hernia (but he seems to have suffered no serious injury).
Another mishap was having a small insect fly straight into my eye whilst whizzing along. I screeched to a halt, grabbed a leg and pulled the critter out - incredibly it then flew off!...though I think left another leg behind.
I've also spat out many insects and swallowed a few too - ruining the vegan diet! So far no bees or wasps!!

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After a long days riding I arrived at an advertised campsite that basically wasn't finished being built - a farmers fields with foot long grass and a half built shower and toilet in a dilapidated barn. However, one of the best beers I've ever tasted in the local pub (Marston's pedigree) made up for the overpriced camping facilities.

Keen to get to a campsite near a pub with a tv to watch the FA cup final the next day I headed for Sedburgh in the Yorkshire dales. The easiest and fastest 50 miles I've done. Boy what a beautiful setting for a campsite. Absolutely lovely up there. The 2 mile walk to the village pub was across the hills - just stunning. What a magical landscape. Liverpool won the cup - all going well till I found the chip shop shut - so dinner was one dry bread roll with the remains of a sweaty bag of salad stuffed in it, an avocado and the inevitable emergency peanuts.

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In the morning google maps took me over miles of hilly Yorkshire dales. I was attempting to reach Carlisle 55 miles away but after 15 miles I was shattered! A huge muesli+tea helped revive me.

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The route then took me onto lots of fast quiet well surfaced roads. Suddenly the miles flew by and my energy returned. I arrived at Sarah's flat in Carlisle by early afternoon. I'd met Sarah last year at Zennor when hiking the south west coast path - she incredibly kindly offered me a bed for the night (really lucky as she was only there in her flat for that one night as she's currently letting it out and it just happens is currently between lets).
A hot shower (without needing 20p pieces or an annoying button to keep pushing), my washing done and hours of great conversation about our various cycling adventures and places we've been. Sarah has previously cycled from Shetland to the Lizard, so loads of useful tips for me. It's also clear how far I've still got to go!
Beers and pizza helped the evening along very nicely.

I left Carlisle with grey ominous skies above. Biscuits+yoghurt+fruit for breakfast. By the time I crossed the border to Scotland it was bloody raining... and it got worse and worse as the day went on. Drizzle in Gretna - where I had my 2nd breakfast of felafel wrap, proper rain in Lockerbie - where I had breakfast number 3 (muesli+banana), peeing it down by the time I got to Moffat.

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A fantastic campsite with great showers but my tent was sopping wet and had puddles inside, so most of my things got wet. I managed to keep my sleeping bag dry on top of the inflatable mattress - forming a dry island within the tent. Cycling in the rain on busy roads with huge lorries passing in both directions is pretty terrifying - large sprays of water drenched me and the wind as they pass nearly knocked me off my bike. The noise too as they pass is frightening. Adrenaline, fear of death and yearning to get to the campsite asap helped me ride like the clappers.

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Packing up in the morning was not easy as most things were soaking wet. On the plus side it had stopped bleedin' raining . Annoyingly my shoes and socks were still sopping wet, so I rode all day with very moist feet. The relatively flat terrain (despite the shite road surface) meant I made good progress. I stopped for another breakfast at Abington services. Whilst cooking up my tea and hot muesli a Tesco HGV driver came over for a chat - John Campbell. He gave me his telephone number and said if I breakdown or need any help whilst in Scotland to give him a ring. How kind is that!

Biggar campsite wasn't great but as I'd arrived by early afternoon I took the opportunity to dry all my stuff in the temporary sunny weather - it was raining again by bedtime (7pm!)

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A short ride then into Edinburgh the next day. What an amazingly emotional and stunning experience cycling right through the city centre of such a great city - to get to my campsite on the coast. I got myself sorted and caught the bus back into town.

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(The cycling seems to have stretched one of my arms!)

After food in the park beneath the castle I decided to go to Holyrood park and climb the extinct volcano to "Arthur's seat" - the highest point. A great walk and the views over the whole city onwards to the coast are truly spectacular.

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I sat up there for quite some time (whilst drinking a can of Irn Bru! - way too much sugar but it actually tasted quite good - I can see why loads of scots drink it all the time).

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As I've cycled north I've noticed how the local accents have changed. Each time I get off my bike (especially north of Shrewsbury) the accent of the "locals" changes dramatically. I love the different dialects - though at times I can hardly understand what is actually being said - it takes a moment or two to tune in (I really need a subtitle button at times!)

Saw this in an Edinburgh coffee shop window

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No injuries to report other than jelly legs at the end of each day and an extra smelly and sticky crotch area.

Cycling stats:
Shrewsbury to Warrington 50 miles
To Warrington - 55 miles
To Preston - 50 miles
To Sedburgh - 55 miles
To Carlisle - 55 miles
To Moffat - 50 miles
To Biggar - 35 miles
To Edinburgh - 35 miles

I'm pleased with my progress and how my body seems to not be complaining too much (except when going up long steep hills)...but I'm barely past halfway to John o groats - which is scary!! One day at a time... (as the song goes)

Posted by simonstravels 11:47 Comments (7)

Hats off to Joe

I was impressed with the Gower peninsula - like a Welsh mini Cornwall - beautiful coastline (with a great coast path around the whole thing), loads of rolling green hills and moor land in the centre. Stunningly beautiful everywhere.

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Sparsity of food shops meant I had to cycle each day to go in search of instant noodles, hummus, salad, baked beans and beer - not the healthiest of diets really! But great for bad breath and wind - good job I'm traveling alone!

My favourite place I visited was worm head. A stunning peninsula with an "island" that can be reached by clambering over a natural causeway of several hundreds of metres of rock which become exposed at low tide. I spent a very pleasant hour sat out on top of the outer island - just soaking up the magnificence and beauty of the whole place.
The tide comes in so fast there that some people get stranded out on the "island" - a guy recently died trying to make it back before the tide got too high!

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I basically had a week of camping in remote camp sites, walking, cycling, drinking local beer and generally living a very simple relaxing life - perfect.

After my little holiday I cycled back to Swansea and caught the train back to Bristol (on which I did wordle in 1 guess - as the answer was train!). A night back with Steve's family before a couple of nights in a premier Inn with Jack - time to celebrate Joe's graduation. Wonderful to meet up with Jack, Joe, Kate, Deb, and Rosie (Joe's girlfriend).
Very proud watching Joe graduate - held in Bristol city football stadium. Obviously quite a lot of booze throughout the day and indeed the next day - culminating in many cocktails and a massive curry...Jack Joe+Kate then went on supping ale till way after my bedtime.

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So - during the previous 10 days I'd cycled not much more than 100 miles, walked a bit, drunk too much, stuffed my face way too much, lost my cycle fitness, damaged my liver and I felt like an overweight out of shape lard arse.

I was really excited about getting back on the bike and heading north. I had a lovely days cycle over the Severn bridge to Monmouth. A tiny campsite right in the centre run by a couple in their eighties!

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Up then to the town of Presteigne to stay with some friends that I hadn't seen for 8 or 9 years. (It was definitely worth the hilly detour). It was great to catch up with each other's news.

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They treated me so kindly - a comfy bed and hot shower for a start. Home made beer, scrummy homemade vegan lemon drizzle cake and an incredible veggie curry. To show my appreciation I then woke them up far too early the next morning - they probably went back to bed after waving me off hoping I never return.

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Up to Shrewsbury the next day - considerably fewer hills (whew!) Met a cyclist riding over 100 miles a day (bastard!) - but he was half my age, had almost no luggage and was only riding for a couple of weeks. We rode side by side for a couple of miles then the bugger just sped off into the distance. I'm happy just plodding along and still being alive at the end of each day.
I found another "campsite" right in town; weirdly also run by a lady in her eighties- it's one tiny field with some apple trees, a cold water tap and a bog - job done!

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This morning I woke to find it pissistently raining. I lay in my sleeping bag trying to psyche myself up to 5 hours riding in the rain when I came to my senses and thought "why don't I have a rest day and stay here another night". Weirdly I feel slightly guilty sat here in a warm dry library writing this blog, but it's way better than battling against the wind and the rain on a bike. I've also earmarked a great vegan cafe for lunch...maybe for research reasons I should sample the local beer too?

Ailment wise:
Bollocks are fine (there is even blood supply to them sometimes)
Butt bones often pretty sore whilst riding
Henry hernia is behaving himself
The occasional sciatic twinge
Vegan cheese growing between my toes
Slightly crusty bottom at times
Dehydrated as I lose more fluid out of my nose whilst cycling than I do sweating - a mixture of hayfever and dribbly nose syndrome? (My gloves are sopping wet with snot most of the time - I suppose I should wash them some time?)

If anyone is vaguely interested in the cycling stats:
Gower tootling about - 100 miles
Bristol to Monmouth - 40 miles
To Preiteigne - 50 miles
To Shrewsbury - 50 miles

Another photo of Joe's big day to end

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Posted by simonstravels 10:19 Comments (5)

Ice cream van man

How do I summarize the first week or so...a tale of two halves. I found the first 3 days extremely tough the next three were absolutely great. Did I relax into it, were the first three days that much tougher, have I built up leg strength, have I eaten so many baked beans I'm being powered along?

So far:
Day 1 - lands end to pentewan sands - 55 miles
Day 2 - to kingsand - 45 miles
Day 3 - to Exeter - 50 miles
Day 4 - to Bridgewater - 50 miles
Day 5 - to west harptree - 40 miles
Day 6 - to Bristol - 15 miles (basically a rest day)
Day 7 - train to Swansea onto the Gower - 20miles (another rest day)

First thing to know is that both testicles are still the same size albeit numb most of the time and a little battered and bruised, but Henry hernia is behaving himself. (Tempted to include a photo here!)
No major injuries - a pulled muscle between my shoulder blade, tense neck muscles (from the riding position battling against the wind), sore sitting bones, but no sweat sores or buttock blisters so feeling pretty good!

Those first few days had sooo many hills - that with a bitter cold strong north easterly headwind made things a lot tougher. Wet with sweat but cold at the same time made things hard work. Maybe I should have cycled slightly shorter days for the first few days as the big hills with a heavy load and weedy legs meant I was getting off the bike with legs of jelly at the end of the day. The cure always seemed to be beer though - as I'd always be fine the next day!

The ride to kingsand covered similar ground (bleeding hilly) to that I'd walked last summer. I camped at Makers campsite. The food in their cafe is unbelievably good. A member of staff even have me a couple of muffins for my next days ride.

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The views across to Plymouth are also pretty impressive.

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The ride from Kingsand to Exeter first took me across the Tamar on the he Cremyll ferry, then along a disused railway line to Yelverton then across Dartmoor... on a very cold+windy day. Stunning views (on the down hills) very slow progress staring at the tarmac crawling up the hills (willing for the hill and the pain to end). Not easy to keep going at times - as much a mental challenge as a physical one. I was greatly spurred on by "ice cream van man".
I'd just got to the top of a monster hill and was bent over my handlebars trying to recover (breathe!) when an ice cream van pulled along side me - the guy said I'd done well to get up that hill and told me how many years ago he'd also cycled LEJOG (lands end to John o groats). Traffic behind him meant he had to drive on. A few miles along the road I saw his van in a layby - as I approached he was by the side of the road holding an ice cream cornet out for me to grab as I rode past. I pulled in and thanked him for his kindness but said that unfortunately I don't eat dairy products - so he ate it and told me to fuck off!
Actually he gave me an ice lolly instead and a hot cup of coffee. Such a nice guy. (He looked like and reminded me of you Colin.)
In the freezing wind on top of a hill it was great talking to him about some of the cycling still to come. He assured me that lands end to Exeter is the toughest section. Maybe he was trying to boost my confidence - I bloody hope he's right as I'm not sure if I could cope with much tougher sections. Such a shame I forgot to take a photo of him till 5 miles further on - and there was no way I was going back! so here's a shit picture of Dartmoor prison instead.

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Anyway, that day finished with loads of down hills from Dartmoor down into Exeter. I was literally screaming with joy as I whizzed down the hills. My actual words being yelled at the top of my voice were "this is fucking amazing". Shortly afterwards I was sat in my sister Jo's lounge with beer in hand - back to normality and a great evening of beer and chips with Jo+JK followed - perfect way to end the day.

Riding out of Exeter was great on the B3181.... Until it joined the very busy A38. Even worse was when it joined into a dual carriageway with one lane coned off!! I don't think I was very popular with the drivers behind as I inched up the hills. When I got to Taunton I discovered there was a canal path all the way to my destination of Bridgewater. Happy days. Beautiful scenery, totally flat and no cars!

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In Bridgwater there was a lovely little campsite and a shite awful pub. I've never felt so awkward in a pub before. At 4.30pm (on a Sunday) I'd wandered in just wanting to charge my phone write my diary and drink a pint of blackcurrant squash. The place was jammed full of absolutely bladdered people yelling full volume (out of tune) along to a solo lady singer live act.
Trying to write with people screaming the wrong words+out of tune to shit songs was not at all relaxing. I was being stared at by several unsavoury looking blokes. As soon as my phone charged I was out of there!

I had enjoyed the slower pace of the previous day so decided to have a short days ride and detour to Glastonbury and Wells. Lovely quiet lanes to cycle on and I met a 71 year old (Brian) doing the same trip as me - he also left lands end last Thursday. It was lovely cycling with him for a few miles, till I stopped for lunch.

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My campsite near chew magna lake was great. No need for an "alama" clock the next morning (sigh!)

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The local pub however was disappointing - no real ales! (That's not a pub in my book.) I had to make do sitting in the sun drinking a couple of pints of lager with the excuse being I needed to charge my phone!
Here's a photo of my most common meal so far - cous cous, baked beans, mushy peas on top, soup floated on top of that lot - all barely luke warm with a bag of salad and hot cross buns on the side - yummy!

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A leisurely ride into Bristol along national cycle trails where I stayed with brother Steve+Jo+Alfie+Bella. So nice to be able to relax in the warm. The healthiest meal I've had since I left was hugely appreciated (a massive delicious veg+tofu stir fry).
Next day was the start of a week's "holiday" on the Gower peninsula - a little detour from my main ride - I caught the train to Swansea and cycled out to Oxwich where I've found a lovely little friendly campsite to hang out for a few days. All perfect except the only shop within about 5 miles sells almost no food and is a tad expensive e.g. a tin of beans costs £2.50!! (Normally 30p)

I felt obliged to try the local beer though.

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A day off the bike today - a 10 mile hike along the coast path and I discovered this incredible 100 foot high smugglers cave.

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I'm going to chill on the Gower peninsula until I head back to Bristol for Joe's graduation - my bike ride will continue after the drunken celebrations.
Happy days! 🙏

Posted by simonstravels 18:07 Comments (5)

On yer bike

Intro
I might be biting off a bit more than I can chew this time. The aim is to cycle from home to lands end to the Shetland islands back to lands end finally back home to Falmouth (for a bit of a lie down!) There will be a detour to south Wales and I'm in no hurry so I expect this little "holiday" to be up to 3 months long.
The only training I've done is working for deliveroo a few days a week. I'm not sure delivering burgers and pizzas around Falmouth is the best preparation!
To make the journey a little trickier I've got an inguinal hernia that has popped out in the last few weeks. If it gets really bad it could get strangulated in which case immediate surgery is needed. In extreme cases I believe your intestines can poke through the "hole" down in to your testicles. So when my right testicle is dragging on the floor (which might cause me to cycle in circles) it might be time to quit! I'm hoping it'll just be uncomfortable and won't actually stop me cycling. So my hernia, catching covid, being flattened by a bus are all very real reasons why I might not be able to complete this "nutty" idea of a trip.
I'm going to have to just take it one day at a time.

Day zero
Took the back lanes towards Penzance - got lost and went 5 miles the wrong bleedin' way, including a big old sweaty hill!
Saw some nice cows though.
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Arrived at lands end for lunch - swarming with tourists. A good place to refuel with hummus, salad and a slice of stale bread I'd cleared from the fridge this morning.

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Camping at a lovely little campsite (kelynack).

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Very pleased with how the first day has gone... Especially as there is a pub a mile up the road for later! Many more days to go.

NB
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Past blogs can also be seen (I think they appear in reverse chronological order). You could read about my boils up my nose and poo experiences on Indian trains all over again!

Posted by simonstravels 15:48 Comments (8)

Camp period coming to an end

The walk out of Brixham led me to Paignton and Torquay. A long old boring slog along miles of promenade - though a spitfire flying over head was wonderful to see and in particular hear (Merlin engine sounding great). Apparently they were taking passengers on pleasure flights at £3000/half hour flight. I reached Torquay extremely hungry so wolfed down a massive foot long baguette sandwich and a large cheese+onion pasty. Fuelled up I was ready for the challenging section around the cliffs of Torquay and onto Babbacombe - some incredibly steep monster hills round there. By the time I found a suitable place to wild camp I could barely walk. Incredible pain in my right ankle and lower shin - I couldn't raise my foot (pulling my toes up towards my knee was not possible) at all - trying was agony. All night it was really painful and I feared my trek was over. I could hardly have a rest day camped in the overflow car park that I was currently camped in, so had to pack up and move on anyway the next morning.
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On the plus side my ankle seemed a little better, on the negative side, whilst packing up I had an incredible painful spasm in my lower back and could barely move! It felt like my body was telling me I'd had enough.
Initially the walking was challenging but I was mobile and doing ok. My foot getting a lot better and my back started to ease off - maybe I'd be ok?
Here's a random photo of bits falling off my toes.
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I met a couple in their late 70's (he was 79) walking the whole coast path. They were staying in b+b but had big rucksacks and walking as quickly as me. They'd camped their way round when younger. Amazing couple - when he was 62 he built his own 52 foot steel hulled boat then they sailed round the world for the next 11 years visiting 72 countries! Remarkable. (He was a miserable sod though.)
From Teignmouth the walk followed the railway line by the sea through Dawlish and onto Starcross. Fantastic to be walking that stretch as the trains whizz by.
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A ferry over to Exmouth then a walk to my campsite....where I made the foolish error of leaving my rucksack half open on the grass by my tent whilst I had a shower. I returned to see 3 seagulls were busy eating half my dinner - 3 packets of crisps and a pack of instant noodles eaten - they hadn't touched the bag of salad (or beer).
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I was so pleased that my crippledness from the morning had pretty much gone - I could continue on this crazy hike.
Lots of monster climbs the next day to Sidmouth and beyond. I'm now enjoying the steep climbs and don't find them too bad - maybe I'm getting fitter or just getting used to them. I camped right on a tucked away beach. It was perfect as I could swim to scrape off the grime (and pick the bits from my bottom) and there was a stream to also rinse out my sweat filled pants and shirt and rotting cheese smelling socks.
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Weirdly also camping on the beach was a kayaker from Falmouth. He was paddling from Plymouth to Lyme Regis camping on beaches along the way.

More fabulous walking the next day through Beer, Seaton - the Jurrasic coast didn't disappoint, monster hills
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...and then a great walk through lovely woods for miles to Lyme Regis - where the throng of tourists was a shock to the system. A horrible 3 mile detour to Charmouth (due to cliff erosion). A pizza and a couple of beers whilst waiting for dusk as I'd spotted a perfect wild camp spot right on Charmouth beach. I swam in the river flowing into the sea in all my trekking clothes - looking like a madman but at least no longer smelling like gone off Stilton cheese! Onlookers just stared at the lunatic swimming and washing in all his clothes!
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I nearly died that day - walking whilst looking at the map on my phone I almost walked off the edge of a very high cliff - just 3 steps from the edge I looked up and abruptly stopped. I'd taken the wrong path to a cliff edge photo taking spot (nearly a suicide spot).

More great walking towards Abbotsbury until I reached the start of the famous Chesil beach. There I had to walk a mile or more along the edge of the beach through deep pebbles - so hard to walk through with a heavy rucksack - seemingly using different leg muscles - horrible and very slow going!
I camped in a farmers field. As I was getting into my tent he drove by. I feared I was about to be moved on (again), but he just waved and smiled as he went by - phew!

The walk to Portland was easy but boring (no hills) round a large inlet of water. The walk into Portland was 2 miles by the edge of a busy road - not pleasant. A nice enough walk to Portland Bill lighthouse though.
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The campsite was a bit shit - a toilet and a tap with a hose pipe attached for water. I had a proper wash in my budgie smugglers under the hose pipe - freezing cold water, but I needed to clean up a bit... before heading to the pub! The men's urinal was a cut up beer barrel!
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That night the winds gusted to 50mph and it absolutely chucked it with rain (almost horizontally). My tent pegs were only half in as the ground had been so hard - I lay awake half the night fearing the flysheet would blow away. So so loud in the tent with the flapping of the "canvas" but I was happy to be staying dry.
The rain finally eased off by 7.30am so I decided to pack up despite the continuing high winds. Under my sleeping mat and rucksack was a large puddle of water. The winds had blown the outer tent layer against the inner and water had poured in unknowingly during the night.

I really didn't like Portland - a prison and a very run down feel to the place. (The pub has really cheap beer though - so not all bad!). A long flat walk to Weymouth and then at last back onto some proper cliffs to Osmington Mills - a hamlet for millionaires by the look of it. A fantastic 13th century pub (smugglers Inn) - great beer, good fish and chips (though only 10 chips!!!). A proper campsite with really good hot showers (my first in 5 days!).

The walk the next day to Durdle Door was in gale force winds along really high cliffs. I couldn't even keep walking in a straight line but the wind direction was thankfully away from the cliffs. When the rain started I was totally drenched in just a few seconds. Really difficult walking in those conditions up monster hills. Just a matter of getting your head down and walking the miles.
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Lulworth Cove was a very nice place to have a late porridge breakfast.
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The military zone just beyond Lulworth Cove was closed due to live firing of ammunition (for the next 2 weeks!). There is no official detour, so a bus to Wareham, another to Corfe Castle
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...then a walk through the country to reach the other side of the military firing range. I camped in a tiny farm campsite and awaited the forecast gales and heavy rain. With no where to buy food for the next 24 hours I had stocked up on sandwiches in Corfe. At one point on my rucksack there were - 3 sandwiches (1 tuna and 2 egg - from the day before), 2 large foot long tuna baguettes, a cheese pasty and 2 Danish pastries - to last 2 lunches and one evening meal. Made the bag heavy but I felt independent as I was no longer reliant on seeking out food when I knew there would be no cafes or shops till I reached Swanage. The weather was so bad I was in my tent (at a small farm campsite) by 2.30pm and stayed there till the morning! I heard machine gun fire and explosions for hours on end.

My penultimate days walking to Swanage was back to glorious coastline and a few big hills.
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I managed to wild camp right in the middle of Swanage in a sort of park - meaning I could have a couple of pints and get another pizza. The tent was so well hidden it didn't show up in the photo!

The final day consisted of a few miles on the cliffs before flattening out to the final stretch to the "finishing post" and the ferry over to Poole.
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A weird feeling to have finished. What will I do tomorrow?
So looking forward to a hot shower - I've not washed for 3 days. I'm still wearing the same clothes I put on 2 days ago, with the exception of my socks which are now being worn for the 4th day running - they absolutely stink and will probably have to be thrown away! My underpants may have to go too!

Epic-log

The 630 mile (over 1000km) has taken me 44 days of walking to complete (not bad if I say so myself).
(Not including 2 injury days in first fortnight and 2 rest days in Falmouth).
Some facts about the walk:

I have gone up (and down) 115,000 feet (equivalent to scaling Everest 4 times - I'll accept that is a tad more difficult)
Climbed up or down over 30,000 steps (stairs)
Gone through 880 gates
Wild camped almost 40% of the time

Eaten 174 egg sandwiches and 98 pasties
...and only had 6 poos! 3 of them unfortunately in toilets where the flush was broken!!
Had just 5 hot showers
Changed my clothes just 3 times
Didn't touch a drop of alcohol

I'm very pleased that my body has somehow held itself together (with congealed sweat I think) and didn't let me down.
My mind has given up though - I now sing and talk to myself all the bloody time - a proper lunatic!
That plus the odour I must be giving off has meant no one sat next to me on the various trains home to Falmouth!

Posted by simonstravels 17:15 Comments (7)

In-tents walk......2nd leg

Weirdly, after my 2 rest days, I was itching to leave the comforts of home in Falmouth and hit the road again - there was a long way to go and I was keen to experience the adventures in store for me.
A beautiful sunny morning for the ferry ride over to St.Mawes and then another one onto Place. The ferry man said now that the kids have gone back to school they have different holiday makers down - "the newly weds" and "the nearly dead".
The Roseland peninsula is stunningly pretty and the walk to Portscatho and onto Portloe didn't disappoint.
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The website suggests stopping for the day in Portloe and I'd certainly walked far enough by then. Typically there was no campsite nearby and I hadn't spotted any wild camping places nearby. I had no food - no village shop either - so I headed to the pub for a beanburger and chips+pint of beer. The landlady said "since you seem an alright sort of a guy, you can pitch your tent in the beer garden after everyone has gone if you like". Perfect!
The next days walking took me round Dodman point, to Mevagissey - only a tiny food shop was open (being Sunday) so I bought yet another egg sandwich and instant noodles for my dinner later that evening. Mmmmm yummy! The bonus for the day was that the campsite at Pentewan sands is 5 star! Swimming pool - all to myself! A shop on site too - so I bought a bag of salad and beers to accompany the delicacies I'd already purchased. With a swim and a shower I was almost back to clean and non-smelly.
On leaving early the next morning I found some of the exits locked. To save walking back round to the main entrance I decided
to climb over an 8 foot wooden gate. Whilst straddled over the top (still wearing my rucksack) my gonads were doubting the wisdom of my decision. It was a huge relief to get over safely with all bits still attached!
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That days walk was a long one. Round St.Austel bay - Charlestown, Carlyon Bay to Par, round the lovely Gribbin Head onto Fowey.
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There was a campsite over the river so I caught the ferry over to Polruan and treated myself to a pint and a pizza. The campsite was a long way up a very steep hill (easier after the pub!). I arrived at 7.30pm very tired and in need of a shower. The reception was shut - a phone number "for assistance" on the door (I took that to mean for emergencies - need a doctor etc... not late arrivals. It turned out that was a massive mistake!).The toilets and shower block all had codes on the doors, so I couldn't use them. I decided to put my tent up in the corner of the field and crawl in and just go to sleep. I was woken by someone aggressively yelling at me and violently banging on my tent. It was pitch black and pouring down with rain. The owner of the campsite was having a right go at me - constant swearing, really really angry. I'm guessing he'd come back from the pub and walked through the campsite and spotted a tent he didn't recognise. I tried to talk calmly to him but he was livid as I'd just put my tent up without calling him. If that number was for late arrivals to call why didn't it say so - like in every other campsite - I'd assumed the number was for emergencies only. He told me to effing pack up and leave. So in the pissing rain I packed up in the dark. For 20 minutes he stood by my tent constantly swearing at me. Surprisingly I stayed really calm. I was in the wrong, though his attitude wasn't great. Why didn't he calmly wake me up and ask for £10 for the night? Any way, the result was me walking off into the rainy night with everything dripping wet looking for somewhere to camp - it was now 11.15pm. Luckily I'd earlier spied a potential camping place down the road near a car park, so in the pitch black I set up my tent again (I was scared to use my torch in case someone else told me to move on). I lay in my wet tent for 20 mins waiting to see if I was going to be disturbed - I then relaxed, curled up and surprisingly went to sleep.

The next day was glorious sunshine. I was up and on the path really early - keen to leave Polruan behind.
I was happy as Larry. I felt sorry for "Mr.Angry" from the night before - he is going through life with all that anger inside him.
I found a great spot for my porridge and tea and was enjoying life.
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After a few miles I walked into the beautiful Polperro where I badly needed the toilet (solids), so ordered a coffee in a pub. (Skip this next section if your easily offended!) Great coffee but poor choice of pub as there was only one single toilet for the men (no urinal either). So I had to be quick to "evacuate". With piles of pasties and egg sandwiches ejected I was horrified to find the flush wasn't working!! I lifted the lid on the cistern but couldn't fix the problem . A bit of a bummer really. I was relieved to not find a queue as I left the toilet. I was soon on my way.
Whilst on this subject - when passing a field of cows the day before, weirdly all lying down, the one closest to me stood up, then with arse end facing me squirted gallons of poo out of his bottom forming a huge Mr.Whippy pool on the ground - I was transfixed. It was strangely fascinating and addictive to watch!
That night I I camped at a campsite a couple of miles beyond Looe (appropriately named) and dined on instant noodles, a bag of spinach, a tin of mackerel and a cheesecake - with a bottle of red to accompany. Life all seemed pretty good that night.

The following morning started off really misty. As ever I walked through lots of early morning cobwebs (I try to avoid them obviously but they're not always easy to see), which get caught up in my beard. I frequently have to pick spiders webs out of my face each morning.
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Expecting to find no food before I wild camped later that night I stocked up at Downderry. I'd not walked this coastline before and was stunned at how beautiful it all was.
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I made better progress than expected managing to round Rame Head and walk into Cawsands. A really pretty part of Cornwall I'd never visited but certainly intend to do so again. I camped at a rather hippy campsite high up on the hill with stunning views (Maker campsite). A guy in a van overheard how far I'd walked that day and handed me a huge bottle of beer - result!

In the morning I crossed the Tamar river on the Cremyll ferry to Plymouth, where I treated myself to a cooked breakfast. A bit of a trek through Plymouth - with my underpants and socks drying from the outside of my rucksack I must have looked like a tramp to all the "normal" people going to work. I stocked up on food for the day and caught the ferry from the Barbican over to Mount Batten where I was then back on the coast path. On the ferry I'd been chatting to a lovely lady (Jo) who was off on a day walk in my direction, so we walked together towards Noss Mayo. We talked about our various travels and generally had a really good chat - it was lovely to have the company. We had a picnic lunch at Wembury and made our way along the lovely coast to where I caught the ferry to Noss Mayo and Jo walked the other way to catch her bus home.
I had to walk for another 5 miles or so until I finally found a suitable place to camp - right on top of the cliffs - stunning views all round.
I had to wait until it was almost dark to pitch my tent as I was right next to the path itself. Wrapped up in my thermals I feasted on cous cous and salad and soup (all in the same big pot). I was sat on a bench in memory of a young lad who had died of cancer (aged 19) - it put into perspective any minor aches and pains I had.
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The next morning I had to get to Mothecombe early so that I could walk across the estuary as there is no ferry and an 8 mile detour if you can't walk across. I took my boots off and waded through the water up to my knees - at least my feet got a wash.
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The walking from there on towards Bigbury-on-sea and Burgh island was some of the best I've seen - staggeringly beautiful, with some mighty big hills - competing with the toughest I've clambered up so far.

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Another ferry then took me over to Bantham where the walking continued up and down some incredibly steep hills but again with beautiful views - the coast path at it's finest. I finally walked into Hope Cove, very tired and drenched in sweat. Once again I'd probably walked a bit too far, but there was a campsite about a mile out of town I'd ear marked (all up hill!). When I finally got there the lady said it was £17 and proudly told me they were the most expensive site around. Too expensive for me. She directed me to another place yet further up the hill - that was just as good and only £9. A shower, mug of tea, food and charged my phone - sorted!
The next morning it was pouring with rain. I debated whether to pack up and walk or have a rest day. The rain started to ease by 8.30 so I was off. It didn't really rain after that, just some low cloud and a bit of drizzle - fine for walking. It was tough walking though - especially to get to Bolt Head, but again lovely coastline views.
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I rounded the headland and headed into Salcombe - such a pretty town. A delicious coffee and pint of water in a water front cafe was my reward for the hard walk to get there. I bought some delicious baguette sandwiches and caught the ferry over the estuary. There was a campsite a long way off at East Prawle which I aimed for. Once again it was a long day but incredible scenery. I was a little cheesed off to find that the campsite marked on my map no longer exists - the country house in which grounds the site should have been was deserted. I had already walked too far and was knackered but had no choice but to keep walking until I found a place to wild camp. I trudged a few more miles before finally spotting a perfect little place just before Start Point. Right on the edge of a low cliff, just a few metres from the waters edge. Fantastic spot.
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Rather sticky and smelly I headed off the next morning, past Start Point lighthouse to view the next section of coastline - all the way up to Dartmouth and Brixham. It's always exciting to walk round a headland to view the next stretch of coast path and the potential adventures to come.
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Some flat walking past Slapton Leys but some hills so steep you almost needed a rope to get up them! I arrived at Dartmouth castle hot and sweaty and again wondering where to sleep - no campsites nearby and looking across the estuary to Kingswear no signs of any potential wild camp spots either. I decided to have a cream tea at the castle cafe which overlooks the estuary. There were a lot of wasps competing for my cream tea. One poor guy earlier that day had got stung on his tongue!I As I was about to leave I got chatting to a couple of ladies. One of them (Sarah) offered me a room in her house for the night! Unbelievably kind and trusting. She seemed like a really lovely person so I accepted her very kind and generous offer. She arranged to pick me up in her car (VW van) in Dartmouth in an hours time. I was very aware I may smell a little "rich", but she's very much an outdoors person and said she didn't mind. She lives in a most beautiful large house in the country. She has 8 grown up kids, a boyfriend, teaches nurses, runs ultra marathons (100km or so!), has ice climbed...basically an incredible amazing person. A real privilege to meet her. After a much needed shower, the evening was spent chatting with Sarah and a friend, drinking beer and gin and relaxing in comfort - I've not had much of that recently. I then got to sleep in a very comfortable bed.
Sarah was going to drop me back into Dartmouth late morning which gave me a wonderful relaxing morning and time to start writing this blog.
By 11am I was back in central Dartmouth in the glorious sunshine. I caught the ferry over to Kingswear and I was back on my way. It was only a 10 mile walk to Brixham so that seemed like half a day. I set off with an incredible spring in my step. I felt so positive and ready for anything. I was well rested and felt great. An incredible beautiful walk to Brixham but boy oh boy do they grow steep hills round here! Some really tough climbs - my poles were once again used like ice axes There was a campsite right in Brixham so for once I was camped early (4.30pm) and off to town to drink beer and get some food to celebrate just being alive!

Posted by simonstravels 12:04 Comments (7)

Tony's tasty lunchbox

I wrote my last blog at Polzeath. From there it was an easy hike to Rock, then really lovely to catch the ferry over to Padstow. (That's not cheating - it's part of the coast path route - honest.) Porridge on the quay (looking like a tramp) then off for an easy days hike to Porthcothan. I stumbled on a lovely little campsite with a great cafe attached. A huge cream tea was my reward for the days walk, but I then felt so full up (and sick) I was in bed by 7.30 (such an exciting life).

A great walk down the coast the following day to Newquay in glorious sunshine.
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Here's a random photo of a huge hole in the cliff - the sea is crashing away at the bottom of it. Really impressive to see (unless you're falling head first into it I suppose).
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Being the covid capitol of the UK I sped through Newquay as quickly as I could (If only I could hold my breath for an hour.) Onto Porth Joke where I'd decided I would wild camp on the cliffs. I spent a couple of lovely hours on the beach - washing myself and my stinky sweaty clothes in the sea - I'm not sure the tourists on the beach were particularly impressed! At dusk (after dog walkers and tourists have left the path) I was able to put up my tent and eat delicious 2 day old egg sandwiches and a cold pasty for dinner - it sounds gross but after hiking and sweating all day it's just the perfect fuel.
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Onto Perranporth where I met up with my good friend Tony. He bought me coffee (for a well needed energy boost) before we hiked together to St.Agnes. He refused to carry my bag - a wise move as in addition to it being rather heavy it's probably soaked in gallons of my stale sweat! (Maybe that's why it weighs so much.) Tony had brought along a yummy lunch box of pasta, veg and homegrown salad - the healthiest foods I'd eaten since setting off. Absolutely delicious.
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Annoyingly, after I'd said my goodbyes to Tony, somewhere en route to Porthtowan one of my brand new merino woolen socks that had been drying on the outside of my rucksack had fallen off. (Why couldn't it have been one of the knackered skanky ones that I'd spent a year hiking around the Himalayas in?) Fortunately I had a spare pair with me. At the eco campsite in Porthtowan a lovely family adopted me for the evening inviting me to join their bbq - grilled veg and hallumi cheese - I think they felt sorry for their smelly half starved neighbour - plus my tales of suffering seemed to amuse their kids.
The next day was a boring long slog through the sand dunes of Gwithian and around the Hayle estuary to get to a campsite in Carbis bay. I was a sweaty mess as I walked in to the reception after the 18 mile hike. The old guy at the desk said I looked like I needed a beer - so pulled one out of the fridge and handed it to me - we chatted for ages as I quenched my thirst - how kind of him.
Fish+chips eaten in the graveyard rounded off the day nicely. (Away from the crowds - it was dead quiet there.)

Coffee and chocolate croissant in the early morning sun of St.Ives before walking the notoriously difficult coastline to Zennor. It was thoroughly enjoyable - beautiful scenery and lots of boulders to clamber over. I ate my porridge (made with cold water and an effervescent vit C tablet - delicious) whilst watching seals bob around in the water.
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The campsite at Zennor was just a field with a cold water tap and a portaloo, but there was a pub just down the road and I met an amazing lady (Sarah) - we had so much in common it was uncanny. We chatted about our travels and adventures for hours.
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The hiking was a lot tougher from St.Ives to Lands end (compared to the last few relatively easy days), so it was a hard sweaty walk along stunning coastline to get to Botallick.
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It was here that I camped in my friends Andy+Millie's back garden. They were so kind to me - beer and a delicious home cooked meal. But the highlight of the visit was seeing Daisy - Millie had adopted my daughter Kate's dog a year ago, but Daisy remembered me before even seeing me - she'd caught a whiff of my rucksack (who hadn't!) then came running through the house to find me, wagging her whole body and licking my arms and face. It was so lovely to see her again.
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The next day I walked the fantastically beautiful coastline past Cape Cornwall , round Lands end and on to Porthcurno.
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Rounding Lands end felt significant - I was nowhere near half way on the trek, but I knew the next stretch of coastline really well as I was now heading up towards my home in Falmouth. A crappy campsite in Penzance (next to a busy main road)...but it was also next to a large supermarket - I pigged out big time as for once I didn't have to carry the food far back to the campsite, so weight was no longer a consideration in what to buy. It must have been a hot evening as a whole bottle of red wine just seemed to evaporate.

The next day was supposed to be an easy day, but it didn't work out like that! Lovely walking from Penzance to Marazion, Prussia cove, Praa sands onto Porthleven. I'd been hoping to camp there and visit the pub and get a decent meal, but the campsite was double the price of anywhere else (and shit!) so I stocked up on food and water ready to wild camp. However, the fantastic beer served in the pub 3 miles up the coast in Gunwalloe, tempted me to trudge further than intended with my now ridiculously overloaded bag for another hour and a half. After my 16+ miles for the day I was absolutely shattered and gasping for a beer. I found a note on the pub door explaining that all of their staff were isolating from covid and the pub would reopen tomorrow!! Effing great!
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On the plus side, I managed to camp in a field next door. Dinner was 4 packets of super noodles, a bag of spinach and a tin of kidney beans. I woke up in the night so so thirsty (all the curry powder+chemical crap in the sachets with the noodles had totally dried my mouth out). Boy were my bowels relieved to get rid of everything the next morning! No photo - but I'd have needed a wide angled lens.

Feeling much lighter, I walked to Mullion (stunning in the morning sun).
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On to then meet my pal Tony again. Coffee and cakes at Kynance cove and off down to eat another delicious lunch box of healthy goodies at Lizard point. Loads of seals to spot whilst scoffing away.
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Camping at Henry's in Lizard town is recommended - very quirky. An added bonus was that two lovely ladies invited me to drink tea with them and then donated some craft ale to me to take away for the evening (they didn't like the stuff but had a crate of it in the back of their van!).
Breakfast the next day overlooking the "Devil's frying pan".
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Some beautiful views as I walked up the east coast of the Lizard.
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After camping in Coverack it was supposed to take 2 days to walk on to Falmouth, but I'd got rather wet in the morning, then very hot and sweaty in the afternoon - I was smelling rather ripe! So once I'd caught the ferry over to Helford passage I decided to carry on walking the extra 8 miles back to Falmouth. I was a little zombiefied towards the end, but I knew this stretch of coast so well I could walk it with my eyes shut. After 21 miles I finally staggered through my front door (I did unlock and open it first). What a strange feeling. I stripped off all of my stinky clothes and got into my own shower - heavenly. Two mugs of tea, a pint of Guinness, a glass of wine, some food and I was feeling normal again.
I'm treating myself to two days of rest. I've now walked 330 miles - only 300 more to go! I'll be setting off early on Sat Sept 11th - hope that's not an unlucky date.

Posted by simonstravels 14:44 Comments (6)

Every day has its ups and downs

After a whole career of teaching maths, I've finally started to understand the concept of infinity...there seem to be an infinite number of massive steep hills on the South West coast path - truly never ending! I started off the walk cursing the buggers - now I accept that they are a part of this absolutely magnificent coastline. I treat myself with an extra strong mint at the bottom of each hill (thinking the sugar rush may actually help) - I almost look forward to the next one!

The night after I wrote my last blog it poured with rain, so the next morning I walked for hours through very wet long grass - resulting in my boots finally letting in water. A long tough day walking to clovelly with wet soggy boots and socks. I camped wild that night by an old lime kiln and even I was shocked by the appalling revolting cheesy smell when I took off my boots! I washed my feet, socks and clothes in the stream and my feet still stunk! Didn't put me off my food though!
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A family walked past my tent (with me inside) at dusk and they all thought it hilarious when the daughter swung her rucksack with considerable force into my tent - bleddy ignorant emits!

Breakfast of tea and porridge on the cliff tops with this as a view was wonderful.
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I'd bought some food in Clovelly for overnight but had no food for the next two days until I got to Bude - I was going to stock up on sandwiches at the little shack cafe at Hartland point...so was in a little trouble when the bloody thing was closed! That meant walking all day with nothing other than a handful of nuts and a bit of chocolate. My destination was Hartland Quay with a great pub - I thought I'd buy food there... But it was closed due to all it's staff off with covid having been to Boardmasters festival the week before! Luckily there was a campsite nearby and thank goodness they had a small shop! I was so so hungry as it had been another long hard day. The weather had changed to sunny skies so now it's really really hot walking up the massive hills. On the plus side - I emptied my entire rucksack contents to dry in the sun, along with my freshly washed cheesy socks and sweat sodden shirt and undies.
The next days walk from Hartland point to Bude is known as the toughest days walk of the entire 630 mile hike. It was a baking hot day so sweat poured off me all day (not pleasant to feel it dripping from your bottom and armpits). What makes this section particularly tough (besides the 15 miles) are the ten massive steep descents to sea level then ridiculously steep climbs back up to the cliff tops. So steep I was using my poles like ice picks, helping me to lever myself up the cliff faces. I was absolutely exhausted by about 4pm but still had another hour to get into Bude. I limped into Bude camping and caravaning holiday park at 5pm, dripping with sweat and stinking horribly!
Sod me - the place has converted into a park of self catering units - no tents allowed! They suggested walking over 2 hours to the next campsite at Widemouth bay! My knees were saying no to that option.
What to do? I was soaking wet with sweat, very tired, ravenously hungry, extremely dehydrated and had nowhere to sleep. I walked into town and found a supermarket. I first bought some deodorant and wet wipes. Next bought was food and fluid. I found somewhere nice to sit, refuel and gather up some enthusiasm to walk out of town to find a place to wild camp. An easy lovely walk/stagger across fields out of Bude and I quickly found seemingly an ideal spot.
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I washed with half a pack of baby wipes, watched the sunset, crawled into my tent, was reading then heard a tractor come into my clifftop field. It was pitch black so had 12 spotlights blazing on the front. I watched it drive up the left side of my field, across the top then was heading straight for me!! It was mowing the grass (at night!). I leapt out of my tent, waving my arms like a lunatic and flashing my torch at the driver, fearing being mowed down. He stopped just in front of my tent saying he'd seen me. He said he'd carry on mowing the grass and go round me each time he circulated the field. Each time he drove round I would lie in bed with eyes shut waiting to be squished by a tractor - hoping he would continue to remember I was still there. I eventually fell asleep and obviously lived to tell the tale.

The next day I was surprisingly energetic and keen to walk. I was now in Cornwall and know how amazing the coast up here is. What an incredible walk to Crackington Haven. It has its fair share of hills but nothing compared to the previous day. Infact it felt good knowing that no other day to come should be as hard as the one I'd just completed. I felt real joy and happiness walking in the sunshine along a beautiful coastline. I reached Crackington Haven by lunchtime and craved food - a lot of it! A toasted tuna sandwich and a massive cream tea (with 2 pots of tea). Delicious and it barely touched the sides. I bought another sandwich and a pasty to take away as I was heading to lower penny crocker farm campsite 2.5 hours away (which had no food) - more hard but incredible walking.
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Colin who runs the campsite is an amazingly laid back guy. All hikers camp for free - he said it's amazing what we are doing and he makes enough money from all the other people. I enjoyed a hot shower and ate my dinner watching the sun set into the sea.
Off early for the 2 hour hike into Boscastle for breakfast. I bought a bag of porridge at the spar shop and they were kind enough to give me a kettle full of hot water (as I'm almost out of gas). Along the gorgeous coast for a few more miles to Tintagel. A huge shock to leave the tranquility and beauty of the coast path and walk into the horrendous throng of people in Tintagel. I needed food supplies, so sat at the first cafe I found. Downed gallons of tea, topped up my water bladder and bought 2 sets of sandwiches and 2 pasties. I couldn't get out of there quick enough.
I walked several more hours along tough but incredible paths to where I thought there was a small campsite. Turned out to be just a group of rental properties - rented by the poshest sounding people I think I've ever heard. The lady literally ran away and hid when she saw my sweaty form walking down her driveway. I topped up more water from an outside tap and headed to the nearby beach and most idyllic wild camping spot ever.
There was a flat patch of grass right by my own massive and stunning beach. I headed straight into the sea, still wearing all of my sweaty clothes of the day. It was just heaven. Playing and washing in the surf in the evening sun. Oh - total bliss!
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There was even a bench on which to eat my takeaway yummy dinner. Whilst eating 5 lads (from Surrey) had come down to the beach to fish. It was now high tide and one of them had dived into the sea to swim... But then couldn't get back out! Luckily there was a life ring where I was sitting. For half an hour this lad was in real danger, but they eventually got him out ok. I didn't want the drowning of a tourist to ruin a pretty perfect day.

Breakfast on the cliffs and a lovely long hike to Port Isaac. The place was stuffed full of tourists dripping in money. It was horrible and claustrophobic. Gallons of tea (and a well needed poo in the pub toilet), two pasties to take away and I escaped back to the sanctuary of the cliff path. The section from Port Isaac to Polzeath I think is one of the most stunning sections of the walk so far. Tough but beautiful walking. It made a very long day but boy was it worth it.IMG_20210827_114148.jpg

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A huge shock staggering very sweatily into the crowds of wealthy holiday makers of Polzeath (glad I didn't bump into David bloody Cameron - I had a speech prepared about sodding Brexit if I did). I managed to get the last spot in the valley campsite (they've given me low season rates - probably because I looked like I was desperate and about to die when I first arrived).
My ailments mentioned in my first blog aren't too bad anymore, but my knees are now really sore when ascending and descending the hugely steep thousands of steps that make up large parts of the coast path. I'm not sure there is a lot of knee cartilage left in either knee. I'm taking a rest day in the sun at Polzeath and hope they're a little better before I set off again tomorrow.
I'll keep going as long as my body will let me. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Posted by simonstravels 15:33 Archived in England Comments (8)

One step at a time

Six days into my latest adventure I'm beginning to wonder if it's such a good idea!
Walking the South West Coast Path (630miles/1031km) in one "go" has always been on my list of things to do before I die - seeing as it's bloody hard work carrying everything needed for an 8 week trek with all the camping equipment etc... I thought it best to do while I'm relatively for and I can still walk - though the first six days seem to have greatly accelerated the time when I'll be walking with a permanent limp!

https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walk-coast-path/trip-planning/SWCP-itinerary/

I started from Minehead and headed off with my pack (I'm guessing between 15 and 17kg depending upon how much food and water I have at the time) - first stop supposedly porlock weir.
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The first day is a remote part of the coast path with it's fair share of steep climbs to severely stretch my leg and hip muscles, not used to catching such weights. Beautiful views. Amazing to be on another adventure.
Porlock weir has a few lovely posh pubs and restaurants with delicious smells wafting from them (and jam packed full) but no food shops and more importantly no campsite. The place was heaving with hundreds of wealthy tourists - definitely no where to discretely wild camp either. I'd already walked for 7/8 hours and was knackered so didn't want to walk much further. I bought a sandwich and three (yes 3!!) huge slabs of cake for dinner from a cafe and off I walked. Sod me - it was pretty much all uphill through woods for the next two hours before I finally found a farmers field to erect my tent. I was shattered! My hamstrings were so tight. My hips had blistered, burst, bled and were bruised where my rucksack waistband had rubbed against the waistband of my underpants (I've learned now rolling down my pants waistband helps prevent the blistering though not the bruising). I was asleep by 8pm - too tired to change out of my sweaty clothes before climbing into my sleeping bag.
At 6am the next morning I stuck my head out of the tent to find it cold, wet and drizzling. I packed up the wet tent and hiked for a couple of hours before the rain stopped and I brewed some tea and ate my muesli. Lynmouth/lynton was the destination for the day - no towns in between. Gorgeous views, long steep hills - all perfect... though my inner right ankle bone started to ache - I thought little of it then. A great little campsite for the night - a well needed hot shower to scrape off some solidified sweat, wash some clothes and have a proper poo!
On the road again before 7am with wet washing dangling from my rucksack
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I now realised that my ankle was'nt bruised. I think I've pulled the tendons really badly on the inside of the ankle - walking on a camber is now incredibly painful. I spent much of the day using the walking poles as crutches. I was really concerned that if it got much worse I'd have to abandon the trek. I tried all sorts of different walking styles - small fairy steps, walking on my toes, different use of the poles (including as crutches)... staggering views though!
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It was very slow going but after 10 hours walking I limped into Coombe Martin - which had a very welcome campsite - with a great hot shower and somewhere to charge my phone.
The chip shop in town had a queue round the block (tourists bloody everywhere) - so a picnic of sandwiches and mini bottle of wine on the beach.
Day 4 once again on the road by 7am - off to Woolacombe bay. Today was the first day there was to be a town before reaching my destination, Ilfracombe. My routine is currently walking for a couple of hours before stopping to "cook" breakfast of tea and muesli. The outskirts of Ilfracombe was perfect.
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Again struggling with my ankle I walked 9 hours to finally reach Woolacombe - which was stuffed to the eyeballs with tourists. I'm sure all the ones I saw and heard were heavily overweight, stuffing in a burger and ice cream at the same time whilst simultaneously yelling at the kids in a "brummy" accent. I'd been looking forward to some hot food but everywhere was crammed packed full! A pot of tea to recoup my energy, grabbed some sandwiches from a mini supermarket and headed off to find a suitable place to camp in the sand dunes behind the beach - perfect! No one in sight.
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Feeling rather sweaty and grimey I headed off early towards Broughton. An easy enough trek to Croyd and Saunton, but then the walk deteriorated badly. I basically had to hike along miles and miles of a disused railway to Bridgewater. Much further than I wanted to be walking, but absolutely no where to camp. I bought food in Lidl before setting off again on the railway track towards Bideford. I'd walked 24 miles!! before finally finding somewhere vaguely suitable I could pitch my tent. I tiny patch of grass right on the edge of the estuary. Whilst eating dinner on the nearby bench a sodding dog trotted along and did a big poo on the edge of the grass I had earmarked as my bed for the night. The owner picked "most" of it up! I wasn't going to walk on anywhere else - that's where I camped.
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There was definitely a whiff of poo as I entered the tent but I wasn't smelling too great myself by then - it was almost preferable to my own odours!

Day six was another extremely long flat days walking. 18 more miles through Bideford, Appleyard and on to Westward Ho! the highlight was going in a cafe for a coffee, quick charge of the phone, top up with water and the desperately needed poo (tricky when there was only one toilet for the whole cafe and someone was waiting - so only a half load was evacuated! Not easy to relax in such circumstances. Despite the ludicrous distances walked over the last couple of days, being flat terrain has really helped my ankle - I've felt little pain - not that it's better but there has been no camber on the path. My feet, knees, hips and shoulders are still killing me though.
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I'm currently at a farm campsite 3 miles outside Westward Ho! Perfect! I've decided to have a rest day (hence time to write this blog). I've washed some clothes, had two hot showers, charged my phone, pooed in a full and relaxed manner and don't intend walking anywhere unless it's to buy food!

Posted by simonstravels 11:06 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (6)

Wangkor What?

Not sure anyone will want to read this during the craziness and horror that is happening in the world. If not, just flick through the photos.
I wanted to write it anyway.
Here is the last blog of my travels.

My month in Cambodia started so wonderfully, but finished rather more negatively.
The land border between Laos and Cambodia is infamous for being a long, hot and corrupt ordeal. The Laos officials charged me a $2 passport "stamping out" fee to leave the country - straight into their back pocket probably. A hot walk across 'no man's land" to the Cambodian immigration offices to pay more bribe money - $1 "health check" where no health is actually checked, $5 added to the official visa price, then a $2 passport "stamping in" fee. This lucrative "illegal" procedure took over 2 hours for the 10 people in my minivan to be "processed". Officials probably earn more from bribes than their actual salaries!
A very long hot sweaty bus journey followed. The whole journey totalling almost 12 hours - I had to change buses 4 times! Two of the buses had no A/C and were swelteringly hot. More "betty swollocks"!
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I finally arrived into the town of Siem Reap, feeling a little clammy in the nether regions. Bingo with my online choice of hostel - an A/C dorm, breakfast included, a fabulous swimming pool area with sunbeds and a bar, all for $4/night....and "pub street" was just down the road. A shower, quick swim, beer and I felt much better!
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The magnificent "Angkor Wat" temples are the reason thousands of tourists flood to Siem Reap.
(With almost no Chinese tourists here the place was pleasantly uncrowded.)
There are loads of incredible temples spread over a very large area north of the town (many square miles). $62 for a 3 day entry ticket is mega money in a country where beer is 50cents/glass and food in a restaurant starts from $2 - but even I thought the experience of seeing those temples was worth the money (Shock! Maybe I have sunstroke!).
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Most people hire a tuk tuk each day to drive them to the various temples. Me being a bit mad and wanting my independence, decided to hire a bicycle and cycle 40-50km each day from temple to temple, in the incredible heat...so so much sweat! Obviously the 50cent beers helped put the fluids back each evening. Also very pleased my hostel had a swimming pool I could fall into at the end of each day. I could almost see the steam rise as I hit the pool water!

The main "famous" temple there is Angkor Wat. Rather popular at sunrise.
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My favourite temples were the ones where nature has started to take over. (Used in the Lara Croft tomb raider film.)
The trees are old, the temples far far older.
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What a place!
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Before leaving Siem Reap I met up with a lovely friend (Vishi) that I'd met in India last year; our paths have crossed several times in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. At last our plans coincided and we were able to travel together for several days. We headed to the gorgeous tropical island of Koh Rong Samloem, lying off the south coast of Cambodia.

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The overnight bus to get us there was another "sleeping bus"; shoes have to be removed before getting on to the bus, two people are then squeezed together in very narrow beds. Quite a nice way to get from one place to another if you know the person you're pressed up against - not so pleasant if it's a complete stranger!
We stayed in the town of M'Pai bay. Not a particularly pretty town, but fabulous beaches and great sunsets.
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It was so great to spend time in such a beautiful place with a lovely friend. Unfortunately Vishi had to leave after 5 days and make her way back to India. I stayed on the island 5 days longer and caught a boat to another picture perfect beach - Saracen bay. Absolutely stunning. An enormously long beach, the finest of white sands and amazingly clear green warm waters. The hostels, bars and restaurants are all literally on the beach.
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My dorm was perfectly located and amazingly had A/C, but boy was the bathroom dirty. The sink and toilet had clearly not been cleaned in several weeks. All soiled toilet paper is put into a bin. This wasn't emptied for over a week - and up to 8 people stay in the dorm...so it was overflowing and a tad smelly!
But I could wake up, walk straight out from my bed onto the beach in just my "budgie smugglers" and swim in the warm ocean whilst watching the early morning sun rising slowly above the tree line. A perfect way to start each day. After breakfasting on a fish or vegetable curry and rice, I would spend the day reading my book - "Robinson Crusoe" - under a tree, pausing only to cool off for the umpteenth time in the crystal clear waters.
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To vary the routine a little I spent a couple of days trekking across the hot jungle interior of the island to get to "lazy beach" and "sunset beach" - gaining a few more insect bites and losing an extra pint or two of sweat along the way!
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The only downside to being on the island are the ferociously biting sand flies. Tiny little buggers with big teeth. Their bites itch far worse than any mosquito bites and carry on itching horribly for up to 2 weeks.
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Eventually I left the paradise island of Koh Rong Samloem and headed to Kampot, a fairly sleepy Cambodian river town. A nice place to hang out for a few days. Many expats live here. They tend to be aging alcoholic hippies that arrived many years ago and never left.
There I visited a pepper farm. Apparently the pepper corns from Kampot are the best in the world.
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Amazingly each peppercorn is picked by hand! Then sorted by colour.
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Whilst in Kampot I started to hear rumours that I may not be able to travel to my next intended destination of Vietnam. I read stories online of tourists in Vietnam being evicted from hostels and not being allowed to enter some restaurants. Even buying water was becoming a problem. Lots of places were shutting down and tourists were being told to leave. Until then coronovirus had not really impacted on daily life in southeast Asia.
I travelled to the capital city of Phnom Penh and confirmed that it was no longer possible to get a visa to Vietnam.
(A tad annoying as I'd already bought 2 air tickets for Joe and Kate to fly to Ho Chi Minh City. I'd also previously bought a flight for me out of the country.)
Online I saw that Malaysia was still open to tourists and seemed safe, so bought a flight ticket to Kuala Lumpur.
Before leaving Cambodia I visited the main tourist attractions in the capital: a visit to the genocide museum and the killing fields. Here graphic audio tours tell the story of the Khymer rouge, led by Polpot. They murdered nearly half the countries population in under 4 years, mostly by beating them to death with clubs, often after weeks of horrendous torture.
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The baby killing tree was particularly distressing.
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Nearby though was a far more beautiful, amazing tree - where I sat in the shade, in silence contemplating the horrors that one human had inflicted on another during this dreadful time.
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The next day I caught a tuk-tuk to Phnom Penh airport, queued up at "check in" for an hour and was then told that foreigners were no longer allowed to fly to Malaysia. The borders had been closed overnight!
(That was my 4th air ticket I couldn't use.)
So I caught a tuk-tuk back to the city centre where I booked a bus ticket to Bangkok. I was told when I bought the ticket that the border to Thailand was probably still open, but they weren't sure! All other countries in southeast Asia had now closed their borders, so if I couldn't get into Thailand I would be in trouble. The scale of this virus's affect worldwide was now becoming very apparent. Until then people in southeast Asia felt largely detached and unaffected by the virus - not any more. Fear was spreading rapidly.
This time I spent my night bus ride squashed against a middle aged Thai gentleman - not as pleasant as my ride with Vishi.
Total relief when I was allowed to cross the border into Thailand the next morning. A pleasant VIP minivan ride to Bangkok completed the journey, where I headed straight to the wonderful hostel I've stayed in several times before. It feels like home each time I come here and felt safe.
With the threat of Thailand soon closing its borders, the next day I headed to the airport. After a very long stressful wait in a queue with lots of angry people complaining about their flights being cancelled, I managed to get my flight rearranged from June 25th with Swiss air, to March 24th with Thai airways. I was so happy and very relieved. Now I just hope the flight doesn't get cancelled and I don't get ill before departure.
I have the joy of self isolation to come, but have rented a nice cottage in Cornwall close to home to isolate myself.

It's been an amazing trip, albeit stopped a little prematurely by coronovirus, but it feels like going "home" is now the right thing to do.
I hope everyone stays fit and well and we all get through this pandemic safely.
Thank you for reading my blogs and the many wonderful comments. They've been great fun to write.
Stay safe. X

Posted by simonstravels 18:09 Comments (6)

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