A Long Walk

[Apologies ahead of time for spelling errors. No spell check and writing on limited time]

Applying lip balm is painful when your lips are cracked and feeling rather enlarged–like you’ve eaten something you are allergic to. These are the same lips that confidently muttered yesterday (around two hours into my walk) “I feel so good, I could walk to Padstow!” This means nothing to those who are not looking at a map of origin and destination, so let me simplify–You are out for a long run, say ten miles, and you proclaim: I could run a marathon today! And then you Do! But let’s not give you much to eat and let’s give you three blisters, a twelves pound pack, and the (albeit beautiful) hot glaring sun. Oh, and don’t forget the hiking shoes because you can’t actually run becasue of the narrow passage which plummets up and down no less than thirty times. Now are you ready?

Those ill-fated lips were heard by the universe and when I reached my intended stopping point of Port Issac I learned there was no room at the inn or any inn. I sat and pondered my fate: Go inland by bus and seek accommodations or press on and hope for something to materialize between here and Padstow. There were twelve miles between me and the next ‘real’ town and I had already gone close to fifteen. I figured is was less than what I had gone, but it was also 2:30 in the afternoon. I decided to press on.

Before leaving, I stopped in a sandwich shop and ordered a cheese and tomato sandwich for take away. The man took my order in an overly cheerful manner. In a bright blue apron he was surrounded with shelves of kitchy coffee service items and photos. “Here to see the filiming?” “Filming?” I said, “Oh, no. What are they filing?” “Doc Martin, of course.” “Doc Martin?” “You know Doc Martin?!” This I wasn’t sure if it came with an exclamation point or a question mark. My face gave me away. “The T.V.Show!” “Oh, right.” I said “They film here and the town gets mobbed.” It was then that I noticed beside the colorful sugar holders and creamers were chocolate bars and pot holders with Doc Martin’s face. Above that were a dozen or so cheaply framed 8×10 publicity photos of who I persumed to be Doc Martin’s crew. I didn’t actually know the show other than I had heard of it. I thanked the man and made my way to the end of the lane, back towards the path–walking directly in front of two lighting guys resting on their heels and smoking fags and a woman with a headset and sporting an official looking laynard telling a woman that the red scarf had to go!

With one tomato and cheese sandwich swinging from my shoulder strap, a refill of my water, and an I can do this! attitude, I set off. I was making about 2 and a half miles an hour–I know that sounds slow, but refer back to the accessory details. I thought I could make it to Polzeath–the town prior to Padstow–by 6:30. There I imagined a b&b which I had a number for but was unsuccessful in reaching back in Port Issac.

About an hour into the new extended hike, I pulled up at a bench. You will see a bench along the path occassionally with some kind of marker. A memorial or gift to someone. This one read: Barry Forde A wonderful person. Loved by Everyone 1962-2009. I wondered about Barry as I re-fashioned my sporty washcloth shoulder pads, re-tied my jacket, lattered on more sunscreen and took the first bite of my sandwich. Who was Barry? How nice it was of his friends or family to place a bench in this remote spot–a spot unprotected by wind in which you could look north or south for miles and straight west onto a huge rock that stood unconnected to land in the ocean. I was starting to feel the firsts hints of fatigue with a bitter taste of self-pity. No one even knew where I was at this moment.

I shook off the self pity and stumbled on, being careful that fatigue did not translate into falling. The hours wore on and every twenty or thirty minutes I’d pull the sandwich, while maintaining my stride, and have a bite. I started thinking about the back up plans: “What if no b&b? What if no place to sleep?” I could go to a pub, get a meal, clean up in their bathroom and layer on all my clothes. Then I could find a park bench. This provided that I actually found a pub and a park bench! All I had going now was a rocky, dusty trail and some meadows that I could share with the sheep. Possibilities turned cursing myself for not making better plans. The dialogue went something like: “Ann, what were you thinking? Go to a foreign country and decline to make reservations–thinking what? You’d just wing it during the warm summer season along the coast? Hello Ann, perhaps you’d like to consider a visit to Planet Common Sense??! Winging it might have sounded cool and adventuresome from the other side of the pond, but now it is just DAFT!”

Late into the afternoon I rounded the headland for Polzeath. It was here that I started on a new mantra, repeating: “I do have a place to stay tonight. I do have a place to stay tonight!” I repeated this and while it sounds silly now, it actually cheered me up quite a bit. Around 6:45 I figured I was close enough to make cell connection and tried the b&b. A man answered. He sounded older and I launched into my prediciment thinking I’d work in how I’d be willing to sleep on a couch or even floor. “Geez, that’s a helluva walk! We have a room for you luv, no problem. You’ll just need to take the water taxi over at this hour.” The water taxi?? “I thought you were in Polzeath?” “No, dear, Padstow…you still have 3 miles to go before the taxi. Best get a move on and ring us from the water.”

I cursed but was immediately grateful. I can do three more miles. In Polzeath proper I ducted into a convenient store and got a lemon sparkling water which I downed in two minutes time and headed off to the path. Of course I passed by the small path sign on the first go and had to circle back…noting no pubs but a few park benches and alot of surf shops. A made my way along the beach where evening brought families to the beach for cookouts and I tramped by with my worn look, pack, and boots. I made it to the water taxi pick up and called Peter, my b&b host. He said he and his wife Jane were waiting up for me and had gone down to the taxi and told the man to watch out for a “young, attractive American girl.” The water taxi arrived and the man helped me aboard…”Walked a far piece today, have ya?” “Yep,” I answered, “Kinda crazy.” “I’d say,” he quipped and we were off.

Walking up to Peter and Jane’s door I heard a man’s voice from inside shout: “She’s here. She’s made it!”

In an instant I felt I was going not into a stranger’s home but into a familiar space–like arriving at your grandparents. “My goodness lass, you trying to give that American–What’s his name–Bill something–what is it Jane? That Bill Bryson a run for his money? Well, you better bathe and get to bed, you’ll be wanting to make it out early tomorrow so you can make it to Penzance!” (A ridiculous way out)

We laughed and then I bit my chapped lips, sucking in my grateful tears.


  1. Carlos Moreno says:

    Wonderful stuff, Ann. Good job shaking off adversity. Onward into the fog!

    1. Ann says:

      Thanks Carlos! Hope you are well. Lots of post hiking stretching here…and always looking for a good cup of java. Be well

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