The longest journey starts with the hardest step, the first step. We have been debating, discussing and planning this first step for well over a year. An adventure of our lives that will see us, my wife, my dog (Toto) and I walking the longest continuous path in England, the South-West coastal path.
A path that stretches around 1,100 kilometres, or for my English readers, 630 miles, and wraps around four different counties.
But before we can do our first step of this monumental walk (walk seems to small a word) we need to actually get to our starting point. In other words we need to drive 2,500 kilometres before we can walk 1,100 kilometres.
As me neared the Croatian capital I said to my wife “Do you realise that we are now setting out on walk that is equivalent to walking from Stradun to Ban Josip Jelacic, turning around after a coffee in Gradska Kavana, and walking back down south to Dubrovnik.” We must be bad. In fact, it probably helps that we are a little crazy.
The first night in Zagreb and the onto Frankfurt, a night at the Channel Tunnel, and then the push down to the far south west of my homeland. Slovenia whizzed by, as it usually does. Austria was its normal mix of green-covered mountains and undrinkable coffee. Germany, wow this is a big bloody country, it is never-ending. What has happened to the German sense of work ethic and organisation? If any German tourist complains at the condition of our roads grab the end of a whole pršut and smack them on the head. Compared to German roads we drive on carpets in the south of Croatia. We had to drive over roughly 500 kilometres of highway in our first day and without exaggeration at least half were covered in roadworks and three lanes were squeezed into two.
If you want to become a millionaire sell orange paint to the Germans. When the roadworks mean lanes get squeezed down to two, to sometimes even one, they use orange paint to make the new road markings. All we saw was orange paint!
And the Black Forest is now blacker than ever. I have never seen so many black, shining solar panels in my life! The south of Germany is black and reflective. And I’m not just talking about industry and private homes, I’m talking whole farmers fields of solar panels that stretch as far as the eye can see. Probably heavily subsidised by the EU, especially in light of upcoming winter period with Putin turning off the gas tap.
“Why don’t we have more of these own the ground that we don’t use. Surely, we have more sun than the Germans?” quizzed my wife. She had a point. “And will electricity be much, much cheaper when we start producing everything from renewable sources,” she added. Again she had a point.
But if we were to take that theory then electricity in our whole county would be free as we’re fully green thanks to Plat.
Onwards to Calais and the opening of the tunnel that physically joins the UK with continental Europe. All the time we are thinking and trying to plan ahead for what awaits us over the next two months.
Can you really plan for this? Well, to a certain degree, but what you can’t plan for is the unexpected. As the sun still pours down on Europe it is raining where our walks starts. “At least we won’t be too hot,” I joked with my wife. Rain is expected in the first few days, which kind of justifies my nephew when he summed up our walk in one sentence “You are going for a two-month walk in the rain.”
I was asked by one colleague in the media “How do you think this experience will change you?” I didn’t have an answer. I can answer all the practical questions, but this one I couldn’t. I only know that it will change us, but in what way, well I have no idea.
We have set up our social media, Travel with Toto 2022, and have been overwhelmed by the kind words of support as well as the donations that have started. Yes, we have a humanitarian angle, we are collecting for Dementia UK in England as my father, who would have loved to have done the walk, unfortunately died due to dementia a couple of years ago. And in Croatia for S-Pas society, an excellent society that has an animal shelter and is a shining light on how animal welfare should be done. That’s our anglo-Croatian joint. And both causes are worthy and both need funds.
We will be carrying a UK flag, a Croatian one and the flag of St. Blaise on our rucksacks. And of course be spreading the news about Dubrovnik, promoting our tourism to the Brits, and the English countryside to the Croatians. Wish us luck. We will keep you all updated with regular videos on our social media. This time next week we’ll probably have our first blisters! God help us.