Friday, 22 September 2023

We are having the hardest and at the same time most fulfilling adventure of our lives

Written by  Sep 26, 2022

Morning,” we sing almost in harmony for the umpteenth time as we pass yet another pair of walkers. And the echo of “morning” bounces right back at us. On the easier sections of the South West Coastal Path we quite often bump into people enjoying the unusually warm September weather. On bikes, walking, skateboarding, on anything that propels them forward. And then on the more challenging sections its back to the three of us for conversation. “Have you noticed that most of the people that we pass who are actually older than us,” commented my wife as we once again sung “morning.” She was right. It wasn’t something that had occurred to me at first. I felt like a teenager again on the walk. “Oh, thank you young man,” had said a lady just yesterday as I opened a gate for her. I am guessing that the younger generations were working or at school, so the ratio between young and old probably isn’t fair. But I would guess that we pass around 50 elderly people, by elderly I mean over 70, every single day. And the same number who are over 65. And hats off to them. Whereas many elderly would be in bed or shuffling around the home moaning that they can’t do anything whilst popping another tablet these “grey walkers” are active, both physically and mentally.

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The things that we have seen. The stories that we will be able to tell. Every day brings new views, new experiences and new memories. This coastline is truly stunning. Challenging to walk, but stunning. In fact a fellow walker told us the other day that “this is in the fifth most difficult long distance walks in the world.” Now, as we aren’t long distance walkers. We have certainly jumped in at the deep end. “What walks have you done before,” asked a passerby the other day. I wanted to say “to the top of Snježnica” but stopped myself. “This is the first one,” I replied. He had a look on his face like we were mad. Probably he was right. But we keep going. We keep pushing up countless steps, along windy cliff-edges, down slippery slopes, over bridges and through tunnels. By the end of the walk we will have climbed over 35,000 metres, or four times Everest. We have reached the 100 mile mark. Only another 530 to do. But we never look further ahead than the day before us. In our tent every morning we plan the rest of the day. Where will eat, walk and finally sleep. We check the weather, pack up our tent (we’re quick now) and set off. It is like we both have a blinkered determination. And you really need to get on with your walking partner. We are spending 24 hours a day together for just over 2 months and in some very testing situations. Do we argue and fight? Of course we do, that’s only normal and natural. But we always go to sleep with a cuddle. The argument is forgotten.

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So how did this monumental walk come about? There is a clue in the places and landmarks that we are passing. Hidden cove, Smugglers point, Pirate bay, Fire Beacon Point and Black rock are actually all names of places. Yes, I know that they sound like I’ve taken them from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but they are real places. So the walk was formed as the local coastguards were patrolling the coastline keeping a lookout for smugglers. And the number one black market  item was rum. You have to bear in mind that this part of the UK is directly in the path of the warm winds, the so called trade winds, that blow permanently from the US, down from Florida and the Caribbean to England. That’s the reason why a flight from the UK to the US takes 2 hours longer than the other way around. And it is also the reason why palm trees grow in the south west.

Lots of sunshine here, but also those winds usually scoop up plenty of rain on their long journey across the Atlantic. And these winds also brought smugglers loaded down with rum. So over time the coastguards paths slowly joined. Sections were formed and over a few hundred years a complete path was formed. Now as the coastguards clearly needed to be close to the coast to spot the smugglers sails the coast path doesn’t take the quickest route from one spot to another (we have found that out) but the route that best covers the shore. On this walk direct is a word you need to forget very quickly. But it isn’t the finish it is the journey. And we are having the hardest and at the same time most fulfilling adventure of our lives. Everyone wants to stop and talk, I’m guessing that the size of our rucksacks gives them a clue that we are doing the whole path.

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The words of support, the donations to our causes and the general kindness has been a little overwhelming. Apart from the Queen’s funeral, which of course we observed, we have no clue what is going on in the world. And nobody that we meet seems to have any idea either. Not once have we talked about politics, current affairs, the economy or social matters, it is always just the day ahead and the journey. They always offer some local advice, mention a good pub with food or a view we shouldn’t miss. And this type of conversation is exactly what we need. It seem that there isn’t room in our heads for anything else but the day, and our motto is carpe diem!

Follow out travels on - Travels With Toto 2022 

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