“Oh, that is something I’ve always wanted to do.” If we’d have got 10 Euro every time we have heard this sentence we would be millionaires. We hear it from locals, from tourists and from comments online. Why does everyone have a lifelong desire to walk 1,100 km? Are they all as crazy as we are? No, it is one of those life challenges. One of those things that money can’t buy. That feeling of achievement is priceless. And it also helps that we are walking through some of the most dramatic, wild and stunningly beautiful coastlines that we’ve even seen in our lives. It is exciting. And sometimes life can be rather monotone. Our days aren’t black and white, they are full of exploding rainbows.
So we are deep in the heart of Cornwall. A place that feels a million miles away from the rest of the world. Where London is “a place we only go to once a year if we have to,” and where other parts of the UK are “more than a day’s drive away.” They aren’t but that’s the feedback we get from locals.
To be honest they just seem to be happy where they are. Each village and town has its own story, its own legend, and the locals are always eager to share it.
They live from tourism. Roughly 4 million tourists visit Cornwall every year. Which, when compared with Dubrovnik, isn’t that much. In Cornwall lives half a million people, so the ratio of tourists to locals is very different.
To be Cornish and live on the coast you need to do one thing, no matter how old or young you are, and that is surf. Just the other day we met a rather elegantly dressed woman, probably in her mid-fifties, walking her two dogs on the beach. We had a chat and she recommended a good cafe for us to visit. Just as we had finished our coffee we heard someone shout “enjoy your coffee,” and there in front of us was the same woman in a full wetsuit carrying her surfboard under her arm. “Only got my easy board today as the waves aren’t that big,” she smiled and continued her walk down the beach.
People surf before work, children after school, couples on dates. They surf in the rain, in the sun and in the wind.
One man caught our eye the other day as he was one of the rare ones to be surfing without a wetsuit. “Is it chilly” I asked as the man in his late sixties stood dripping in front of me with a surf board under his arm. “No, it is lovely, absolutely beautiful this morning,” he smiled. “What do you think the temperature is,” I continued. “It is a balmy 16 degrees for sure,” he said, adding “just right.”
He wasn’t alone in this particular bay. There were at least 30 people surfing.
They live with the sea. Crabs and lobsters are on all the menus and they aren’t that expensive at all. So prices in general. People are fascinated by the price of a cup of coffee, so that is a good place to start, the average cafe bar will charge you around 3.5 pounds. A light lunch for two people will be around 30 pounds, an evening meal around 45 pounds. Real estate is expensive. Mainly due to the fact that lots of tourists are buying second homes, or holiday homes, on the coast. The average house price here is 336,000 pounds, not cheap! And from the other side of the coin the average salary is around 29,000 pounds gross annually. But to be honest in all the conversations we have had during our long trip we have never talked with anyone about finances. People don’t talk about money.
“Ever since they filmed Doc Martin here the whole place is like Disneyland,” complained one local as we sat in a bar. The place, Port Isaac. And it was the backdrop for the mega popular TV serial Doc Martin. For ten years this serial was filmed in this charming seaside village. And today it is full of souvenirs, walking tours and photo opportunities. Sound familiar. We slept with a view to the Doctor’s home in the serial and from the early morning hours to sunset people stood outside to get a photo, a selfie. And prices reflect the fact that this place is a TV star. Hotels and Airbnb’s are twice the price of anywhere else we have been. “We can’t complain really. Yes, we would like to have our village back again, to enjoy the peace and tranquility, but the fame has brought with it the chance for everyone in the village to earn,” smiled our Airbnb host. It seems that we have a similar situation.
So on we walk. Our feet have passed around 300 kilometres. Another couple of days and we will have walked from Dubrovnik to Sibenik. However, the big difference is that we have already climbed around 15,000 metres along the way. That means that we have almost walked up Everest two times! Or 14 times from the promenade in Cavat to the top of Snježnica. Or 33 times from the Banja to the top of Srđ.
And our feet and legs are certainly feeling it. I have realised that this long-distance walking is more a mental battle than a physical one. Yes, of course you need to be fairly fit but the power of my mind to overcome the pain you might be feeling in your back, shoulders, feet or legs is the power that will get you through the day. We all have that power. You just need to release it.
OK, boots back on, 13 kg rucksack on my back, hat on and walking pole, I am ready for another day.
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