This is a marathon and not a sprint. Although marathon is probably way to small a word. Yes, we will have actually done over 25 marathons by the time we have finished. Is it slow going? Yes, of course it is. But nothing worthwhile was ever completed in the blink of an eye. It is all about patience, dedication and hard work.
I can’t put into words how challenging, but at the same time, how rewarding this adventure is. And we are taking our time a little to dive into the landscapes, learn something about the history and most of all speak to the people. When you are carrying a massive rucksack on your back you do tend to stick out as a conversation point. And with our dog Toto bouncing around as well it isn’t tricky to keep the chat flowing.
We’ve met a whole host of people. A real plethora of opinions, ages and nationalities. The most numerous foreigners by a long way are Germans. Clearly the Germans have heard of this walk and want to experience it for themselves. Almost every day we have met a new group of Germans.
We felt rather sorry for one young lady we met the other day. “Where are you from?” Asked my wife. “From north London,” she answered. Clearly her accent wasn’t Cockney. “But you sound like maybe you come from my region of the world,” my wife followed up. With a shy and embarrassed look she answered “I am sorry to say that I come from Russia.” She had gone red in the face. What a horrible position to be in. To first hide your place of birth and then be ashamed of your own country.
We are both in a media black hole. We haven’t watched TV for over 5 weeks, and barely have good enough internet connection to follow the news on our mobile phones. But we could see from the look on her face that the war in Ukraine was still active and whatever the outcome she was on the losing side. Swedes, Dutch, Americans and Australians, we’ve met them all, no Croatians so far but we live in hope.
The nature and coastline have been stunning all the way, just perfection. The architecture and villages look like postcards. We have walked 500 km and have yet to see a building or house without a facade. It is all finished. The countryside, the objects and the infrastructure, they have all been finished a long time ago. But the thing that sticks most in our heads every day are the people we meet.
Now we are in a rural part of England which probably plays a large factor, but everyone we bump into are just so friendly and kind, always willing to help, in fact they go out of their way to help. Nothing is ever a problem and they are always willing to jump in and do whatever they can to solve our problem or just put a smile on our faces. “Do you need a lift down the road,” a farmer shouted just the other day as we walked down a small country lane. “I will go and get some shopping for you too,” said another lady as we entered her Airbnb. “Give that laundry to me and I will do it,” said another man after we asked where the nearest laundrette was. This happens to us numerous times every day. In almost every cafe bar, pub or restaurant that we go into the waiters come up to Toto with either a bowl of water or a biscuit. In fact, I can’t remember entering a cafe without seeing a bowl of free dog biscuits on the counter. We actually went to one the other day where the lady owner baked her own fresh dog biscuits every morning. “Today we have peanut butter and banana,” she smiled as Toto sat and waved his paw in her direction to grab her attention for another biscuit.
Yes, finding dog friendly accommodation can sometimes be a problem. But you have to bear in mind that we ware walking in remote places. In most places where we sleep there will only be four or five options on Airbnb, and we are lucky if we can find a campsite. So options for dog friendly places are scarce.
“Have you tried Jim,” asked one taxi driver. We had got completely lost on some moor land. It was getting dark. The mist was rolling in off the sea. And we hadn’t seen anyone for hours. We headed inland after seeing what we though looked like a car park in the middle of nowhere. The road was tiny and we couldn’t hear or see and vehicles. We were out near Land’s End. A place forgotten by time. “We’ll have to phone a taxi,” I said to my wife. Again we had our daily fight with finding a mobile signal. “Oh, I will be there in half an hour or so, I am just pulling up my last lobster pot,” said the man on the phone. Yes, I had phoned a local taxi company, but this is Cornwall and life is just different.
He turned up in a vintage Jaguar. A real sailor type, with a large white beard and smoking a pipe. “You look as lost as a sheep in Truro,” he said. Clearly this was a local saying. “We are headed for a campsite but got lost,” I answered as we sat down on leather seats. This is when he brought up Jim. “Siri call The Last Inn,” he said and within seconds the voice of Jim was echoing around the 1960’s Jaguar. The Last Inn was a pub and Jim the landlord. This is how we ended up sleeping in our tent behind a pub in the middle of nowhere. Our days are strange. Fun, exciting and strange. “Right, I am off to cook some lobsters,” waved our taxi driver from his car, “enjoy the camping and if you need some help further around the peninsular don’t hesitate to call me, the weather can change here in a heartbeat.”
What will tomorrow bring, who knows. I am not even sure where we will sleep. But I do know it’s going to be unforgettable.
Follow our travels on - Travels With Toto 2022
And you can donate to our good causes here - https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mark-thomas-270
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to