As you may have read in my earlier post, I am volunteering at Sepilok orang-utan sanctuary in Borneo next year. Fundraising is well underway.
I pledged to walk 87 miles of the South West Coast Path from Bude to Chapel Porth, Cornwall, in 5 days. And I did it! Well…. almost.
My friend, Amanda, was coming along for the ride and we were both excited about the beautiful scenery and the chance to get a little time together before I leave for the big, wide world in November.
I don’t think we knew what a challenge it would be and what we were letting ourselves in for.
The first disaster struck when two weeks before the walk, the left shoe of my trusty Karrimor’s of 10 years sprung a leak. I raced into town to grab some more shoes; waterproof, comfortable and hard-wearing. After walking around the shop in them for ten minutes or so they felt fine, so I left with a size 5 feeling satisfied with my purchase.
Of course, I didn’t have time to walk them in properly.
A couple of days before we were due to leave, the right shoe had started rubbing. I started to worry. In the UK you can never predict the weather, even the forecasters get it wrong half the time, so I just couldn’t risk wearing my leaky left shoe. Luckily, the offending items were opposing feet. I still had one option:
I know, right? Style icon. However, who cares about fashion when you are clambering up the side of a cliff face 50 miles into an 87 mile walk? Not me. Comfort every time.
So with the shoe situation “sorted”, we left for Bude. We didn’t remain this bright-eyed and bushy tailed for long!
The first day did not go as planned. We had journeyed down to Bude the night before in order to get an early start. However, neither of us had slept well so we ended up leaving a lot later than planned. Throw into the mix Amanda’s bag breaking and the terrain being harder than we were expecting – think steep declines on slippy, slate cliffs followed instantly by near vertical climbs all weighed down with your camping gear for a week – and we made it much less of a distance than originally planned. Day one culminated in panicked wild camping on the side of a hill, the tent being whiplashed by the wind and both of us barely sleeping for fear of axe-wielding murderers who may happen to pass us by on the Coast Path!
Day two was beautiful, awesome and incredibly heavy going. We made it to a little town called Crackington Haven by about 9am and stopped for a much needed caffeine hit. We decided that for our own sanity, we needed to make it to campsites each night. A shower and a bit of civilisation makes all the difference when you’ve been wandering in the wilderness for hours.
That night we made it to Tintagel and I never thought I’d be that happy to see a caravan park!
Cue day three: Both absolutely knackered and it was starting to take its toll. The terrain was still practically vertical ups and downs and we also had to battle with ticks, near missed busted ankles, a close call with a tumble off the cliff and being chased by a herd of angry cows! FYI, running laden down like a pack horse is still possible when fear kicks in!
It was much more of a struggle both mentally and physically but, by the end of the day we were nearly 40 miles from where we set off and at Polzeath Beach watching the sun set. Tired but happy and feeling much more positive about the next day.
Luckily, a good night’s sleep was in store for us both that night so we got off to an early start the next day and also, the landscape was no longer the scene for a death-defying parkour event and instead had calmed down a little to just steep hills….. We made it to Newquay by night fall.
We decided to treat ourselves and go into a restaurant for our first meal that wasn’t the exciting concoction of boiled vegetables and rice with a stock cube, we had been eating since we started the walk. I almost wish we hadn’t. The restaurant was classy, the food was delicious but we were a mess! We were so tired we barely spoke two words to one another and I knocked over a bottle of water. We felt so out of place in our hiking get ups and when we left I realised, I HADN’T CHANGED MY SHOES! That’s right, one brown, one blue. In case you’ve forgotten, this is how terrible it looked:
Day five saw sand dunes, a ferry crossing, a stop for lunch in a secret little cove and an early evening stroll down a three mile long beach with a magnum at Perranporth.
Tip: If you have walked for nearly 70 miles, going on the beach barefoot is not the treat for your feet that you may think. Keep those shoes on.
When we arrived at St Agnes that night, we were both too knackered and broken to go on so we diverted off the Coast Path to our booked campsite. A beautiful little place called Beacon Cottage Farm – highly recommended!
The next morning I got up early and trekked the final couple of miles to Chapel Porth. It felt amazing to be stood on the beach, 87 miles down the South West Coast Path from where I started 6 days before, knackered but happy.
The walk was incredible. It was back-breaking, breathtaking and beautiful. It was horrendous and treacherous and traumatic. And all at the same time.
I have discovered a new hobby, added a new item to my bucket list* and discovered that I want to move to Cornwall once I have fed the travel bug.
*hike the Camino de Santiago!
I raised just over £700 for my sponsored walk! If you would like to sponsor me you can visit http://www.Gofundme.com/e45cu4