Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Day 5 : Dunmere (nr Bodmin) to Launceston

Friday 19th January 2007

Distance Walked: 35.5 miles
Start Time: 8:57
End Time: 19:10
Elapsed Time: 10:12
Weather: Strong winds. Rain. Poor visibility on moor.
Distance walked so far: 129.4 miles

I don’t know if any of you were thinking of carrying a 12kg bag for 35 miles over a desolate boggy moor and dark country roads in gale force winds and driving rain with zero visibility and aching legs having walked 100 miles in the last 4 days? If you were, my advice to you is - don’t. It is FUCKING CRAZY. At first I thought that Bodmin was a pussy cat. In fact, it’s the kind of cat that shits in your mouth when you’re asleep and then, when you wake up, it claws your tongue off.

The day before the walk started, as I was driving down to Cornwall, I got a phone call from someone I used to know who’s become something of a minor celebrity, asking me to have a small cameo in a radio show he was about to start. When I told him about what I was about to do, it was suggested that the walk was incorporated as a running feature. Now, this is all very well, but suddenly it’s a public event. Previously, barely anyone knew what I was doing. I wasn’t raising money for charity; no one was counting on me to complete it; no one would know if I finished or not; if it all got too much I could just stop and no one would be any wiser. And when you’re stuck on Bodmin Moor in terrible conditions, desperately searching for a footpath that seems to be somewhere just beyond the next few treacherous bogs, you begin to regret the lack of easy escape route from this folly.

Today the weather was bad. Very bad. Elsewhere in the country, buildings were falling, boats were sinking and people were being winched to safety. And this was the day that I decided to cross Bodmin Moor, make a couple of wrong turnings, and then walk for two hours in the dark and rain on one of the narrowest main roads you will ever see. Nice one Dave. Well done.

The Camel Trail is actually a lovely walk alongside the river on a flat comfortable path through attractive woodland, and I kept up a good pace for most of the morning. Leaving the trail, the road winds up the steep hill to Saint Breward, which may be the highest town in Cornwall, or somesuch stat. Thankfully, it had a shop which sold OS maps, so I was able to grab the map for Bodmin moor, without which the day would have been even more disastrous (if that is possible).

Now, rushed though the preparations for this walk were, I did manage to sort some of the essentials. I’ve worn glasses and contact lenses for more than fifteen years, so when I decided to actually go through with this thing I realised that it would be something of a disadvantage to be confronted with bad weather whilst wearing either. Today was the kind of day that I would’ve dreaded. So, just after Christmas, I took the plunge and got my eyes lasered. A momentous decision, and obviously I was nervous. I asked the surgeon if I’d be able to play the piano after the procedure. “Yes”, he replied “You’ll be able to play perfectly”, which was nice cos I couldn’t play at all beforehand.

So it was with my new laser eyes that I saw that my decision to persist with the climb up Brown Willy, the highest mountain in Cornwall (and most ridiculously named) was something of a waste of time as there was zero visibility at the top. That I’d wandered into a quagmire and would have to backtrack hurriedly before I was absorbed as a new bogman for future Tony Robinson’s to gawp at. That I’d ripped my waterproof trousers on a barbed wire fence when trying to vault my way eastwards to safety. And that I’d somehow missed the road turning that would’ve taken me straight to Launceston on a flat, quiet road by the river and was instead condemned to six miles of walking up and down hills in the dark on a narrow A road with busy rush-hour traffic armed only with a flashlight and a limp. Nice one Dave. Well done.

Vowing to take my first rest day tomorrow, I finally reached Launceston and collapsed into the first accommodating pub, The White Horse Inn.

Sixty-six miles of walking in two days.

Feet crushed.

Knee on fire.

All is pain.

Song of the day:

Piano Magic
“You can never get lost when you’ve nowhere to go”

I know nothing of tides /
And I’m confused by the stars /
But you can never get lost /
When you’ve nowhere to go

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