AUTUMN NEWSLETTER – 2017
A mixed Summer, after a dodgy flu jab rendered me powerless for 6 months, I was able to participate in a couple of Pilgrimages and numerous short walks in Cornwall throughout the Spring and Summer Months.
FUNDRAISING IN THE NENE VALLEY
THE OUNDLE PILGRIMAGE
The Oundle Pilgrimage went well and our new guide based on the new Sue Ryder Fundraising Trail published by Rick Murphy (co-founder of the Oundle Pilgrimage) and myself is both interesting and informative. I was also fortunate enough to publish the St Pirans Guide and St Day Feast Walk in time for both the walking events which helped raise funds for our Cornish Hospices too. As well as Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall other charities to benefit in the Nene Valley from the Oundle Pilgrimage are Prostate Cancer UK and Cancer Research Oncology Unit Peterborough Region. Presentation anticipated sometime in November 2017.
For those interested in joining future annual pilgrimages or following the more extensive Pilgrimage Discovery Trail to explore the Nene Valley should visit our website: http://www.oundlepilgrimage.org.uk
FUNDRAISING FOR CORNISH HOSPICES
Sadly my mother is very infirm these days and I am her fulltime carer which restricts my participation in expeditions – I miss those 1000 km walks!
All the same my walking band and I have chipped away at accumulating miles to these worthy causes. We intend to do another walk for the Children’s Hospice followed by live music at Carharrack Club hopefully within the next 6 weeks.
I haven’t walked all the Cornish Pilgrimage this year but have sponsored and organised the Harvest Auction for Cornwall Hospice Care as a means of increasing the fundraising purse.
We have a harvest auction at the Coppice Inn, Lanner in honour of Cornwall Hospice Care on Saturday October 7th at 7.30pm followed by visit from the Cornish Choir who will be entertaining us that evening. At this stage I’d like to ask the public if they could donate some produce/gifts to help make the event a success; please contact either the pub or myself if you can help.
The Coppice Inn: 01209 216668.
BOOK RELEASE – ‘A Pilgrimage to the Somme’
This book forms part of a trilogy of WW1 expeditions completed in the last couple of years. We intend to donate to War Museums and sell all publications online with Amazon. The latest edition is now imminent and could be distributed locally around the time of Remembrance Week.
To research charity expeditions and learn about fundraising please visit my blog: http://www.robin-moore.co.uk
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT LOCAL WALKS VISIT:
Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity On Face Book and Community Walks also on Face Book.
For information about this year’s Oundle Pilgrimage please go to Pilgrimage section.
The last of the Spring Walks culminates with our St Feast Day Walk in honour of Cornwall Hospice Care on Sunday 24th June at Star Inn, 11am, Vogue (after the Ale Festival)! For more details check out:
Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity On FaceBook/Youtube
Robin Moore’s Community Walks On FaceBook
The Piran’s Walk for Children’s Hospice Southwest; see details below:
Join us at Carharrack Club this Bank Holiday Weekend for Beer Festival and Sunday Morning Walk for Children’s Hospice Southwest. The local St Piran’s Trail officially starts at the church though we will be meeting at the club around 10.30am, and walking the 5-mile route via Pink Moors, Mount Ambrose, Vogue and Wheal Damsel.
VENUE: Carharrack Club
DISTANCE: 5 MILES
REGISTRATION: Participants will register for £10 which will entitle them to a colour guide booklet of the walk. All proceeds go to the charity And we hope to provide a certificate of achievement for those who have walked and raised funds for this worthy cause..
EASTER SUNDAY WALK AND LIVE
Join us for a walk along the Gwennap Pilgrimage for Cornwall Hospice Care followed by evening band – CROSSFIRE 69 – 8pm onwards.
(Search Facebook – Crossfire 69)
VENUE: Start and Finish at The Coppice Inn
DISTANCE: 10 miles
ROUTE: Following an independent circular route which forms part of the Cornish Pilgrimage, the journey takes in tram roads, woodland trails and public footpaths/byways between Gwennap Pit and Gwennap Church. There is mixed terrain but plenty of ‘pit stops’.
INNS: The Star Inn, The Fox & Hounds, Carharrack Club and the Coppice Inn.
ENTRANCE FEE: £5 covers your pilgrim passport used to collect stamps along the way; a Gwennap Pilgrimage booklet; and certificate of achievement. Entrance can be paid on the day at the Coppice. Guides are available there also and at Redruth Cornish Library; St Day Post Office and Gwennap Pit (if it’s open!).
Join us for live entertainment with CROSSFIRE 69 from 8pm. As it is a charity evening we invite the public to donate to the Cornwall Hospice Jars at the bar. Please support a worthy cause!
Sponsored by Robin Moore and Keltek Brewery
For about the Cornish Pilgrimage visit: http://www.cornishpilgrimage.org.uk
To view and read about Robin Moore’s expeditions visit: Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity On Facebook
NB We will also be walking The Gwennap Pilgrimage on both May Bank Holiday Sunday’s at the same time; a post will be published. And we anticipate a good social evening at the Coppice after. The St Day Feast Walk will take place on the Sunday after the Vogue Ale/Music Festival at 11am.
All walks support Cornwall Hospice Care.
PLEASE SUPPORT A WORTHY CAUSE – you are welcome to join us on our walks or perhaps make a donation to one of our Pilgrimage CHC jars. In fact any loose change throughout the Spring will help build better facilities for those who need them most.
THANK YOU AND HOPE YOU HAVE A LOVELY EASTER
The Complete Diary
THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO TO FINISTERRE
Day1 (Getting there)!
Heading off on a new adventure which begins Saturday afternoon at 1430 from Redruth to Paddington; with excursions later to Liverpool Station and Stanstead Airport, I finally reach Santiago de Compostella at 1530pm on Sunday. Santiago is an iconic world pilgrimage centre and final resting place of St James. Attracting travellers from all cultures the place has inspired many great journeys usually finishing at the Cathedral. The bus ride into town evokes a hint of nostalgia as part of it revives fond memories of walking there in a previous decade, (once from the French Alps, and a year later Portugal). However the experience failed to recall all the vital geographical layout of the city itself, and I made hard work of finding my pre-booked accommodation. Also the new Pilgrim Administration Centre beyond the Cathedral Praza proved allusive amid a spectacular hub enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. At least I manage to find my favourite Tapas location at Bar Charra nearby, and Hotel Monte (previously a Pension owned by a friend called Maria). Better still, I have my credentials for the journey tomorrow, which unlike all other caminos, will start at the Cathedral. From here I will be walking to the ‘The World’s End’ at Finisterre, the rock-bound peninsula on the west coast of Galicia.
Day 2 Santiago to Negreira
As predicted for the time of year, it is a wet start to the day at the Cathedral which is an altogether quieter scene compared to yesterday’s furore. Begining my Camino to Finisterre at Rua Das Hortas I set out along the last remaining commercial outposts as far as a small park where a trail is formed through the woods.
The transition from city to countryside takes only 2km and before long I cut a solitary figure traversing muddy terrain along wooded lanes and escarpments.
Passing an orchard I see two female pilgrims accompanied by dogs; they pause momentarily as one of the animals takes a drink from a nearby stream. We exchange greetings in Spanish though they look more Scandanavian than of native origin, and a moment later I begin a sharp ascent by road to the next mile stone. Feeling hot and thirsty I am fortunate to find a cafe, Caso de Xantar amid the wild unspoilt countryside. With a sense of relief I sit for a while enjoying some tapas kindly provided by the barman.
After refreshment, I continue my camino along the thoroughfare of what appears to be a small community.
Passing through the village I am joined by a young Italian female who is also walking to Finisterre; she completed the St James Way last August, and is presently on a travelling holiday after working in London and Ireland – a stark transition that must have been!
We walk for an hour, managing to get lost twice but enjoying the ambience of woodlands that have so far shaped the journey. We part company on a steep section where the young maid decides to have a break. Beyond here I endure a wet climb through another forest pass; as monotonous as it may sound it is at least more palatable than the diet of dual carriageway served up on my last tour of Europe. Emerging at the little community of Pontemaceira I cross the magnificent 15th-century bridge spanning the Tambre River. There is a hotel nearby, but although under the siege of wet weather, I choose to continue my quest enjoying the exuberance of running water below that adds vitality to the walk.
By 2pm I am entering the Province of Negreira, the busiest place since leaving Santiago and a natural pilgrim sanctuary too.
Finishing at the Albergue La Mezquita in the centre of town, I pay 30euros for B&B and promptly enjoy a glass of beer with some more tapas before winding down for my evening meal.
Day 3 Negreira to O Logoso
It is barely light when I set off, leaving via the medieval-looking arches of Pazo do Coton (actually 18th Century) which is possibly the most characterful site within this modern-looking place.
The route is taken up first by road until devoid of urban life; then I follow a woodland path with some steep ascents which help to clear out the winter sinuses. In the course of the morning I hear wood-cutters toiling in the forest, and later when joining a link road, I see other walkers ahead making their way to Finisterre. In the distance on the highest points are windmills providing energy to the smaller isolated communities that still exist in these obscure parts.
The Camino interacts occasionally with the road bringing with it the solace of a cafe allowing a chance for rest and refreshment. At Vilaserio I meet a Portuguese Pilgrim called Diogo Friases Coelho who is looking to reach his destination by Wednesday; that’s do-able I feel, and I need to aim for that too in order to obtain transport back to Santiago once the walk is completed.
But this seems an age away with more exacting terrain ahead as I make off to meet the challenges of a long afternoon. The wind blows fiercely here and I can picture the Atlantic swell that lays in wait; the pilgrims who made this journey in ancient times would have been in awe of Finisterre.
I notice there are more sections of road since leaving Vilaserio and yet the places en route are diminutive compared to Negreira. Out here it seems to be the responsibility of the farmers to run the Pensions/Albergues which ensure pilgrims obtain a night’s shelter.
On descent into Lago, a great lake dominates the scenery to the right; it occupies my gaze for several kilometres finally giving way to a lovely ornated cemetery near to Olveiroa and yet more beautifully built corn granaries and stone houses.
There are good amenities in this quiet little corner of the world’s end, and although tempted to stay, the trail beckons me towards another forest ascent.
Back on higher ground, the camino offers stunning river views as fast-flowing water occupies the chasm below. Rolling through the woodlands, the stone track eventually runs into an Albergue at the small hamlet of O Logoso. I can’t stop as there is no receptionist nor guarantee of a meal, and by chance I see a sign to a restaurant uphill from here where I feel there is a better prospect of a replenishing stay. A farmer stops by in his tractor and tries to persuade me to backtrack to the Albergue, but it is too late as I have ‘the bit between the teeth’ and need to reach this destination.
It turns out to be a good decision and on reaching the road, I locate the Restaurante Bar Pension A Pedra where two Spanish Ladies take care of my needs. Then after supper I am invited for a walk with them to their most famous landmark, Pedra Cabalgada. I have been dry all day, but the excursion back along the camino is met with prevailing wet weather as we struggle beneath wind-swept umbrellas. The site is an iconic natural beauty forged from rocks which has become a well-known landmark for the travelling pilgrim. So popular in fact that the local Albergues provide mini tours for those staying at their premises. It transpired to be an interesting end to a long day which left only the prospect of a glass or two of ‘Vino Tinto’.
Day 4 O Logoso to Finisterre
Today serves up a dull, wet start to accompany tired legs induced from yesterday’s effort, and I am in fact the last to leave the premises. Another pilgrim left half an hour before me and after joining the path beyond Hospital I saw a cyclist and 3 other walkers. Stopping to take in the many religious monuments along the way helps break up the monotony of walking and severity of the early morning tempest which is thankfully short-lived. The route is comprised of country lanes and woodland cuts which are substantially solid and well-demarcated. It holds water a bit in some places but the diversity it offers up makes it a natural catalyst for adventure.
Eventually the Camino begins its decent towards the coast affording panoramic views of the Atlantic ports that lie ahead. As the path continues to tumble into Cee and Corcubion one can begin to marvel at scenes of historic medieval architecture of white windowed balconies and terracotta rooftops. These are lively market towns steeped in modern amenities and it is hard to imagine that they are almost in reach of the world’s end. Life goes on and so must I; with less than 20km to walk I grab a coffee, gather some water and continue along slim lanes and alley ways above these thriving communities, capturing unspoilt views of the stunning coastline. On leaving Corcubion a steep path begins at a huge large arrow which takes me away from the coast for a while, testing the legs in much the same way as the North Coast of Cornwall does. It soon flattens out and later joins the road again as the journey takes in Sardineiro, the last built-up outpost before reaching Finisterre.
Beyond here a mix of coast road and path provide further descents finally settling by the beach where the fierce wind stings my nostrils with the scent of the sea as it wafts across the Camino. The path is slated in places interchanging with a board walk near to the shore to break it up a bit. And soon I am closing in on the built-up suburbs of Finisterre where hotels promise paradise at a small price; generally speaking it is very cheap to stay any where along the way which is a big hurrah for athletic tourists who combine their fitness hobbies with travel. We all need a worthwhile challenge in life to recreate ourselves and this experience takes one away from the wider world that continually chases the ‘mighty dollar’.
The walk to ‘the end of the world’ seems eternal for a while and then realise I have actually passed the finishing line a few kilometers ago! Only do I gain this knowledge at the lighthouse, Faro de Cabo Fisterra which really is conclusive! The ancient pilgrims would have loved this – well up until Christopher Columbus came along and quelled many of their aspirations of where the world ends. So, I end up feeling a bit more tired than expected, but have gained at least an extra few miles and stamp on my pilgrim passport. Despite the presence of many visitors I still find a place to stay and into the bargain am awarded a free certificate for my effort – I think I’ll come again!
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELLA
Pilgrimages are made here from France, Portugal and different parts of Spain; it can be walked from Italy and Switzerland too. In fact many pilgrimages exist throughout Europe (Fatima is a good example), usually linking up to reach the ultimate destination of Santiago.
This imbibing city attracts many visitors throughout the year who enjoy the elaborately carved stone buildings and grand plazas opening up from the Cathedral. Here the joy of life is celebrated throughout the streets in tapas bars, mini arcades and souvenir shops where the flavour of different cultures adds its own special recipe for fun.
‘A Delightful Stay’
HOSPEDAJE SANTA CRUZ
C/ Rua do Villarreal, 42
Having finished my Camino I needed a place to stay on Friday night as my hotel was fully booked and could not accommodate me. By chance whilst perusing the lovely Rua do Villa I stumbled across a delightful little Pension with beautiful wooden floor and stairwell. On reaching the top I was cheerfully greeted by Maria who offered me a room for 21euros; it had a double bed, sink, wifi, heating and good light with tall Windows opening out onto one of my favourite alleyways. It had everything I needed for a comfortable stay and boy do I love the imbibing hub of Santiago with its endless rows of tapas bars and restaurants.
To me it is one of Santiago’s best-kept secrets though guilt has got the better of me so I feel it only fair to share my find with other pilgrims who I hope will benefit from this lovely, clean and authentic acommodation. Enjoy your stay!
For those seeking hotel accommodation and not too fussy about Windows, I would highly recommend this one for 24euros (lowest booking rate); an extra 5 for breakfast. It is clean with good amenities and breakfast bar.
Day 1 Geneva to Le Mont Sion (Neydens Region)
Mental start!! Several hours of walking round in circles – nobody has a clue where the French border is let alone a pedestrian route there! Thankfully a young lad stops and pulls out his mobile Sat/Nav. and thanks to his intervention all is well as I progress to the border via Carouge. At dusk I camp in a field which lies between the river and road – freezing cold and a few hours after settling I have a police visit. Thumbling in the dark for my passport amuses them and after commenting on my accent they leave me to shiver for another few hours.
Camping on wet mud gave little comfort and at dawn I continue my walk as far as an hotel where the proprieter offers me a free breakfast. We chat for awhile and in between serving her customers she sorts me out with a decent route in the form of ´The Famous Camino de Santiago´ – many of these paths I have walked before during my travels around the continent.
Day 2 Charly to Frangy
A 2-mile hike from the hotel leads to Charly where there is in fact a Gite dÉtape for pilgrims – a hostel for pilgrims providing a free bed and stamp for your passport. From here I set off up the steep, muddy lane which I´m glad to say is clearly marked. From a height of 760metres the pilgrim route – GR65 takes in La Motte, Charnouy and Contamine-Sarzin. Despite being very damp and muddy – similar to conditions you´d expect in the UK right now, it became warm once away from the cold wind that is prevalent in this stern mountainous region. By 3pm I come to a standstill at Frangy and book into a hotel for 35eu – at least I can enjoy a ´policeless´peaceful warm night´s sleep.
Day 3. Frangy to Chanaz
The Swiss alps continue to dominate the landscape bringing the cold winds which dispel any thoughts of camping. The terrain remained muddy and a steep rural blast between Le Grand Pont and Syssel is enough to blow out the cobwebs of a good nights rest.
The afternoon session encounters the small places associated with Le Bourget du Lac, and at Pont de la Loi I am overtaken by an equestrian group. There were many cyclists too – largely following the National Cycle Route which at times interracts with the Camino de Santiago. There is a pleasant river section that leads to the village of Chanaz which seemed like a good point to break off for the day. At the Gite de Chanaz I pay 10eu to camp but in fact spent most of the night in the warm changing rooms where I am able to get a few hours sleep – frost suggests it is still too cold for camping!
Day 3 Chanaz to St Genex Region
Leaving around 7am, I manage to purchase a coffee at the village and then I make my ascent away towards Yenne – 18km. Pausing momentarilly I capture the mountains poking through the mist evoking yet another scene of unvisited beauty. As the cold air disperses it becomes another glorious day but I have difficulty in obtaining food and water as shops are scarce in this region. As the afternoon drifts on I get tired and thirsty – often knocking on doors to obtain water from locals. The mountain route was desolate and at times unforgiving – winding throughout the forest where snow lay all around. Eventually I descend from Mount Tournier yet there is little that ressembled a community let alone a shop – only the churches remain prominent here. On my next ascent I stop at a solitary cottage which was in fact a guest house still closed for winter season.
The lady, Annie stopped her painting chore to refill my water bottles and on hearing that I planned to camp suggested I stayed at the cottage – this was a far better option to camping and although not yet open and heated it was a great comfort to me and Annie was very kind ensuring I was well nourished after a gruelling day on the GR65.
Day 5 Guiers-Cotenvert (Annie Latge) to Voiron
It would be another month before Annie can expect visitors walking the Camino most of whom hail from Austria and Germany, so she was happy to stamp my pilgrim passport and acknowledge me as the first walker of the ´season´- God Bless her.
After a lovely breakfast at Annie´s I made short work getting to Saint-Genex-Sur-Guiers and was soon walking up the river bank to Aoste where fishermen were enjoying a calm sunny morning. The Camino route proved difficult to follow at times and in the afternoon I found myself on the cycle route which led me on a massive excursion to Les Abrets which should have been just 5 km away and yet took nearly 4 hours to walk! Unhappy with this and not certain of the direction to Lake Paldeau I completed the evening section on road as far as Voiron where I camped rough on a farm track just beyond town.
Day 6 Voiron to St . Hillaire-du-Rosier
Happy to continue by road today, I would endeavour to rejoin the camino either St Antoine-lÁbbaye or Valence where the path follows the Rhone for the remainder of its course.
After walking 13 hours yesterday I feel tired – not helped by another cold, sleepless night. It is quite hot today and I stop frequently for coffee and water, as the sun nears the top of the mountains I enjoy a tiny little knap at a picnic park between Teche and St Sauveux. Passing St Marcellin I take a wrong turn but thankfully realise and retreat and make good in the final hour. At St. Hillaire du Rosier I see a small hotel along the thoroughfare and am lucky to stay there for 30eu.
Day 7 St Hillaire to Valence
Continuing my journey along the remainder of the D1092 I enjoy a warm morning to Romans sur-Isere where I change route and now walk the cycle track beside the N532 dual carriageway. It is slow progress to St Marcel-les-Valence as I set off in search of another great city. As the road winds through the city I take time to explore and photo the prominent landmarks. After obtaining a geographical fix on my exit across the river to the opposite bank where I can join the Camino to Arles, I retire to the Lyon Hotel where I pay 38eu for a room.
Day 8 Valence to Cruas
A bottle of vin rouge and a good night´s rest was all I needed to recupperate and once across the river I was soon stepping out on the camino route along the Rhone to Beauchastel. It remains warm with an added presence of equestrians and cyclists, who as locals probably frequent the route daily. There was a solitary boat along the river and after the morning stint I stopped for coffee at a club-style cafe where the jukebox played ´We´re all living in America´! After ´´feeling chilled´´ out by that experience I continue my journey to Le Pouzin which is shared by towpath and road.
Everything converges on this place and the session that follows takes me to nightfall and I am lucky to stay at the Cruas Campsite which lies on the Camino Route which is only a few metres from the river bank.
Day 9 Cruas to Bourg St Andeal
It was another night in the changing rooms I´m afraid as the evenings here are still cool, unlike the day which is always full of promise. The first part was a bit misty as I encounter the EDF Power Station. I get lost a few times trying to get beyond this point but once on course I put in a good stint to Le Teil. It was a less enjoyable affair to Viviers where at least I got some provisions for the evening.In the heat I try to focus on the chalk clifs which obscure the Rhone and as the chill of night draws in all was at peace once again. I saw freight trains pass by all day and walked through concrete towns -´literally´ – places that have evolved from the cement industry which now provide a strong economy (at least 3and 1) and good foundations too – I hope! On reaching Bourg I get a room at a local hotel and enjoy a meal of bread and cheese which I managed to buy at the last town.
Day 10 Bourg to Laudin
Using the cycle route I walk on to St Just where I have coffee and Raisin bread for breakfast. At Pont-st -Esprit I sit on a bench and enjoy a picnic and then take photos of a statue which commemorates the local men who fought in the Great War. The nearby Abbey sees me on the way again with a few signposts for Arles to add momentum. At Bagnols I run into trouble trying to follow the Camino de Santiago to Laudin and I find myself on a circular cycle route which puts pay to the evening session. By dusk I find a lonesome hotel in the region of Laudin and call it a day. I was glad of the room but the wine I ordered cost me 20eu!!
Day 11 Laudin to Graveson
A tough day now beckons in order to make up for the previous bad evening session and this time I will see it through along the road. I am able to use the hard shoulder and make light work of Avignon but walk round the town a couple of times so as to be sure I was on the correct route to Arles. Looked more like a motorway but was in fact a modern dual carriageway which eventually diminished into the usual bog-standard secondary route which at times can be a bit too narrow. After collecting provisions at Graveson I walk on to a peaceful location beside the canal and set up camp just before dusk – it was lovely – and warm for a change.
Day 12 Graveson to Arles
Good sleep and a great start – no traffic until reaching the industrial outposts of the ´modern Arles´´. A kind lady treats me to breakfast at her hotel and later I spend time exploring ancient Arles. I was so captivated with its charm I spent the night there and got my coach to Spain on Monday instead where I immediately started a 5-day walk from Valencia to Alacant which would take me to completion of a continuous circle of walks around the country! Read more soon -will also be publishing on EBOOKS later in the year, walks on the continent will be available in this section.
WALKING IN SPAIN
Day 1 Valencia to Cullera
Commencing a new adventure in Spain around 7am, I first had to find directions how to get out of Valencia. A road sweeper assists and soon I am walking the underpass which runs through the city gardens. When I run out of city and foot path a young maid points me in the right direction and soon I emerge at a narrow lane next to the motorway. I run into some gypsies who were less helpful but a local guy confirmed my route and I was soon on my way. It was basically a cycle trail weaving in and out of the smaller coastal places the first of which was Pelida where I stop for coffee. At the next stop the motorway becomes the CV500 which caters for allcomers making my journey into El Saler a straightforward one. Beyond here I have water to my right which is strange as I am walking the Mediterranean coast and it should be on the left! There are sluice gates ahead forming a dam, and I wonder whether it is a fish farm.
Later in the day I reach Cullera and get a taste of resort life which is the main attraction of this coastline. I sustain myself with oranges picked from the trees and decide to walk through the town.The idea paid off as I found both campsite and supermarket and spent a lovely peaceful evening there for just 7eu with only a family staying here at the top of the pitch.
Day 2 Cullera to Olivia Region.
I sleep well despite heavy festivities from a nearby saloon. The constant sound of explosions signal the advent of a bank holiday which the Spanish will celebrate passionately. The cool air was welcome as I eventually leave the town (there was tons of it!) and soon I joined the N332 coast road, my route for the remainder of the journey. By noon it is hot and there is a motorway section to encounter between Xeresa and Gandia. At Gandia I follow the coast road into Daimus and Olivia where the celebrations are at a peak. I had drunk youths driving motorcycles at me and then taking their hands of the steering bars, explosions going off all around and people barely able to walk because they had ´´over-celebrated.´´ It was great fun for most of us!
Leaving here the evening stretch became intense and inconclusive as I had lost a page in my map and unsure whether to take a detour into the next resort. I made the decision to camp rough behind some pine trees along the road rather than risk an unwanted excursion.
Day 3 Olivia to Culp
A sleepless night with dogs barking and traffic belting past followed by an early morning 12 km hike was not the tonic I needed to start the day. At Ondara I get in a mess with the motorway and have to start again to ensure I get on the right road as both are extremely busy at this point. The 2 roads cross at a toll gate and I am unhindered by the interraction heading off to an English Cafe where I stop for a chat and a coffee. From here the day drags on along winding roads- no Camino de Santiago here, though desolate sections remind me of the Otira Gorge in New Zealand which I walked last year.It is a change from the urban sprawl though still potentially a dangerous experience along the bends and the partially built bridges. By evening I enter the busy resort of Culp and am immediately overwhelmed by the spirit of tourism. Each road is a nightmare to cross and after purchasing groceries I escape to the scrubland beyond the town and pitch my tent beside some bushes. Although concealed a dog barks throughout the night!
Day 4.Culp to Benidorm Region
I felt warm and slept well despite the barking hound which I saw on leaving the scrub. I wasn´t even on his land which made me cross and I shouted at him before disappearing into the traffic flow.Straight away I find a cafe and enter for breakfast, coffee and a shave. It was a good interval and after paying my bill I left in search of Benidorm – not that I was gripped with enthusiasm or anything mildly excitable about coming here! Soon the towering flats emerge and I pass inumerable hotels with unpronouncable names! The landscape is dominated by rows of flats and on rejoining the road it seems more like a motorway which at least gave me the hard shoulder. And like a true ´man of the road´I stop to eat my lunch on a concrete plimp next to the crash barrier. Eventually I find a roadside cafe where I chat to a couple who had taken notice of my progress reiterrating that they thought it was a remarkable quest. Continuing a little further I find a newbuild village with a supermarket and with night drawing in I head into the scrub for another night of camping rough.
Day 5 Benidorm Region to Alacant
A few spots of rain troubled me little and by 7.30am I was on the road. Stopping at the first cafe I came to the English owner arrives on cue and lets me in while he cleans up after a party. He goes on to explain that he came out here to look after his dad and decided to buy a pub. He now feels that England has been ruined and turned into a ´Nanny State´´ and in any case has no desire to go back.
Does England have a future I ponder, but thank him for his kindness and from here I kick on to Compello where I have coffee and a muffin. I am now walking the boundaries of Alicante which takes up the rest of the morning. On reaching the city they had moved the Estacion de Autobus and so I had a longer excursion trying to find that, when I eventually found it – it was closed!! I return at night and manage to buy a ticket to Santander for 48eu and once there I can rest in my favourite hotel – Hotel Alisas who have looked after me since my travels began in Europe back in 2004. Anna has booked my ferry to Plymouth and so by Thursday I could be back in England – well Cornwall at least!
ALISAS HOTEL, SANTANDER, Tel:+34 942 222 750.
DON´T FORGET TO SPONSOR THIS EVENT!!!!
Please go to:
Catalunya – 1000km – Perpingnan to Santander (then Plymouth to Land´s End.
Basque Coast – 500km – Biarritz – Santander.
Camino de Santiago – 800km – St Jean to Santiago
Camino Portuguese – 300km – Porto to Santiago
Portugal (incl. Caminos de Fatima, Santiago and Atlantic coast) – 7000km
Med coast 1. – 1200km – Faro to Alicant
Med coast 2. – 1200km – Nice to Valencia
Med coast 3. – 200km – Valencia to Alicant
Belgium – 0700km-Ypres to Nantes
Holland – 250km – Eindoven to Ypres
France – 0700km – Nantes – Biarritz
Swiss – 0500km – Geneva – Arles
Geneva to Ypres – 1000km
WALKING IN HOLLAND AND BELGIUM (Finishing at Ypres)
DAY 1. EINDOVER TO POSTEL – 26km
Revisiting Europe at War in 1914, I endeavoured to walk from Eindover in Holland to Ypres in Belgium as my next expedition around the continent.
Starting at the Airport on arrival at 9am, I walked along the cycle routes away from the city via Veldhoven. I got confused with the town layout at times and in fact walked in the opposite direction until a lady set me back on course. Fortunately the locals were kind enough to provide good directions to the N123 my chosen route for the first 2 days of my walk. Having walked through a park I was able to join the road at Steensel and after crossing a road bridge I was able to keep to the cycle route as far as Eersel. Later I followed a forest route frequented by joggers and some cyclists and after a few miles I crossed the border into Belgium.
To celebrate I went for a coffee at a restaurant close by; here I spoke to a couple of German travellers who were cycling in the area. There were many routes crossing the forest here and the whole region contained cycle paths on each side of the road.
Making good progress I arrived at Postel around 5pm and after enquiring at an inn about camping the landlord suggested I went to the Abbey to see if Father Nicolas could help. This I did and the father was very kind offering a bed and meals for my stay here at Postel. There was a group of Nuns here from Gwent on a Bible Study for 4 days and later we enjoyed supper together. The duty father spoke good English as did one of the visiting men also staying at the Abbey. They were all very kind and keen to hear of my travels in Europe particularly those to Santiago which I completed in 2006/07. It was a lovely peaceful place with the tranquillity broken harmoniouslyy by the melodic chimes of the church bells. There were deer grazing in the grounds and a shop nearby which sold produce made here at the abbey. Before retiring I returned to the inn to thank the landlord for his good advice and help. It was one of the best places I have ever stayed at and I was grateful for a good night’s rest having forfeited sleep yesterday to obtain an early flight this morning.
DAY 2. POSTEL TO NOORDERWIK – 42km
Having enjoyed a good breakfast to get me on my way I said my farewells to the nuns and thank you to the Father before passing through the grounds one last time as I strode off in search of the N123 and my next day’s walk in Belgium. What an adventure! Soon I was crossing a canal at the next town called Retie and as the morning evolved the sun brought temperatures of 22 degrees. I stopped for coffee at Kastererlee and despite a blister made good progress from here to the larger province of Herentals. This was a complicated section and after receiving instructions from a young group at a nearby garage, I continued along the cycle path which followed the main roads where traffic was bound for Antwerp and Lier. I could have followed the river bank to Lier but in the end opted for a village route via Morkoven. Arriving at the next village around 6pm, I decided to make use of the local campsite as there were not too many facilities along the way. I was told that camping is forbidden here in Belgium which sounds a bit stronger than ‘no tents please!’ Any way after paying the owner 9euros I had secured a night under the stars and once set up I returned to the centre for a meal and a drink at the local pub where the lovely English-speaking maid told of her desire to travel to New Zealand. On this subject I was highly qualified to give her a few tips and after an interesting hour I retired to a much-earned rest.
DAY 3. NOORDERWIK TO MERCHTEM – 58km
Starting early, I continued my quest which would hopefully cover about 60km as far as the town of Merchtem. The first part of the day took in the smaller villages including Heist-op-den-Berg and later I joined the N15 where I negotiated Putte and later the busy large town of Mechelen. Wandering through the pedestrian centre I was able to admire the beautiful citadel and religious buildings and stopping at a café I was able to enjoy a conversation with a local lady who also advised on the best route out of town. It was actually very straight forward and on continuing along the main street to the railway crossing brought a natural exit from the place. After passing over a bridge I stopped for some bread and cheese by the river at Hornbeek where a few cyclists sped past following the path beside the bank. It was nearing teatime and I noticed a greater surge of traffic as I continued my walk through the villages of Lorderzeel and Steenhuffel; later a young lad explained where I could buy some food. By 9pm I had cleared the town of Merchtem and making my last call at a local shop where I was able to buy my supper. The girl was Asian and spoke excellent English explaining she had a sister from Birmingham who she visits once a year. She also gave me some bread and told where it would be safe to camp without intrusion.
Just beyond the railway I located a paddock and the rough ground where she suggested I camped; it was great and even my neighbours – a couple of horses added their voice of approval!
DAY 4. MERCHTEM TO WATEGEM – 62km
Rising early it was a touch misty as I left the railway behind and continued my journey along the N211 to Aalst. It was raining at this stage and I was a bit confused as to the junction to take for the N46 which was my route to Oudenaarde. Fortunately I was able to obtain directions at a café and continued my walk as far as Burst where I sat and enjoyed a yogurt and banana. This was destined to be another long enduring affair that would take me beyond dusk once more and so I did not hang around long. Most of the places from here were substantial and so I was able to enjoy a coffee along the way as I passed through Oombergen, Hundelgem; finally arriving at Oudenaarde around 6pm. It was quite a laboured affair passing through the town and once more having to locate the appropriate exit route. It was pleasant enough walking to Wortegem where roadworks at least stemmed the flow of traffic. Dusk was approaching as I trekked through the farmland broken by tiny communities that flickered like candles in the night. On nearing a forest in pitch black I looked for an opening where I could find a place to camp and by 9.30pm I found a suitable spot at the end of a riding. I could see a house in the distance near to what appeared to be an equestrian centre; at this moment in time all I needed was a few hours rest. Boy that was a tough day!
DAY 5. WATEGEM TO YPRES – 44km
Starting at 5am I rolled up a very wet tent and took to the road immediately. I negotiated a tricky section to the N43 but once on course I continued into Kortrijk where the town was still in the process of waking up on this sunny Saturday morning. At least I managed to get a coffee and from here had another tricky section to the outskirts of town where I followed the river path to Werelgem; from here the N8 saw me to Menen and Ypres Street which brought about the last act of this event.
As I walked the final outposts (last 20km) of the journey remnants of the Great War began to dominate the countryside and as Ypres came into view so did the grave stones of the men who fell protecting her nearly 100 years ago. There was a museum built by a trench on my right containing artefacts from the front line (probably worth millions); opposite lie the unknown graves of warriors who fought there. Further on to the left is Hill 62 where the Canadians fought a do or die battle only metres from the town. Finally my pilgrimage reaches its conclusion at the Menin Gate where I attended the Last Post. Later that evening I was joined by an Australian Vietnam War Vet called Andy and a few tourists from his home land also visiting the battlefields. One guy called Mark had been taken to a nearby farm by his tour guide and introduced to the land owner whose grandfather had fought alongside his own in one of those significant battles.
Part of the trench where they died was still intact serving as a poignant reminder of their sacrifice and yet more importantly this final resting place now evokes a sense of pride which two families can at last share. Mark will at least go home with the satisfaction that he had retraced his grandfather’s footsteps to his last moments in battle. It was just one of many fought in this region over a 4-year period and the thousands of names of unfound soldiers at the Menin Gate make it the most sacred place on Earth to a British soldier.
It was a special evening and after saying farewell we promised to return for the anniversary parade of 2014. Shortly after I retired to my tent for one last night under canvas before travelling across France to the ferry port of Roscoff and ultimately, on Monday, the journey home to Cornwall.
RECENT WALK AND SPRING NEWS UPDATE
‘FIGHTING CANCER ON FOOT WITH THE CROWN WORLD WIDE WANDERERS’
Robin’s latest 1200 km walk finished successfully with the final laps around Forsyth Barr Stadium completing the campaign for Relay for Life. Since 26th January, Robin has been promoting Relay for Life in New Zealand by walking across the Southern Alps and West Coast of the South Island. He has also been raising funds for Cancer Research UK and has planned another walk for the charity in April (see justgiving page below). On the 9th March Mr Moore joined the Crown World Wide Wanderers for Relay for Life in Dunedin where we successfully raised over $2000 for the Cancer Society of New Zealand. We are anticipating the combined effort of the 108 teams involved at the Forsyth Stadium will have collected over $230,000 in Dunedin for the charity.
ROBIN MOORE’S NEW ZEALAND CHARITY EXPEDITION
This story follows Robin Moore’s charity expedition of the South Island’s scenic West Coast and the Southern Alps. The journey first crosses Arthur’s Pass on the coast-to-coast between Christchurch and Greymouth; then follows the coast road to Haast before encountering rain forests, gorges and lakes which make up the unique terrain around Wanaka and Queenstown. Heading back to the South Coast via New Zealand’s gold-mining towns, the walk draws to a close along old railway tracks, river trails and Highway 6 set against a green hilly backdrop, finally concluding at the city of Dunedin.
PHASE 1 – CHRISTCHURCH TO GREYMOUTH (Via Arthur’s Pass)
Commencing 26th January
DAY 1 CHRISTCHURCH TO WEST MELTON -26KM
Feeling jetlagged and somewhat overloaded with equipment, I departed from the Cancer Society and steadily made my way out of the city in the direction of the West Coast highway – Route 73. Stopping at Tower Junction I purchased a charger for my phone and had a sausage sandwich at the Lion’s stall where one of the attendants sponsored me $5 and wished me well for the journey. The hot conditions today were unforgiving as was the weight in my pack which I felt was a few pounds over a comfortable load. It is often hard to know what to take on these types of expeditions and in any case I usually have to carry my entire luggage for the whole trip.
Soon I was beyond the city boundaries and after Hornby my relationship with the road became a quiet, diminutive affair as I made my way to West Melton. The township comprised of a few houses, garage and tavern with ground space where the landlady let me camp for the night. It was a social Saturday evening with a few locals watching the races and small groups enjoying their chat; I was simply glad to quench my thirst and have a home-cooked meal and by nightfall I retired to my tent for the first night of many under canvas.
DAY 2 WEST MELTON TO DARFIELD – 25KM
I rose to dull and misty weather though it soon became hot as I slowly made my way along the desolate main road. At a forest junction I stopped to talk to a lady who was on her daily morning walk; she was interested in my travels and we chatted for 10 minutes or more. Continuing in the heat I made it to the next village around noon and stopped for a drink of water at a garage. From here I walked a tough 8km to Darfield where I pitched my tent at the Domain Recreation Ground; later I visited the tavern and enjoyed a roast dinner. After refreshment I went to the shop for some snack food and feeling tired I retired to the shade of the park where I appreciated well earned rest.
DAY 3 DARFIELD TO SPRINGFIELD – 23KM
I woke before sunrise hoping to keep a step ahead of the heat and the first 12km to Waddington went reasonably well. Stopping at the green across from the Sheffield Pie Shop, I watched the Trans Scenic train run past on its way across Arthur’s Pass to Greymouth – my destination at the end of the week if I am lucky enough to survive the heat. Unfortunately there was not any wind in sight and I suffered quite badly with heat exhaustion by the time I reached Springfield. I spoke to a guy at a campsite who gave me some water and on reaching the hotel in town the landlord and his staff were kind enough to let me pitch a tent in the yard where they were developing a backpackers unit. Here one can grasp the impact of the first earthquake that hit Christchurch causing most of the damage to suburban areas and countryside. 10.5km below Darfield the earthquake began – speeding towards Christchurch damaging all that lied in its path. The staff explained the cost of the disaster to them personally and the political issues surrounding the regeneration programme; later they invited me to a barbecue and offered advice on how to cope with Arthur’s Pass in this heat which has now brought about an official drought in the area. With extra food on board I decided to rise at 4am and take a siesta during the middle of the day; the whole pass would have to be split over 3 days which would mean a night or two under the stars.
DAY 4 SPRINGFIELD TO LAKE PEARSON – 40KM
And so it begins! Leaving in the dark I gave myself a good head start against the formidable heat which would exceed temperatures of 35 degrees. The first testing encounter was a steep section over Porters Pass where the winding road was unrelenting in its ascent. As the journey developed so to did the scenery which was sublime if not surreal and yet welcoming only the call of the wild. Eventually the pass drops to Lakes Lyndon on the left with Coleridge in the distance. Although the journey offered some respite the mountains remained dominant and later there was an interesting rock formation on the rise above Castle Hill. Stopping at the holiday village of Castle Hill a couple invited me into their cabin for a meal and a cold drink. They were heading back to Wellington and hinted that they could be at the test match when England tour in March. After an hour of good chat we parted company and I was left again to battle with the heat over Craigeburn with a view to camping at Lake Pearson later tonight. Around teatime I stopped at a small lodge where a pretty young maid served me food and ale. She had come here from Christchurch after the earthquake and I could sense sadness about her as she went on to admit she was unhappy with her life at present. Like many of her age group it is a case of making do until something else comes along and then being able to grab the initiative. After the interval I enjoyed a quiet cooler session, aided by breeze, as I walked down to Lake Pearson where I camped in the company of water fowl.
DAY 5 LAKE PEARSON TO BEALEY LODGE – 34KM
After a breakfast of sardines which I shared with a local water hen I set off in the dark, misty haze which obscured all else but the road. These few hours ensured I made good speed whilst observing the sound of occasional traffic. As the sun rose above the mountains the heat kicked in along the steep unforgiving climbs. Reaching each summit along Arthur’s Pass just ‘blows you a way’ up here and at least the overwhelming scenery becomes an opiate in these exacting times – its difficult to know which will wear out first – my body or my camera! Today I was in good nick and made it to Bealey’s Lodge by lunch time. Here the staff made me most welcome and let me have a cabin for the night. Later I chatted to a family group who gave me a meal and Vicki who works at the inn offered to take some of my equipment back to Christchurch as at present I was carrying too much in this heat. Constant backache and groin strains often meant I couldn’t walk properly nor gather the momentum required to cover a respectable distance. My stop at Bealey’s Lodge turned out to be a lovely experience and I enjoyed a proper rest which would make the difference in tomorrow’s effort.
DAY 6 BEALEY’S LODGE TO JACKSONS – 50KM
Setting off around 6.30am, I made it to Arthur’s before nine and stopped at a cafe for a pie and coffee. Soon the coast-to-coast triathlons will be passing through from Hokitika on a major event which also includes running, cycling and about 60km of kayaking through the pass. Leaving here the scenery around Otira gorge was something to behold and I was in awe of its presence; bottomless terrain beneath timeless bridges and the constant flow of water cascading from the mountains. Stopping at lunchtime at the Otira inn I enjoyed a sandwich and chat to the landlady and another couple who were travelling around the country on holiday. Apart from the inn there was little else here; though in the age of the railway many of the workmen stayed in Otira as men from all corners of the country flocked to the region to obtain a hard- earned dollar. In those difficult times they would have earned every cent in a dangerous environment where each day was about survival.
From here I stepped up the pace walking the whole session of 20km to Jackson where the cheerful owner of the campsite let me stay for free; I then headed back to the region’s most famous pub where the ladies ensured I was watered and well-fed. I sat for a while enjoying my jug of ale and admiring the wonderful interior of this iconic place which has played an important role in quenching thirst for a century or more.
DAY 7 JACKSONS TO MOANA – 28KM
After a lovely breakfast with a group of Canadian tourists who were very kind in offering me some food, I set off taking the low road. The late start ensured it was a laboured affair and as the day moved on I developed blisters and had trouble walking properly. I stopped first at a fishing lake for a sardine lunch and made a few excursions throughout the afternoon to refill my water bottles. Before setting off on the last 6 km of the day I spent time at a farm where Mr and Mrs Usher invited me into their home for tea and biscuits. I was relieved it was a short session and I made it to Moana, set beside the picturesque Lake Brunner, around 7pm. The lake-side views soon washed away the torment of the day and when I enquired at the pub about camping the night the landlady let me stay in a cabin for free which was a wonderful reward for my day’s toil. I also had a good meal and ale; later I spoke to a young lad called Shaun from Manchester who was on a fishing holiday along the West Coast.
DAY 8 MOANA TO STILLWATER – 24KM
Setting off in what was the closest I’d seen to drizzle so far, I enjoyed the cooler start making short work of the journey to Stillwater; descending into town I passed the cemetery and memorial for the Brunner Mining disaster. Turning right at the bottom of the hill I made my way to the hotel where the landlady was also kind enough to let me use a cabin for the night. It was a busy place and later a stag party arrived to liven things up a bit – they were all just lovely people celebrating the life and times of yesteryear; I also chatted to another Kiwi who was on holiday with his son and some friends from Scotland. By 10pm I retired to my room to watch TV/Rambo as the fading sound of cheerful banter drifted me into slumber.
DAY9 STILLWATER TO GREYMOUTH – 15KM
Rising to the peace and solitude of Sunday, I now embarked on the last section of the coast-to-coast which will see the completion of phase 1. The first hour was a cultural experience visiting the old Brunner Mine Works originated in the 1870’s and developed throughout 19th century. It reopened in the 1920’s and the memorial at Stillwater stands in honour of those who died in that period. Across the water lies Taylorville and the next stop ahead was a motor café at Dobson where I was joined by fisherman Shaun who I met at Moana and who was also walking to Greymouth. Together we walked into town, finishing the day at Greymouth Tourist Centre at the train station where Shaun had enough time to book his trip back to the North Island where he would spend the rest of his holiday with his aunt from Tauranga.
I soon found the campsite at the Domain and promptly entered the pub across the road to celebrate my walk with the locals. Tomorrow will be a new chapter in my journey as I head of down the West Coast to Haast and the pass beyond.
GREYMOUTH TO HAAST (Via Highway 6)
Commencing from 4th February
DAY 10 GREYMOUTH TO PAROA – 15KM (Total walked)
After decamping quickly during heavy rainfall I made my way to the Cancer Society for a press interview with the Greymouth Star. Then having updated my blog, I walked on to Paroa where the hoteliers let me camp on their land by the railway. The bar maid, Olivia was kind to me and took me back to her place for a shower, clothes wash and later a meal at the inn. It turned out they were all good friends of ex-pat Richard Blakeborough who I knew from Oundle, making our liaison all the more interesting. Tonight the patrons consisted of a group of workers and also a few holiday makers staying at the motel. I stayed only until dusk when I was happy to return to my tent to sleep.
DAY 11 PAROA TO HOKITIKA – 30KM
The 6am freight train to Hokitika was my alarm call today as it thundered through shaking the ground I lay on; I was soon up and packed to make the most of a cooler start on a day which I hoped would yield around 30km. The cool air allowed me to wear more layers rather than carry them for a change and apart from a few litter collectors along the highway I saw only cattle and deer grazing the rich pastures. Later I came across a bridge which was under repair; oddly it also shared its access with the railway. It looked a bit dodgy to say the least and as a car entered I immediately followed behind sprinting all the way to the end – quite scary!
The cafe was closed at Kumara Junction so I continued a few km past the triathlon coast-to-coast start point and stopped for breakfast next to a crash barrier. There was little of interest along the way though it was nice to see the sea and occasionally I’d stop to enjoy some shade beneath a bridge or at a bench in a picnic bay.
8km from Hokitika a lady stopped by to give me some spring water and once in town the landlord of the Pioneer Hotel was kind enough to let me camp in his spacious beer garden. They were a bloody good crowd in the bar and I stayed with them until closing time sharing a beer with Wayne Stuart who was heading back to Australia to work, but also took time out to offer advice on where to stay at Bruce Bay when I arrive there next week.
DAY 12 HOKITIKA TO ROSS – 30KM
The freight train was again my alarm call- just a little later this time but I soon dismantled the tent and pressed on across the bridge now bound for the Gold Town of Ross. I made good ground to Lake Mahinapua where I stopped for a breakfast of sardines and honey. As the journey evolved I enjoyed the scenery largely dominated by forest and the ever-present Southern Alps and to the right was farmland broken by streams and rivers. Stock ranged from deer, cattle, goats and sheep which all seemed alarmed to see me pass by. There was little to get excited about at Ruatapu though I still needed to rest so as to protect my feet from blisters as the day approached its hottest temperatures. By 2pm I had reached the old gold town of Ross where I was offered a camping spot at the old Empire inn – a splendid characterful place in a prime location by a small lake. My only neighbour was Raymond the pub goat, though later another traveller pitched up and camped nearby; he was also heading to Dunedin for the cricket and kindly donated $20 to the Cancer Society.
DAY 13 ROSS TO HARI HARI – 50KM
It was a lovely start at 5.30 am as I bade farewell to Raymond who was also up and ready for another day of maintaining the pub lawn. Beyond the town the beautiful forest offered protection from the heat as the sun rose over the mountains. I was waved on by road workers and often drivers tooted their horns. Mid-morning I refilled my water bottles at a farm and later stopped at the Bushman’s Centre where I chatted to the owners – the lady in fact hailed from Lancashire. The lady had an interest in my knee straps which I use to protect my joints from the heavy pack –perhaps her husband could try these to combat his arthritis? Leaving the premises I noted the giant sculptured body of a sand fly which did not bode well for the journey ahead. Walking through Kakapotahi Forest I took pleasure in mimicking the birds which seemed happy to oblige with some rhythmic sounds. The cattle were also vocal but less endearing as they charged along their paddock adjacent to the road. By lunchtime I had reached Lake Ianthe which was a popular location for the campervan fraternity – I also dwelled a while to enjoy a sardine and peanut butter lunch.
The rest of the day dragged on a bit as I trudged over more narrow bridges some had flowing water beneath; others barely a trickle as drought loomed ever close to the West.
Happily I arrived at Hari Hari where the landlady of the Hotel, Penny McCaul made me most welcome inviting to camp and use the facilities; after an update to my diary I went to the bar to order a meal and a jug of Speight’s beer.
DAY 14 HARIHARITO WHATAROA – 30KM
Starting in the mist around 6.30am I enjoyed the forest views and winding roads which were more like a cycle route than a main road. With all the wonderful scenery and panoramic views the region has become a Mecca for photographers and artists. There was barely a place in sight and later I ate my breakfast in a lay by atop the hill overlooking the gorge.
I passed numerous cattle fields and soon the mighty glaciers began to dominate my vision. On reaching Whataroa I stopped at the shop to ask for some sardines; the lady frowned at me and looked at her colleague retorting not too many of them around these parts. In a despairing effort to resolve my plight I ordered fish and chips and a flat white coffee. I fared better at the inn where the landlady who had only been there a month let me stay in a room. I enjoyed a meal in a lovely pub atmosphere where I felt the warmth of humanity. A pleasant night’s sleep and dry kit for the morning made it all the more a special place.
DAY 15 WHATAROA TO FRANZ JOSEPH – 32 KM
Setting off at 7.15am I powered into the cool air making excellent progress as far as Lake Mapourika where the Lions club where hosting the South Westland Fishing Competition – a 24 hour salmon fishing contest. They were very friendly and invited me for breakfast where we also took photos to mark the occasion; later some young ladies showed me part of the lake which they use for leisure. After returning to the road I met a cyclist who had passed me a few times and knowing about my expedition offered to sort out a place to stay at Makarora later next week. A little further on I was able to look back across the water where I had stood earlier; by now there were plenty of boats afloat around the lake.
Soon I was entering the iconic region known as Franz Joseph where helicopters hovered above the queuing tourists all waiting eagerly for a glimpse of the famous Glacier. My interest lied with shelter and cricket and I was fortunate enough to obtain a camp pitch at the nearby backpackers. Later I cooked a meal with some other travellers from the UK and at the bar watched England beat NZ at 20-20 cricket.
DAY 16 FRANZ JOSEPH TO FOX GLACIER – 24 KM
This was a tough little hike amid steep winding roads which as the heat emerged proved to be quite an ordeal. Throughout the morning I leaned into the mountains, crossing the road to avoid the traffic on the bends and looking for a water supply at the top of each hill. By lunch time I was glad to reach the quaint little refuge of Fox Glacier where the publican let me pitch my tent at his camp site a km or so west of the town. Most of the occupants here were preparing for a climb to Fox Glacier; other holidaymakers were enjoying some culinary treats prepared at the site kitchen. Returning to the inn I enjoyed good ale and food whilst chatting to the cheerful bar staff – one young lady hailed from the UK. I also spoke to another couple camped next to me who told of the journey from Haast to here. They merely re-iterated what I already predicted – there would be minimal facilities on offer for the next few days which were calculated to be the longest of the tour.
DAY 17 FOX GLACIER TO BRUCE BAY – 50KM
It was cool enough when I started at 7am but it rose to a hot temperature by breakfast time. Stopping at a farm for a bite to eat I chatted with there farmer who in fact owned the pub I frequented the night before. Shortly after resuming I met a guy called Nigel from Padstow who was cycling around the world; it was great to see another traveller and exchange stories – hopefully I’ll be in touch again when I’m next in Cornwall. As the day rolled on so did the weather turning wet by afternoon. This was a unique session by the forest where I could hear the roar of the Tasman beyond the trees. Soon the coastline revealed its might adding to the bleakness of a wet day though by the time I reached Bruce Bay the rain had subsided. Following Wayne’s advice from Hokitika, I called at the lodge opposite the village hall, where proprietor John Birchfield was kind enough to let me stay at his cottage where I enjoyed a meal, beer and a good night’s sleep – what a star!
DAY 18 BRUCE BAY TO KNIGHT’S POINT (3KM BEYOND) – 54KM
After thanking John for his kindness I headed off up the road with a spring in my step. First I had to cross a narrow bridge and on the first attempt had to retreat to let a coach go through. Later I met a pair of idiots on the way to work; they pulled up giving me the smart talk about how I should be walking across the forests and not on the road I was about to ask the mouthy driver when he last walked the coast when a fellow worker pulled up and I left them to hopefully have a saner conversation than the 90 seconds of dribble I’d just listened to. Any way these sorts have rarely done anything worthwhile with their own lives so tend to go out their way to put others down – he needs to know why I’m here – after all ‘what comes around goes around’ and he could easily one day find himself the at the wrong end of the deal.
Stopping at the Salmon Cafe I was treated to cake and coffee while manager, Graham, offered to fix my rucksack which had broken under the sheer weight I was carrying. He arranged to track me en route and return it to me once the repair was strong enough. I agreed heading off at amazing speed feeling liberated from the burden I had carried for there last fortnight plus. By the time he caught up with me I had reached Lake Moeraki and was engaging in conversation with some fishermen/women from Wanaka which I hope to reach by the weekend.
After thanking Graham who gave me a salmon sandwich for my supper, I continued uphill to a lodge where the owner seemed a little preoccupied with his conservation duties. He said something about camping at a power station which I never found it despite turning off on a few lanes. Passing over another bridge I was soon hitting the high ground around Knight’s Point. I could not camp here but later met another conservationist analyzing a land slide beyond the point, who gave me advise and also took a few photos of me. By nightfall I had camped in a side lane on descent from the high ground where the rain kept me awake for most of the night.
DAY 19 KNIGHT’S POINT TO HAAST – 21 KM
I did not realize the progress I had made yesterday and by noon I had reached the river ferry site where I spoke to the two ladies who help run the enterprise. Next I was braving the high winds of Haast Bridge as I entered the junction; here the pub owner let me camp on the hotel grounds by the staff section so I could use the facilities. It was a busy little enterprise and soon the bar began to fill with residents settling in for a meal. The food was good and I was able to watch the cricket for most of the evening though my thoughts were never far away from the road as I now began to focus my mind on the long placeless trek through Haast Pass to Lake Wanaka.
PHASE 3 -12 /02 (Haast to Queenstown)
DAY 20 HAAST TO PLEASANT FLAT – 47KM
A cool start gave me great momentum as I began my walk across Haast Pass which was a combination of forest and mountains poking through the misty haze. Before the 1960’s it was pretty much the ‘Wild West’ as there wasn’t even a road here! When one was eventually put in it was literally just a single gravel track linking the west coast to Otago; in those days the only visitors were deer stalkers and fishermen until the 1980’s when the road became sealed allowing modern day traffic passage to the other side. It was a tough world back then and I can tell you it isn’t too easy now on foot with no real towns of substance until reaching Wanaka in roughly 4 days time! On the way through I met a European hiker heading towards Haast; he was tramping around the country for leisure with a view to camping at the township ahead. I also met a European cyclist who was heading up to Greymouth; although yesterday’s head wind had hampered his progress he was heartened by the news that he only had a short distance to his next stopover. I made decent progress covering 47km when I reached the campsite at Pleasant Flat – though I renamed the location ‘Unpleasant Flat’ owing to the population of sand flies here. My neighbour, Todd from the USA, was travelling by car and would be heading back to Christchurch tomorrow to see his girl friend. Whilst conversing he did at least give a valuable insight into how I could walk from Mexico to Canada – one for the future maybe?
DAY 21 PLEASANT FLAT TO MAKARORA – 37KM
The warmer air today coupled with the sand flies presented a greater challenge across the mountainous terrain. There were tall bridges to cross and steep narrow winding sections to encounter throughout the day; frequently I crossed the road so as to remain visible to the oncoming traffic which largely comprised of camper vans and coaches. The scenery was awe-inspiring accentuated by the powerful cascades tumbling from the mountains and fast-flowing rivers expanding across the pass. I met a couple of cyclists at a woodland park who had biked down from Cameron where their camper van was parked. They also spent the night with the sand flies at Pleasant Flat and had seen me arrive the previous evening. They had lost a good friend through a cancer related illness and have been supporting the charity for several years since. Later I stopped at the Cameron Camp Site for a peanut butter sandwich whilst enjoying the views of the road I had just walked. For the remainder of the journey I followed the trail of dead opossums, and although I had seen numerous signs for feral poison control, evidence suggested that the road’s cleansing powers were efficient enough. It was 3.30pm when I reached the campsite at Makarora where I was welcomed by the receptionist who let me camp for free and later I ate and drank in the bar. I can tell you I had the biggest roast beef dinner imaginable – I didn’t know whether to eat it or climb it! In a region renown for its mountain ranges and challenging pursuits ‘Everest Meals’ could easily catch on here as a marketing slogan; though I managed to eat the lot, drink a jug of ale and watch England win the 20-20 series – all good stuff!
DAY 22 MAKORORA TO LAKE HAWEA – 49KM
It was always going to be a ‘tough day at the office’ with nearly 50km to walk in testing heat – especially when accompanied by those blasted flies! At least I was ready for it, stopping to enjoy a coffee at the Makorora Township cafe before powering into the morning stretch which exposed me to panoramic views of Lake Wanaka to my right. Stopping very briefly at a picnic area close to the lake, I waged a brutal war with the sand flies who were trying to steal my sardines; then in despair I marched off towards Lake Hawea. There was a break from the water initially and as the road descended eastwards views of Lake Hawea came into focus. A Swiss group took photos of me above the lake and after I followed the winding course for several hours. I spoke to a guy and his son fishing nearby and stopped at a picnic area to bathe my feet in the lake. The water was crystal clear and as I sat mesmerized by its tranquility a small group in a boat drifted into the shore. They were barely on shore 5 minutes and the vessel was hooked up and away up the lane for home. That was my cue to get going too having dwelled for almost half an hour. The pleasantries of the lake helped to energise me and I picked up a good step as far as a small farming community. I stopped to chat with the local farmer who drained off some water for me from a nearby stream and to my delight told me I was only 4 km from Lake Hawea Campsite. As the cool evening air blew across the water I came across Mike and Lorraine’s Campsite at the foot of Lake Hawea which was a welcome relief after some tough miles. I was tired, thirsty and had severely cracked feet; hardly a surprise after treading 1000km of tarmac in the last month! Luckily my hosts were very kind and ensured I was watered and fed; I shared a pizza meal with them and their friends, Roger and Glenda Baldwin from Picton. Later we had tea and a pasta supper before I retired to a much-needed sleep. My day was complete thanks to a little help from some big-hearted people. Bless them – they were brilliant!
DAY 22 HAWEA TO WANAKA – 15KM
Today was short in comparison to those of last week; it was 15km to Wanaka and that left only Queenstown ahead as my last major staging post in the journey. On reaching the popular holiday town which is situated on the Southern end of Lake Wanaka I found a lovely camp site called Wanaka Lakeview where the lovely manageress, Kelly Cambell let me pitch for the night. The town is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park comprised of remote wilderness, awe-inspiring mountains and beautiful river valleys. The park forms part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site and is often referred to as a walkers’ paradise! Although I felt a touch rundown I still took a walk around the town and even watched some of the one day international – didn’t end well I’m afraid!!
DAY 23 WANAKA TO CARDRONA HOTEL – 25KM
Rising early I felt unwell due to heat exhaustion incurred from a hot and strenuous week, so my first stop was the chemist to obtain a packet of rehydration powders. After saying farewell to Kelly, I set off into the stifling heat which was already over 30 degrees without a murmur of breeze. Passing only road workers I endured the heat until noon when I stopped for lunch of boiled egg and whole meal bread. I had only the minimal amount of water for this journey and was relieved when I finally reached the Cardrona Hotel. Cade Thornton, the new manager of this impressive little palace, was kind enough to offer me a room in order to recuperate properly. In the evening I enjoyed a lovely steak meal and later I was able to update my diary and enjoy a chat to one of the locals who is also employed by the hotel. We talked about many topics – often joking about the state of the world; later Pete Donaldson phoned to give me an itinerary for the rest of the journey which would help to make my final days a bit more comfortable. Tomorrow I would be staying with his friend called Rod from Arrowtown. So far to date on this tour the Cadrona had been the most appealing place – almost iconic in appearance and a great place to quench thirst; its endearing character and charm made it a good location for those who prefer to relax in the basement of New Zealand free of adrenalin.
DAY 24 CARDRONA HOTEL TO ARROWTOWN/QUEENSTOWN – 50KM
I felt rejuvenated after my lovely stay at Cardrona and a good breakfast set me for the challenge of Crown Range – the highest point in the region. It was cool and I was in good nick so the winding undulation did not pose a serious threat today, though I was thirsty on reaching the summit – boy it was windy too. After a few photos and a chat to a Swiss lady who had watch me ascend to these great heights, I started my descent to the next ridge where I shared an apple with an American lady cycling to Wanaka – she would have got value for money on this route!
At Arrow Junction I had to make a 20 km excursion into Queenstown the capital of the West Coast founded predominantly from adrenalin sports – this is the most popular tourist destination on the South Island. Nearing the end a press correspondent called Olivia met me en route for an interview and photo for the Otago Times. Bungi Jumping was not part of my plan today so on conclusion of my interview I walked the final 3km into town and promptly retired to the Pig and Whistle for refreshment.
PHASE 4 – 20/02 (Queenstown to Dunedin)
DAY 25 ARROWTOWN TO BANNOCKBURN HOTEL – 52KM
After my journey to Queenstown I returned to Rod’s Place at Arrowtown which was once famous for its gold mining as was the whole region I would pass through today. It largely evolved when the great glaciers carved out the Wakatipu Basin and after gold was discovered in the 1860’s the Otago Council invited Chinese miners came here to make their fortunes. Sadly none of them made it back home though remnants of their settlement bear witness to the shortness of life. During the 1980’s the area was partially restored as a tribute to them becoming one of the region’s most visited sites. The first stage of my journey took me back to the Arrowtown junction and a few km on I passed the Crown Range turn off from yesterday’s walk and once again I was into a new day with another 42km to reach my destination.
Stopping at a bungi bridge I watched a dive before 3 coach loads of Chinese engulfed the centre making any further photography inaccessible; from here I pressed on to the Gibbston Winery where I stopped for a break. As I was drinking my coffee, Manager Greig came over and shook my hand having seen me walking to Queenstown and again today at Arrow Junction. He was also kind enough to provide me lunch for the day ahead.
Beyond the ripening vineyards it became an arduous day too along the winding Kawarau Gorge where water was hard to obtain – my main source came from a power station where I sat and ate my lunch. I consumed over 10 litres of water throughout the day and some fruit from a stall which the proprietor gave me; she also offered advice on how to reach the Bannockburn Hotel which was situated east of Cromwell. Another man gave $2 to the cause and at an hotel complex 2km along the Cromwell Road I received further instructions to Bannockburn. These I followed to the letter and made it to the hotel on the top of the hill. Hoteliers Tim and his wife where at a meeting but had made provision for me in their office room and I enjoyed a nice supper before resting.
DAY 26 BANNOCKBURN HOTEL TO ALEXANDRA – 35KM
I enjoyed a lovely breakfast with Tim and a good chat about his plans to develop the camp site over the coming months. I thanked him for his hospitality and as the cool air greeted me I descended from the pub garden to a landscape of forest and lake. Soon I was walking through the thriving business community of Cromwell. In the early days for those hoping to strike gold Cromwell was the nearest place of civilization; situated between the Rivers Clutha and Kawarau the town developed into a close-knit community living through the gloomy days of economic depression emerging to the much brighter social climate of today. Leaving Cromwell the wind proved a dominant force as I crossed the Lake Dunstan to continue the next phase of the journey via the Cromwell Gorge. The whole morning was taken up in head wind above the water which finally culminated at Clyde Dam built on the Clutha River between 1982 -1993 becoming New Zealand’s third largest hydro-electric dam. Leaving the highway was a great relief after toiling against the wind and relentless traffic; then reaching the village I had a coffee at a bistro and stopped for a chat at the pub next door; both premises were kind enough to donate to the cancer society and boost our fund for Relay for Life.
Having left the road behind for the remainder of the day I was now able follow a cycle route on the opposite bank. The trail was a great escape from the highway and offered less wind allowing me to enjoy a pleasant afternoon beside the river. Forming a good alternative to the popular Otago Central Rail Trail this route crosses the Clutha and runs approximately 12km to Alexandra. The trail followed a steep bank for most of the way and often the river was obscured by woodlands. Only saw a few cyclists en route – I guess those I saw had just finished work and later I watched a party of canoeists testing their skills in the water. Soon I was crossing the Here I was lucky to stay with friends Dave and Elsie who gave me a lovely meal and showed valuable insight into tomorrow’s long journey before I retired for the day.
DAY 27 ALEXANDRA TO MILLER’S FLAT -60KM
Banking and media duties incurred a late start as I returned to the bridge where I rejoined my route along H8 to Roxburgh which would take in the Fruitlands named when poplar trees were planted near small settlements established in the World Wars. Ironically the fruit trees planted here too never survived and so in reality it was fruitless in both title and content. For most of the time there was little here to stir my mind other than traffic bound for the weekend concert; at times this was a bit hairy given the roads winding/undulating formation. At least I enjoyed a stop at the iconic Speargrass Inn – a beautiful historic building established in 1869 and restored after fire damage into bistro and lavish en suite hotel which also caters for functions. I was delighted when the landlady gave me a nice lunch, and in between serving customers, we managed to enjoy a good conversation with a bit of roadside humour.
Continuing a bit further I also came across another hotel which looked deserted and lonely – there was no one at home here which prolonged my quest to obtain water. Walking another 10km I came across Roxburgh Township where I stopped downhill at a café. Whilst relaxing with a coffee I had a chat to the post lady who had seen me walking earlier; she was also a cook and was due to set off for a shift at a hotel in Roxburgh. She tooted as she drove passed me 2km up the road and from here I made good time to the town reaching the centre by 5.45pm. Continuing into the cooler evening session I faced speeding traffic which often took the white line without giving me any consideration at all- I guess the concert is more important than humanity!
I had believed Miller’s Flat was only about 10km from Roxburgh but after 2 hours of serious power-marching through the Teviot Valley with mile upon mile of orchards more befitting of the title of Fruitlands, I asked a shopkeeper at Ettrick how far to my destination. She replied saying ‘It’s only just down the hill’ which turned out to be another 6 km! Reaching the pub before dusk the landlady got me a beer to soothe my weary soul (and the soles of my feet!); half an hour later I went to Paul Moody’s house for a lovely lamb dinner and a few more beers – it all finished well and I was grateful for the support I received on this long hard perilous slog across the Fruitlands.
DAY 28 MILLER’S FLAT TO BEAUMONT – 27KM
After bidding Paul and his little girl farewell I had a coffee with the landlady at the inn who was also kind enough to make me a sandwich. Afterwards I walked back over the bridge and continued my journey along the Millennium Track which was mostly unsealed. For most of the way I was near the river with only a couple of houses and a sheep station to break up the journey. Of poignant interest were the lonely graves – an anonymous grave at Horse Shoe Bend which could have been an 1860’s miner point. In 1903 a local man, William Rigney added a head stone with the words ‘Some one’s Darling lies buried here.’ Rigney died in 1912 and was buried next to the miner with his own epitaph that read ‘The Man Who Buried Some One’s Darling.’
Continuing on I passed a sheep station, a couple of camp sites and took time out to relax by the lake. Only a few cars drove by leaving a trail of dust on each occasion but with little other commotion I crossed the road bridge and walked into Beaumont at 3pm. Alison Mills, the landlady of the Beaumont Hotel and Holiday Park was happy to let me camp for free and after completing my washing, diary and meal I felt relaxed enough to watch a bit of one day cricket featuring the decider between England and NZ. It was all happening here as a sheep-sheering contest was under way – the beer flowed freely all night into the early hours and the poor chef must have worked his fingers to the bone!
DAY 29 BEAUMONT TO LAWRENCE – 20KM
Having woke the tired landlady who had barely slept after her sheep shearing contest, I persuaded her to organise a cooked breakfast which she was kind enough to do for me along with a flat white coffee. She went on to explain that she expected another busy day with people returning from the concert; she also said it was essential to keep hosting events in order to make a living. Fair play – I told a tale of woe regarding some of my native pubs which have gone under due to the harsh winds of Austerity blown in by recession. Soon I was on my way again using the constructed sections of Millennium Track which follow the road for most of the way. Apart from a few hills it was a moderate task and there was less to bother me in the early part of the morning. Around 1pm I reached the Prospectors Café/Motor Camp and Tavern at Lawrence where I was offered a room by the kind owner. The premises were aptly named given that this was Otago’s first gold mining town in the Tuapeka District when industry started back in 1861. It soon became the gateway to the gold fields and largest community in the country peaking with a population of 11,500; even now some of the well-preserved buildings of this little town still emanates that bygone age.
DAY 30 LAWRENCE TO MILTON – 40KM
Starting in the mist I made the most of the cool air building good momentum as the morning evolved. Miles rolled by in an immense blizzard of commuter traffic though the scenery became intoxicating as the mist rose above the green and pleasant landscape. It was good to see the transition from stern mountain ranges to green hilly pastures reminiscent of the ‘old country’. Trekking through Manuka Gorge the temperature rose incurring perspiration and thirst. Unfortunately there were no townships here but after stopping at a picnic area I found a house selling organic produce where a lady filled my water bottles. On departure Pete and Michelle pulled up with more water – when it rains it pours! They at least relieved me of my rucksack which enabled me to up the mileage to 7km per hour. By 2.30pm I had reached Milton, the heart of the Bruce Ward, in the Clutha District and yet with a modest population of 2000. In just a week I had walked from Central Otago to the south coast and Tokomairiro Plain with less than 100km of Highway 1 to walk. It was certainly a long town and I was able to break up the journey with a coffee and photos taken by Michelle and Pete. After a break they guided me to Milton’s Old Peoples Home where Michelle had organised a night stopover for me. At the supper table was a guy called Tony who hailed from Lancaster and another lady who served me tea. After a good chat I visited the pub and met a gardener called Tony Kean who was working in the area. He sponsored the cancer society ($10) and we spent a decent hour unwinding with chat and ale. When Tony went for his supper I departed to my room and slept through until 6am.
DAY 31 MILTON TO MOSGIEL – 44KM
Leaving at first light I continued my walk along Highway1 passing Milburn and stopping for coffee and cake at Waihola. I had been here before when walking from the Cape to the Bluff but there was little of significance to remind me of the occasion all those years ago. Crossing the road I was able to join the quieter Titri Road which follows the perimeter of the lake. By now the mist had dispersed leaving bright sunshine and summer temperatures. It was a pleasant but short-lived respite lasting barely an hour as I resumed on Highway 1 where the traffic maintained its impetus throughout the afternoon. Reaching the Tairi turn off I was glad to descend down the lane to the sawmill; then turning right I followed the road to Berwick Street at Mosgiel where I met Pete’s Parents – my hosts for the night. After a shower I enjoyed a good meal with a cold beer; later we talked about both our countries and the pleasantries of walking; we even did a dry run into the city to ensure I understood my route for tomorrow.
MOSGIEL TO DUNEDIN – 17KM
Avoiding the motorway I now had to follow the country roads through Fairfield and Green Island which I managed at good pace. Pete and Michelle caught up with me on the way to a school function and later they prepared for my arrival in the city. On the last section I was joined by my Relay for Life Team, The Crown Worldwide Wanderers. My final descent to the Octagon was greeted by the press and finally a photo-shoot at the Terrace Bar – Barmy Army HQ.
Come on England!!
FINISHED ON 27TH FEBRUARY AT 12.30PM.
SUPPORTING ROBIN’S NEW ZEALAND CAMPAIGN
For more information about raising funds for the Cancer Society NZ contact Pete Donaldson at:
To support Robin’s Walk in the Otago Region click on:
Donations for Robin’s effort can also be made directly to the Cancer Societies of New Zealand (cheques marked ref: Robin Moore’s NZ WALK). Donations at Christchurch can be made to: Jane Sherriff, Manager Income Development, Canterbury West Coast Division, PO Box 13450, Christchurch 8141; or cash can be taken to the office (week days only) at 104 Moorhouse Avenue, Christchurch.
Ph 03 379 5835
West Coast Centre, 98 High St, Greymouth
Ph 03 768 9557
Supported by the Terrace Bar in the Octagon (John Mcdonald), Dunedin, the Barmy Army HQ for the South Island Test Match. To read more about Barmy Army Expeditions and other walks click on: Archive Diaries. To follow the England Cricket tour in New Zealand go to the Barmy Army website.
To support Robin’s Walks Cancer Research UK click on the fundraising link below. To view more photographs of the NZ Walk go to Facebook – ‘Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity’.
SPRING EUROPE WALK (Also supporting Cancer Research UK)
BEGINS FROM 23RD APRIL
PREVIOUS NEWSLETTERS (Also available with photos on the Home Page)- ‘A PILGRIMAGE OF WAR AND WORDS’ – Sue Ryder Presentation for ‘Robin Moore’s Oundle Pilgrimage’
To recap on the previous year including diaries, photos, books and presentations click on 2012 Review Page.
A PILGRIMAGE OF WAR AND WORDS
Based on 3 walks (with books to follow) to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the First World War, this first expedition starts at the Menin Gate and continues through Northern France to Nantes. The effort supports Cornwall Hospice Care and Prostate Cancer – ‘MOVEMBER’. See justgiving pages to sponsor Robin; you can also visit the Coppice Inn, Lanner to support Cornwall Hospice Care or The Rose & Crown, Oundle to be part of the MOVEMBER Challenge where either Robin or Ned will sign you up to grow a moustache for Prostate Cancer.
WALKING THE WAR GRAVES OF FLANDERS AND NORTHERN FRANCE
PHASE 1 YPRES TO AMIENS (THE FIRST WORLD WAR)
DAY 1 – 5KM TOUR OF YPRES
Arriving at the Menin Gate was a memorable occasion in itself and having set up camp nearby, I was able to attend the last post ceremony which is conducted each night before dusk. It is always a poignant affair commemorating so many lives lost in the battle for freedom and their names inscribed inside this huge monument convey the cost of history’s most horrific war. The Great War should never be forgotten for in this field of conflict have been so many sacrifices.
‘Over the top we go my friend,
To face bullet and barbed wire to our final end,
With only moments to live we struggle through the mud,
Into the darkness of battle, gun fire and blood.’
DAY 2. YPRES TO LILLE – 35KM
I began this first pilgrimage from the Mennin Gate with thoughts of those less fortunate to have visited this little place nearly a hundred years ago. I hoped to take many photographs and write up my experiences on the road and note in particular any of the great battlefields I will see over the 3 walks I will do between now and 2014. Not far from town is Bedford House Cemetery where the strongest words of war are found on the epitaphs of the dead buried in a formation of white tombstones that spread for acres each side of a nearby stream. A touring party gathered close by as I perused a few rows looking for long lost relatives; it was a hopeless task as one could easily spend a week out here in search of a relative – many of the sections were simply listed as ‘Unknown Soldier’ and the regiments that served here were innumerable. In fact the whole stretch between here and Lille was interspersed with graveyards built literally where men from Britain and the Commonwealth had fallen in battle. The whole episode was poignant and humbling to walk among such bravery and sacrifice which is largely unimaginable in today’s world. These days people seem more stressed about second homes, cars and 100,000k bonuses to pay for it all. Many know not of the suffering of these great men whose epitaphs will remain iconic in these parts until the world’s end.
Crossing the border into France about 2pm, the passage gradually became more urbanised taking in a riverside stretch on the outskirts of Lille. After a walk through the town I was offered a room at the Hotel De la Treille (normally 185eu per night) for 41eu by the manager which I gratefully took and after 2 beers, bread and cheese retired to bed.
DAY 3. LILLE TO VIMY RIDGE – 40KM
Bidding goodbye to my hosts after a wonderful stay, I took the cultural route to the edge of the city where I continued my journey along the D925. Magnificent architecture and village war memorials were the dominant features of today’s journey as passed through Watignies, Seclin, Carvin and Lens where I sampled ‘café au lait’ in the sun outside a local restaurant. Feeling indecisive about which direction to take from here, an old gentleman crossed the road to offer advice. Following his instructions I was able to progress along an old road to Eleu and eventually Vimy where I stopped a shop to obtain groceries for the next two days. The main road continues through the ridge which is surrounded by timber fencing. It was near here that the Canadians fought a great battle during WW1. Locating an entrance to the forest marked by a Maple leaf, I entered and camped nearby that evening enjoying the peace and solitude the location offered.
DAY 4. VIMY RIDGE TO WARLINCOURT LES PAS – 45KM
Rising at 7am allowed ample time to decamp and explore the area which has been designated as a national park in honour of the Canadians who fought here; beyond the area is a cemetery where the men fell in battle. There were many more of these along the way as my journey continued first to the lively town of Arras and then along a cycle route which showed insight into the quieter rural areas. Arras was steeped in ancient architecture with a plaza/citadel area reminiscent of Santiago in Spain. There was the usual confusion of finding an exit and I did not join my planned route though the cycle route proved invaluable allowing me safe passage as far l’Arbert. After a short blast along the main route I was able to turn off and follow the route to Pas-en-Artois where I found a camp site at Warlincourt les Pas.
DAY 5. WARLINCOURT LES PAS TO AMIENS – 40KM
The weather remained sunny – cool at night but pleasantly warm in the day reaching a top temp of about 17c. I had washed some socks and a shirt at the camp site the previous evening and they were drying out nicely on the back of my rucksack as I neared Pas-en-Artois. After a coffee at Pas-en-Artois, I began my trek through the Somme Region which was another important battle front during the Great War; those that fought here as with Ypres knew suffering beyond imagination. During the initial offensive in 1916, 20,000 men fell in the first hour of the campaign which by the end of the war had accounted for more than 600,000 casualties.
There were many memorials along the way and a few broken areas which resembled partial trenches now flanked by evergreens interspersed across miles of arable land. During the time of the war the landscape along the Somme River would have been unrecognisable as men sheltered in trenches from the barrage of shrapnel that left behind churned up mud, barbed wire and broken spirit. Today the forests look green enjoying the fertile terrain and I was amazed to find that many of the crops were yet to be harvested.
Passing a farm I saw a litter of cats learning their apprenticeship in the waste ground nearby. As I neared Amiens the traffic intensified and I had to ensure I got onto the correct route into the town. I saw no sign of the military HQ of the Somme Campaign; only a hospice building resembled anything that may have survived that era. It was quite pleasant down by the river and after collecting a few groceries I continued away from the place using a minor road which at least ensured me an opportunity to camp at one of the smaller villages. I managed to find a forest/park area around dusk and set up camp beside a small stream; apart from the furore of squabbling ducks, it was peaceful enough to ensure I had a few hours of quality sleep.
PHASE 2 AMIENS TO LE MANS
DAY 6. AMIENS TO MARSEILLE EN-BEAUVAIS – 50KM
Waking in a downpour I hastily packed my kit and headed off in the direction of Conty – roughly 14km.
I passed many villages and it wasn’t until I reached Conty that I realised I was on the wrong road!! It hardly mattered except for 3km excursion west to pick up my planned route to Crevecoeur-le-Grand. As it turned out it was even quieter than the last road journey as I headed away from the Somme Valley and relics of the Great War. Although Normandy had seen its share of conflict in the Second World War, today was celebrated by the rural composure of this beautiful countryside. So quiet were the villages I passed through that I did not even find a shop or anything that resembled a contemporary facility.
Eventually I arrived at Crevecoeur and was able to obtain water and food. It was after 5pm but I still managed to cover a further 10km to Marselle en-Beauvais and camped at dusk in a coppice by a ploughed field above the town. I sat for a while and watched the day draw to a close – the world seemed at peace here and so was I.
DAY 7. MARSELLE –EN-BEAUVAIS TO LES ANDELYS – 60KM
There was light rain during the night and it felt a few degrees warmer so I did not need to use my bivvy bag. Leaving at dawn in windy wet conditions, I was unable to obtain water for the first 10km. I had to go off course into a tourist village where I got water from the tourist office and later a coffee at a craft shop. Here I enthused about my experience of walking Europe and that so far I had made good progress on this trip. I continued in the rain stopping for more coffee and provisions at Gournay-en-Bray.
Pressing on in heavy rain I encountered farm machinery and speeding lorries which seemed to gather momentum in inclement weather. The conditions did not ameliorate and around 5pm I stopped at a small village for raisin bread and coffee. After photographing the cenotaph and church, I continued my journey towards Les Andelys which was a further 18km. Wet weather prevailed all day flooding the narrow road as darkness fell. By now I was at the mercy of speeding traffic with little en route other than the usual benign villages that would harbour no shelter or facilities. Finally at 9pm I entered the town of Les Andelys where I got a hotel room for 60 euros; later I managed to feed myself at a Chinese Restaurant on the buffet menu and after washing my wet clothes I fell into a deep sleep brought on through sheer exhaustion.
DAY 8. LES ANDELYS TO ST SEBASTIAN – 40KM
It was a relief to find refuge last night and I was also able to enjoy both an evening meal and breakfast for once. Walking in clean dry kit also put a spring in my step as I gathered pace throughout the first 10km to Gaillon. After coffee I managed another 15km to Evrioux where I gathered provisions for the night. Owing to a later start it was dark by the time I reached St Sebastian and so pitched a tent just a few km beyond the town at a small village park.
DAY 9. ST SEBASTIAN TO L’AIGLE – 56KM
Rising at 6am I was greeted with wet, windy conditions which prevailed initially though by the time I reached the lovely town of Condes (16km) the sun was shining I spent my meal break at the castle ruin. Nearby was a lovely slim-spire church; though the villages portray a quieter version of life compared to the larger towns, they abound with character hallmarked by Gothic-style buildings Norman churches and elegant bell towers. There was also a great sense of rural isolation about the journey occasionally broken by forests frequented by deer and red squirrels. There was a dead adder lying in the roadside and some huge toads which had also been crushed by the speeding traffic. I stopped at La Neuve-Lyre around 5.30pm and a further 12km saw at L’Aigle where I did my shopping. On locating my next route at the end of town I pitched camp on the rough ground above the carriageway.
DAY 10. L’AIGLE TO BELLAME – 50KM
Decamping at 7am, saturated in dew, I made my way through the rural countryside along the quieter D930 as far as the next town (10km) Les Apres where I stopped for coffee.
By midday the cloud cover turned to drizzle which was set for the duration of the outing. The slow hack took in a large expanse of forest broken by diminutive communities culminating at Mortagne Au Perche at 3pm – 30km completed.
From here I embarked on the last stage of phase 2 to Le Mans.
The rain grew heavy – not boding well for camping tonight; I had one further coffee break before completing the last 10km to Bellame where the local grocer was very kind and helpful. She warmed me up with a drink and contacted the local priest to help find me a place to stay. He turned about 9pm and took me to a small shelter which is used for homeless people a few meters from the shop. Here I welcomed the use of a shower and a bed for the night thanks to the kindness of these people whom I’d only just met.
DAY 11. BELLAME TO LE MANS – 54KM
Rising early I set off from the shelter around 8am, taking a few photos before leaving town. At least I had a dry start though my kit was wet and my knee hurt due to the extra weight of my rucksack– about 70lbs in all.
8km into the day I stopped for coffee at a village called Ige. From here I pressed on to a supermarket where I brought my lunch and chatted with the young maid who was actually fluent in English. Whilst I was eating my food the shop closed and the maid came over to wish me well as I went on to explain that I would be walking the rest of Northern France. An 11km walk saw me arrive at Bonne Table – by now I was 30km from Le Mans. The afternoon passed quickly and the weather stayed warm though there was a build up of traffic 10km from Le Mans. Unable to find any facilities I pressed on into town where eventually I found a bar that was still open on a Sunday. Here the locals welcomed me and praised my efforts. The landlady brought over meat and bread and the girls I met bought me drinks. Later one lady called Laelilia showed me where to camp and gave me her address so that I could get a shower and breakfast in the morning – all in all it was a good end to the day.
PHASE 3 LE MANS TO NANTES (NORTHERN FRANCE BORDER)
DAY 12. LE MANS TO MAILCOMBE – 35KM
Having poured of rain all night I managed to pack my gear and tent quickly and then find my friend’s flat where I enjoyed a shower and breakfast whilst she dried some of my clothes. Bading farewell about 10pm I encountered road repairs; most people I had spoken to here lived in fear of the Taliban though this place seemed more under siege of a JCB as the whole town centre had been decimated by road works. On leaving Le Mans I faced heavy rain throughout the day which was also the forecast for the week. It was hard to keep going and I made more than the usual stops to get me to reach La Suze and Mailcombe where on finding a reasonable hotel opted to stay the night. I welcomed the comfort of a room and a chance to dry out my gear, which had become increasingly heavy due to inclement weather. Just as I had called it a day down came a huge storm which justified my decision to stop at the inn.
DAY 13. MAILCOMBE TO ANGERS – 60KM
A good night’s rest gave me strength and with a dry start I made light work of the D23 to Durtal covering 25km by 1.30pm. I now had to make the decision on which route to take to Nantes which was about another 150km.
Traffic died down in the afternoon due to a road works which completely blocked off the next town; it would seem that maintenance here is a serious business leaving the thoroughfare barely passable with no access to shops/restaurants nearby. Later I passed over the River Loire for the first time admiring the views of mill and waterfalls on the left. It was a huge boost as the Loire is a natural border of Northern France and a reminder that the end of the journey was now in sight. From Seiches Le Loir I would power my way through the final outposts of this epic journey heading first for Angers; then a 100km stretch along the main carriageway by the river to Nantes.
It was a great effort and I gave my all as I reached Angers by nightfall – the last big town before Nantes which I hoped to reach sometime on Thursday.
By the time I reached the top of town I found a Pension and decided to stay there for 40eu including breakfast rather than camping.
DAY 14/15 ANGERS TO NANTES – 100KM
Having enjoyed a good night’s rest I indulged in a nourishing breakfast leaving the pension around 7am – still dark. I was soon perplexed by the intricate motorway system and had difficulty getting on to a pedestrian route. Having stopped at a few hotels to obtain instructions on how to escape this place, I managed to follow a country lane which took me to St Jean De Lineare. It was a bit of a lottery getting there as the penultimate junction wasn’t sign posted; thankfully turning right led me to the correct destination.
After a much needed coffee I joined the D723 to St Georges s-Loire (11km) with Nantes registering a further 79km.
After some drizzle it brightened up and I made the most of the little towns along the way stopping at St Georges and Capogiate with its castle ruin. Entering a café I met a mad woman who kept pestering me and trying to get drinks of customers as they came through the door; none of them stayed long! Worse still she spoke fluent English and started ranting at me and mocking my efforts for charity. Even after I left she pursued me in a car despite having downed a good volume of wine whilst at the café.
The whole affair was quite unsettling as I tried to concentrate along the busy road. Wet weather came and so did the blisters as I wore down my training shoes to bare rubber. I eventually resorted to wearing size 9 walking shoes – ouch!! These really pinched my heels – all the walking had made my feet swell to size 10 which is my usual expedition shoe size.
By 6pm I had completed 50km taking in Ingrandes and Varades with Nantes another 40 plus left to walk. After a coffee I soldered on to the last main town en route called Alcenes which was slightly west of the D723 on the River Loire. As dusk drew near I struggled to find a route out of the town and after consulted a maid at an inn I continued along a subsidiary road which eventually rejoined the D723. The walk became intense in the pitch black and pouring rain and at the next town junction, 29km from Nantes, I felt that I was too sore to continue efficiently. In desperation I tried to put up a tent in the dark. The ground was hard and I was unable to drive the pegs in sufficiently and so just made a temporary shelter where I rested for a couple of hours from a relentless storm. Unable to sleep I dismantled the shelter as soon as the rain stopped and continued walking in the dark. The respite was only a short one and as the storm recommenced so did the build up traffic. It was like walking up a stream at times and the speeding trucks made the journey a hazardous one. As the menacing trucks rolled by, in the distance there were lightning flashes as thunder roared across the sky. Eventually daylight began to emerge from the heavy clouds and on finding a café on the outskirts of town I stopped for a drink and chat to the owners who told me the train station was a further 10km. It was a difficult passage in the side of the road and I stopped once more for a breakfast at Macdonalds. From here I gradually made my way to the train station to conclude my walk and after the monumental effort from the previous day I was glad to obtain a bit of food and a comfort as I began the journey back home. From Nantes Gare I was able to get a train to Rennes; a second one to Morlaix where a bus took me to the town of Roscoff where I awaited the ferry service back to Plymouth. I had missed today’s voyage and therefore booked into a hotel for the night. Roscoff was a lovely place which I would hope to visit again in the Spring when walking the Bordeaux section from Biarritz. Now was the end of season and it was pleasantly quiet as a young maid at the hotel made me welcome and helped with important information. After enjoying a sunny morning by the harbour I made my way to the terminal where I boarded the ferry to Plymouth around 1600 hours. Arrival in Redruth was not until after midnight.
The whole effort was something of an epic, starting at the Menin Gate in the shadow of World War 1 and finishing along the Loire in Northern France.
At this stage I’d like to appeal to the public to make an effort to support either of my chosen charities by making a donation to my justgiving pages featured on the website. You can also make donations at the inns mentioned on our newsletters.
FUTURE PILGRIMAGES OF WAR
WALK 2 – 2013 – GERMANY/HOLLAND TO THE MENIN GATE
WALK 3 – 2014 – BASEL TO THE MENIN GATE
CHEQUE PRESENTATION – SUE RYDER (NOVEMBER)
PROSTATE CANCER (DECEMBER)
CORNWALL HOSPICE CARE (2013)
WALKING NEW ZEALAND 2013.
Itinerary to be scheduled soon….