For Photo Albums and Archive News Footage visit Facebook ‘Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity’
CLASSIC ADVENTURES – 2006-2011
Robin Moore’s Barmy Army Walk Downunder
Robin Moore’s Cornish Pilgrimage
The Mbekweni Walk of the Winelands
El Camino de Santiago
Walking Portugal (Algarve to Porto)
Walking New Zealand in 2008 (North Island).
-Early Archives 1 & 2 can be found in UK WALKS
THE ROBIN MOORE BARMY ARMY WALK DOWNUNDER- ‘The Longest Run In Ashes History’.
‘The Longest Run in Ashes History’
During the last decade, my burning desire for cricket had previously led me across South Africa and the length of New Zealand. And with an historic ‘Ashes’ series now imminent, I felt it was appropriate that my next Commonwealth walk should take place in Australia. Paul Burnham and I had discussed the event many years ago and with a challenge now in place to suit the occasion I planned to walk the Gold Coast to Sydney. Initially we wanted to use the walk as an event to establish fundraising for the Barmy Army’s main charity, The Mcgrath Foundation. The foundation largely focusing on care for breast cancer patients had already planned their fundraising strategy and were not interested in promoting a charity walk at the time. After various discussions we decided the event could be useful as an awareness campaign for prostate cancer straight after the ‘Movember’ project which would be supported by the Barmy Army at the Brisbane Test Match. Having established this, I set up an online page for the charity and interacted with local support groups for cancer care back home to ensure that I could help them too. I also agreed to do the walk in cricket gear (wearing a cricket item each day) to make people aware that the sport is at the foreground of supporting the cancer charities on this Ashes Tour. The campaign began well for England as they first fought back from an innings deficit and then went on to establish new records with Strauss, Cook and Trott scoring centuries in a total of over 500 for 1.
The momentum stayed with England at Adelaide, as they dominated the whole test match winning by an innings. It was a special moment for me as I last visited the lovely oval at the birth of the Barmy Army. Although England won on that occasion too, the Ashes had been retained and they finished the series at Perth losing 3-1. We now hoped to see that result reversed and after the great victory here, I started a 2-day coach journey to the Gold Coast to commence what would become an epic. Partially clad in cricket gear, the event was destined to be one of the great walks against the clock and always in the face of adversity – it was seen by many as ‘The Longest Run in Ashes History.’ The primary objective was to make others aware of mankind’s modern day nemesis and, although no one should under-estimate the devastation caused by cancer, together we are better equipped to fight it. The walk being characterised by this special Ashes occasion ensured people knew that cricket and the Barmy Army were doing their bit in the battle against cancer. All the original founding members were present on this tour and from a personal point of view I wanted to see England win the series, and play a positive part on the road in a long-awaited walk to Ashes Victory. But more poignantly, after 15 years and 24,000 miles of foot-slogging, the walk would also serve to commemorate the lives of many who died before their time: some indeed without sharing our love for the game of cricket. This was to be a walk for the ’Good Guys’ – friends and family lost before their time, yet whose contribution to humanity would never be forgotten – God Bless them all and Long Live England!
THE GOLD COAST TO SYDNEY
Pounded relentlessly by the Pacific Ocean in the east, New South Wales extends from the subtropical rainforests of the north to the meandering Murray River in the south. Largely perceived as the birthplace of European colonisation, New South Wales boasts part of the country’s most diverse history and respected industries. Although it was my passion for cricket that had led me to the continent, I also welcomed this journey of discovery and for that reason had planned two walks. As cricket took priority, the later expedition finishing at Victoria, had been put on hold until my next visit. Walking New South Wales would expose me to much indigenous wildlife as well as provide an opportunity to learn more about this intricate region where penal settlements have blossomed into vibrant towns. The first of these walks was destined to reach its conclusion at Sydney Cricket Ground where I hoped to witness a series win to England. Starting on the 10th December at the popular Gold Coast, read how the journey unfolds as I endeavour to walk the Pacific Highway to Australia’s largest city and final ‘Ashes Venue.’
THE UNINVITED UTE AND A WHITE-FLANNELLED BACKPACKER’
Day 1 Coolangatta to Cabarita Beach – 40km
Arriving at the Gold Coast after a two day journey, I listened intently to the coach driver’s advice. In particular, I took heed of his opening words when he exclaimed, ‘Boy I don’t know how you are going to do this – but if you succeed you will have earned every cent of your sponsorship!’ On a more encouraging note, he went on to say he would spread the word about my challenge and that I should explain myself to any truckers I meet at the road houses. This way, they may show a bit more consideration for ‘the mad Englishman’ walking the highway dressed in cricket whites!
Setting off around 10am I walked through the streets of this popular tourist region known as Coolangatta. The town, which is the most southerly resort on the Gold Coast was one of the earliest settled areas. Its twin town of Tweed Heads in NSW lies on the opposite bank of the river. Visiting the tourist centre, I listened to advice from the officers, who strangely enough were all ‘Poms’, and believing this to be a good omen set off to join The Pacific Highway 1.
Passing the road works, I followed the cycle path and eventually linked up with the highway where I endured a long hard slog in draining tropical heat. My pack felt too heavy for road walking and incurred severe blisters on both feet rendering me almost lame by late afternoon. With all facilities now behind me and only the endless highway to pursue, I felt powerless against the torturous heat. Luckily I was able to stop at an RTA depot at Tugan, where I rested and re-hydrated with tank water whilst working out my best option for a campsite tonight. The guys at the depot explained there was nothing on the highway for another 20km and feeling drained by the humidity I decided to take a route east to the coastal regions.
In an effort to obtain facilities I followed the coast road to a resort called Cabarita Beach which was 6km east of the RTA depot. This narrow stretch of road was encompassed by forest which was still heavily charred from last year’s fire. Nearby a large python lay crushed in the road. Usually snakes coil beside the road to bask in sunlight: they don’t need sun block and have no fear of cancer – shedding their skin every month, but this creature had strayed too far – bloody idiot!
On reaching the village I asked a guy if there was anywhere to camp. His name was Kent Browne and without hesitation he invited me in, appreciating the fact that I was walking for cancer. His wife, Deanna, was awaiting treatment for a breast tumour, so he had the greatest respect for what I was putting myself through to help a worthy cause. He introduced me to his friends Darren and Vicky and provided a meal for us all. They were lovely people and made me welcome, inviting me to stay in the spare room for the night. Kent owned a gardening business and was in the process of refurbishing his own plot after a crazy driver ran his ute through the back yard flattening a couple of palm trees on his descent to the river. How the hell he managed that I’ll never know as it was almost a right-angled turn from the road to Kent’s garden fence. Furthermore he was lucky to survive the deep river having dislocated his shoulder on impact. The next day must have seemed a little strange, looking up at the gap in the fence to see a red-faced backpacker peering through dressed in cricket whites brandishing a pink bat. Confused! Who wouldn’t be after a week of trauma which had seen his garden demolished in dramatic circumstances. At least my visit was seen as a good omen and many of the family friends turned up to wish me well on my travels as the night transformed into a traditional weekend party. One guy – an RTA officer called Nigel Carsley had seen me walking earlier on my way in to Tugun. In view of the fact I was east of my route, he offered to return me to the RTA depot at 5am to save me the long walk back. He also said he would drop some water off later on in the day. I was relieved to hear that and with an early start in mind, I retired to bed in preparation for tomorrow – boy I was tired and glad I didn‘t need to pitch that tent tonight!
Day 2 Cabarita beach to Byron Bay – 41km
Starting early back at the RTA depot I made slow progress along Highway 1 where blisters took their toll in the stifling heat. It was overcast and humid for most of the day and in the early morning Kent pitched up on the central reservation to offer me some breakfast. Appreciating a bowl of cereal and a flask of tea, I thanked him for his trouble and the hospitality they had all given me the previous evening. Parting company, Kent drove off to work and I returned to the road which now with the promise of a storm in the air. Later in the morning as traffic reached optimum levels, I managed to cross the road to retrieve my water supply from Nigel: his timing couldn’t have been better as I was by now extremely thirsty. There were moments on the walk when I was glad of the cool shade from an overhead tunnel. On one occasion while enjoying respite from the heat I had to straddle a snake coiled by the crash barrier. Snakes bask in the road, sometimes only inches from the white line, not expecting to meet pedestrians on such a busy frontier: throughout the day I saw long brown ones: some with patterns; others silver.
Around 3pm I came to a restaurant at the foot of a village which was a km or so from the highway. It was a bit of a highlight in terms of amenities and feeling a sense of relief I sheltered there drinking water and tea as I wrote up my diary. On resumption I encountered an electric storm and within minutes the road became a river as the drains over-flowed forcing water over the tops of my boots. It certainly knows how to rain here making the study of hydrology and flood mitigation a more sophisticated affair. I passed a drenched girl attempting to hitch-hike and after a lengthy bridge crossing I noticed a caravan site on my right now pooled with water. Pockets of life remained sparse and the remainder of the day was a washout as far as the Byron Bay turn off where I struggled to complete the last few km to this primary tourist destination. On arrival at the town I booked into the Backpackers around 6.30pm, and after a clean up I went into town to collect a few groceries. Later I ate a meal at the hostel and not wishing to see the Saturday entertainment, returned to my dorm for an early night. By chance I met some cheerful young maids who were inspired by my walk and keen to know more about the Barmy Army. They offered to take some of my gear to Sydney and meet me for a day at the cricket. This would at least lighten my load a bit and perhaps on arrival they could meet Leafy, Jimmy, Jake and Co at the Barmy Army HQ where we would hopefully celebrate an ‘Ashes Victory.’
Day 3 Byron Bay to Ballina – 30km
Captain Cook’s expedition in 1770 to ‘this tolerable high point of land’ would have provided an interesting contrast to the popular beach culture of Byron Bay today which has helped it blossom into a major holiday town. Despite inclement weather I found Australia’s most easterly resort devoid of any colonial spin, and probably favouring younger visitors who arrive in their droves to enjoy the backpacker lifestyle. Also, Cape Byron is Australian mainland’s easternmost cape making it a natural magnet for echo-tourists who come here to view dolphins frolicking in the sea below.
Walking away from the town, I embarked on a quieter journey along the coast road which was the scenic alternative to the ‘no frills’ Pacific Highway. Today, the road was aptly patronised by holidaymakers and typical ‘Sunday Drivers’ intent on enjoying a slower pace of life. At least there were no trucks to dodge though the road was slim and winding at times offering little more than a woodland scene. Initially there were no facilities and although recognised as the coast road I did not see the shore until arriving at Lennox Head. Here the wind offered comfort and resting at the beach I was happy to take a swim. After a decent break I replenished my water bottles and put on dry socks for the remaining 10 km. The place was full of people indulging in the spirit of the coast either enjoying the sea or ingesting its harvest at sumptuous cafes and bistros. My appetite for travel had waned considerably thanks to these blisters and I hoped the sea would play its part in heeling the wounds. With reluctance I pressed on leaving the coast scene behind – now intent on addressing the final session of the day.
The 10km walk to Ballina was arduous affair and as the scenic route neared its destination I noticed a few tourist tracks spurring off to coastal retreats. On arrival at the foot of the town I met a girl who had just finished walking The Camino de Santiago- an old favourite of mine which I encountered in 2006. She immediately fetched some basic first aid remedies to bring relief to my war-torn feet, and advised me about places to stay by the river indicating that I should be able to find a spot to camp free. In the 1860’s gold was discovered near the mouth of the Richmond river where settlements had been originated only 20 years earlier . My arrival at the river bank revealed only a campsite where the officer, who was less than helpful, told me the tariff to pitch a tent was over $40. The owners of this place had clearly struck gold! Extinguishing any flame of hope, she then explained that the police would move me on if I attempted to rough-camp by the river. Realising the fruits of my labour had fallen short of prosperity, I retorted ‘That’s more than a bed at the Backpackers’ and left in disgust to find solace in the pub nearby. Fortunately a young lady at the bar had seen me walking earlier in the day when she drove back from Byron with her mother. They were curious to know why I was ambling along the road clad in cricket gear, but after ticking off the obvious options her mother concluded, ’Well you never know he may just be walking to Ballina.’ What a genius! After inviting me to join her group, she asked friends Christine and Greg Devitt if they could put me up for the night. After introductions and the promise of a bed, I was at last able to relax with a beer and appreciate the remainder of the evening. As the night drew to a close we went back to Greg’s home where I enjoyed a bath and roast dinner to finish the day. They were still partying hard with the pub group, who turned up after closing time, but I was too tired to get involved in all that, and devoid of any nocturnal commotion, crashed out the minute my head hit the pillow.
GREAT RIVERS, FORESTS AND TWIGS THAT MOVE
Day 4 Ballina to Broadwater – 28km
Today started amusingly as I chuckled at Christine nursing a serious hangover, adamantly proclaiming her drink had been spiked for her to feel this bad. Her day was destined to get better, unlike mine which unfortunately spiralled downhill, falling disappointingly short of expectations. Initially I felt good, as I walked from the riverside pub of last night into town, where the chemist fixed my camera and sold me some iodine for my feet. This large town had originated from a settlement at East Ballina during the 1840’s when tall ships sailed into Shaws Bay to load timber. Since then, it has grown into an attractive port at the mouth of the Richmond harbouring a large fishing fleet and 16,000 inhabitants. Before leaving, I collected a bite to eat and after receiving some urban directions found my way back to the highway. Passing the road works near the Ballina by-pass, I crossed a bridge at the Lismore Junction and stopped briefly in the shade for a water break. Snakes slithered back into the bush as I approached cautiously knowing that they would be out in force with the sun beating down on the tarmac. On stopping for a refill of water at a house in Pimlico, I realised the cricket bat was missing and in a state of panic borrowed the owner’s bicycle to retrace the ground back to Ballina. No luck either, despite completing a 20km round trip; so she gave me the phone number of Ballina’s local radio station which I contacted for help. They sent out an S.O.S in a last ditch attempt to retrieve it, but sadly there was no response. By now, I had wasted a whole morning covering barely ten miles (twice!) and reached a point of devastation as far as the event was concerned.
Setting off from Pimlica, Alex, an ex-pat I had met in Adelaide, phoned to explain he had contacted the media in Coffs – hopefully we could liaise on arrival there at the weekend. Alex was a friend of Dave Speak, a life-long supporter of the Barmy Army who put me up at his home during the BA Road Show in 2008. He and Alex were at the Adelaide Oval, where together we contemplated a backup system for my walk between Coffs to Sydney. At least it was encouraging to know that there were people looking out for me and I wasn’t entirely isolated from the rest of Australia!
Late afternoon, feeling drained and still despondent, I found refuse at a picnic park, where I shared a table with some holiday makers. The family were travelling from Sydney to Brisbane, and while we were socialising they gave me some water. The young couple, who were travelling with a small child and his grandmother, quizzed me about the walk; then said a prayer for my feet. Waving goodbye I prepared for the next leg, but after a visit to the ‘dunny’, nearly trod on a brown snake! There are snakes everywhere: some barely the size of a slow worm: they bask by the roadside and in the bush – it’s a case of looking for twigs that move!!
Struggling on as dusk approached, I came to a small village called Broadwater, where I asked a guy at the nearby church if he knew of a place to camp. He wasn’t the resident preacher as first thought. In fact, the couple who owned the church, David and Alannah Howard invited me to stay in the building, which they had restored to former glory. The old place of worship had retained its character with many of its original features intact: befitting its new identity as an antiques/craft arcade. Having endured the bat trauma, searing heat and other delights of the bush, I found it an apt place to dwell, ensuring that a difficult day had ended well. Later that evening I enjoyed a cooked meal, and as time drifted by with a glass of beer, I recalled many great journeys of yesteryear. David was originally a builder with a good grasp of refurbishment which ensured he had something of a head start on this lengthy project. Alannah had been busy helping her daughter with an assignment, but tomorrow they planned to transport my pack to New Italy, so as to give my feet a break from carrying this hefty weight. With a long day scheduled, I welcomed the backup, and for the first time since starting this journey, a chance to walk at a decent pace.
Day 5 Broadwater to Forest Campsite – 45km
Leaving the old Catholic Church at sunrise, I arranged to meet Alannah at New Italy around midday if possible. The morning started well as I embraced the mixed scenery comprised of river and subtropical forest: later stopping for breakfast at a waterside park in Woodburn. Pressing on, the forest became dense flanking both sides of the road, though it remained cool enough for me to reach the New Italy Museum around midday. Once inside the park, I retrieved the rest of my kit from Alannah who had to rush off to meet her daughter, and with little else on offer for another 40km, I enjoyed a 2-hour siesta in the grounds of this historic place. The New Italy Museum showed insight into the lives of early settlers and the walkways were adorned with statues and plaques. The museum also possessed a café, which was an added bonus for those travellers who had driven here to capture a moment in history.
Having written up my diary about recent days past, I set off again with Grafton showing 80km – hopefully I would be in that district around Thursday.
The rest of the day became a battle against tiredness with nowhere to obtain refreshment or food. At times I became exacerbated by the dwindling lack of resources and yet humbled by the vastness of the ancient woodlands. As evening closed in, I startled a large brown snake by the edge of the road. Poised to strike I moved slowly round it and even as I took a picture it retained its position. The snake was lighter in colour than others I have seen and did not look as though he was about to invite me for a game of ‘Men and Ladders!’ Enveloped by the muggy forest, the road harboured many surprises, and with the nearby bush teeming with life one never felt completely alone. The collective drone of insects echoed across the land throughout the day, and on several occasions I caught sight of a kangaroo bounding through the woodlands. Kangaroos are the largest marsupials in the world and their strong tails enable them to balance when hopping. They are safe in the confines of the forest and being ground feeders they ingest the small plants and vegetation that luxuriate beneath the canopy.
As the trucks continued to storm past, the night fell quickly and so did the rain! Stopping by to see if I was okay, a guy gave me some peanuts and explained there was a picnic park about 5 km away. Thankfully I made it unscathed despite witnessing some reckless driving along the highway. There was little point in trying to pitch a tent in the dark, and after obtaining some water from a trucker I climbed into a bivvy bag and slept on a bench for a few hours.
Day 6 Forest location to Maclean – 35km
Waking to the call of the wild, I left around 5am making steady progress away from the forest as the road gradually opens up into farmland. Wiping the sweat from my brow as the heat rises from the tarmac, I passed a highway sign revealing Grafton – 56km. Little did I know that only a couple of weeks from now, this region, dependant on its sugar cane harvest, was destined to be flooded. Early in the New Year, the Clarence River would overwhelm the small islands that make up this region, devastating thousands of hectares of valuable crops. I guess nobody saw it coming, and despite the wet season in Queensland, the recent spell of sunshine suggested otherwise. But, sinisterly, this whole region had been shaped by mankind rather than nature. Over a century ago the pioneering timber men and pastoralists had cleared the forests for dairying and agriculture leaving an open stretch of river flats as far as Grafton. This would be my journey for the next two days, and without the cover of forest, I was exposed to unforgiving heat as the walk became a struggle. Feeling exhausted on reaching Harwood Road House, I rested for an hour in the shade. After downing my first carton of milk, the garage attendant gave me a pie with the second and advice on where to stay in Maclean. On leaving the garage, I joined the old Pacific Highway which was the route into town. As the journey progressed beside the broad reach of the Clarence, I noticed a few houses on the left of the road, and a mile or so on, the town came into view.
Fighting back the pain, I reached the place which was set on a hill, and feeling a great sense of relief, booked in at the ‘Bottom House’ around 3pm. Appreciating an early finish, I visited the town centre where Chemist and grocer were the priority stops on my list: then after replenishing my needs I washed some clothes and took a nap. Later that evening I spoke to the landlord and his friends explaining what my journey entailed. They were concerned about my feet as I could barely walk at times. Unfortunately, once I switch off from the task the pain worsens, and even walking a short distance to the toilet can be a struggle. Before the group left, they praised the England Cricket Team forecasting an easy series win: one guy went on to say that under the present management he expected England to dominate world cricket in the near future, and that the Ashes was just a stepping stone. After they left around 9pm, I retired to bed and was able to enjoy a good night’s sleep without the usual throbbing of feet.
Day 7 Maclean to Grafton – 45km
Today I was bound for Grafton, the main centre of the Clarence region, and starting at dawn I appreciated the benefit of some cooler air. Later in the day a shower helped to keep the temperature down though I still took a dose of electrolytes to maintain good hydration. These southern vestiges of the tropics in NSW are synonymous with Queensland, and the humidity at times made my journey uncomfortable. The road was a constant examination testing both stamina and concentration and I did not stop until reaching the café at Ulmarra around 3pm. The young maid who served me coffee, reassured that there would be plenty of places to camp in Grafton. She had just finished her shift and was anxious to get home to check her exam results. What a day for her! It was a better day for me too and when I reached Grafton at the point of dusk, the ladies at the road house let me camp on the paddock. I also had a lovely roast dinner at the café but later camped in the eye of a storm, which lit up the night sky raging on until dawn.
Day 8 Grafton to Half Way Creek – 40km
Opting for a breakfast at the road house, ensured I had a later start than normal, but by then the storm had subsided leaving blue sky in place for the morning session.
Continuing my journey, I found solace in the fact that I had managed to obtain water and shelter more easily than the initial few days. Also, now, my route was coast bound, destined for Coffs Harbour and other areas built up through tourism. Once away from the Clarence region, the landscape began to change adding a little more diversity to the journey. As tall trees merge into forest, the journey is interspersed less frequently by pastures. Cattle looked on, bemused by my antics as the still air is broken by a lorry rattling across a bridge. Periodically I heard the cuckoobura having fun, and in the slip stream of the road, I saw a butterfly dancing in the sun. During the morning I stopped at a house for water and was surprised to be greeted with a North England accent. The lady offered me tea and introduced me to her daughter who lived in the bungalow opposite. The ladies were preparing for their weekly shopping trip at Grafton, and on parting company, both made a contribution to the cause. Setting off again, I saw no other houses for a while and resting at a roadworks entrance, a truck load of maintenance men turned up to wish me well. I had been seen by many since starting my walk and by now most drivers acknowledged me either by tooting a horn or pulling up at a park to give me water. Wrestling with solitude is part of the battle as I continually struggle to block out pain and stay focused on the busy main road. As the day lingered on, the voice of the forest rises to a deafening crescendo partially drowning out the noise of traffic. The canopy remains home to innumerable bird species despite the excesses of mechanical intervention, that have grown to meet the needs of a changing world. I passed many creeks throughout the day, and approaching Halfway Road House the woodlands were interrupted by a garden centre that looked as though it had once been a hotel. Stopping at Halfway Creek for pie and chips, I phoned Alex for confirmation that he would be able to put me up over the weekend and be backup for my walk. He arranged to meet me beyond Halfway Creek, and on finishing at the signpost I had walked 40km. Alex and his partner Heather had moved here from Spain, enjoying the lifestyle on offer in NSW with Coffs being an attractive location. We had all been enjoying the cricket at Adelaide, and exchanged contact details so as to link up en route during the course of the walk. Staying here over the weekend allowed an easier workload and a few home comforts that had been largely denied en route.
PENAL SETTLEMENTS THAT HAVE BLOSSOMED INTO AFFLUENT RESORTS
Day 9 Halfway Creek to Coffs Harbour – 40km
After a good soak in the bath, huge pasta meal and wine I felt quite remarkably refreshed, and today did not require my rucksack which was a blessing to my feet. Heather dropped me off at the marker where I continued steadily to a place called Woolgoolga. Stopping at a grocer shop near the exit of town, the lady made me a cup of coffee whilst chatting about my walk. Shop assistant was one of many jobs she had, and all the customers seemed to know her, exchanging banter as they strolled in to pick up their weekend newspapers. In between serving, she went on to tell me that her son worked for a sports shoe manufacturer – I wish he was here right now! With half the day done it remained a cool day – overcast without the humidity which enabled me to make good ground. Leaving the town behind, I passed a lovely Asian temple which I photographed before rejoining the highway. A large group of Australia’s Sikh community live in this enchanting seaside town, having relocated from Queensland to become banana plantation owners. From here the road harboured numerous holiday developments which have sprung up over the years to cater for this popular tourist region. It was certainly built up enough for water not to be an issue on this leg, and entering Coffs I took a photograph of the windmill on the right, which has been converted into an attractive restaurant. There was also a showpiece plane nearby and a large banana which is a symbol of commerce identifying strongly with the affluent Coffs. Before the advent of tourism, the town’s fortune was founded largely on banana-growing which helped it evolve as a major industrial centre. Yet its name was derived from ’Korff’s Harbour , after John Korff, who opened a store in the town’s main street. A bit further on I came to the popular Green Tavern Inn where I finished with a pint around 6pm. Many of the locals had gathered round the TV screen to watch Mike Hussey score his second hundred of the series in the test match at Perth. It was a great effort by a dedicated professional who has earned his stage name of ’Mr Cricket’. I have to say I was less enthusiastic about the innings and outcome of the game, choosing to retreat from the bar to write up the day’s events in my diary. Alex collected me from the bar and later cooked a steak meal which we enjoyed with a few glasses of wine. After a post mortem on the cricket and a spot of TV, I was out the game falling asleep with my feet in a salt bath – that was a shock when I woke at 2am!
Day 10 Coffs to Urunga – 30km
Sunday saw a decline in the flow of trucks and with only 30km to walk I felt boosted by the prospect of a lunchtime finish. Beyond the town, a police officer interrupted the journey to enquire what I was doing. When I explained and showed him a book about one of my previous adventures he was amazed. I went on to say that I had obtained permission to walk the entire Pacific Highway and part of the freeway to Sydney. Continuing in rain I progressed to the tourist office at Urunga where I finished for the day. The centre is also a ‘Reviver Stop’ run by the Lions’ Charity who provide free coffee to encourage long-distance drivers to take a break from the road. The Charity does wonderful work around the world, and the lady in charge was very interested in my travels spending time to converse with me until Alex arrived. Now finished for the day, he took me to his favourite pub where he has also worked as a licensed entertainer. On returning home Heather had cooked an excellent roast lunch followed up with Bread and Butter pudding- my favourite! We sat talking about by-gone days on the continent where Alex had enjoyed entertaining and playing soccer which he hopes to resume one day. That cold beer after a game in the Spanish would have felt was like blood to a dying man! He was also a good organiser, and I felt he could offer a service to the Barmy Army, arranging tour accommodation and flights to the cricket venues in Australia. I had a lovely time staying with them and enjoyed some home comforts too. They had looked after me so well I couldn’t have felt better, and was indebted to them for helping me get through an awkward passage in the walk. At the end of the week, the pain and lack of sleep had taking their toll on my weary body, and the wind down over the weekend had injected new impetus to the journey. We had also planned to meet at Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Year’s Day and walk into the city to the Barmy Army HQ.
Day 11 Urunga to Macksville – 32km
Re-united with my rucksack, Heather dropped me off at the Tourist Office around 7am, from where I made slow, diligent progress along the Pacific Highway. As the day warmed up, I stopped for a break at a garden centre where the attendants gave me water from a tank outside. After some friendly banter about the cricket, they listened almost in disbelief at what I was doing, but gave encouragement and praised the England Cricket team for their efforts in Australia. After resting there for half an hour, I set off again, walking in the heat of the day towards Nambucca Heads which the Aboriginals interpreted as ‘ entrance to the waters.’ Bathing in cool waters on a day like this was a comforting thought for many, though the river was actually discovered by a group hunting escaped convicts. At the Tourist Office, I stopped for tea and a rest in the shade, and in the background, I could hear playful children splashing about in the river nearby. While enjoying a sandwich, the two female attendants chatted to me, and it was interesting to know that one of them hailed from England. She explained I could camp free at the Lion’s Park near the bridge at Macksville, where that the town itself lie a few minutes away across the water. During the interval an American guy stopped by with a story to tell: he was on a cycle tour of the coast which made it an interesting day for the ladies in charge.
Bading farewell, I cracked on with less than 10km to complete the job for today, stopping only briefly to pick up a banana from a roadside stall. On reaching the bridge at Macksville I pitched a tent at Lion’s Park beside the river and then continued into town to buy some groceries: these including a bottle of beer some bread and meat. Also I picked up a meal from the takeaway which the owner let me have free. Explaining that he had lost friends through cancer, he admired the fact I was pounding the road to make people aware – not too many would volunteer for that job!
Thankfully I could now rest and appreciate another short day having endured some hot temperatures earlier on. Obtaining water and food are my most difficult tests on each day’s journey. My feet were also unusually sore making it difficult to sleep, so I had to reassess the distance between towns to ensure I had a fair chance of obtaining supplies and reaching a suitable place to shelter. Later, Paul Burnham rang to ask if I could move my itinerary forward to Coogee Bay on 1st January where I would need to finish with a TV interview about my walk for the Barmy Army. I had already gained permission to walk the freeway as far as the environs should we be short of time: this would now have to come into effect so as to make this deadline. My average mileage was creeping up to 40km a day and would certainly need exceed that from here on in. So, with a slight change to the plan, Alex and myself would endeavour to walk from the Harbour Bridge to the Coogee Oval for 4pm on the 1st January – right now that seemed a million miles away – especially with Christmas to encounter as well.
Day 12 Macksville to Frederickton – 50km
Macksville is home to Australian opener Phillip Hughes who was presently preparing to play his next test match against England, soon to be held at the traditional Boxing Day venue, the MCG.
Right now, it was a little cool here for net practise and my neighbours in the camper van, a few metres from the dew-drenched grass, were astonished to hear there had been snow in certain parts of NSW. Despite being woken by the cool temperature, I welcomed it at the start of what was scheduled to be a long day and soon found my stride on leaving town. It was minus ten in England, so I guess that soon put things into perspective, and the coolness here is only temporary respite gained only from an early start. Soon the searing heat kicks in and the day unfolds into a relentless slog destined to be around 50km.
Unable to get water I was forced to sidetrack from the highway to seek help from a private residence. The owners were at home and immediately the females set about the task of replenishing my water supply, while the guy went on to say he had seen me on a number of occasions since leaving the Gold Coast. He was astonished to know what my journey entailed and after the girls had filled my bottles I thanked them for their trouble. Returning to the road, I now had enough water for the day although it added to an already heavy pack saddled to my back. Previously, I had broken a strap on the rucksack through carrying too much weight. Also, my feet were never happy about the prospect of an excess load, so being mindful of overloading, I carried a water bottle in each hand.
On reaching Frederickton (4km from Kempsey), I asked the landlord of the Macleay River Hotel if I could camp by the river at the bottom of his garden. The landlord, Nathan was happy to help out, insisting I had a room for the night to gain a proper rest: he also left a pie and beer at the bar for me. Chatting to the bar staff whilst writing my diary, one of the girls came back with some pasta which I ate before retiring. How thoughtful and kind of these people to accommodate a stranger at short notice – acts such as these help restore one’s faith in humanity. So far on this trip, I had much to be grateful for, and through the kindness of others, I felt emotionally equipped to endure the difficulties presented by the road each day.
Day 13 Frederickton to Telegraph Point – 35km
Starting early as the sun began to rise, I looked back at the peaceful river where steamers once transported dairy products from this flat fertile valley of Macleay. Early pioneers had cleared much of the dense forest near the river, shipping cedar and pine to Sydney for use as building materials. I enjoyed the quiet little stretch of farmland, and after only 4km I reached the town of Kempsey where I ate a Macdonalds breakfast with coffee. Kempsey, dating from 1836, is the second oldest town on the mid-north coast after Port Macquarie. Having prospered from timber and diary farming I appreciated the fact that these communities had grown as a direct result of the land whilst enjoying a peaceful, uneventful history.
After picking up a few provisions from Coles Supermarket I headed out of town where for a while I was joined by a local guy called Mark who walked with me to the exit. He had spent time in New Zealand which concurred with my previous travels, and had just returned from town after selling his car – a positive note to start the day. On parting company I continued beside a narrow section of highway using a bush track to compensate for the lack of hard shoulder. As I walked through the scrub kicking up dust and debris I was bitten by a redback spider. Feeling a nasty pain, I ripped off my boot and removed the creature. It perished instantly as the tongue of my boot pressed against my foot, but in that death-defying moment, it had managed to leave its mark. Unaware of what could happen to me as a result of the encounter, I stopped at a kennel/home for dogs where the attendant googled for symptoms. Thirty minutes on with no sign of trouble, I continued without the need of anti-venom and in fact had a productive day there after. For a while it was quite humid, and needing water I left the highway to get help from a nearby farming community. At first there was no response, but after using the next right turn, I found a family at home who invited me in for tea and sandwiches. After a rest they explained I would be safer using the old highway route to Telegraph Point which harboured a pub and park where I could camp for the night. This sounded encouraging and without changing course, I continued along the quiet back road to the small community. Unsure of which fork to take at the junction, I asked a family who lived opposite for help. Whilst resting the resident lady offered me some water and asked her husband, Ian to assist with my enquiry. He had suffered years of illness and an accident which left him disabled for a lengthy time. He spoke of opportunities lost by hesitant people and that we all live with regrets of having not pursued our goals. He was something of a philosopher, probably induced by years of looking at ceilings in convalescence, and in any case was confident in his analysis of humanity. I have long heard about peoples’ dreams and ideas: much of which were quelled by the constraining system we live in. He liked the fact I had gone out and challenged life, chronicling my adventures in a way that would leave a footprint on humanity in years to come. Many would be envious of what a small man had achieved in life with a bit of thought and stubborn resolve. There will also be a select few out there who will follow those footsteps inspired by the ideas and innovations of a restless soul.
After saying goodbye I took the left fork and made my way to the village, calling at the post office for further instructions.
Picking up a bottle of beer and a roll from the pub I crossed the highway bridge which exposed the riverside park below. Rivers run far and wide here with bridge crossings that extend to a mile or more. Although I appreciated the pleasant waterside scene, it transpired to be illegal to camp in the park. Not wishing to offend any locals or incur a heavy fine, I opted to bivvy up under a picnic shelter until sunrise.
Day 14 Telegraph Point to Kew – 55km
After a shocking night by the river, where I was little more than a food supply for of the entire mosquito population of Telegraph Point, I woke to the spatter of rain which grew heavier on leaving the site. I was glad of its coolness against my skin which had been under siege throughout the hours of darkness, and the rain continued until 11am when I made my first stop at ‘Reviver Café’ on the left of the highway. The attendants were kind serving tea and biscuits as I relinquished my waterproofs and sat down for a while. After ringing my socks out and dressing my feet, I spoke to Lion’s Volunteer Jack Goldsmith who had spent his former days as a drover. I was surprised to learn that his memoirs, recently published by Bill ‘Swampy’ Marsh in a book called ’Goldie’, were on sale at all the post offices of Australia. One extract describes how he swam across a croc-infested river up north only to look back seconds later to watch a 20ft beast take one of his herd. It rolled the great steer up and down the river all morning to its final end. Unlike the wide-expanding waters of NSW, the alluring rivers of the untamed north harbour Australia’s deadliest predator. His leisure time is spent basking beneath the lily-top waters in wait of a takeaway lunch. Although a crocodile normally eats just once every 3 months he has never been known to refuse a Kangaroo snack or an unfortunate opossum which has fallen from the trees above. As lotteries go, any one entering ‘his river’ can never be sure when his quarterly meal is due. Bill’s act was certainly one of bravery, making my adventure seem little more than a Sunday School outing! This was intrepid stuff borne from legends, though the bullock, which had little say in the matter, would have no doubt disagreed!
Having enjoyed the interaction I returned to the tarmac amid dryer weather to engage in a four-hour long foot slog. I passed signs for historic Port Macquarie whose seaside attractions and popular resorts visibly belie its penal past. I did not need to enter on this occasion, though the place remains the most historically significant town along the NSW coast as far as Newcastle. Apparently John Oxley stumbled across it whilst on an exploratory visit in 1818 giving him the vision to expand the colony. Three years later it was founded as a settlement when convicts relocated from Sydney, under Governor Macquarie built a Georgian Church and a few of the heritage buildings that still stand today. Its colourful history remains an attraction, yet it was largely due to the population explosion of the 1970s that transformed this little outpost into the vigorous resort it is today. At least I understood the concept of hard work, going through the pain barrier time over as my throbbing, aching feet relentlessly pounded the tarmac. Alex had at least witnessed the state of my feet at Coffs which since then had to bear further punishment notably to my heals. Stopping at a park, I spoke to a family heading north who kindly gave me some bottles of ‘Gaiter Aid’ to sustain me for the rest of the day.
Soon I found the turn off to Kew, and an hour later the long painstaking journey came to a close at the local pub, where the landlord let me camp out the back: he also allowed me use of the shower facilities inside. After sorting myself out, I returned to the bar to consume food and ale whilst writing up the day’s events.
Day 14 Kew to Coopernook – 35km
Starting before dawn, I prepared for my day with a bowl of cereal and a rub of deep heat to soothe my aching knees. Despite the discomfort I ignored the pain enough to walk properly and made good ground to St John’s River. Unfortunately I was too early and the café was still closed: further more it was Christmas Eve and most people were winding down for the festive break.
With no sign of life I pressed on with a rumbling belly and unquenchable thirst, hoping to find commerce at the next village.
Reaching Moorland I was greeted by the same empty response at a closed grocer store and garage. In despair I knocked on the garage side door and to my surprise a group of youngsters answered asking what I wanted. I explained my dilemma and they quickly responded by returning with a peanut butter sandwich and some water. Resting on a bench nearby, I thanked them for their trouble and in return answered their questions about my adventure. I explained why I was on the road, and that I would camp at the next village with an inn or campsite so as to settle in time for Christmas. Waving goodbye I continued to the next place, which was called Coopernook and on reaching the first house beyond the turn off, I knocked on the door to enquire about the facilities ahead.
Answering the door, the owner, Michelle, invited me in for a cup of tea, introducing me to husband Glen and son Cameron who was eagerly awaiting a visit from Santa.
Glen suggested I stayed with them as there was a long distance to the next place, Taree, which was also west of my route incurring an extra 10km. After a further discussion about the week to follow, I gratefully accepted their invitation. Once showered and changed I went to the post office: then the inn where I enjoyed a Christmas Beer. Later we had a fabulous meal which Glen cooked on the brie and after we enjoyed a good social evening. Glen was a chef by trade and had travelled all over Australia. He had also lived in the UK for 2 years exploring much of the British Isles from top to bottom, and had visited Ireland too. His knowledge and experience of Australia also proved invaluable as he advised on places to stay for the remainder of my journey. Cameron was now quite excited by Santa’s approach, and had pitched a tent in his bedroom so he could take a rest before delivering more presents. With the ever increasing workload at Christmas, it would pay Santa to get a Tardis! Later, I told Cameron he was probably enjoying a beer at Port Macquarie which was a meagre sledge ride from here. Shortly after, we all retired and I doubt any of us heard Santa arrive. When I woke at 4pm it was as though I had just closed my eyes – I could easily have slept another 6 hours.
Day 15 Coopernook to Nabiac (Christmas Day) – 50km
Having enjoyed a lovely evening with Glen, Michelle and Cameron I wished them well for Christmas and good fortune for the New Year. Still in darkness, I returned to the highway and made the most of a quieter period on the road. It was pleasant for a while, but soon the holiday-makers came tearing through hauling caravans, boats and trailers: all now in search of beach and sun: yet the weather forecast up north promised only rainfall and untameable storms.
Although dull here, it remained dry but cool and I stepped up the tempo as the morning went on. Crossing many bridges that spanned the wide rivers out here broke the monotony of the highway adding a familiar intrigue to the journey. These meandering inland river systems capture the imagination of an explorer struggling to unlock the secrets of the land. The vastness of these waterways was likened to the sea lochs I had encountered in Scotland and it was hard grasp how its source originates from the inland mountain ranges. On my last visit here, most of the rivers had run dry leaving me to ponder over the contrasting mood of nature. Around noon I took my first break at the Taree road house which was a few kilometres south west of the town.
The place was a hive of activity, but I was glad of the break and stocked up with water at the garage before setting off again in hotter afternoon conditions. Later the humidity gave way to a shower and I stopped again at a kennel centre where the owner gave me a ginger beer and some sweets, wishing me a ‘Happy Christmas.’ Trundling on, I reached Nabiac by 5.30pm where the hotelier let me camp on the grounds until sunrise, and with all else closed except the road house, I celebrated Christmas with a bottle of Coke and a vegemite sandwich.
Day 16 Nabiac to Bulahdelah – 46km
Starting at 4am, I borrowed a set of scissors from the garage to make a pair of insoles out of my foam mattress. Yesterday I shaped dressings for my feet from banana skins, which helped soothe the pain during the hot afternoon. I hoped the coolness and potassium would have a healing effect on my feet. Later in the morning Alex phoned to say they had set off on their journey to Sydney, and would catch me en route 2 hours from now all being well.
The traffic soon reached a peak as holidaymakers continued the surge north, and as I approached the first sign post it read Newcastle 140km and Sydney over 300km. Stopping at the Reviver Café I chatted to the attendant who ensured I had plenty of tea before setting off again. Marching on towards Coolongolook I found a Death Adder coiled in the road. Pushing it back into the bush with my stick, removed danger for both of us and ensured a better chance to enjoy the rest of the day. A little further on, I crossed the road to the café where I indulged in a small breakfast with coffee. Beyond here, I continued on the left side of the road, expecting Alex and Heather to link up at the next lay-by. We timed it well and I was glad to see them though a storm was now heading our way. I enjoyed a bottle of milk and sandwiches before they left: also we made arrangements to link up on New Year’s Eve at their cousin Billy’s house. Bill and Fi Penrose live near Hornsby, the stop I had now rescheduled for the 30th January and all being well they would accommodate me on that day too.
On departure the downpour came with a vengeance transforming the road into a stream adding danger to all on the highway. One idiot, who should be banned from ever using a car, drove straight at me as fast as he could so as to fire a missile at my head. I can’t believe he risked all the lives of those travelling nearby to do such a thing. Unfortunately he was driving way over the speed limit for me to get a glimpse of his registration. It was a posh fast car so maybe the guy felt he was entitled to abuse any one who dared to walk ‘his road’ – I just wanted to face him man to man – but sadly that is unlikely to ever happen.
Feeling shell-shocked and somewhat guilty of being the centrepiece in a potentially serious mass accident, I retreated to the next picnic park to regain my composure. I was anxious to know the cricket score with England in a position of dominance at lunch time, but the storm had blocked out the reception on my radio. On resumption, I walked to a café 2km short of Bulahdelah and stopped for tea whilst watching the cricket; unbelievably Australia had been bowled out for 98 and England were already equal to that without loss. Marching on through roadworks I soon reached the town which sits at the bottom of the Alum Mountain, known for its deposits of alunite used in manufacture of paper and dyes. Passing several shops and motels, I finally set up camp on the edge of town overlooking the Myall River. Later that evening, I enjoyed a meal at The Plough Inn, where spoke about my travels to the staff and others who had seen me on the road earlier in the day. Whilst enjoying a beer, I met a chap in the bar who had his own tale to tell. He had travelled all of Queensland in the last three months and was heading back to South Australia where had just inherited some land. He had clearly been through some difficult times, but was motivated by the opportunity of building a productive farm. It had been a far off dream in a distant place – now destined to become reality which had at least given the guy something to live for -Good on him!
Day 17 Bulahdelah to Karuah – 40km
Leaving under cloud cover at 6am, I crossed the bridge making steady progress against the traffic flow. It was cool with a spatter of rain which allowed me to complete a 20km stint to the next ‘Reviver Station’, where the kind attendants made me a brew and a pot noodle for sustenance. It was a productive break and I was able to learn a little more about the smaller creatures that frequent the forest land. One of the staff was describing a cicada to a group of inquisitive travellers. This was the winged chirping insect that was so commonly heard throughout my forest encounters: at least the droning insects were innocuous unlike the death adders that heavily populate this region. Beyond here, it remained overcast as the temperature climbed, though the headwind kept me cool until reaching the next park. The whole day was a laboured affair – car after car along the same mundane highway, until finally, I turned off to Karuah which registered 4km. Karuah was a character little place with enough amenities, but after enquiring at a campsite about a pitch for the night, the guy wanted $20 which was a little less than a room at an inn or backpackers. Later, after visiting the RSA club, the manager told me it was okay to camp at the park by the river. He went on to say I could sign in at the club for supper and beer once my tent was pitched. It was great to finish before 6pm, and inside the club I was able to watch the cricket. Jonathon Trot had made a big hundred during a massive stand with Matt Prior on 70. It was another good day for England and me too! I enjoyed a steak supper washed down with a couple of beers, and after, chatted to a couple of ex-pats who praised my achievements. We shared our delight in the cricket too, recognising that something special was about to unfold. The cooler temperature meant that I benefited from a good night’s sleep too despite the cheers of some youngsters braving the choppy waters for a midnight swim.
Day 18 Karuah to the Freeway – 55km
Decamping amid a strong waterside breeze, I almost felt the need of a jacket, but quickly reminded myself that the advantage of cooler conditions far outweigh the tropical heat of previous days. After walking 20km, I stopped at a picnic park to obtain water from the toilet block. Unfortunately the water was non-potable, but the kind attendant gave his water bottle before making off to service another local park. Crossing the road to rejoin the hard shoulder proved a tough job, and I could sense the momentum of traffic building throughout the day. Making good progress, I reached Raymond’s Terrace by lunchtime where I took a break at a takeaway. The area seemed quite built up having developed as a dormitory for industrial Newcastle, and there was a daunting session across the road bridge onto The New England Highway. I was concentrating so hard I missed Hexham altogether! This is where the highway separates, leaving an alternative route along the coast road to Newcastle, the second largest city in New South Wales. It was originally called Coal River and remains the largest centre for coal export in the southern hemisphere. The landmark had been a long time coming; often leaving me with endearing thoughts of Cheryl Cole – a treasured personality of the mother land! Now I turned my attention to locating food and water before joining the Freeway and the last 150km to Sydney – the final stage in this intrepid journey.
Leaving the highway at Tarro, I located ‘ggs Takeaway’ on Anderson Drive, where the owner cooked me a lovely fish supper for just $5 and gave me some drinks to keep me going. She seemed a kind lady who had worked hard all her life without the best of fortune. Her old-fashioned attitude left me with a sense of well-being, and I was grateful that I chose to stop at the fish shop. Next door at the garage, an Asian lad informed me about the cricket with Australia batting second on 89-3. And then, unbelievably, he asked if I would take him to England! I explained that I had to get to Sydney first and that part of the journey would not be one of pleasure! We both chuckled and after buying a pint of milk I continued my quest, passing over several roundabouts to find the freeway. A couple of girls helped point me in the right direction, and eventually I joined the freeway at the Reviver Café where a lady attendant supplied me with biscuits. The journey from here was about 100km to the environs, but there were no facilities en route as this was the fast lane to Sydney.
The people here were kind and endearing but the road was harsh and unforgiving. Feeling nervous of this, I made watchful progress along the hard shoulder until dusk, where I had little choice but to camp beside the road. My only neighbour was a 6 ft python coiled perilously close to the tarmac. After checking for more snakes, I set up camp on a rather prickly bush area set back from the road. At least I got a few hours sleep though the repetitive sound of traffic lingered on in my subconscious mind as the night passed quickly by.
Day 19 The Freeway to Gosford District – 80km
By the time I had packed my kit, the heat was on me, and to add further dismay the python had slithered beyond the cursory white line where his fate had been sealed by an on-coming motor. Not a good start to the day! Furthermore I had little choice than to walk a straight 32km to Morisset in a one hit. With this prospect now awaiting me, I felt perhaps it would be wise to take a siesta in the afternoon. In this way I could recuperate before resuming for round 2! Midway, I stopped to help a family who had broken down, and after a brief rest, a young lad gave me a bottle of sparkling water. I needed this to combat the inevitable dehydration facing me on this marathon session. The majestic forests and pastoral country of last week were now a lingering memory as the freeway continues to sap the life out of this difficult journey. By the time I reached Morisset I felt shattered, and to add insult to injury, then had to walk a further 3km to reach the town centre. After collecting money and provisions, I stopped at a park where I enjoyed a two hour siesta. During that time Rick Sindorff texted me to congratulate our Ahes success and to get a progress report with the walk entering its final stages. I had met Rick, who lives in Tasmania, at Adelaide and after purchasing one of my Barmy Army books, said he would get support from his golf club for the prostate cancer campaign: the founding members also signed Barmy Army shirts for him to auction.
Restarting in cooler conditions, I felt the benefit of a long break which allowed me to tackle the second part of the day in comfort. During this time I was backed up by the RTA who supplied me with water. They also warned that there was no pedestrian crossing at the Gosford river and that they would be on stand-by to ferry me across to the left bank. We arranged to meet after 6am, and they also recommended I bypassed Wyong, walking a further 10km to Ourimbah where I could camp at the park tonight. This I welcomed, marching off into the sunset, though it was a long painful episode countered largely by determination, adrenalin and will to survive. As nightfall crept in, the shadow of darkness conjured a frightening vision of speeding lorries and other monsters that frequent the road. Avoiding the deep drains on the hard shoulder, I stumbled through the dark, eventually locating the turn off to Ourimbah. Nearby, was a truck stop and to the right a pavement passing under a bridge on its course to the campsite. After pitching my tent, I spoke to a neighbouring group of backpackers who invited me to join their birthday celebration. They gave me two warm beers which were like nectar after an 80km ordeal on the freeway – I was at this stage about 70km from the Harbour Bridge.
COOK’S ICONIC COAST AND 760 RUNS
Day 20 Ourimbah to Hornsby – 45km
Dismantling my tent as dawn approached, allowed me a moment of gratitude having enjoyed another green retreat from the busy main road. Though parks are few and far between, they were a great salvation to me throughout the event- especially the last few days which proved to be a fierce examination of character.
At this point in the journey, it would have been safer following the old road into Gosford and then Hornsby. But my limited geography coupled with the constraints of reaching Sydney on time, meant we continued along the freeway as planned, under the watchful eye of the RTA. Arriving at the river link, the RTA escorted me across to the hard shoulder on the left side of the road. This was the only access available to me, and it was a terrifying experience walking with the traffic behind me for the first time. But it meant I could cross the next bridge as there would only be access on this side. I found it hard -going through the gorge where the rock faces flanking the road stored the heat like an oven. Towering above Hawkes Nest the freeway afforded unreachable beauty which had become unique to me as a pedestrian. Realising the intense danger all around made me think that I could possibly be the only person ever to have walked this route. On reaching the park at the next junction, Hornsby registered only 24km and on this occasion I had to cross the old bridge to continue. I did manage to scale the scrub and rejoin the highway but this was both unnecessary and dangerous as the traffic police insisted I should conclude the walk along the old highway. It took me about 20 minutes to cross to the hard shoulder opposite, but I felt relieved to exit the freeway at the next ramp. Walking through the paved suburbs gave me a sense of freedom that I had longed for during the last few days. Not far from Hornsby, at a set location was Billy Penrose my host for the night. Billy, a sweet connoisseur, lived at Wahroonga and his family’s hospitality was a welcome end to my recent freeway nightmare. Alex and Heather were on a short excursion but would return tomorrow for the New Year’s Eve celebration. After a relaxing beer, I enjoyed a bath followed by a pasta meal. During supper I was astonished to learn Billy’s wife, Fi had been part of Nina Barough’s pioneering ‘Walk the Walk’ on London Marathon Weekend in 1998. I was present on that occasion, invited by Nina as a guest of honour and motivator. Having walked and talked with all the girls, I would have seen Fi at some point during the event – what a coincidence!
Day 21 Hornsby to Sydney Harbour Bridge – 25km
In the morning Billy dropped me back at yesterday’s finish marker (telegraph pole) and I continued my walk along the suburban route into North Sydney. Basically I was following the Pacific Highway, though approaching North Sydney I linked with the cycle route along the Freeway at Chatworth. At North Sydney I passed a lovely cricket ground called the Southern Oval, which hosts a few one day games throughout the season; a little further on was a park with a few colonial structures and placards. It was back in the 1970s that the region began to flex its commercial muscles and has since become the fifth largest business centre in the country. Approaching the Harbour Bridge, Minion’s Point had become a circus of people in fancy dress as the city prepared for the greatest New Year’s Show on Earth. There were a few die-hard ex pats watching football in the bar opposite the station, but by late afternoon the imbibing locals had began to crank up the volume. The steps to the bridge could wait until tomorrow when Billy and Alex would escort me across to complete the journey. Leaving the party scene behind, I returned to Billy’s by train and enjoyed the New Years Eve spectacle in the company of Alex and Heather who were back from their trip. Heather was still working hard on the laptop in readiness for work when she returned to Coffs on the 3rd. Alex was here for the duration of the cricket at Sydney where Billy would also get to see a couple of days in between baking cakes and catering for the city’s entrepreneurs.
Day 22 Sydney Harbour Bridge to Coogee Oval – 15km
Today was the final hurdle as we set off from Minion’s Point around 11am. Climbing the steps onto the bridge was a feat in itself as I felt blown away by the awe-inspiring water scene adorned by the international icons of Circular Quay. Once across the 503 metre bridge, we all shook hands and Billy covered parts of my walk with video link footage. Feeling massively inflated by the achievement we perused the Opera House and other modern architecture of Circular Quay. The point is officially known as Sydney Cove, becoming the first white settlement in the country on the 26th January 1788, and I planned to be here in Australia to celebrate that special anniversary. Beyond this historic point, Billy guided us through the city along the scenic route via Hyde Park the city’s most central open space. Heading out towards Randwick, known to race goers around Australia, we catch a glimpse of the SCG on the way to Coogee Bay. Captain Cook had much to be remembered for in NSW, and in a few days time his namesake Allister, a future leader of England, will join him in the history books after compiling a mammoth 760 runs in the series win against Australia. Having spent barely two months on shore, his name too, will doubtless live on in the memory banks of this great sporting nation. As the journey neared its end we celebrated with a beer or two and on arrival at the Oval I gave interviews to Sky TV and a local news channel. A few days later in the UK, the feat was recorded by the Daily Telegraph on the same day as the famous ‘Ashes Victory.’
THE BARMY ARMY
In summary, it was fair to say that the walk was uniquely tough compared to others on this scale. Although an earlier expedition in Africa had prepared me for the heat, the distances between communities in Australia often proved too great to obtain sufficient water for each session. This meant I had to carry more weight than usual in very diverse and often extreme weather conditions. Neither did I feel at ease walking these busy highways where at times snakes were a nuisance. It was a case of looking down at the floor and then up at the oncoming traffic bringing about a constant battle of concentration. The expense of day-to-day living – in particular eating on the hoof, overwhelmed my limited budget where the cost of a night at an inn would be considered a luxury. Owing to the financial crisis in the UK, I could not gain the extra sponsorship I needed for this event other than my flight: so with lack of employment and limited resources available I could say I was ill-prepared. Originally I had planned to walk from Sydney to Brisbane, in cooler Spring weather, finishing in time for the first test which would also have built good momentum for the Movember Campaign. But starting in mid December after the campaign had finished did not aid my promotion for Prostate Cancer at all. In most cases the press releases about my walk were spun to suit the needs of The Magrath Foundation programmed to reach its peak at the SCG. Because it was the Barmy Army’s main charity throughout the tour, I felt honoured to be linked to the campaign and hoped my walk would at least be demonstrative in supporting the charity. The most devastating blow to my ego was dealt when I lost the pink rubber bat destined to travel with me to the SCG. The bat was deemed a symbol of cricket supporting the cancer charities on tour, and I had hoped the players would sign and donate it to their chosen charity. I even wore cricket gear each day to spread awareness that the sport was playing its part in supporting cancer care.
Fortunately the Barmy Army worked long and hard at promoting these charities and were successful in implementing their plans on tour. I had played a significant part in encouraging people to support both the charities. Many people I had met gave a positive response setting up their own fundraising to help our campaign. I had also met cancer victims who drew strength from what I was doing realising there was hope and a greater chance to win the battle.
Also back home, the walk raised funds for our local charities; and collected funds from our online page for Prostate Cancer. Having travelled Australasia over the years -in particular walking New Zealand, it was fitting that I chose to do my first main walk here in Australia whilst the Ashes were being fought. The cricket helped spur me on and provide the momentum I needed to survive each day. Carrying a 50lb backpack with sore feet on a dangerous road is unsettling to say the least- but I never once thought about giving in! If England were to succeed in winning the Ashes then I was duty bound to complete the walk: lets just say that both our objectives were achieved! At least this way it deserves its title as ’THE ROBIN MOORE ASHES WALK DOWNUNDER’- The longest run in the history of cricket.’
A few great walks are listed below: to see all his efforts and book titles please log on to: http://www.robin-moore.co.uk
1995-John O’Groats to Land’s End – 1000 miles
1996 -Walking Round the Kingdom – 2000 miles
1997-Great Britain Walk – 4000 miles
2002- New Zealand Walk – 2000 miles
2005 – South Africa Walk – 1000 miles
2008-Barmy Army Road Show -1000 miles
2010-Mediterranean Coast – 2000 miles
Australia East Coast – 1000 miles
Southern Europe – 5000 miles
British Isles – 13,500 miles
Australasia – 4000 miles
Africa – 1500 miles
A Walker’s Diary
The Millennium Challenge
Robin Moore’s Great Britain Walk Vol.1
Walking Coast-to Coast Of The British Isles
The Robin Moore’s Barmy Army Walk
A Walk Around The Kingdom Of Cornwall
Walking The Cornish Way
The Portreath Tramroad
The Robin Moore New Zealand Walk
Walking The Garden Route
The Portuguese Camino
A Pilgrim’s Journey
The Family Pilgrimage Guide (Oundle)
The Oundle Pilgrimage Walk
Some printed titles are now available online starting from £1 on EBOOKS.
Rucksack + Liner + waterproof cover
Sleeping Bag Liner
6 Pairs Socks/liners
1 Pair Boots
1 Pair Shorts
1 Pair Super-light Trousers
2 Peter Storm Tops
2 Light Polo Tops
1 Sleeveless Jacket
4 Pairs Pants
2 Knee Straps
1 Back Support Belt
1 Sun Block
1 Medical Box
1 Army Ration Pack + Plastic Cutlery
1 Wash Gear
1 Phone +Charger
1 Water Purifier + Tablets
1 Map + Cover
1 Diary + Pen
10 Books RM
Also Include: Travel Insurance, Cheques Bank Cards Passport Visa Documents ect.
BACK UP FOR AUSTRALIA WALK
Alex Kidd, Pub and Club Events Ply. Ltd , Moore St. Coffs Harbour
Bill Penrose, 50 Havilah Ave. Wahroonga 2076
Rick Sindorff, Number Crunchers (Bookkeeping), Tasmania.
Kent Browne, Landscape Gardening, Cabarita Beach, NSW
David and Alannah Hovard, The Old Catholic Church, Broadwater
Keith and Maree Elson, 77 McComb. Boulevard, Frankston
ORGANISATIONS AND CHARITIES
Founded in 1995 at Adelaide, the BA has grown in strength accounting for the largest group of overseas supporters. Since 2007, a membership scheme has been in place offering benefits to fans on home turf too. Home and away, the organisation has done its bit for charity raising awareness through merchandise and people like myself doing walks and other crazy things. The cricket-loving public have always been generous in supporting these causes and over the years large amounts of money have been raised through BA tour matches against local sides. In addition to an excellent fundraising profile, Mark Steer runs the BA colts cricket side who were also very successful on the recent tour of Australia, it is my belief that, one day, the Barmy Army will provide the sport with a rewarding legacy. To find out more about the Barmy Army visit: www.BarmyArmy.com
Robin’s walk in Australia was aimed at raising awareness about the disease. Please read the newsletters for future events and support our ‘just giving‘ pages on future walks.
SUE RYDER CARE
As a local charity, Sue Ryder Care also benefited from Robin’s Australia walk. This is one of the charities set up to gain from Robin’s efforts within the community and which can be supported throughout the year. Robin Moore’s Oundle Pilgrimage Walk has the potential to raise money for Sue Ryder Care on a daily basis. To register for the Pilgrimage Walk visit TREK-KITS of Oundle to obtain passport and walking guide. We will also publish newsletters about our annual fundraising weekend in August. For more information contact Julie Laithwaite on 01733 330060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact: email@example.com
ST JULIA’S HOSPICE
Robin Moore’s Cornwall Pilgrimage Walk supports the St Julia’s Hospice Appeal…build the vision. Robin raises money each year for Cornwall Hospice Care. To support his campaign or join our annual Gwennap Pilgrimage/ fun day (August Bank Holiday) visit The Fox and Hounds, Comford, nr Redruth.
CHILDRENS HOSPICE SOUTHWEST
Robin walked 2,000 miles to support the Precious Lives Appeal campaign for the new build, ’Little Harbour’ during 2009/2010. The hospice is presently under construction near the coast road at Porthpean. To find out more or to support this wonderful project please visit: http://www.chsw.org.uk
Or contact: 01271 325270.
The organisation supports the registered charities through walking events and pilgrimages designed to create awareness worldwide and to help raise funds for local hospices. Click on the Cancer Charities icon on robin’s website to access information about these organisations.
The Cornwall Pilgrimage Walk follows a course from Launceston to Land’s End showing insight into an ancient and modern kingdom steeped in history. Marked by St Piran Scallop Shells and yellow tape, the pilgrimage adopts mineral trails, cycle routes and well-known Cornish footpaths. The journey takes in cliffs, coves and fishing villages once visited by Celtic Saints and smugglers who live on in the drama of Cornwall’s seafaring heritage. The old mineral tramways of yesteryear have been transformed into cycle routes making a pilgrim’s journey one of discovery as it delves ever deep into the workings of copper and tin.
The Pilgrimage visits popular tourist centres too, where art has flourished in a creative land of ancient lore and legend. Megaliths and standing stones capture the essence of a Celtic journey along the St Michael’s Way as it follows its course across land to Mounts Bay. Leaving the ancient fishing ports behind the Pilgrimage revisit’s the north coast one final time, culminating in a dramatic cliff top scene crowned by mine stacks as the journey reaches its conclusion on the granite cliffs of Land’s End.
The project has been created to raise awareness and funds for St Julia’s Hospice. It is hoped the route will attract walkers keen to explore this uniquely diverse kingdom. There is also a walking guide based on the way-marked section of the route between St Austell, Hayle and Land’s End. A booklet about the prolific Gwennap Region, walked annually for St Julia’s Hospice, is available locally. Further details are found in the Appendices and also on our website. Purchasing a Cornwall Pilgrim Passport will enable you to do the walk any time at your leisure; you can also participate in our local pilgrimage weekend over August Bank Holiday when we raise funds for the St Julia’s Hospice. The passport is used by participants to obtain stamps from local churches/inns along the way. Certificates will be awarded to those who complete the Pilgrimage. Any one can walk the trail whenever they choose as the Pilgrimage is largely perceived as an invitation to the wider world to visit this special region, and in doing so, support our local charities.
Largely made up of mineral trails, cycle routes (Route 3) associated with the Cornish Way; National Trust Coast Path (marked with an acorn); The Camel Trail; The Saint’s Way; The Saint Michael’s Way, and some roads (take great care!). Although, an unofficial route as yet, part of the way is marked by painted arrows, yellow tape round signposts and scallop shells seen on fences or trees close to the trails. A more extensive route has already been planned for future pilgrimages; this will run coast-to-coast from Calstock to Bude; larger sections of the North Coast Footpath; All the Saints Way; and an alternative section for walkers from Carharrack to Hayle.
MY EXPERIENCE OF WALKING THE CORNWALL PILGRIMAGE
Day 1 Wednesday 1st September, 2010
Start: Launceston Castle
Route: Roads and by-ways.
Setting off from Redruth I was able to travel by train as far as Liskeard where I took a bus for the remainder of the way to Launceston, taking 2 hours in all to complete. As one journey ends another begins as I gradually familiarised myself with the ancientness of Launceston which was once Cornwall’s county town. Steeped in history and dating back to Celtic times, Launceston was widely perceived as ‘The Gateway to Cornwall.’ Dominated by its Norman Castle and Motte, it is the only walled-town in Cornwall, and significantly there is a heritage trail that highlights its ancient architecture and historical features. Having enjoyed a tour of the town I dined on fish and chips in the grounds of the castle.
Leaving the area around 1 pm, I walked down past the narrow gauge steam railway to the stream by the old Priory where I pondered a while over the journey ahead. Today I would endeavour to walk to Altarnun on the edge of Bodmin Moor. It was a mixed affair, initiated along the Newmills Road where I captured a glimpse of the narrow gauge train chugging through the rustic countryside. Slimmed down somewhat in the advent of Dr Beeching, it was a far cry from the funfair days of a century ago when the Atlantic Coast Express thundered through Launceston, transporting holidaymakers between London to Padstow. Nonetheless its presence added to the atmosphere of a typically rural scene of yesteryear where the unspoilt countryside of Kensey Valley would have changed little since those quiet unchallenging days.
The narrow lane scarcely accommodated the farm machinery that I faced along the way. Nearing Newmills Park I could hear the final cheers of summer season as families entertained themselves in the paddock beside the railway terminus.
Turning left, I leaned into the hill as the Pilgrimage Route veered away from the farm, heading east to the village of Tregadillett.
I passed several ramblers heading back to Newmills now able to enjoy the comfort of a downhill journey followed by a train ride into town. Launceston is known for its train enthusiasts who love their days out in the Kensey Valley which includes a mandatory visit the Eliot Arms at Tregadillet. As soon as I reached the village I stopped at the inn for tea. The ancient inn is also known as The Square and Compass dating back to Napoleonic times when the French officers were permitted a weekly visit there. I had stayed here before on my first charity walk in 1992, when I walked from Cornwall to Oundle in Northamptonshire – taking just one week. Looking back, it was amazing how fit I was then, and yet so ill-prepared!!
Leaving the village via a paved road, the route takes in a brief blast of the A30. There is an alternative footpath to the golf course on the A395 but the general way is to walk beside the A30 for about a mile. There was adequate walkway access along the grass verge which later became a farm track as far as the Polyphant turn.
Turning right here, I continued straight ahead along a country lane, not requiring the signs to Piper’s Pool. With the sound of the A30 still ringing in my ears, I continued along the Camelford byway for 2 miles, turning left at the Altarnun junction. The sign indicated 1 mile – but a country one at that as the lane descends on a narrow winding course through the woods.
Gradually I become enveloped by the woodlands which gave respite from the blazing sun, cooling me down as this section reached its conclusion at Altarnun’s imposing church of St Nonna; referred to by many as ‘The Cathedral of the Moor.’ Sitting on the bench at the village green by the humpback bridge and stream, adds a moment of magic to my day on the road.
After half an hour of admiring the church, I wrote up my diary and took a few photographs to mark the occasion. The church’s captivating figurative sculpture stands out as a hallmark of this Norman masterpiece, though sadly I could not gain access inside to view the interior structure.
Ascending through the church grounds leads to an even more diminutive country road which takes in a Pilgrim/Christian Campsite marked 1 mile from the church. The Whole region is entirely rural and enjoys its isolation on the fringe of Bodmin Moor. The charming Rising Sun Inn with Delabole floor and Granite fireplace provides a welcome stop after an enduring walk, and I was able to camp here for just £5. The inn hopes to offer B&B in the near future, but I was content with my lot as I relaxed with a pint and a read of the Times, amid the background chat of local folk.
Day 2 Thursday 2nd September, 2010
Route: The Copper Trail, The Cornish Way (Route 3); The Camel Trail; Road between Bodmin and Lanivet.
Leaving the campsite at The Rising Sun, I turned left at the sign post which points to Camelford and the Davidstow Aerodrome. Following the country lane for 3 miles without turning off, I eventually linked with Route 3 which originates from Bude via Hallworthy. Crossing the cattle grid ahead, I walked the slim trail across the open moor with Crowdy Reservoir to my left. Away to the right, a light aircraft was taking off in front of a small audience. Keeping left, the path turns sharply away toward the forest, later skirting round Crowdy Reservoir, still visible from the left of the road.
Two miles on is a right exit turn off and a further 1½ mile descent to Camelford; any one visiting this place can enjoy a fish supper at ‘the country’s best chip shop’ followed by a drink at ‘Jo’s place’, the Mason’s Arms. Beyond the town is Juliot’s Well Campsite with bar and restaurant for pilgrims looking to walk that extra mile to get a pitch and an affordable quality meal.
Staying on Route 3, my Pilgrimage continued across the moor to St Breward where communities along the way remain small and sparsely spread. Bodmin Moor is known for its history, romance and mystery, and its primitive beauty is full of dramatic appeal, inviting explorers to uncover the footprints of its ancient past. Tin and copper were mined here as far back as the Bronze Age: when added together the two metals formed Bronze which was an ideal alloy for making strong tools and weapons.
I passed a few farmyards throughout the course, and at Watergate I was joined by a four-legged companion which made every effort to ensure I stuck to my task.
He was in fact a young lurcher who had strayed from his home to chase a few rabbits, but after a while I realised he was tracking me too!
This episode continued across the sweeping expanse of the moor where at times the dog strayed 3 fields east or west of the road according to his fancy. Never failing to come back on each occasion, we eventually reached St Breward where I became concerned for the dog who was by now a long way from home.
At the foot of the village I saw a lady preparing to leave her drive. Catching her attention I explained that I was walking for St. Julia’s and that the dog had adopted me as his friend. Fortunately she was a ‘dog person’ and stabled him up with food and water whilst making phone calls to the number on his tag.
I was thankful for her help and pleased that the dog was at last in safe hands. I would have felt awful if he had been hit by a car as a result of following me. His owners would have been concerned by now too, making it an all round crisis; although I felt he had enjoyed his little adventure across Bodmin Moor!
From here my journey continued away from the village store at St. Breward, tumbling downhill toward the Camel Trail which represents the next stage of the Pilgrimage as far as Bodmin.
On reaching Wenford Bridge, I sat for a while on a picnic bench, intoxicated by the quiet atmosphere on this warm afternoon.
Setting off again, a startled pheasant breaks the solitude as it takes to flight with golden feathers glistening in the sun. The Camel Trail, which provides a natural habitat for wildlife, was once the course of the old Southern Railway serving Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow. Although Dr Beeching prescribed the axe to much of Cornwall’s railways, one can still enjoy a trip down memory lane as far as Nanstallon where steam trains operate beyond Bodmin General to the mainline at Bodmin Parkway.
Many walkers passed by during the last hours of sunshine above Helligan Wood where the sound of running water had drowned out any memory of traffic.
Soon the remnants of the Old Railway come into view, and from the Bodmin/Wadebridge junction I walked a further 2 miles to Bodmin Gaol.
Leaving the “Clink” which was little more than a hollow building, I headed into town to deliver a few leaflets. Bodmin, known as the county town of Cornwall, is endowed with the beautiful Church of St Petroc and the Lanhydrock House exalted as the finest National Trust properties in Cornwall. St Petroc is one of the patron saints of Cornwall; another named St Piran, is my favourite, sailing here from Ireland on a stone in the 6th century. During their time in Cornwall the monks, created a trail known as ‘The Saints Way’ which was a safer alternative to the perilous sea journey around the rocky coastline of the Lizard and Land’s End. It was indeed safer than the A30, and as the ancient trail is an integral part of our Pilgrimage, I was keen to locate it, choosing a short cut via Lanivet to pick up the route. It was a busy section of road and not a recommended choice for a pilgrim’s journey. It is best to stay on Route 3 at Bodmin and connect with The Saints Way beyond the Lanhydrock at Fenton Pit; or use the back roads from Nanstallon to reach The Saints Way near Ruthernbridge thus avoiding Bodmin altogether.
Route 3 continues from Bodmin to Lanhydrock bypassing Lanivet where I planned to stay tonight. On the strength of this I braved the connecting road to the small community of Lanivet which was aptly situated on The Saints Way – ready for tomorrow’s journey.
Arriving before dusk the landlord of The Lanivet Inn let me camp in the beer garden. This was a great result allowing me to relax with a beer and enjoy a home-cooked meal. It was a popular place and the food was good; like Camelford the town is also acclaimed to have an excellent fish & chip shop – maybe I’ll give that a go on my next visit.
Day 3 Friday 3rd September, 2010
Route: The Saints Way, The Cornish Way, Byway from the Eden Project to Charlestown; The Cornwall Coast Path; Coast Road to Pentewan.
After a lovely sleep in the pub garden I was set for the day. Bidding farewell to landlady Dee and her husband, I thanked them for helping me as I set off in pursuit of The Saints Way amid warm morning sunshine that put a spring in my step.
Beyond Lanivet the Saints’ Way follows a country lane beside the A30 and later linking with the Cornish Way (Route 3) at the Fenton Pit signpost.
Passing many small communities the trail interchanges with off-road sections through woods and pastures. The harvest was in full flow, and a church roof under restoration, as I endeavoured to reach Luxulyan in time for lunch. I had hoped to use the alternative track to Fowey which is more difficult to follow, but mainly off-road. This time it was just difficult to find! And I could only deduce that the sign for this trail had been removed.
On reaching Luxulyan I was glad of a break and sat in the churchyard for a while contemplating the next phase of the journey. After some lunch I continued my walk on the Cornish Way which forms a woodland route through Luxulyan Valley. The road cuts deep into the valley, where the voice of the forest grows ever loud as cheerful birds sing in harmony with the motions of a stream. Suddenly all was blocked out for a second as an overhead train rattled across the viaduct on its way to the north coast town of Newquay. By now the flow of traffic had simmered down to a low ebb allowing a peaceful journey to evolve as far as the Garden of Eden. What a lovely day!
At the Garden of Eden I met a German guy who had chosen a route to Charlestown, it followed the course on the left of the Eden Project: the one ahead forms an extensive journey to St Austell. Our route joined a minor road which continued for about 2 miles, eventually rejoining Route 3 on the outskirts of town. It was a nice change to have some one to walk with, and although it was a pleasant route we had hoped to find a footpath to elude the traffic. On reaching the main road on the edge of town saw an end to my companion’s trek for today, and after crossing the main road he wished me well, as I turned left to walk the last mile of this leg into Charlestown. Today had been a pleasant experience though I was hot and thirsty on reaching historic Charlestown. After a drink of water I was content to dawdle among the tourists for a while, soaking up the maritime atmosphere of the authentic harbour and its square-rigged sailing ships. It was only a momentary glimpse of the past, as today’s journey was still incomplete. From here I would continue on the coast path to Porthpean and then by road to Pentewan where I hoped to camp tonight.
Walking back uphill, The Rashleigh Arms was alive with the spirit of tourism; many of whom were still intoxicated by the splendour of Charlestown’s Harbour and Tallships. The Harbour was originated by Charles Rashleigh around 1799 when it played an important role in shipping china clay and local ore across the ocean.
Since then, it has relived much of those former years as a film set for a few seafaring dramas including The Onedin Line. The Shipwreck and Heritage Centre is the place to visit for a comprehensive insight into maritime history of this ancient port.
By now, time was sailing by – already 3 pm as I strode the coast path up Duporth Road to Cornwall Hospice Care, where I stopped for tea and cake.
After handing over collection money from the Lanivet Inn, I chatted to the Chief Executive and his staff, explaining that we would be holding a Harvest Supper at The Fox & Hounds, Comford on Sunday 19th September.
From here I followed the coast road into Pentewan, where I was pleased to see Cornwall’s new hospice for children, ‘Little Harbour’ under construction. Beyond here is a golf course and a narrow stretch of road which runs downhill into the village of Pentewan. Here I booked a pitch on the campsite and then went to the pub to order a meal. The Ship Inn was a hive of culinary activity with an hour’s wait for food which, given the present financial climate, at least inspired a hopeful renaissance for the pub trade. Long may it live on !!
Day 4 Saturday 4th September, 2010
Start: Pentewan Sands
Route: The Cornwall Coast Path; The Cornish Way; The Porthreath Tramroad; B Roads/By-ways.
In contrast to the scene of fun at the busy Ship Inn the evening before, today portrayed a quiet front as locals and campers went about their early morning business in something of a daze.
Soon I was on my way, leaving Pentewan Sands along the steep coast path to Mevagissey. There was a spatter of rain in the wind as I descended to the Harbour which was a bustling scene for early morning.
No wonder, the Morris Dancers were on parade! But I still managed to beat my way through the crowds to the nearest café where I indulged in a much-needed cooked breakfast.
Having dealt with a plateful of bacon and eggs, I returned to the task of delivering donation envelopes to local businesses who were all keen to support the pilgrimage idea. Mevagissey is still a busy fishing centre and the harbour is a mix of leisure craft and working vessels. As a characterful place it has remained popular with visitors who enjoy exploring the slim alleyways and colour-wash buildings that are symbolic of Cornish life. The town takes its name from two saints: St Meva and St Issey and has a 15th century church with Norman features.
After one last glimpse of the town, I followed the path down to Port Mellon leaving the late season furore behind. It was great to see so many folk enjoying themselves despite damp weather and the cold blast of austerity sweeping through the land.
Time was marching on and mother phoned to tell of a disastrous earthquake in Christchurch – a much-loved city of mine which is part of a kingdom walked from end to end ten years ago. The news was devastating!
Continuing my journey in sombre mood, I followed Route 3, which is officially known as ’The Coast and Clay Trail’, through the Roseland countryside. Passing the camp site at Boswinger, I then walked the road to Caerhays Castle. The castle was built in 1808 by John Nash on the site of an older manor building. Looking down from the top of the road it is set beautifully in the pastures with a backdrop of sea and woodlands. I was able to reach my destination by a footpath spurring off from Route 3, and after crossing the coast road I visited the beach.
Here I stopped for tea and a paddle in the sea of Porthluney Cove a popular sunspot for tourists who enjoy the tranquillity of the Roseland Coast.
Once refreshed I set off again, walking uphill beside the woods where I used the coast path to reach Portholland. It was an undulating journey across the pastures to the diminutive Portholland which was little more than a hamlet patronised by a few curious tourists and a group of local bathers.
Stepping up the tempo I continued along the coast path to Portloe. It was an undulating session around the rocky coastline of Veryan Bay culminating with a cliff top scene of Portloe which portrayed the perfect picture postcard image of a Cornish Fishing Village. Having made my descent to the tiny cove I replenished my water supply from the Lugger Hotel and from here I leaned into the hilly road where I used the Cornish Way route to Pendower Bay.
The slim road afforded seaward views along the peninsula and I crossed a few coves to reach my final coast destination of Pendower.
Leaving the coast behind I now headed toward the River Fal. At the top of the junction I turned left onto the Truro/St.Mawes main road. This lasted barely a mile to the next right turn, and thereafter the Cornish Way (Route 3) exposed me to a familiar rural semblance enjoyed throughout much of today. A few hills; a couple of tractors; a footpath to Philleigh and cattle that seemed captivated by my every move. Only the electric fence slowed down their interest as I managed to reach Philleigh and The Roseland Inn unscathed.
Having enjoyed a pint at the inn, I marched on to The King Harry Ferry where I had a 20 minute wait for the service. In that time I consumed some of my army ration pack, and after boarding, sat back to enjoy the tranquil crossing where only a speed boat sought to disrupt the harmony.
Leaving the water’s edge I kicked on up the hill with the knowledge that there would be no traffic behind me for a while at least. I could hear the chatter of voices amid the National Trust Gardens of Trelissick, and a mile or so on I turned left towards Feock and Devoran.
I enjoyed the solitude along the byway which afforded some charming views over Carrick Roads as I passed a few thatched, colour-washed buildings and a lovely church near the creek below. Later I caught the attention of some local cyclists bound for the Quayside Inn. They advised me to walk the shore to Point and follow the old tram road to the inn.
I arrived just before dusk and pitched a tent down by the Quay. By 8.30 I was supping ale in the Quayside with a meal on its way. Whilst chatting to a few locals, the landlady from The Cornish Arms introduced herself saying she had heard about my charity walks through local man Hughie who also drinks at our village pub, The Carharrack Stars. The inn had always supported my efforts helping me to raise thousands of pounds over the last decade for hospice care in Cornwall.
Day 5 Sunday 5th September, 2010
Start: Devoran Quay
Route: The Portreath Tramroad; The Gwennap Pilgrimage Trail.
Although the tide did not overwhelm my little shelter the heavy rain in the night did as I woke early in a wet tent. Fortunately I dismantled it quickly with minimal fuss and was soon caped up for the wet passage home. Tonight I would stay at Mother’s house and would have the advantage of renewing supplies and dry kit.
Following the Portreath tram road showed a great insight into Cornwall’s Industrial History when in 1809 it became the first railway in Cornwall. Although horse-drawn initially it was used to transport minerals from the engine houses to Portreath Harbour for export to Wales in exchange for coal. Arsenic was shipped from Devoran to far off Southern shores in New Zealand where it was used in sheep dip. As the tram road breaks away from Devoran Village it follows a course along a stream to the former arsenic works at Bissoe, and despite the weather I enjoyed the landscape initially dominated by Carnon Viaduct. Dog owners were among the casualties of the downpour, borne to the task of walking their four-legged friends which, having no concept of bad weather, see each day as a new adventure. Cyclists and equestrians frequent this coast-to-coast trail too, which also links with The Redruth & Chasewater Railway and The Cornish Way route via Penweathers to Truro. By the time I reached Bissoe, the cycle hire/café was a hub of activity hosting its local Sunday morning meet. Each week cyclists unite for a morning session along the tram road and it was evident that the weather was no deterrent.
I stayed long enough to sample tea and home-made cake before resuming my walk on sodden ground. Following a track to the road, I continued to Twelveheads which derived its name from a twelve-headed stamp used here during the golden age of mining. Today, there are only hollow mine stacks and plaques to remind us of Cornwall’s contribution to the Industrial Revolution, which helped pave the way forward to a greater world. All around the valley stand the gaunt relics, like giant tombstones haunting the landscape; for now they are little more than an epitaph to a bye-gone age.
Leaving Twelveheads, I followed the Carharrack Trail, found at the left of Route 3, as the Pilgrimage shows further insight into the Gwennap Region. The path overlooks farm buildings and paddocks near to Crofthandy which brightened up the journey on the way home to Carharrack. Carharrack was established around 1800 as a result of mining, and up until early 20th century, horse-drawn trams regularly passed through the village transporting coal and ore between Redruth and Chasewater. The railway linked with the Portreath Tramroad providing a good transport network across the mining community. As well as tin and copper, tungsten, lead, silver and zinc were also extracted locally. Carharrack retains much of its traditional elements including remnants of the Redruth & Chasewater Railway which can be found beside Pennance Road. From here the tram followed a course through the village along the back of Railway Terrace, connecting Consols, United Mines, Poldice Valley and other locations on the River Fal. At the top of the village is the St Piran’s Church which holds 2 services on Sunday, and The Carharrack Stars Inn – the much-loved traditional drinking house owned by John and Margaret. Cheese nights, karaoke and fundraising auctions are among the community activities here. And over the years the inn has helped me raise thousand of pounds for local hospice care.
Later that evening I walked through Trevince Woods on the local Pilgrimage Route, marked with scallop shells, to Gwennap Church and Comford where I joined Carol & Co at the Fox and Hounds. We were all excited about the St. Julia’s Harvest Supper which is one of our seasonal Pilgrimage events. The schedule boasted a whole range of prizes including a date with barmaid Jody who is Cornwall’s answer to Julia Bradbury!
Day 6 Monday 6th September, 2010
Route: The Gwennap Pilgrimage Route; Tresavean Tramroad; The Cornish Way; the Great Flat Load; The Saint Michael’s Way; The Cornwall Coast Path.
Starting in pouring rain, I progressed slowly to Lanner where I followed the Tresavean Tramroad to the outskirts of Redruth, though the path itself (marked with shells) links with Route 3 near Churchtown where the Pilgrimage section crosses the Carn to Camborne. After visiting the Bank, I delivered a few donation envelopes and ensured I had enough water for the next stage. Rejoining Route 3 under the viaduct, I set off up Trewirgie Hill towards my next stop, Carnbrea Leisure Centre. Route 3 crosses the Carn affording lofty views of the derelict Carnbrea Castle and later the path adopts the Great Flat Lode Trail as far as the Mineral Centre. The mining trade of yesterday’s world may have disappeared yet its memory lives in a new age. Since the turn of the century these mineral trails have been adapted to suit the needs of leisure and tourism which has grown naturally as an industry in the modern world. Time stands still for no one and yet history has become an invaluable commodity to Cornwall whose success today stems largely from past glory of yesteryear.
In fact, today was very much a continuation of yesterday’s journey, as the landscape becomes yet another poignant scene of redundant engine houses that continually connect us to Cornwall’s industrial past. Camborne was a great centre of tin mining in Cornwall sharing its prestige with Redruth and St Day when they once made up the richest square miles in the kingdom. Wheal Basset alone produced over 128,000 tons of copper during a 50 year period when Cornwall has seen by many as the most prolific extraction region in the world.
Continuing to the outskirts of town, I followed Route 3 along a walkway next to a park and as I approached Penpol I heard a train thunder across the overhead bridge. From the village of Penpol I followed the trail for another 2 miles to Carnhell Green, and keeping to an all road route on this wet day, I did not stop until reaching St.Erth. Leaving the Cornish Way Route at St Erth Station, I descended to Hayle Estuary where I used the coast roads to reach Lelant. The estuary at low tide is a prime location for bird watchers and usually in the mornings you will find locals harvesting shell fish for the neighbouring town of St Ives. Stopping at The Badger’s Arms in Lelant, I revived with some tea and a friendly chat with the landlady. She used to own Lanner Post Office and had supported my efforts here at the pub in the past.
At the 15th century Church of St Uny, I followed the St. Michael’s Way around the golf course, which despite flooding, still attracted many participants. In fact the rain had failed to dampen the enthusiasm of many, as I passed numerous individuals and couples caped up to walk the Coast Path. The sky had cleared by late afternoon and the temperature was warm enough to enjoy a stroll. After a brief interval at The Carbis Bay Hotel I broke away from the St. Michael’s Route, concluding today’s walk along the coast path to St. Ives. Finishing around 6.30 pm at the Backpackers at least gave me the evening to unwind after a long wet day.
The town, still profiting from the tourist season, had yet to host the annual folk festival which generally lasts a fortnight. Creativity is an admired entity in the basement of Cornwall and the Tate Gallery and Barbara Hepworth Museum have made St Ives a Mecca for the art-loving tourists. The town was formerly a pilchard fishing village and in 1770 Smeaton, who famously built the Eddystone Lighthouse, constructed the harbour that joins the small beach next to the Sloop Inn. Fishing helped it triumph as a town, but since 1877 the age of the train has seen it blossom into a popular resort, now deemed by many as a jewel in Cornwall’s crown.
Day 7 Tuesday 7th September, 2010
Start: St. Ives Backpackers
Route: The Saint Michael’s Way; Roads from Penzance to St Just.
St Ives is one of my favourite haunts where I enjoy a coast path walk around the Island on the way to the Sloop Inn, where the old pencil drawings of fishermen tell the tale of its early life as a port.
After visiting the Church of St Ia, I completed a photo-shoot with Toby from The Times & Echo; then left via the Carbis Bay Road where I rejoined the St. Michael’s Way at the Cornish Arms. The Saint Michael’s Way forms part of the ancient Camino de Santiago which I walked in 2006. In the olden days when the Celtic Monks had completed their pilgrimage of Cornwall, they rested and stored provisions at St Michael’s Mount in readiness for the greater journey to Europe.
I felt both humbled and honoured to follow those ancient footsteps, trying to imagine the difficulties they would have faced on a journey that offered little more than a prayer for comfort.
Turning left up Steeple Lane, I passed the Nature reserve where I chatted to a lady hiker who had set off to explore the coppice. I continued up hill to Knills Monument then following the sign I descended to Laity Lane where the trail turned left. After a mile along this course, I took a right turn through a Manor Garden to the next road. Crossing the road, I followed a footpath across some pastures where I met a very attractive lady exercising her dogs. She shouted to me from across the fence and I was astonished to see her emerge from practically thin air!
She had used the adjacent field to avoid conflict with grazing cattle which generally take offence to dogs interrupting their lunch.
We chatted for ages and after the interaction, I ascended to Trencrom Hill where my journey followed a course through the woods and back out on to the road.
From the road the trail passes through the garden of a residence which was formerly a church: this may possibly have been a prayer stop for past travellers on their way to visit St Michael‘s Mount. Beyond here I walked a further two miles across more fields, a farmyard, and later a ford. Reaching the top of the road from the ford, I had a clear view of St. Michael’s Mount and Ludgvan Church which was my next destination. Descending through pastureland I caught a glimpse of several seagulls and a large bird of prey hovering with elegant deadliness. Crossing into a partially wooded section, the path eventually climbs to a lane which leads to Ludgvan Church. After more use of the digital camera, I stopped at the White Hart in Ludgvan and drank 2 sodas. Whilst chatting to the landlord I learned he was also planning to host a Harvest Supper this month for St. Julia’s Hospice. How wonderful it was to see all these small communities pull together to support their local hospice.
Moving on again the Pilgrimage crossed several fields on descent, the A30 and the Railway Track which runs through a Nature Reserve.
I spoke to a birdwatcher as we crossed the Railway, making comments about the weather and recent flooding. After negotiating the boardwalk over the marshes, I joined the coast path at Marazion, where the views round Mounts Bay extend from Porthleven to Lamorna. En route I stopped at the Railway Inn for coffee and delivered envelopes to the smaller enterprises along the promenade into Penzance. Penzance has the look of a seedy smugglers’ town capturing the intrigue of the modern day explorer. Although a shadow of the port it once was, its neighbour Newlyn is still the largest fishing town in Cornwall. Market Jew Street is the main thoroughfare which is a hive of activity in the summer season, centred on its busy shops and a few characterful inns.
At 4.00 pm I decided to have a meal at Wetherspoons and after the break I left the town in pursuit of the St. Just Road. Initially I had contemplated staying at the YHA but the night was young and so was I! With newfound zest, I located the St Just Road and continued along the pavement as far as the Sancreed turn. The St Michael’s Way alternative route from Ludgvan follows its course through Gulval, where you can join the road to Madron hence by-passing Penzance to reach this point. There was little to set the distance apart and in any case I preferred the coastal scenes, feeling happy with my little excursion. 1½ miles from Newbridge, I joined the Sancreed Road which proved less busy, making it a good Pilgrim Route.
It was not necessary to go to Sancreed tonight though I was curious to know about the two tall crosses that marked the age of the Cornish Saints; there were many great ingenuities borne from the Dark Ages that in fact brought light to the Cornish Kingdom. Apart from the usual Arthurian chronology the Pilgrimage encounters numerous archaeological remnants of Celtic origin associated with the region. In a land of lore and legend many great stories have grown from the ancient stones and megaliths that have baffled historians for centuries. Between here and Land’s End (using Pilgrimage alternative, Route 3) is a Celtic ring of standing stones known as the ‘Merry Maids of St Buryan.’ It is said that a group of maids were turned to stone as a punishment for dancing on a Sunday – I bet they won‘t do that again! Being a liberal-minded person I felt that was a rather harsh penalty, but in ancient times when Cornwall was alive with spiritual meaning, it was convenient to rule with fear and these fables often served to instil the respect into the serfs thus quelling any thoughts of rebellion. Disappointingly, it was a weekday, and there was no sign of any cheerful maids rejoicing beneath the blue sky and evening sun: instead I had to be content with the drone of a tractor in the field ahead. Continuing along the back road I made it to the outskirts of St. Just linking with the main road ¾ mile from the town. From the Sancreed turn it was a straight-forward run into town where I arrived at a cantor at the point of dusk (8.30). St Just derives its name from a Breton missionary monk and was probably one of the very early Christian communities in Cornwall. The whole region was later developed as a mining centre producing tin and copper into the 1900s: the morning sunlight would show clearer evidence of this when I conclude my journey tomorrow along the coast path to Land’s End. A few minutes later I booked into a B & B and after, retraced my footsteps to a local inn that still holds fond memories of by-gone walks.
Day 8 Wednesday 8th September, 2010
Start: St. Just
Route: The Cornwall Coast Path.
The town was quiet compared to last year when I walked the South-West Coast for the children’s hospice. On that occasion the Vicar‘s wife put me up in the church hall and introduced me to the publican at The Star Inn. I remembered a band playing to a packed house where, throughout the year, locals had rallied to raise funds for ‘Little Harbour’ the town’s principle charity.
Feeling the benefit of a B & B for a change, I enjoyed a sunny start as I made my way down towards Cape Cornwall, where the chimney on the summit was part of the Cape Cornwall Mine which closed in 1870. Marking the Pilgrim Route from the footpath on the left of the cricket club, I walked diagonally across the farmyard to join the coast route. The last section would now be taken up in ’Granite Country’ and on the distant cliff tops I could see other participants making the most of this late summer day.
Passing the YHA footpath link, I climbed to the high ground which was a bit of an obstacle course cultivated by the protrusion of granite stones. Amid this geological oddity, where cliffs rise defiantly from the Atlantic, lie yet more poignant reminders of Cornwall’s industrial past. One never needs to look far across the landscape to capture a view of a mine stack, and like the inland towns along the Pilgrimage, the coast too played its part in mining copper and tin. The latter is still a great commodity today though I‘ve seen little evidence of a mining renaissance so far. The properties of tin prevent rust occurring enabling it to be the perfect container for food – a legacy of Cornwall which shaped the world as we see it today.
Pressing on for another hour or so the distant engine houses now seemed little more than romantic objects in the landscape and by 11 am I had sight of Whitesand Bay where the ebbing tide had allowed me the choice of a beach route. Though once a fishing village, Sennen Cove is now a small resort and I was now faced with the task of overtaking 100 Germans as they bulged out on both sides of the coast path. It was hard to avoid the temptation of singing military songs from World War II, though I showed measured constraint as I embarked on the last mile of my walk!
It had been a wonderful last day where each steep climb was rewarded by panoramic vistas and the turn of every corner had a memory of the past.
Arriving at Land’s End after 12 pm, I posed at the signpost amid a backdrop that triumphed in all that was special about the Cornish coastline. Once away from the action I visited the Dr Who museum and spent an hour in the company of the Daleks who were protesting about the amount of humans on the premises. Just wait till the Germans arrive – that’ll cheer them up!!
Leaving the tourist action behind I had only one thing on my mind – The Harvest Supper on Sunday 19th September at The Fox & Hounds, Comford, where we hope to conclude our fundraising appeal for St. Julia’s Hospice.
This section provides information about campsites and budget accommodation for pilgrims; it includes a few guest houses for those seeking a more leisurely stay too; it also lists travel details and tourist centres.
The Eliot Arms, Tregadillet
The Rising Sun, Altarnun (Campsite & Rooms)
The Christian Campsite, Altarnun
Juliot’s Well, Camelford
The Pentewan Campsite
The Boswinger Campsite
The Boswinger Youth Hostel. Tel: 01726 843234
The Rising Sun, St Mawes
The St Day Campsite, Nr Carharrack
The St Ives Backpackers
The St Ives Campsite
The Penzance Backpackers
The Railway Inn, Launceston
The Rising Sun, Altarnun
The Mason’s Arms, Camelford
The Old Inn, St Breward
The Lanivet Inn, Lanivet
The Rashleigh Arms, Charlestown
The Ship Inn, Pentewan
The Ship Inn, Mevagissey
The Veryan Inn, Veryan
The Quayside, Devoran
The Fox and Hounds, Comford
The Carharrack Stars
The Fox and Hounds Scorrier (Tramroad to Portreath)
The Coppice, Lanner
The Badger Inn, Lelant
The Sheath of Wheat, St Ives
The Western Hotel, St Ives
The Union, St Ives
The Castle, St Ives
The Railway Inn, Marazion
The Star Inn, St Just
The Land’s End Hotel
The items below represent a campers load for a week’s walk in Autumn.
1 Rucksack Liner
1 Water Container
1 Sun block
1 Water-Proof Canvas Boots
3 Pairs of Ankle Socks
3 Pairs of Padded Socks
1 Pair of Knee Straps
2 Pairs of Shorts
1 Pair of Lightweight Trousers
2 Lightweight Polo Tops
2 Thermal Tops
1 Sleeveless Jacket
1 Water/Wind-Proof Jacket
1 Wool Hat
1 Towel/Wash Gear
1 First Aid Box
1 Mobile Phone
1 Diary with Pen
1 Bivvy Bag
1 Sleeping Bag
1 Foam Mattress
1 Ration Pack
Also: Passport/Travel Insurance/Credit Cards/Map/Compass
These are taken as a ration pack in case there are no facilities available en route.
Tin of Sardines
Packet of Nuts
ABOUT ROBIN MOORE
As a challenge walker, fundraiser and travel writer, Robin Moore has explored much of the world and its changing landscape. He has walked over 24,000 miles and written several books about his adventures as well as useful walking guides for those who wish to follow in his footsteps. His journeys include expeditions around Southern Europe, the British Isles and parts of the Commonwealth.
This recent project in the west country includes several pilgrimages undertaken in support of St Julia’s Hospice. For more information about Robin and how to support his campaigns visit the website below. Books are also available online from this site. To purchase online click on EBOOKS and select a title.
WALKING THE WINELANDS FOR MBEKWENI
This story follows Robin Moore’s walk of the wine lands in aid of the Mbekweni Township Cricket School.
As a founding member of The Barmy Army I look back at where I was in life at that time – ready to set off on a different type of adventure: one of walking Great Britain for Cancer Research and later worldwide destinations for similar worthy causes.
Since that time I have walked over 33,000km, raised over a million rand, written many books about my adventures and have coached/supported cricket wherever possible.
Having enjoyed the challenges put before me, I feel privileged to be in a situation to help others less fortunate in life. I am also extremely grateful for my association with cricket and the friendships I have made through the Barmy Army especially on our tours of South Africa.
While the rest of The Barmy Army were posted to Johannesburg for the final test match in the 2010 series, I opted to stay behind to help Merwe Genis and the Mbekweni Cricket School launch an appeal for the support they need to realise their goal of playing cricket in Paarl.
Twelve years ago Merwe had a vision for young children to be given a better opportunity to play cricket in Paarl. The Cricket School has become a successful means for children to not only learn about the sport, but also gain valuable experience in developing the skills to meet the demands of a changing world.
We strongly believe that the spirit created within the township school will help forge friendships and good social bonding within the community. The cricket field will help the children realize the need for self-discipline required to learn and develop. Cricket will also teach them about the true values and respect, and with the backing of their teachers, time will be set aside during school hours for cricket coaching.
Merwe is very passionate about providing an opportunity for these youngsters to play this God-given game, which has brought so much pleasure to the wider world. In the last ten years that I have known Merwe he has done much here in England too; helping the Oundle Badgers to build a strong competitive unit presently at the peak of its powers and generally developing cricket at Oundle Public School. I felt it was time to repay some of his excellent work and help a country that has often shown me kindness too. My walk of the Wine Lands is only a small part of a greater journey to come: one that I hope to see through to a productive level. The seven days I spent on the road were little more than the first few steps towards putting Mbekweni on the cricket map. I hope from here we can attract more help, encourage cricket touring parties to play charity matches in Paarl, and receive donations /equipment to help these youngsters build a future. We all need to think about those less fortunate; if we all did two hours a week to help some one or a worthy cause, then I think the world would eventually become a better place. One thing I do know is that doing nothing is no longer an option.
WALKING THE WINELANDS FOR MBEKWENI
Day 1 Paarl to Wellington
In hot, draining conditions, I set off from the Manyano Methodist Centre, which was my home base throughout this tour of South Africa. Paarl is an important centre within the region renown for its wine production and as I neared the end of the town the landscape opened up into rows of lush green vineyards set in a mountain backdrop. Just beyond the town I met a young lady selling grapes by the roadside and after a chat about my walk she gave me a drink to sustain me on this hot afternoon. Turning right along the Wellington Road, I passed a wine cellar situated opposite a primary school where children stood in the roadside awaiting their ride home.
To the east lies Mbekweni: my final destination in roughly a week’s time and 2 miles on I saw the snake park which I last visited in 2005. Stopping there briefly I indulged in fluid and changed my sodden shirt – a product of sheer sweat caused by draining heat; unlike of the mandatory rainy days in England which affect a similar result. I did, however wish I was walking in English temperatures instead of tortuous heat on a dry dusty road plagued with insects.
Continuing my journey I passed a dam where the only fisherman in sight was a heron who was clumsy enough to drop his catch on take off. Perhaps I startled him, as he made no effort to return to amend his error though I doubt he would go hungry for long as the lake, rich in vegetation, looked to be one of nature’s finest restaurants. A little further on the cricket coaches from Manyano sped past in a car waving and singing Barmy Army songs to cheer me on.
Turning right at the café by the end of the road, I walked to a large bridge. Teatime traffic was now building up making the crossing rather unpleasant. Wellington was now in sight though I felt tired and weak with little desire to power-march into town: instead I ambled through the busy thoroughfare greeting locals as I passed by. Generally people were friendly, acknowledging my effort, and overall I felt enriched by my journey. Most stimulating was what it offered in terms of culture, historical charm and architectural heritage. The transition of dusty scrubland to endless miles of orchards and vineyards broken by affluent colonial buildings creates a unique diversity, which is in itself an attraction to those who visit this prolific region.
On reaching the town centre, I stopped at the Tourist Office to assess my geography and with a little help from the staff was able to locate the street where my host for the night, Nicole lived. She phoned to say she would pick her girls up from school, which gave me a bit more time to explore the Wellington and later I enjoyed a rooibos tea and a chat with the security guard, who by chance, lived at Mbekweni in Paarl.
Nicole was a friend who I met at De Luga’s Restaurant in Paarl, which she owns and manages. I often go there for breakfast and enjoy chatting to the friendly staff about cricket and all my walking adventures.
By early evening I had located Nicole’s house along Commissioner Street and soon we were enjoying a bottle of wine by the pool. Nicole had to return to work that night so I settled down after sunset and enjoyed a good night’s rest, knowing tomorrow would bring a testing journey over The Bainskloof Pass.
Day 2 Wellington to The Calabash Bush Inn
Leaving Nicole’s house around 7am, I wandered through Main Street eventually coming to the church where I found the turn off to Ceres and Worcester. Wellington is an architectural jewel celebrated in its rich Cape Dutch homesteads and Victorian structures, situated in a picturesque valley at the foot of Groenberg Mountain. I was now set to cross the famous Bainskloof Pass, built by Andrew Geddes in 1853 later becoming known as the frontier to the north. As the road weaved in and out of the mountains it provided an awe-inspiring overview of the region’s finely manicured vineyards as well as exposing its visitors to its own geological masterpiece enjoyed from picnic areas, campsites and natural rock pools fuelled by cool running waterfalls and cascades.
By 8am it was already hot and stopping to chat to the workers at The Wellington Cellar: one guy called Adam Timotheus remembered our 2003 cricket tour here when we visited for wine tasting and lunch. He was still working here and was also training to be a vicar. After exchanging details for future correspondence, he fetched some ice water and warned of baboons wandering the high ground: so shortly after leaving I found a stick to walk with lest there be any confrontation with these fiercesome beasts.
As the heat glared across the pass, exceeding 40c in some places, I made frequent stops at the picnic viewing points. Here I could relax in the shade and as the road climbed high into the mountain I was treated to panoramic views of Wellington with its great white church standing out as a prestigious landmark. As the path wound round to the next point displaying a valley with small broken communities, I met up with a German group who praised my efforts and bought a couple of books from me. They were touring the wine lands as part of their vacation which was chosen largely through familiarity and their love of the place.
By noon I had started my descent though the temperature remained unforgiving – trapped in between the rocks like the heat of an oven. The air was still without a murmur of breeze in a terrain only welcome to lizards and snakes. I fear it was even too hot for them but at least they were able to shelter in the cracks of the mountains. Rounding a bend I did see a few tadpoles and frogs immersed in some water that had collected in a drain. Further on were a couple of guys mending a road bridge: from this point for the rest of the way is a drop of several hundred feet into the gorge. They wished me well as I soldiered on mindful of traffic that at times drove a little fast given the immediate hazards that frequent the pass; going over the top offers little chance of survival which remains a stark reality for all who traverse this Mountain Mecca of the Western Cape.
It was interesting to watch the different creatures emerge from the rocks, though I was never once tempted to overturn a stone. One never knows who may reside in these parts: snakes in particular do not like intruders, highlighting the fact that this is their home that I am walking through! I can understand and respect the snake, but all the same it doesn’t make me want to shake his hand either! Mindful of all these hazards I pressed on beside the majestic geological masterpiece.
Unbelievably I came across a restaurant; though sadly it was closed as the cook was undergoing a complicated operation on her neck. The owner was kind all the same, donating some fruit and purchasing a copy of my Barmy Army charity walk book.
After some nourishment I paused for a while at a site where plaques and epitaphs stood in honour of Andrew Geddes who built the pass. From here the pass becomes even narrower and I was relieved to stop again at a campsite called The Tweede Tol Holiday Resort where the Nature Conservation Warden, Bruce Leuw let me have use of the facilities including a visit to the rock pools where many were bathing in the fresh clear waters. There were 3 waterfalls there enjoyed vigorously by a party of children here on a camping holiday. There were other families too enjoying a picnic and after a refreshing soak I returned to talk to Bruce and the guys. One chap lived in Paarl and joked with me that it had taken 8 years for him to return here to visit – it had only taken me a day! I guess we all postpone things from time to time and any way at least he got there eventually and was enjoying the fruits of his effort. What a lovely place for the guys to enjoy a reunion after many years away. During the conversation I learnt that I was only 10km away from the next stop, which happened to be the Calabash Bush Inn. There was a chance I could obtain accommodation here and given the draining hot weather I would gladly settle for that. The pub was on the Worcester Ceres junction, which was better than having to walk into Ceres itself leaving only about 35km for tomorrow’s hike to Worcester.
Bading farewell I returned to the task, which was almost instantaneous trauma, and I struggled to contend with the heat. Passing by at great speed were 6 ambulances destined for the top end of the pass where I could only assume there had been an awful accident remembering that the speed limit should not exceed 60km.
Approaching the Worcester/Ceres junction I came across the inn and in total exhaustion felt relieved to find somewhere to shelter. The proprietor Suzanne let me stay in the bunkhouse free of charge and after a shower I ordered steak and salad for my evening meal. Although still warm, I enjoyed a pleasant evening on the balcony waiting for sunset before retiring to a somewhat restless night.
Day 3 The Calabash Bush Inn to Worcester
With the heat so intense I slept outside amid the call of the wild: I had a spider for company, the occasional mosquito and there was a small bird, which was now resident in the billet. I could also hear the cry of a larger beast, which the warden told me was a cheetah that lives at the top of the mountains. As dawn broke the call of nature echoed across the landscape giving me newfound energy for the day ahead. I felt grateful for this moment and the fact I’d overcome a difficult first obstacle along this great journey. Enjoying the cool air I marched to the road junction passing many youngsters on their way to school. Following a bush trail near to the road I could now see the sun poking through the orchards where already the land workers were harvesting their crop. At present it was peaches and a farmer pulled up on his motorbike and offered me some for breakfast. We chatted for a while about the cricket series, which had proved to be one of the greatest contests between the two sides as well as on an international scale. The guy went on to explain that the mountain landscape on the left of my route provided an enduring passage to Ceres: in places there were deep gorges where only a helicopter could gain access. A journey on this scale would require an undertaking of several days which he hoped to share with his son one day, believing it would be valuable character-building experience that would prove beneficial in years to come.
My own journey, testing as it was, also showed good insight into the resources of this abundant region: as well as orchards there were vineyards harvested for wine sold in the Breede Valley. A short distance on and I found another cellar near the roadside and also a shop opposite where I bought some pilchards. Chatting to the owner who was impressed with the idea behind my walk, said that God had given me a purpose in life, which would also create a positive knock on effect in a country still blighted by poverty. It is nice to give food away or make financial contributions but at the end of the day it is better to teach those less fortunate how to fish rather than do the fishing for them. If we fail to achieve this then all we can expect is a lot of fishermen and no fish! In other words it would be great to build a cricket school for the township people of Mbekweni for example, but it is the issues of maintenance that will remain the greater test if it is to succeed in the long term. For anything to gain its true value in life requires it to be respected for life.
Pondering over the philosophies of African life I sat by the cellar for a while, and before heading off I dropped in a leaflet about my campaign, explaining that I was appealing on behalf of the township for help with our cricket school. The next stage of the journey passes beyond the Rawsonville junction- roughly 10km from Worcester, the most centrally situated town in the Breede Valley. The heat induced me to make a couple more stops: one at a small farm community whose inhabitants came to greet me and listen to the details of my campaign. I saw another guy on the road laden with a backpack: he was trying to hitch a ride with little success. I guess it can’t be easy trying to get a lift in an often-tumultuous part of Africa. I had not seen too many problems apart traffic incidents, though I did walk into an armed robbery in Cape Town a couple of weeks ago!
Entering Worcester, engulfed by spectacular mountains, captures the very essence of a great wine centre described by many as a gem of the Breede Valley. My accommodation was a good walk from the town near to the Blind Association. Worcester is famous for its institutes and schools for deaf and blind people and appropriately launched the first Braille Wine Bottle here. The bottle epitomises the integrity and spirit of the town known for its exclusive wines and also houses the largest brandy-distilling cellar in the world.
Ticking off the last outposts of the area I managed to find my hosts at Jasmin House which turned out to be a lovely self-catering hostel where I was charged just R150 for the night. The guys also took me back in town to purchase food items and a couple of beers. On returning the students were enjoying an evening in the college grounds nearby but despite the hub I slept soundly until first light the next day.
Day 4 Worcester to Paarl
Leaving around 7am I walked beyond the town crossing the railway bridge and shortly after joined the N1. Tony had planned to link up with me around 9am and drop off John, one of the Cape Cricket Academy coaches, who had arranged to walk to Paarl with me that day.
Having powered into the day I managed to cover 16km by the time they arrived. Once equipped and supplied with water we set off with little more that 43km to reach Paarl, providing we can access the side tunnel, which runs through the mountain for 8km of the journey.
All around were awe-inspiring mountains, streams running close by and many bridges to cross. The glare of the heat rising from the road indicated the intensity of walking out here. The roads were so hot our boots were melting and it is inconceivable that blisters will form as a result of continual power marching up to 50km a day. The captivating scenery helped give some solace throughout the day though our concentration remained at a peak given impetus of weekend traffic. Crossing another bridge we came across a truck driver whose load was tilting perilously to the left and we wondered how much further he dared to travel. He was desperately trying to pull the support ropes tighter as the only means of securing his load. We hoped he would pull in at the next weighbridge 2 km back towards Worcester as the problem could only realistically be solved with a forklift or crane. Before pressing on we wished him well giving thoughts of his and other peoples’ safety. I am sorry to say health and safety regulations have not quite filtered through from the West as yet and I am less inspired by the general work practises here: often found wanting and at times frightfully inadequate.
20km from Paarl we stopped at a wine cellar for a rest in the shade and later we asked the guy to top up our water containers. Before leaving we distributed more leaflets and made our way to the tunnel with some trepidation. On reaching the point we met a hiking party who had been exploring the streams and waterfalls that run close by. They were finished for the day and heading back to Worcester in transport provided for the outing.
We could only use the emergency tunnel next to the N1 as the main one was full of Carbon Monoxide from traffic, which could only yield a journey of discomfort. The light inside was dim and we were mindful of potholes, and after only 3km into the tunnel, the security forces – sirens and all apprehended us! I just waved and carried on walking but when the guy demanded an explanation I showed him a leaflet and explained that this was the only logical way to continue on the N1. He agreed and after a quick phone call to his boss he let us continue. The light became better and the next hour passed quickly with the cooler conditions to lighten our burden. Coming out of the tunnel was a great relief the instant heat that greeted us was the equivalent of walking into a sauna. Then we had the ordeal of walking over the motorway bridge with its pillars rising hundreds of feet above the ground. It was an eerie adrenalin pumped session as we met heavy goods traffic head on with only a small barrier to prevent the sheer drop of several hundred feet. Some of the drivers were inconsiderate and drove straight at us with bellowing horns trying to force us over the bridge. This intimidation would again have been considered illegal and irresponsible elsewhere as there times when I thought my next step would be 300 metres or more – not much fun with or without a bungee rope! We also revisited the breakdown scene of this morning, witnessing other truckloads on the road with the similar wilting cargo. Boy we were glad to pass beyond that bridge and restore some sanity into the journey where others it seems, flourish in an insane world set to test all-comers on a daily basis. Soon we were able to join a Paarl junction: it was the wrong one and so we walked a few kms further than otherwise intended. Nonetheless we finished before 6pm and after a beer in La Romantica bar, we headed back to Manyano where Tony and Tineke treated us to a lovely supper.
There was a church group in residence at Manyano so I stayed at Tony’s place, and despite the musical entertainment, which is integral part of the group’s culture I slept blissfully feeling satisfied and grateful for a journey of great adventure.
Day 5 Paarl to Franschhoek
Paarl is the third oldest town in South Africa and indeed one of the longest I have walked through during my entire lifetime. It has a blend of Dutch architecture and is steeped in history: most recently in the wake of Apartheid Nelson Mandela spent the latter part of his prison life at Drakenstein Prison. I guess his long walk to freedom was mightier than any other journey made here as the ending portrays the ultimate transition of prisoner to president. What a wonderful story that has shaped the social landscape of this country and remains a great example to the wider world. Paarl also houses the oldest Dutch Reformed Church in the country, which is still in use. Restaurants and bistros are popular here and we always recommend a trip to De Luga’s, La Romantica or Bosanovas: these have been my favourite places since my visit here in 2003. There is a Tourist Office, plenty of shops, craft centres and places to visit including the museum. On leaving town, I could see the prominent white stone feature that sits at the top of Paarl Mountain which happens to be the only language monument in existence, erected in 1975 to represent the Afrikaans language deemed the youngest in the world.
I was so engrossed with the scenery that I completely missed the turnoff to Franschhoek and had to scale the next bridge along the N1, which served both Goat Farm at Fairview and the byway to Simonsvai and fortunately the Franschhoek turn. The road police were monitoring a walking event and confirmed that I could make my way from here along the quieter lane.
It was heart-warming passing all the locals making their way to church: some of the services were held outside: just to see those smiling faces and hear those lovely hymns gave me strength for the day ahead. People were full of cheer and so grateful to God for another wonderful week of life and for the next 2 hours I passed by a hundred people or more.
At the Stellenbosch turn I still had a further 18km to walk, though I was grateful for a pavement most of the way. Opposite was the old Cape Railway line which appeared redundant and used only by locals in lieu of the road. There was a picnic park along the way and I stopped for water at the next cellar where the guard let me rest awhile. My vest had been baked dry by the time I set off again and soon the vineyards flanked the road as fine colonial buildings once again dominate the roadside. Franschhoek is a quiet little corner of Europe enjoying its Frenchness and its status as ‘The Gourmet Capital of South Africa’. The place has over 20 restaurants including the lovely railway station, which has been converted to meet the needs of this culinary revolution. After a snack from ‘Pick and Pay’ I ventured up to my hosts at the top of town. They were glad to see me and gave good advice on where I could obtain a good meal in town.
On returning to the centre I perused the French Connection admiring the European gift shops and facades until eventually I managed to find an English pub called the Elephant and Barrel. Once seated, I enjoyed a plate of liver, onions and mash, washed down by a couple of beers in a background of soft music. So relaxing and soothing was the music that on returning home I slept without stirring until sunrise the next day.
Day 6 Franschhoek to Simonburg Christian Centre
Refreshed and rejuvenated I set about a nourishing breakfast of beans on toast and conducted an interview with the Franschhoek Valley Monthly newspaper. On completion Tony arrived to spend a day on the road, which should yield a further 50km.
Leaving the town behind we enjoyed a cooler day with breeze to assist our effort. Passing the wine cellars reminded me that the tradition of wine making is still one of the reasons why visitors choose this location. As well as its picture postcard scenery and French cuisine much of its prestige is attained from award-winning wines of different styles housed in over 40 cellars and 12 winery restaurants.
For the first 18km we literally retraced my footsteps of the previous day though most of which was very pleasant. We passed the picnic park and stopped at a few quiet little corners of the land that made our journey so much more fulfilling.
Turning right on to the Stellenbosch Road we walked in awe of the beautiful mountain range named ‘The Devil’s Staircase’ owing to the difficult and unforgiving terrain. Roadworks enabled us to progress more efficiently with safer passage and although Tony was suffering with blistered feet we managed to find a stick to make his walk more comfortable. We stopped at a lovely little restaurant where the receptionist gave us a meal and thanked us for trying to help the township. By the time we finished our clothes were dry and after thanking the lady we continued with a spring in our step.
Reaching Stellenbosch by teatime meant an arduous session against the teatime traffic and on finding the Paarl junction we enjoyed some shade under a tree and rested for a while. Stellenbosch is the heart of the wine industry and home to South Africa’s oldest university dating back to 1866. It reminds a little bit of Cambridge and we were fortunate enough to play cricket here with Oundle Badgers back in 2003. As well as the beauty and atmosphere of the town the culture is steeped in South African tradition with its history reflected in its neo-Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture. Its wine route is probably the most famous in the country and often visited by The Barmy Army whenever we are on tour here.
At 6pm we decided to press on though Tony was feeling the pain and decided to slow up. The traffic was still belting through but I felt we had less than 10km left in the day. The sun dropped low in the sky as I passed the next village I knew we were only a short distance now. By chance I stopped at the next junction to wait for Tony to emerge and whilst admiring the impressive cannon gun at an access to a winery I noticed a sign reading ‘Simonburg Christian Centre’. What a great result as I had expected to walk a further 3km at least. It was almost dusk when Tony arrived and together we walked along the lane into the Christian Centre. On reaching our destination we were greeted by Estelle who took us up to the house where we enjoyed a welcome cup of tea. Later Tineke picked Tony up and I finished the day chatting to Estelle and her family whilst enjoying a hearty supper. I was so grateful that they had offered to help me and slept well in the knowledge that I had made many new friends on this recent adventure.
Day 7 Simonburg to Mbekweni
After breakfast and a prayer for the road Estelle and Esak escorted me to the cannon gun where we posed for photos to mark the occasion. I enjoyed an undulating journey across picturesque landscape of mountains and vineyards stopping at all the small businesses to spread the word of our campaign. Soon the pillars of commerce come into view and I enjoyed the chance of revisiting Simonsvei Conference Centre where the receptionist gave me some juice. I had spent many happy times here fishing with a friend Naideen and her children, Mathew and Jayne.
Walking along the dusty road I passed the junction to Fairview Goat Farm where on can enjoy cheese and wine tasting at the coast of a few Rand. Soon I was entering Paarl, passing under the bridge to pace out the last few kms of the town. Delivering the remainder of the leaflets and after stopping to obtain some food from Chequers I returned to Manyano for a welcome rest and afternoon swim. After a visit from Merwe we linked up with some children from the township and under police escort we walked to Mbekweni. By the time we arrived there were a further 250 youngsters and media officials to greet us and on entering the township we celebrated with cricket and cold drinks as Patrick the headmaster of the school gave a presentation about the walk and our dream of a cricket school in Mbekweni.
Our work here has only just begun and a long journey still lies ahead for the Mbekweni Township as we appeal to the public worldwide to help us with our quest. It is not just the task of equipping the youngsters to enable them to reach the next level, but also the maintenance of such a project, which requires commitment for its long-term future.
Having walked many years for cancer charities and supported cricket with the Barmy Army I feel most privileged to be given the chance to help others less fortunate. My only frustration is that I wish I could do more.
The fact remains that it is not just down to one man and the reality is that during my time on the road I am merely just a messenger boy spreading the word to give others a chance: the important part is the response. We need to give more to those who need help most and to teach them the respect required to maintain a life long legacy. If cricket is to survive in South Africa, it needs to draw strength from guys like Ntini who have shown dedication and hard work to be the tools of success. We need first to provide a system to help them learn their craft; we have to be able to maintain it and improve the facilities when appropriate. Then, perhaps one day we can inspire these youngsters to be future legends of their kingdom and the greater cricket world.
Time is all we have and governs our journey through life: whether one chooses to chase the mighty dollar, indulge in valuable pastimes or volunteer to do charity work. Either way we have to make choices about how we manage our time. My time spent on the road in South Africa was invaluable given the friendships I made, the knowledge I’ve gained about the culture, environment and sadly the deficiencies in the system that is highly resistant to change. I guess weighing up the pros and cons life is little more than a journey for all of us and we must take every opportunity to be positive and remember to help others when the occasion beckons. I believe my journey will continue whilst there are worthy causes to champion, and only when I reach my final destination will I consider that I have done my bit!
MBEKWENI TOWNSHIP APPEAL
Our appeal requires funding for coaching (10 coaches); cricket equipment although we will be grateful for donations of food/drinks or even recycled cricket gear providing it is in good condition.
Future costs include: equipment, transport to matches/Boland Park, clothing and other games. We could be looking at a cost of R32 per child per month.
Starting in 2008 the coaching clinic attracted over 160 children from Mbekweni. During January to March the cricket school has started with coaching sessions at Mbekweni Primary (ages 6-10) and Desmond Tutu (ages 11-15). Attendances for Friday afternoon practice sessions have averaged 80 children over the last month.
Ages 15 to 19 have attended coaching sessions at Boland Park on Tuesday evenings. These numbers suggest mass participation in the future. We are also interested in organising matches for u/13 and u/19 teams.
Contributions can be made through the Manyano Methodist Centre, 7620, Paarl, Western Cape, (marked Mbekweni on back of cheques).
Tel:021 872 2537.
For further enquiries contact: Merwe on: 082 575 7107
For information on Robin and the Mbekweni Appeal visit:
ROBIN MOORE’S CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
Wednesday, 1 March 2006 SETTING OFF FOR THE PYRENEES
The initiation of this epic journey started from Peterborough train station where I set off for Stansted Airport at 10:30 a.m. Arriving an hour later (on time), I had enough time to purchase a few sundries, enjoy a meal (jacket potato and cheese) and phone Naideen before boarding.
The flight time was 1½ hours and once I had gathered my equipment from the Carresell, I flagged down a taxi and made a last ditch attempt to reach the train station at Bayonne to catch the last train out to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port – the starting point for the walk.
I made polite conversation with the taxi driver and paid him €8 over the going rate. The queue for tickets at the station was long, but I managed to secure one in time for the 18:10 departure.
On board were 2 Argentinian girls, a fellow from Germany (called Gregor), all bound for St. Jean and El Camino de Santiago.
The pilgrimage would last for 30+ days and it was essential we made a good start on what would be the toughest part of the journey.
The German fellow, Gregor Henze, who also became a friend , had been a pilot for 35 years and spoke fluent English and French, so between us we were able to sort out the accommodation at the refusio where our host, Janine, helped us with the paperwork.
We were the only 4 pilgrims and so had the dormitory to ourselves. Later, we went to an inn and enjoyed a steak dinner with wine.
COMPANIONS AT RONCESVALLES:
Gregor Henze – Germany – 55 years
Morik Menacher – Germany – 24 years
Rvd John W Klein – USA – retired Anglican Priest
Richard Milinczuk – No fixed abode – (Barmy Army)
Day 1 : Thursday, 2 March 2006 ST. JEAN TO RONCESVALLES 30 km
09:00 a.m. Start
Appropriately, yesterday, it was Ash Wednesday. Today our initial effort was slightly dampened by some harsh weather. The strenuous mountain route was off-bounds owing to the deluge of snow which blocked off any access. However, the scenic route was straight forward enough following the course of the road for part of the way.
The weather had warmed up by mid-morning as we crossed the border into Spain and the route was clear. We had to walk part of the way on the road and stopped for a nice lunch of bread and cheese with tinned peaches as dessert at Valcarlos, the first village of Spain.
After lunch (12:00) we continued for 3 km along the road and descended into the wooded glades where the trail below followed a stream. I had lost the others by now and the course was much more difficult traversing muddy undulation ground broken occasionally by shale and granite stones.
On the last leg, I came across two other pilgrims resting. One was an American, John W Klein, a retired Anglican priest, the other a German student Morick Menacher, reading Theology. We chatted for a while covering a great many issues ranging from Cancer care/research to the merry life of a walker, the priest adding that his initiation in the Pyrenees was weirdest thing he’s ever done on Ash Wednesday. We reckoned on about 5km left to walk, but it was steep and after a kilometer or so I was on my own again and facing snow. By the roadside were two other walkers contemplating whether to go on or not or to continue by road.
I chose the path, but was soon up to my knees in snow. It was a nightmare – toughest walking I’ve done in years and with a weighted pack too (40 lbs).
I struggled on, drained of strength, with no one else in sight. The wind blew my hat off and I had to wade through the snow to get it. Finally I came to a downhill road which registered Roncesvalles at 1½ km. What a relief! On arriving at the abbey I saw the two walkers who pondered over the route. They had completed their journey by road – a wise decision I thought. More snow now would mean making serious changes in the route structure as some of the mountain passes would become inaccessible and even dangerous.
Also at the abbey was an Australian girl called “Calida” who had been travelling with the American Minister John and his German friend, Morick, who was studying Theology. I met up with the guys later and after Mass we went to the Inn to enjoy wine and a fantastic Pilgrims’ supper (€8). It was a 3-course meal served with wine and bread. The soup was excellent and so was the main course of fish and rice.
Day 2 : Friday, 3 March 2006 RONCESVALLES TO LARRASOANA 28 km
Everyone was feeling worse for wear after yesterday, especially the Minister and his Theologist whose taste and enthusiasm for wine was equal to their Pilgrimage quest. I was tired and appreciated a good night’s sleep. In fact I didn’t leave until 08:00 a.m. Most of the Pilgrims had gone by then, except for, of course, you guessed right – Morick and John still nursing the aftermath of Vino Tinto.
The track leaving the village entered a wood and was a nice initiation to the day reaching Auritz (3 km) before any of the shops were open. From here the track undulated through more wooded glades where I saw some horses with bells around their manes.
They grazed contentedly as I strode by passing some muddy sections before making a descent in a town called Aurizberri. There I found Gregor eating bread and cheese for breakfast. He pointed to the little grocer shop which I entered and made a similar purchase.
We chatted for a while before picking up the trail again which started with a slight incline. It cross-sectioned several roads, ran through wooded valleys and there was some slippery, rocky areas to encounter. Climbing into the next wood I passed Calida, though I walked long enough with her to have a brief chat about the pilgrimage and the fact that we all seem to be carrying too much weight! In our rucksacks that is!!
Stopping again at Biskarreta, just before midday, and roughly halfway, I decided to have lunch. Whilst buying fruit and fish from the supermarket Calida entered and attempted to buy a pair of socks. Gregor also arrived to buy some sausage. We enjoyed our lunch and exchanged greetings with other passing Pilgrims all of whom were destined for Larrasoana.
Soon we were off again and I made good speed from here on, stopping to bathe my feet in a stream so as to cool them down a bit. I recall passing a memorial dedicated to an oriental man who had died here whilst walking the Camino during the heat of August. Apparantly he was a large man who probably suffered from heat exhaustion which is extremely dangerous as I know from my own experience and have seen many instances of it in the forces too. I also recall Morick explaining how many pilgrims gather stones for sorrow: this they do to cast or leave behind on the camino as a way of letting go of their sorrow or that of another persons. There was much to see and learn and most of us still had to overcome the language barriers thrust upon us as a result of the journey. All in all it was a great day! I had enjoyed walking the ancient woods where one never feels alone and finished at Albergue Larrasoana just on the hour of siesta. The Albergue was open and I was showered by 3:30 p.m. and by 5:00 p.m. when Father John and Morick arrived we were sampling our first bottle of local wine.
Day 3: Saturday, 4 March 2006 CIZUR-MENOR 25 km
It was an overcast morning as I headed off up the hill past the hotel just beyond Larrasoana. I left a little later than some of the Pilgrims, just after 08:00 a.m., but made good time catching them up before reaching Akerreta.
No food here. Unfortunately, and none of us were able to obtain any breakfast today. Luckily Father John, Mark from the Barmy Army (UK) Morick and I found a lovely Inn 1 km from the village where we dined last night. So at least we were replenished after our Camino journey.
I never like walking without breakfast, but proceeded on knowing that soon I would reach Pamplona.
The trail was easier today passing above many small towns following the woods as well. Mixture of stone, sealed roads and muddy woodland trails made up the Camino.
Eventually, around 11:30 a.m., I came across a town called Burlada where I obtained some provisions from a supermarket. After dining on sardines, cheese, bread and fruit, I was off on the trail into the city of Pamplona.
This was a wonderful experience walking up the steps of Puerta De Francia and capturing the views of some amazing authentic architecture. The Camino exposes all the prominent points in the city, from the Magdalena Bridge to the Citadel and all ancient courtyards and cloisters.
Turning left to avoid the oncoming surge of carnival activity, I went to the tourist office to obtain some maps/guides and a have very brief discussion about the camino with the receptionist. I managed to grasp the essence of the conversation and following instructions I continued to the park where I rested and wrote some postcards.
Fortunately today there were no bulls passing through these busy narrow streets and there was a relaxed atmosphere about the weekend hub. Mark and Gregor stopped by for a chat before continuing. It transpired that Mark had recently been on the cricket tour to Pakistan with Katie and the Barmy Army. Having enjoyed the party and acquired a taste for travel, he had decided to experience the life of a pilgrim. The days to come would provide both good and bad moments which would ultimately build character and strong friendships in a month of his life that he will never forget.
Once the last card was completed , I set off again walking to the University of Navarra and on towards Cizur Menor, our final destination for the day.
The Refugio was excellent and our host spoke good English explaining to me that she once did a Pilgrimage to Santiago by sort on an old “tall ship”. What an experience that must have been! Whilst talking, I enjoyed a foot bath with salt and vinegar as she went on to tell me of her favourite church 2.5 km from here. This is the place that gives her great comfort and is called the Santa Maria De Eunate.
At last Father John and his protegé Morick are here and immediately I am awarded with a malt beer. Straight away we are planning our evening. We have Mass at 07:30 p.m. followed by a Pilgrim supper and more of the region’s Vino Tinto!
Day 4 : Sunday, 5 March 2006 PUENTE LA REINA 24 km
We had all opted for the short stop today as it was Sunday and we would need facilities at a large town. Furthermore, the weather was treacherous and it had snowed all night.
We sat and enjoyed breakfast and Father John was still searching for his missing sock. We had to be in bed by 10:00 p.m. last night, so we were unable to look properly that evening.
Setting off into the snow felt good until the wind got up. There were times when this became dangerous along the mountain edge. Initially it was just difficult following the trail in the snow. I kept rubbing snow off the sign posts so my friends could see the Camino shell.
I had been tracking two other walkers, but lost their prints when the snow fell deep around Zariquiegui, but saw plenty of yellow arrows to show the way. I passed through some small villages where the natives were making their way through the snow to get to church.
Most of the journey was an ascent and just beyond the highest point, I met Gregor and Richard (known as Mark to the Barmy Army). Once we had located the path, we made our descent into Murazabel where I continued through Obanos and finally Puente La Reina. Richard arrived an hour later, but Gregor needed to continue on his own itinerary to Cirauqui: we also concluded he needed his own room to allow us respite from his persisitent snoring. I recall not sleeping a wink at St Jean despite having enjoyed a dam good night! I would hope to catch him tomorrow as we werer both bound for Villamayor de Monjardin.
Day 5 : Monday, 6 March 2006
– VILLAMAYOR DE MONJARDIN 40 km
I couldn’t wish to have had a worse start. Leaving at 07:00 a.m. hoping to gain the initiative and some extra ground too.
The signs eluded me and before long I was heading into the mountains on a country path which ended abruptly in a ploughed field. In the distance I could see a road and descended through the arable land in what was now torrential rain until finally reaching the tarmac.
It was a new road and not yet accommodating traffic and so I ran all the way back to Puente La Reina.
Once back to square one, I tried to follow the Camino which road “St. Jacob’s Way”. Well he must have been some guy! I was soon up to my waist in water as I forded a stream and traversed at least four more of those beloved ploughed fields in order to reach what looked like the trail. In the distance I could see Calida’s red anorack and was at least now on the right course.
I was soon passing the main group – preacher John, Richard, Calida and the two Argentinian girls. But it was terrible – slippery mud and it was easier to walk in the stream where one could at least get a foothold.
Finally I reached solid ground nearing Maneru where I also saw another pilgrim.
I passed straight through – too wet to stop and continued on to Cirauqui where I was soon baptized by another downpour. Having not eaten yet, I stopped at the grocers at the top of the hill where I was able to converse in French to order a few basic groceries.
It was so severe outside that I just drank the milk and carried on walking so as to stay warm. I was, by now, completely soaked through.
The path in normal conditions would be fine, but in these conditions it was treacherous and just became a steady slog.
There were some good solid sections which made life quite easy as it traversed the many small villages en route, though there were a few extra yellow arrows that maybe should not have been there. One took me into more ploughed fields, though I soon realised it was not the correct route.
I was very relieved to reach Estella even though I had planned to do a further 6 km. The weather had subsided and I progressed into the forests with my morale lifting by the kilometer.
Just before Villa Mayor, I met another party of pilgrims who waited for me before heading for the monestary. There was a Spaniard, two Germans and a Canadian girl. As soon as we arrived, we were made welcome and sat down for some tea. By the time I had showered, my old friend Gregor had arrived. He had stayed at Cirauqui the previous evening and was amazed to see me as all the others had finished at Estella.
Day 6 : Tuesday, 7 March 2006 – LOGRONO 40 km
Setting off in wet clothes from the evening before, I said goodbye to our host Anna and gave her a copy of my Oundle Walks as a thank you and made a donation to the monastery.
At least today was dry, though very windy, and was a welcome contrast to the previous two days.
Soon I was into the swing of it and could see Gregor in the distance. He set off a bit early, but planned to stop and have an early lunch with me at Los Arcos.
We sat down beside the Santa Maria church where a stork had made its home in the bell tower. After enjoying a meal of bread and cheese, we gathered water from the fountain and set off towards Viana. Most of the fountains were in use supplying water from the mountains and even wine too! One of our German friends had filled up his bottle just south of Estella and I can tell you it tasted quite nice having helped him polish of the contents last night.
The trail was easier today tracking the road for most of the time and offered few inclines – if anything, descending more today.
The next village was Sansol which I passed straight through, continuing beside vineyards and farmland as far as Viana.
I arrived in Viana during siesta, but had enough food to enjoy a break just beyond the town.
I now began the final leg of today’s journey which was completed on a sealed track road forming the Camino alongside the main road into Logrono. This was a major landmark for me. Apart from being two days ahead of schedule, it was the first major city since Pamplona and accounted for about a quarter of the journey. Having paid the Refusio €3 for the night, I settled down to wine, cheese and bread whilst completing my diary.
Day 7 : Wednesday, 8 March 2006 – SANTO DOMINGO DE LA CALZADA 45 km
Another tough day at the office as I walked steadily out of Logrono into a fierce headwind. The track was solid and flat offering recreation to both walkers and cyclists. Many locals were out taking exercise and later I passed a fishing party as the path skirted a lake. It was a winding course intercepting the road in places. The motorway heads off to Burgos and later joins the main road to Santander and Burgos. I also saw signs for Victoria.
11:00 a.m. – Stopping first at Navarrete, I tried to find a post office without success. The market was busy and I took photo’s of the beautiful church there.
Pressing on, I met other pilgrims throughout the day which was now quite warm though the wind made it an arduous task. I could not obtain water from the spring at Ventosa (there was no wine there either!), so I purchased a bottle and marched on to Najera. The route was a little bewildering at times and hugged the dual carriageway for a while. I ran into problems at the site of a new bypass, but was able to follow two Spanish pilgrims into Najera.
This was a large town with accommodation for pilgrims, though I was still concerned about my post. Unfortunately, it was siesta which also meant it was too early to finish for the day. With this in mind, I carried on to the next village, Azofra, using a mud track as the camino. I did not see the other pilgrims again and assumed they must have stayed at Najera. It was a rural experience with the noise of the carriageway fading into the distance until my arrival at Cirinucla which looked as though it was being re-built. Apart from a few authentic buildings that make up the area, there were plenty of new apartments under construction. Owing to the chaos of modernisation, I required some help from a local guy to get out of town on the right route. I was actually on it, but there were only a few yellow arrows.
Soon I was walking away from the village of Cirinucla and on course for the famous location of Santo Domingo which should actually have been tomorrow’s stop! It was a combination of road and track. I was quite frustrated when the track took me almost back to Cirinucla, but once over the next big hill I could see Santo Domingo.
It was dawn by the time I reached the monastery, though I had enough time to check in, make a donation and nip to the shop for some cheese and wine. I managed to do some washing, speak with a French lady who had just started her camino and enjoy some wine before retiring for a well-earned sleep.
Day 8 : Thursday, 9 March 2006 – ESPINOSA DEL CAMINO 35 km
Unbelievably I managed at last to find a post office – and it was open! I almost got arrested by the police who thought I was trying to photograph them. I had to explain I was taking a picture of the church when they turned onto the main street. Anyway, I got my camera back and headed out of town without too much drama. Once clear of the bridge, I was hit with gale force winds which continued throughout the day. The French lady, who stayed at the monastery, was walking well, but was travelling very light and I saw her occasionally throughout the day. The first place we came to was Granon where I made a stop at the bakers. A lady from Santo Domingo spoke in English to me saying that I had done very well to be this far already given the adverse weather. She went on to say how long winter has been this year and that it was colder than normal.
After enjoying bread and fish, I continued to Redecilla de Camino and Castidelgado where trail skirts the main Burgos road where signs illustrated Belorado which was about 9 km and Burgos about 50 km. It would have been an easy walk had it not been for the wind and by the time I reached Belorado, it had subsided a little.
It was still siesta and there was no sign of life at the monastery, so I decided to press on. I passed the French lady and two other pilgrims losing sight of them by the time I reached Tosantos. After here I passed two other villages before calling it a day at Espinosa del Camino by which time the rain was coming in for the night.
Day 9 : Friday, 10 March 2006 – BURGOS 50 km
Starting at 07:00 a.m. after coffee and biscuits, I ascended into cold, wet mountains with the familiar head wind to impede my progress, but a good night’s sleep (I was the only guest) ensured I was prepared for the task ahead.
At the top of the mountains lie only forest and frozen streams. Here spring seems far away as the icy wind bites through my layers of clothing. Just glad I took the extra fleeces! Europeans believe this is a long winter : one that is far from over. Normally I am enjoying warm sunshine when walking Spain at this time and it is only the French alps that subject its visitors to icy winds and frozen ground.
There were many miles to walk in the mountains before finding shelter and food. Even at San Juan de Ortega there was no sign of life. I reached the villages of Ages at 11:30 and promptly stopped at the community’s bar for coffee and tortilla.
Setting off at 11:45, I continued without stopping, passing through small hamlets, such as Cardenuela and Orbaneja, where only the dogs noticed my presence. The track was sometimes made of gravel turning either to mud or becoming part of an old sealed country lane. I passed beside quarries, ancient monuments and a dozen or more churches. The whole countryside was scarred with trails in all directions so it was paramount I followed the camino shell and yellow arrows. Boy what a trip!
By the time I reached Burgos I was weather-worn and feeling tired. It also took over an hour to pass through the city. I saw great monuments and was over-awed by the sight of Burgos Cathedral whose architecture is an amazing spectacle to behold. I cannot even begin to imagine how this was created let alone its upkeep. It certainly needed the hand of God to help provide this earthly miracle.
I was relieved to find the pilgrim hostel where, to my amazement, I met another pilgrim who had set off from Roncesvalles on the same day as myself. He too agreed that this was a difficult journey in harsh conditions.
Day 10 : Saturday, 11 March 2006 – CASTROJERIZ 40 km
Starting at 08:00 a.m., I felt tired – unable to sleep due to the constant snoring of other pilgrims. Also I still have a cold because the weather is unrelenting. I hope spring comes soon as it has made the journey unpleasant at times.
Today, however, showed promise as the wind had subsided leaving just a mizzle of rain in the air. It was quite overcast, but still and calm and I could hear the birds singing merrily. The road was flat and straight and a train roared through on a railway close by. Soon the track leads away from the suburbs and into the valleys and after a couple of hours, I reached Tardajos and shortly after Rabe de Las Calzadas where I stopped for breakfast.
I shared my sardines with a local cat and gave a biscuit to a small dog close by. At least I had company throughout the interval and was able to obtain water from a nearby fountain too.
Moving away from the village and into more countryside, I was able to make steady progress on an easy course without having to rush. I stopped briefly again at Hornillos del Camino where the bells were ringing for mass. A local guy on his bike sped past me wishing me a good walk (beune Camino). I was soon walking the same track into the mountains where all one could see were tyre tracks and open land. Occasionally there were signs for new pilgrim accommodation – in particular one at Hontanas where I descended into and stopped for a break.
I was now into the last session of the day which saw muddy tracks and more open landscape with clutches of trees. The still air was broken by the sound of a woodpecker and the trail gently rolled back to the road where I came across the Ruinas de San Anton which I photographed before moving on. Its only inhabitants now were pigeons, but in the distance was a more substantial place – my stop for the night – a small town called Castrojeriz
Day 11 : Sunday, 12 March 2006
-CARRION DE LOS CONDES 40 km
Starting at 08:00 a.m. I left in perfect sunshine and blue sky. Initially I walked with another Englishman called Chris and we chatted for a while about the different shelters we had stayed at. Last night’s was in need of renovation and at present is very basic.
We parted company at a steep ascent which Chris wanted to do in stages. I just took it steady enoying the heat on my back for a change and actually had to take off my jacket on reaching the summit.
Stopping just for a sip of water, I continued downhill on a gravel track through the farmland seeing only a small chapel by the river at Castillo De Majajudios. It was locked so I couldn’t see inside and continued to the village of Itero De La Vega where I stopped for my breakfast.
Whilst preparing for the next session, an Australian called Terry stopped for a chat. He’d run marathons all over the world, but agreed with me that the Pilgrims’ Route posed a good challenge, particularly in adverse weather. He had also written books about his city marathons and I was interested to know his business colleague was Simon O’Donnell who played cricket for Australia until suffering with cancer.
I walked with Terry as far as Boadilla Del Camino realising we had much to talk about, especially the revival of cricket thanks to the recent Ashes series.
Terry had to phone his wife who was originally going to join him at Leon, but was unable to make the visit. I left him to his phone call and marched on in the heat of the day where I was treated to a riverside walk which led to a beautiful section of bridges at Fromista. Once in town, I stopped for lunch and enjoyed the break.
The last 20 km was very flat on a gravel track beside the road which led all the way to Carrion de los Condes. I couldn’t believe the rows of pillows that lined the path and many signs and info boards that celebrate this famous Pilgrims’ Route – to think there’s still another 450 km to do!
Day 12 : Monday, 13 March 2006 – SAHAGUN 44 km
Leaving the monastery around 08:00 a.m., my first stop was the bank where I changed a traveller’s cheque. I needed another map also, but the tourist office was still closed so I pressed on munching on a bar of chocolate for breakfast.
As I left town, I saw a sign for Leon 100+ km which also read Santiago 360 km.
The road then led to a minor old road where I saw other pilgrims. Gradually I passed them all and soon the road became another country trail. It looked initially like an old tram road as it was extremely straight and flat making it an excellent walking route. It was a clear, bright day and all I needed now was somewhere to buy some breakfast!
Unfortunately, this was not forthcoming and I did not see a church or building for 3 hours. Finally, as I emerged at the top of the gravel hill, a small town lie before me like something out of the Wild West with signs indicating a bar further on. This I found and celebrated my arrival with a slice of Tortilla, some bread and a coffee.
From here a similar journey lay in front as the path out of town skirts the Leon road for several kilometers and, to my amazement, I never saw a single car. At the top of the hill the path leaves the road and passes through fields of arable land eventually rejoining the road at the next village called Ledigos.
I now entered into the last part of the day where I was never far from the Leon road. Occasionally it juts inland and I walk through small, sleepy villages where little else, but a passing tractor breaks the silence of siesta. The air was still warm, but fortunately a gentle breeze added some comfort throughout the long, hard slog.
Only when I was 4 km from Sahagun was I actually able to catch a view of it. Taking the scenic route into town, I was able to visit a little church where a stream ran close by. Soon I was walking into the town where I found the Albergue straight away. I was the first customer so I was soon showered and changed ready to fetch some groceries. I can’t believe I walked 44 km on a bar of chocolate and a slice of tortilla!
On returning to my accommodation at the monastery, I was pleased to see Terry and was able to give him a look at my New Zealand book which he wanted to see as it relays my recent walk of the country. Amazingly he had been travelling with a Kiwi girl who I remember passing earlier in the day. So he had done very well to catch up with her and arrive here too.
Day 13 : Tuesday, 14 March 2006 – MANSILLA DE LAS MULAS 42 km
The heat is getting stronger by the day and an Italian guy I met at Burgos predicted that after the full moon this would happen. He can seriously think about giving up the day job and becoming a visionary – as well as a pilgrim of course!
There was an alternative route on offer today, but we all chose to stick to the original pilgrim trail which was easy to follow as it was just a gravel track beside the road.
Towns and villages were sparse, however, whichever route we had chosen and despite the lovely mountain scenery in the background and a rare sight of a train passing through, there was little else to break up the monotony.
It was a tough day without food and little water. Only when I got to Rellegon was I able to ask a lady to fill my bottle. The café at Berganos Del Real Camino was closed until April and I did not see a fountain on the way through either. All day long I passed holes near the track which indicated that tree planting was in progress.
Not having to stop meant I made exceptionally good time despite the headwind and I finished the day at the Albergue Amigos Del Peregrino in Mansilla De Las Mulas.
Day 14 : Wednesday, 15 March – LEON 20 km
Setting off just after 07:00 a.m. the track followed the main road which was an uneventful experience until reaching the city. The main problem was crossing the busy road so as to follow the trail.
At least there were more towns to break up the journey as city life begins to close in. Soon anything that resembled a town just becomes part of the city as I try and follow the yellow arrows so as to stay on course.
Before long the arrows had taken me to the city hostel which was € 3 per night. As I was early and the cleaner hadn’t finished, I decided to look for a post office and visit the cathedral at the same time. At least I had some time off to have a look around. It was a very busy place, though I guess it owed its popularity to the cathedral which was absolutely magnificent.
Day 15 : Thursday, 16 March 2006 – ASTORGA 50 km
After much rest and indecision as to my access out of town, I decided to have a steady day and stop for frequent rest as I had packed plenty of food for the journey. I had suffered with tiredness having walked the last three days without food and little water plus I had a trapped nerve in my upper back which was causing muscle spasm in my left shoulder and arm: also my pack was overweight carrying excess clothing due to the hot conditions.
Anyway I soldiered on steadily, walking out of town to find the camino signs at Trobajo del Camino. From here on the trail largely followed the course of the N route to Astorga so there was little chance of getting lost. In addition there were a number of alternative routes which looked longer and supported only modest hamlets.
These may have been designed to accommodate cyclists. Either way, I kept to the old camino routes which were easy to follow.
I stopped briefly at La Virgen del Camino and again at Valverde de la Virgen by which time it was very hot.
The next big town was Villadangos which I had marked down as a night stop, but I felt in good nick so I pressed on steadily even with thoughts of reaching Astorga. Well, I aimed to take a stop at every town and see how I felt. By the time I reached Hospital de Orbigo, I was convinced I would reach Astorga.
Peeling an orange on a bench, a resident stepped out to see who I was. Wishing him well I explained I was a pilgrim who spoke very little Spanish. He chuckled and left me to enjoy my orange beneath the baking sun.
Setting off again I now had about 14 km left to walk and had a cool breeze to assist. The trail by now was just the old main road which ran alongside the contemporary one with a fence to separate them. Eventually it turns back to the more familiar gravel path, and on reaching the top of the final hill of the day, just before San Justo de la Vega, I had a wonderful view of Astorga.
Descending through the village and taking a trail into Astorga, I crossed a railway line and climbed the steep hill to the municipal albergue which was my home for the night.
Francois, who I had met at Mansilla, was there. He did not stay at Leon and must have carried on walking. He was very surprised I had walked it all in one day – I tell you what – so was I !
Day 16: Friday, 17 March 2006 – ACEBO 40 km
What a day to finish the week – a whole day of mountain climbing! Initially I walked beside the road passing minor villages and only saw builders and road maintenance workers. On the mud track I found a dead adder which looked as though it met its demise under a size ten boot (it wasn’t mine!).
As the ascents grew more frequently, so did that familiar cold wind which I had forgotten about over the course of last week. Today was dull with no threat of sunshine, but the last few hot days had melted some of the snow causing minor flooding along the mountain. I was enjoying the walk so much I abandoned any thought of staying at Rabanal del Camino where there was at least two albergues even though I knew there were no others for at least 18 km. I was in the groove and just carried on having shared my sardines with two of the local cats. I obtained water from one of the albergues before heading into the mountains.
Now there were only small communities to break the journey – some of which were so run down, they were in the process of being rebuilt. Amongst the rubble, I managed to find a bar and decided to take refuse for a warm-up. It had wonderful interior design and the owners, who were enjoying a seafood dish, made me welcome and served me ‘Café Con Leche’.
I didn’t dwell for long, but enjoyed the interval. Soon I was heading back up the mountains to some amazing views. I could see Ponferrada in the distance, but although tempted to have a dart at it, I thought it wise to rest up at Acebo where I could enjoy a hot meal and a good night’s rest. Also at the hostel were two German ladies and one from the province of Cataluna which is a political entity as far as Spanish regional devolution is concerned. Anway, the food and wine was good so all I needed is a long night’s rest.
Day 17: Saturday, 18 March 2006 – VILLAFRANCA DEL BIERZO 36 km
Despite harsh weather warnings, today was blessed with a wonderful calmness in the mountains with a clear blue sky. It was a pleasure to walk the mountain pass descending into sleepy little villages. The first was Rego De Ambros where I stopped at the little albergue to fill my water bottle. From here the stony path winds itself around the mountains where through the morning haze I could see the town of Molinaseca.
This was a lovely place with a nice church, authentic streets and the sound of cheerful banter amongst native traders portraying a sense of bustle about this quiet little region. I stopped at a café where I met an Aussie girl (born in New Zealand). We talked about our travels: She had walked from Leon to the coast and was on the way back to Leon with her boyfriend. So far they had been walking for 30 days.
Leaving the picturesque little town around 10:30 a.m., I headed into the larger province of Ponferrada where I walked for most of the time beside the carriageway. Eventually the trail spurs off and takes a quieter route into town exposing me to the amazing Castellino and eventually the town square where I bought some postcards and sat writing for a while. By chance I found a post office that was still open (Saturday 12 p.m.) and after posting my mail, I continued my journey through the town and back to the carriageway where the trail intercepted many small communities as it leaves the main road behind to service destinations between Leon to Lugo and A Coruna.
Passing through some of the larger places such as Camponaraya and Cacabelos, I was able to take many pictures of authentic buildings, some of which provided long-term residence for the stork population which I gather has grown to a substantial size. I wasn’t the only one interested in their nesting habits as I noticed some French tourists sporting their digital cameras.
After the town of Cacabelos, I struggled to see any yellow arrows, though the road signs all register the Camino de Santiago. Beyond Period I did see some, but they pointed in different directions so I stayed on the road I had walked beside. The trail was a simple gravel track beside a minor road which had up until now served all the towns and villages. Thankfully it was the right way as I found the camino marker 3 kms on, which pointed me right up a soil track where after a few hills I eventually came to my destination of Villafranca del Bierzo.
There were three albergues, so I chose the one in the middle which is known simply as ‘The Albergue de Peregrinos’. I was soon scrubbed up and into town to collect enough groceries for tonight and tomorrow, which was Sunday. Sadly on the way back, I ran into rain, so despite surviving a dreadful forecast for the early part of the day, I managed to have a minor brush with some wet weather.
I was soon consoled with a glass of wine and some cheese as well as the knowledge that I would have a pleasant look at the town en route tomorrow.
Day 18: Sunday, 19 March 2006 – CEBREIRO 30 km
Leaving the town by way of St Jacob I found the camino easy to follow as it winds itself round the major road routes. In fact it was like walking on a cycle track with yellow bituman paint. It was also shielded by a conrete wall. Above runs the autopista between Madrid and A Coruna. The road next to the camino was signposted for Lugo and like the camino, it passed through all the villages. The first village I passed through was Pereje where there were designated picnic areas before and after as well as an albergue. It was pretty much the same at Trabedelo where I shared my breakfast, as usual with the local cats.
I continued following the camino along old roads and the familiar yellow track eventually coming to a truck stop near Portela where I went into the hotel for coffee. When I re-started there was a spattering of rain, but nothing drastic so I pressed on through a network of villages that all housed good facilities.
The last of these was Ruffetan – a popular stop – from here I began a 10 km ascent. Gentle to start with and occasionally it descended into smaller communities such as Las Herretlas. When the climb became more pronounced I found the rocky ground more challenging and by now the rain was heavy.
My rucksack kept tugging at my left shoulder and so it became a struggle. I kept thinking about how nice it would be without the rain and the photo’s I could have taken. In the end it was a painstaking last 4 km in Cebreiro which turned out to be little more than a celtic tourist village.
Day 19: Monday, 20 March 2006 – SARRIA 50 km
Leaving the little celtic village around 08:30 with little else but a cereal stick inside me, I was soon greeted with harsh, windy/sleat weather. Heading back into the mountains along the muddy pass was not easy and distant views were concealed by mist. Eventually the path descends picking up the small farm villages along the way where the aroma and landscape reminded me of home (particularly Cornwall).
I took my first break at a coffee bar, about 16 km, into the day and spoke briefly to an English party who had set off this morning from the village of Hospital. They had asked about an elderly American woman who had also stayed at Cebreiro last night. She was rooming with an English cyclist who I had seen arrive around dusk on the same night (Sunday).
Setting off again it was hit and miss with the showers, though I squeezed a texting session in with my girl friend Naideen before any torrential weather reared up.
The path just kept winding up and down in and out of every single village throughout the day. 10 Km on the camino was easily worth 15 on the road – and that’s nothing to say about the value of endurance!
At Triacastela where I took my lunch break, I was very confused about my route. I had no map at this stage and the signpost to Samos had to be painted over and another pointed out toward San Xulian which I did not want to use. I needed to get to Sarria so as to use the bank facilities and had planned to go by way of Samos.
It turned out there was a sign on the road which was the first part of the trail. It was a pleasant one too with the stream running below the road and there was little traffic to cause concern. 3 Km later I joined a country path which undulated through muddy farm tracks up until Ranzu Somas which was quite a journey. Equally was the beauty of its monastery, though the town had little else to offer other than the usual hotel/restaurant set-up.
Following the cycle track out of town, I was able to take a few photo’s until once more the camino takes up another storm challenge along muddy tracks with only farms, bemused cattle and noisy dogs to break up the journey. At one point it became quite warm, though my mac was never far away as showers came and went. Despite the yellow arrows I was never really sure I was on course for Sarria until about 3 km from the town when I emerged from the countryside to a great display of monastic buildings. Slowly I made my way into town finding the albergue at the top of the hill near to the church.
Tomorrow would be a late start owing to the amount of provisions I needed from town which would also mean doubling back on myself to pick up the trail.
Day 20: Tuesday, 21 st March 2006 – PALAS DE REI 47 km
Starting late owing to a visit to the bank, I headed off into the pouring rain. Though feeling slightly deflated as I scrambled through muddy lanes and over streams brimming from last night’s downpour, I made good ground catching the Italian and German pilgrims who stayed at Sarria as well, and some others who stayed at a place called Mercardoiro.
Here we stopped for a coffee and a warming beside the fire. I threw my fleece on top of the fire until smoke was pouring off it. I just wanted it dry for the next session.
Setting off again, I felt rejuvenated and found extra-ordinary pace ticking off the little farm villages until reaching Portomarin where I crossed the huge bridge in pouring rain.
I guessed this would be today’s destination for the other pilgrims, but I needed to press on and continued along an uphill mud track. It was like April showers – sun one minute and pouring rain the next. I enjoyed the walk though as as the day went on, the track became solid and easier to walk on.
Stopping around 3:30pm I entered a café for coffee and to phone Naideen to explain that my mobile was wet and dysfunctional.
Leaving again, as another pilgrim entered to take a rest, I made the most of a sunny spell with 15 kms still to do. It rained on and off, but the path was good with no threat of traffic as it followed a single track road and out of the many villages and farms that are the foundation of life throughout the region. Farmers walk their bulls across the road and shepherds steer their goats up country lanes with little concern for the weather or passing traffic. Soon the path becomes road and I enter the town of Palas de Rei and immediately find the albergue. I paid my €3 and after a shower went in search of food with a young lady from Cornwall who works at the Monkey Sanctuary in Seaton. The Sanctuary is an orphanage for Amazonian Monkeys and I promised to visit there on my next walk of Cornwall.
Day 21: Wednesday, 22 March 2006 – SANTIAGO 60 km
Starting around 08:30 in warmish conditions, I made good distance across farm and forest land reaching Melide around 11:00. Rain had come in quite heavy so I retreated to a café and enjoyed a coffee until it subsided. Then I visited the church and spent a quiet interval inside before continuing to Arzua.
I enjoyed this stretch which was dominated by forest for much of the day, but marred with heavy rain and I had to wade through mud and streams for much of the time.
Reaching Arzua, my intended stop for the day, I did not manage to find the albergue and was soaked through. Not wishing to hang around, I pressed on passing many farm villages that lie within this rural area.
Time went by quickly and my next coffee stop was around 4 p.m. where only a small group of locals sat playing cards. After my refreshment, I decided to walk another 10 km and look for somewhere to stay.
This was not easy to plan as places to stay are few and far between and there was much forest to encounter. I met a Spanish guy about 16 km from Santaigo who tried telling me the next 7 km would be tough and it was now getting dark. He was certainly right about that, but I stepped on the gas a bit and despite the steep hills, passed Santiago airport just before dark and a few kms short of the town, I decided to call it a day as it was dark and I would not be able to follow the trail. I booked into the next available hostel leaving about 10 km to walk tomorrow.
DAY 22: Thursday, 23 March 2006 -SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA 10 km
One of the most aweful weather days I have ever experienced and to make things worse I could not get into the albergue at Santiago until 4 p.m. So once I had registered my camino and received my cerificate, I had to wander around the town soaking wet for the next 6 hours!
At least I visited the cathedral which was a wonderful experience and one I hope to repeat tomorrow. Later I sorted out my travel arrangements for Santander as I would need to cross the water to Plymouth to complete a walk in Cornwall which included St Michael’s Way – part of The Camino de Santiago (and is also marked with a shell).
But I must say it was the worst part of the tour and I have never seen so many broken/discarded umbrellas. Still I’m grateful I made it and alive to tell the tale – and who knows, plan another walk!!
On the whole it was a good experience and a testing journey which would match my definition of endurance. However, the main test was more the weather than the trail. I have never seen such indifferent, unforgiving weather. It was that which got to me rather than the camino!
I was disappointed with myself in that I was frustrated by the weather, but was compensated by the fact that other pilgrims had to go through it and I met some lovely people on the journey who all had different reasons for doing the walk.
My walk should really have been spiritual and I should have taken longer doing the walk, but I guess I realise that endurance is my forté and still see a walk as a challenge and am also a bit competitive. In any case it was a learning curve and a very important part of my ongoing travels around Europe which will hopefully continue along the Portuguese coast and down to North Africa where I’m hoping to follow Hannibal’s trail or at least another Camino back up through Spain, France and into Italy.
As with all walks though – which are in any case used to support worthy charities, I do find a spiritual soul-searching experience which has either helped to cleanse the mind or to find new ways of living a better life and hopefully help others.
I now have some good thoughts on how to put more back into life and so can at least walk away from here with innovations and new energy that can be used for the good of mankind.
I am thankful to God for that and the protection He has given me and my family and friends too whenever I have asked Him to do so.
On this event 10 kg is recommended. I took four times that partly because I cannot afford the modern hi-tech gear, ( I am still 10 years adrift with my equipment),and also because I have a bit of experience in the French Pyrenees which always leans on the side of caution. I may have cursed the pack from time to time, but realise I needed every single item at one time on this walk, which was far different (and hostile weather-wise) than any other visit here.
In particular, I found the “Cat” boots and the moister-drawing sock (Falké) that Naideen gave me for Christmas a God-send – apart from my sore heel I never had one blister on my feet!! The first time I have done this in any walk (had every other problem though!!).
Blister-proof socks (thin liners)
3 x other socks (different thicknesses)
1 x shorts
2 x trousers
3 x thermal tops
3 x fleeces
1 x fishing jacket (lightweight with 12 pockets)
2 x cameras
1 x mobile phone and charger
2 x maps
2 x shop absorbers (different thickness)
2 x pants
1 x vest
1 x towel
1 x wash kit
2 x caps
woollen hat / gloves
walking guides (own product)
Calendar Day 1 Faro to Albufeira – 35km
It was a wet and windy start in Faro and the poncho was employed immediately after leaving
the airport. The first test was to find a signpost to Lagos. This took a journey into Faro
and a visit to a nearby hotel before I got the show underway. It meant an hour or two along
the main road until reaching the sliproad to Albufeira.
Now I was in business and the afternoon a fair one with sunshine and a comforting breeze.
Stopping at a local store for bottled water I continued until nightfall along the amiable
coast roads which harboured many small villages and numerous orchards of orange trees.
At Albuferia I was pleasantly surprised at the English-speaking natives who were very
helpful and guided me to a little hotel beyond the town centre which gave shelter and
included breakfast for just 25 euros. I returned to the town for a pint and a chat to a
fellow who I’d met earlier, who gave the impression this was a very popular region for
English tourists. After a brief social interaction and a chance to rest my feet I returned
to enjoy an evening of cheese and wine as I contemplated the days of walking to come.
Day 2 Albufeira to Lagos – 60km
After breakfast I enjoyed a sunny start but still faced more difficullties in finding the
correct route. The city roads were not well signposted though once I found the correct
coast route I managed with basic geography and a simple map.
The coast route was slightly longer but rewarding in scenery and less traffic to contend
with. I crossed a lengthy suspension bridge, which though not quite the standard of the
Brunel epitaph, was well-built and a grand contribution to the region. Generally progress
has grown to embrace the needs of tourism which has made the Algarve a more sumptuous and
sought-after part of Portugal.
With darkness approaching I hastened into Lagos which to many is deemed the capital of the
It was well lit up along the promenade and I managed to find a little residencial where the
lady put me up for 15 euro. After a clean up I retired to a bar where a dutch man and
English couple told me of the difficult but scenic journey I would encounter tomorrow. It
sounded quite a challenge – but then that’s me – I couldn’t wait!
Day 3 Lagos to Odeceixe – 45km
Starting early and making good progress I stopped after 10km and enjoyed a fruit breakfast.
Later along the busier mainroad which was steep and winding I had difficulty in obtaining
water and some of the locals refused to fill my water bottle. The hilly ground was less
populated but a guy next to a windmill helped and gave me plenty of water to drink and fill
I did well to reach Aljezur by 3pm and decided it was too early to finish. Pressing on into
the evening I stopped to bathe under a fountain and at dusk found a place to stay in a
lovely little village called Odeceixe.
Day 4 Odeceixe to Almogrove – 80km
Having discussed my route with a German guy who knew the area I set of along a coast path
which would form most of my route for today. I spoke with an English lad who was out here
on holiday. He was a carpenter by trade and enjoying a break from hectic life in the UK.
The whole morning was an arduous affair and particularly difficult ascending to these
secluded shores. Eventually I found a town and it was by now 3.30pm and I had barely made
any signicant advance. Seeking advise from a local guy I next proceeded along a very
straight and flat coastal track.
Toward the end of the afternoon I had reached Vila Nova de Milfontes junction and had to
make a decision regarding the route. Foolishly I opted for the coast trail and it was a
disaster. There was no trail after a mile or so and I should have turned back. I clambered
over rocks, struggled in deep sand dunes, eventually sighting a village which required
trundeling through gorse and other rural delights.
I should have decided to call it a day but continued in hope of finding the trail to Vila
Nova. I found a trail and on reaching the coast 2 hours later in the dark realised it was a
one -way journey to a coast point with no other links. Sadly I had to walk back and
crossing some barbed wire I took a short cut back to Almogrove where I found an inn and
promptly retired for some fluid. After a drink I felt hungry and ordered a meal. I felt
despondent at walking so far and yet achieving so little. I was ready to crash out on a
nearby bench and make for the road to Vila Nova and beyond at first light. Whilst
contemplating the task a guy came across and offered to help. He had worked in England for
several years and offered to put me up in his shed which was great. He said he would also
drop some maps of in the morning before I leave so as to use the best roads available for
Day 5 Almogrove to Costa de St Andre – 60km
I was grateful for this good man’s help and thanked him for his trouble. Despite a severe
initiation to the day along the main road I reached Vila Nova in just over an hour,
stopping for a coffee and a chance to study the proposed route for the day.
After clearing the main urban district I picked up the coast road and continued to Porto
Porto Covo was a lovely little village with good amenities and I managed to find a bank
which was paramount!
On resuming – by chance I ran into the carpenter from England who I met on the clifftop
yesterday. We stopped and chatted awhile and he mentioned he would be finishing his tour at
Continuing my coast journey I alternated from the sandy cliffs and narrow road which led me
safely to the Sines junction. Beyond the muddle of dual carriageway and industrial roads I
managed to cross onto the correct exit where I walked the hard shoulder for the next 20km,
finishing in darkness at the town of Vila Nova de St Andre. Amazing the dual carriageway
disappeared into nothing and I was left to walk the desolate streets in search of
accommodation. Stopping for food I chatted to the proprieter who himself was a keen walker
promoting the Nordic walking which has grown as a leisure and health pursuit. After a good
drink I bade him farewell and settled at the hotel across the road.
Day 6 St Andre to Comporta – 40km
After a good all round breakfast of eggs, fruit and cafe ect, I sped off nursing some foot
problems throughout the morning but still making good progress, ticking off the remaining
outposts of this last leg of the coast. Tomorrow I will crossing either at Setubal where I
would commence the journey north away from Lisboa – hopefully to pick up the Pilgrimage
trail to Fatima and then The Camino de Santiago.
It was quite an adjustment walking a busy dual carriageway the previous evening now
transformed into a battered single track that barely qualified as a tourist route.
Gradually I passed by all the stops which included Melides and Casa Branca until finally
coming to a standstill at Comporta. Here I met a German cyclist who was heading back along
the route I’d just walked. He warned of busy roads ahead and after sorting out a room at
the nearby hotel we set off to enjoy a lovely fish meal at the local bar where the guys
were intensely watching the football game on TV.
Day 7 Comporta to Pinal Nova – 50km
Hot start and nothing to shout about as there were no facilities along this slim track that
was now surrounded by water – the Atlantic ocean to my left and the River Sado on the right
bank. The ferry port was a mess – a mass of building construction to be precise, which I
walked round for an hour in an effort to find the ferry terminal. Eventually I came across
it and was soon on my way across the water to Setubal. The town was largely North African
and immediately I was accosted by some guy who wanted to sell me a photo. I left
immediately leaving my water proofs behind and not bothering to retrieve them. They were
ripped and at least I had a poncho. In the blazing sun I set off for Pinal Nova, taking
what I thought was the correct road.
Several hours later it dawned on me that I was totally wrong and 12 km west of my route.
Unsure about what to do I had to return to the location and start again. It was late now
and cloudy with the spit of rain in the air. When I finally reached Pinal Nova it was dark
and raining hard – worse still there was no where to stay in this town. Grabbing some
groceries at a late night store I set off beyond the town and found a field to camp in. It
was a windy, wet night but at least I had shelter and managed to sleep a couple of hours.
Day 8 Pinal Nova to Porto Alto – 40km
Luckilly the rain and wind had cleared by the morning and I was on the road by 7am. leaving
the intense main road behind I joined the Villa France road, stopping for cafe and
breakfast at a nearby restaurant. After stopping again at Alcochete, I joined the less
appetising route along the N118 which could only be described as a journey to Hell! The
highway was too narrow to support thr constant flow of traffic which made it a perilous
experience, culminating with yet more rain. At the Villa Franca Roundabout I called it a
day, checking into a hotel beside the road. At least I could have a wash, dry my clothes
and enjoy a good breakfast in the morning.
Day 9 Porto Alto to Santarem – 56km
Starting the day slowly nursing sore feet amid showery conditions I progressed diligently
through the urbanised areas built up around the N118. I had decided to abort the mission to
Villa Franca which would have been another drawn out affair amid severe traffic. This
wasn’t much better – but better the Devil you know! Furthermore I could cross a bridge
further down river which would take me into Santarem which offered many Pilgrimage routes
to the north.
The plan worked and people were kind throughout the day always acknowledging me or helping
in some small way. At my first stop at a park bench the maintenance ladies gave me a strong
plastic bag to help keep my gear dry. I used the cafes more regularly too so as to allow
enough rest from the weary penance I had imposed upon myself. It took until nightfall to
reach the bridge at Almorim and then another hour to cross it. Passing the railway station
I noticed a restaurant but instead of stopping I walked uphill into town which was
unnecessary as my route continued beside the railway track. Two guys spoke to me explaining
that I needed to return to the station and on doing so was relieved to find the restaurant
opposite actually provided a room for just 10 euros. I was so pleased and after quenching
my thirst I took my final steps of the day up the stone staircase which led to a
comfortable warm bed which was a welcome sight.
Day 10 Santarem to T. Novas – 42km
Despite throbbing feet I managed to sleep and felt mildly unscathed the next morning. After
my cafe and cakes I leaned into the morning shower and set off for Alcanhoes. On reaching
this point I received some valuable advise about the route to Fatima and was soon walking
on a direct course along the N3 which was fairly quite but with enough pit stops for me to
replenish and enjoy a decent rest. By the end of the day the signposts all indicated Fatima
and at the main junction which incorporated the motorway I decided to rest up a Pension
just outside T. Novas. The lady of the house was in fact Canadian and had a sister who
owned a restaurant at Faro. She was very kind to me and let me have an excellent room for
just 15 euros. She also told me where to go to get an excellent meal. I had a lovely time –
wine and food coming to just over 7 euros!
Day 11 T.Novas to Leira – 52km
The rain tipped down all day but I was rewarded on my first cafe stop by a lady who took an
interest in my journey and previous history as she scanned through one of my books. She
knew some English and I made an effort to talk in Portuguese so we got on well. Before
leaving she bought me out a cake and a bottle of water. She saw I was struggling and also
made me a sandwich to take on my journey to Fatima. This place had a strong spiritual
meaning and throughout the day I saw Pilgrims marching in all weathers. I think here the
pilgrimage to Fatima is stronger than the one to Santiago though I did meet other pilgrims
who had set off from Santiage to Lisbon.
Rain continued to flood the roads throughout the day though I enjoyed some respite at
Fatima where I visited the tourist centre and enjoyed a chat with another Canadian lady who
assisted with my route indicating a link to Leira where I could join the Camino de
Santiago. Plodding on I was pleasantly surprised the progress I made that afternoon having
been tempted to stay at Fatima which was a wonderful Religious icon. By early evening I was
approaching Leira and I guy stopped to see if I was alright. I thanked him for his concern
but felt confident I would find some where to stay. I managed this at a hostal where
fortunately I could use my visa card to pay the tarrif. He also spoked French which I
understood and was able to enjoy a conversation with him and receive some important
directions to a nearby restaurant. I had enough cash on me for a meal and would endeavour
to reach a bank tomorrow.
Day 12 Leira to Venda Nova – 42km
Pleased with my effort of reaching Leira and with my feet stabilized enough to walk I
enjoyed a good breakfast and chat with the proprieter. It was a difficult affair along the
N1 as lorries hurtled by but there were many villages and places to stay along the way. The
weather was less stark as I progressed to Pombal where I was able to draw some money.
Having celebrated my arrival with cake and banana I got stuck into a fair chunk of the
Coimbra stretch, concluding at Venda Nova an hour before dusk where I was able to stay at a
dormitory in the nearby bar. It was only 7 euro and I had the place to myself and enjoyed a
lovely meal too.Tomorrrow I hoped to seek out the Camino Portuguese Which I hoped to walk
to Porto having done the North Camino to Santiago last year.
Day 13 Venda Nova to Mealhada – 45km
I had two cafes that morning before setting off for Condixa. I saw many pilgrims trudging
along the main road on their way to Fatima. I stopped beyond Condeixa and marched solidly
to Coimbra which was dominated by a huge suspension bridge spanning the River Mondego. It
felt like a pilgrim’s town and I settled for awhile enjoying a picnic before locating the
Camino de Santiago which I followed through many villages, over mountainous terrain and
wonderful ancient woodlands and there was the occasional blast of the N1 just to give it
some diversity! Reduced to snail’s pace I was forced to retire to a dormitory/restaurant
just beyond Mealhada. Like a snail I too have to carry my house on my back – so at least
now I can show some respect for these humble little creatures.
Day 14 Mealhada to Oliveira – 55km
With sore feet I started in wet conditions realising this was a big day! Lamely I pressed
on to Agueda making excellent time enjoying lunch around 1pm. The afternoon heated up and I
was glad to have a couple of breaks but feeling certain this was the penultimate day of
I passed through Albergaria-a-Velha negotiating some roadworks and then followed an old
railway into a small village where I got some groceries for the evening session. Every now
and then I hear the sound of a lawn mower Only to look up and see an old-timer who looked
about 103 drive past on a scooter! I see 1960 bycicles with old dynamo lights. As I passed
through one village I heard a guy trying to start his motor. By the time I had left the
area I could hear it spluttering off down the road, probably not having had an M.O.T. for a
decade or more and oil is just a memory. Things often go wrong for a vehicle when it is
only the rust holding it together! Still it was a pleasant change from the now-intimidating
IC 2 which prompted me to make a closure at Oliveira. Here there was no hope of finding any
where to stay and despite its lovely name gave the impression of being very industrial.
After viewing a possible place to camp I retired to a nearby bar called Solar Dos
Presontos. Here I was made most welcome and every one rallied round to try and help me. A
guy called Vasco Tavares who spoke good English made every effort along with his friends to
ensure I got shelter for the night. He even paid my bar tab as well which I thought was
most generous. He knew I had ddone many walks for cancer charities and had lost his father
to the disease and appreciated the voluntary work I do for these causes. I told him I was
happy doing it and that I would continue to walk for these charities. After the lovey meal
I was given shelter by the landlord who was also concerned that I should have a proper rest
after such a long walk. I was just so happy that these wonderful people were here to help
me in my hour of need – it went a long way in restoring my faith in humanity and made my
pilgrimage all the more significant.
Day 15 Oliveira de Azemeis to Porto – 35km
Rising early I powered straight into the IC 2 which now forms both Caminos to Fatima and
Santiago. Enjoying a breakfast beyond the town I soon realised that industrialisation would
dominate todays journey as the road closes in on Porto. This at least meant a pavement
throughout as towns merge with each other gradually revealing the industrial face of Porto.
Only when I reach the bridge across the Douro River do I get a wiff of Tourism yet the
reality of Portugal’s larger cities lies in the steep alleyways that back onto the main
street. It was so busy here and with a Portuguese Bank Holiday looming I was glad of some
assistance from a local fireman who escorted me all the way to the coach station. I had
just 10 minutes to catch the last bus to Santiago before everything closed down for the
next two days. Boy was I releived to have completed that little trek, and thankful too for
all those wonderful people that supported me when I needed it most.
Thank You all – and God Bless.
NEW ZEALAND WALK 2008
Day 1 Napier to Hastings – 22km
Starting late in wet, windy conditions I set off from Napier Bus Terminal picking up the trail to Hastings along Marine Parade. Tea time traffic sped past as I looked out toward Hawke Bay, joining the cycle route a little further on.
There was much to remind me of England in terms of the landscape yet buildings were a mix of wild west wood-panelled shacks with facades of art decor, and a few sumptuous stone buildings on the outskirts of town. This was soon displaced by industrial sprawl set alongside metal railings that bordered the road. There was a brief storm and lightening flashed in front of me on a couple of occasions. To add to the drama there was a perilous bridge crossing, but once beyond the village of Clive the evening settled down and I enjoyed a peaceful journey.
At Hastings I was directed to a Backpackers where I was made most welcome and later picked up some groceries before settling down for the night.
Day 2 Hastings to Waipukurau – 55km
After a brief meeting with the Cancer Society and a photo-shoot with the press I set off along Highway 2 and was soon clear of the city environment. Today was a complete contrast to yesterday as burning sunshine made short work of my skin before I had time to introduce the sunblock. It was a draining experience and I had a cold to suffer as well.
On reaching the township of Wiapapa I was ready to rest up for the night but could not obtain accommodation at the local inn. On hearing my plight a young guy called Gareth Evans said I could stay at his place which was another 10km at the town of Waipukurau. There were no other places en route so I had little choice than to press on and ignore the pain in my feet.
It was getting dark but fortunately I was resolute enough to battle on despite the discomfort of a long day. On reaching the town I had to make a few inquiries as to the location of Gareth’s house. Eventually I found the place and his flat mate was there to greet me. I was very tired and after a shower I went to bed, knowing that tomorrow also promised to be an exhausting affair.
Day 3 Wiapukurau to Ormandville – 40km
Starting out at 9am I called in at the local press to speak to the editor who was an English lady from Buckinhamshire. We discussed home-grown cures for cancer and life in the Commonwealth, eventually taking some pictures and forging a story for the local paper.
After parting company I marched along the highway in draining heat against unrelenting traffic. By 3pm I felt exhausted and collected water at a farm at Takapau – resting by the conifers for a while.
Resuming an hour later I opted to continue through the village using the longer scenic route to Dannevirke. Many people stopped by to see if I required a lift and generally asking if I was okay. One lady fetched me water from home and bought a copy of my book.
At Ormandville I decided to call it a day, and a lad at the pub called Paul let me camp out on his garden. Once established I returned to the pub for some refreshment and a lovely meal of stew. The landlord bought a copy of my book and said he would let his friend at Woodville know that I would be passing through.
Day 4 Ormandville to Woodville – 60km
Before setting off I had tea and cereal with Paul and thanked him and his family – his wife Shania, and daughter Rachael who was almost late for school today. What a lovely place to live and bring up a family: I could only feel happy for them and wished them well for the future.
Starting in reasonable conditions I passed the pub and continued along the pleasant country road, stopping for a few minutes to talk to another newspaper that had been tracking me. The lady sped of on another job but took the NZ book with her for insight into my previous travels here.
Around 1pm I joined the main highway and promptly stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe. Here on the journey was quite perilous made worse by severe winds which brought heavy onslaughts of rain.
At Dannevirke I spoke again with the press who purchased the NZ book then departed for the evening session of 27km to Woodville. It was horrendous and a fearful experience when nightfall came bringing new dangers with trucks hammering past sometimes -not even seeing me owing to the poor visibility made worse by the headwind and rain.
At Woodville I was infromed by the landlady Caroline that the TV wanted to do an interview on road but more importantly they had reserved me a lovely room and made me most welcome on a night that was easily one of my worst experiences on the road. It was nice to know there were good people in the world that cared about others and this at least restored my faith in humanity on a day that could easily have been my last!
Day 5 Woodville to Ashhurst – 20km
A short day was at least on offer as I would be visiting my cousin Tim whom I haven’t seen in over 30 years. To make light of the journey I took the old Saddle road which was a mountain route terraced by windmills. The journey took little more than a few hours as I entered the town at the Fielding Road junction – my route for tomorrow. I concluded the day at the Domain where Debbie picked me up and took me to Tim and family. It was a brief re-union as Tim was playing in a band at a local venue in Palmerston. At least had a couple of beers and I enjoyed the entertainment that evening which I must say was presented by a very talented band. We would catch up again soon as I would be heading back to Wellington for the cricket later on in the month.
Day 6 Ashhurst to Sanson – 40km
Returning to the Fielding Road I was on my way again passing Bunnythorpe and reaching Fielding by 3pm where I stopped for a snack. I was a little confused by the country road which was at least quiter than the highway. I needed some assistance with directions over the course of the afternoon and doubled back on myself in an effort to reach Sanson. It was a pleasant day for walking and the sun was setting as I entered Sanson – a place I had visited before. I even stayed at the same Lodge – The Golden Galleon where my host where lovely people.
Day 7 Sanson to Wanganui – 50km
My hosts remembered my previous visit and exchanged my night’s board for a copy of My New Zealand walk book. I had enjoyed a lovely stay and after bidding farewll I was on my way to Bulls. This was another place I had been to before and is actually situated on both Highway 1 and 3. Stopping at a cafe the proprieter gave me a free coffee and sandwich, praising my efforts and wishing me well.
As the day rolled on the humidity turned into bright sunshine and I was grateful to be able to collect water as there were no other towns along the way.
I stopped at a shop around 4pm and enjoyed a break before rattling off the last 23km of the day. It was still hot when I set off but I kept up a good pace reaching Wanganui by dusk. I got a single room at the Backpackers, later walking back into town to purchase fish and chips washed down by a jug of beer.
Day 8 Wanganui to Waverley – 55km
Starting late in unforgiving heat I struggled to get myself going stopping frequently to assess my situation, gather fluid from locals and sort out my feet. The hard road had taken its toll on my boots which have now worn away at the heels already.
It took until 3pm to walk only 20 km and after a rest I trundled on to Watotara hoping to find shelter at the hotel there. The guy told me he didn’t have a room spare, and in fading light I was forced to continue another 12 km to reach Waverley where I was given the same response followed by a stark warning that the bar would close at 10pm. Getting my priorities right after such a tortuous day I promptly ordered 2 large jugs of ale – reassuring the landlady that it would take only a matter of minutes to despose of them. Shocked at my thirst, and my great feat to date, the remaining patrons at least applauded my efforts. However the dearth of accommodation meant camping out, and luckilly there was a park opposite with toilets and wash basins so I settled there the night.
Day 9 Waverely to Hawera – 50km
Starting early I at least avoided some of the heat but had to rest up for an hour at Patea after completing 17km.
The afternoon was painful and stopping again at Manutahi I realised I had a blister.
Using my camping knife I dealt with the matter. A spot of field surgery was all that was required and I later had a cup of tea with the landlady at the local hotel. Sleeping awhile I could hear the trucks thunder through shaking the road leaving to ponder over the horrors of maintaining these highways.
Setting off on the final session of the day was good and the breeze saw me safely to Hawera where I found a hotel for 40$ and rested early for a change.
Day 10 Hawera to Stratford – 30km
After an interview with Radio Station and press I set off towards the oncoming exodus of Americana Day where over 400 vehichles passed me on the way to Hawera. The air was cooler and I made good progress stopping to chat to a lady who gave me a cold drink and acknowledging all the cars as they headed back for New Plymouth – my destination tomorrow. With Taranaki on my left I enjoyed all the scenery and towns that I visited finishing early (5pm) at the town of Stratford where I enjoyed a lasagne meal and later stayed at the Backpackers.
WALKING THE COMMONWEALTH
THE ROBIN MOORE NEW ZEALAND WALK
TARANAKI AND CENTRAL NORTH ISLAND
Day 10 Stratford to New Plymouth
Setting off in overcast conditions I stopped briefly at the local newsdesk to give an interview for the weekly paper. It was a touch cooler and there was little on the road to present a problem as most of the Americana convoy were by now heading round the coast to Opunake (the opposite way to yesterday).
I marched for about 30km taking in the modest rural scenery, acknowledging many who cheered me on: some of whom stopped by to ask if I needed a lift. I always took time out to explain the purpose of my journey and thank them for the concern they showed me. It was reassuring that people cared for the ‘man of the road’ rather than treat with contempt as can sometimes happen in a different environment where strangers are often deemed as a threat.
Stopping briefly at Inglewood, I refuelled with milk and sardines, resting at a park before heading off on the final stretch to New Plymouth.
Plymouth was a scene of carnival with side roads cut off and patrolled by sentries as the Americana rolled on through the town bringing joy and celebration to all its onlookers.
For me the joy was short-lived as the event meant a dearth in accommodation and the threat of rough shelter for the night. In an act of despair I entered the White Hart Hotel and consoled myself with a beer. Talking to the Barmaid, Kylie, I learned that the premises was once an icon among hotels and its long bar was evidently still a famous meeting place for many motor cycle enthusiasts.
Dry rot and general fatigue had reduced its function to beer sales only though the building itself still emanates its former glory. Despite being a shadow of its former self, its character as a pub clearly lives on.
Kylie contacted her friend from the Taranaki Times, who gave a small interview, and between them offered to sort me out with accommodation. After a Chinese meal I retired upstairs to the old hotel lounge and after Kylie had finished her shift at 3am we went back to her house where I enjoyed a good nights sleep in the spare room.
Day 11 New Plymouth to Urenui
After a good rest I had breakfast and returned to The White Hart with Kylie. From here I passed the exodus of slow-moving traffic on my way out of town stopping at a warehouse to pick up some new walking shoes.
Continuing for another 10km I reached a village on the outskirts of Waitara and decided to obtain some water. I could see no shops but spotted a lady getting out of her motor and promptly went across to ask for water. She invited me in for dinner and made me a pack lunch for the remainder of the day. She and her husband had recently returned from Australia after 18 years of running a business there. It was a lovely interval and I left around 3.30pm with warning that I would find little on the highway from here on until reaching Te Kuiti.
It was a stark note to re-continue on and I hoped it would at least stay dry despite a very poor forecast this weekend.
Marching on in my new shoes I felt light on my feet and despite being able to knock out another 10-15km I heeded the warning about sparse accommodation and opted to stop at the next hotel.
Arriving at the entrance a young girl led me into the bar where the landlord offered me a room free of charge, and to thank him for his kindness I gave him a book about my travels in New Zealand.
Day 12 Urenui to Mokau
In dull conditions I set off for Whitecliffs, a coastal route via 3 great mountains, which I opted to walk in lieu of the busy and monotonous main road. To reach this point I first had to walk 16km, which took until about 11am.
Unable to obtain water I pressed on into the mountain ranges taking only sips from my bottle to stave of the humidity. The tropical gorges evoked a draining heat and I felt totally isolated throughout the journey. Descending on a thousand steps was an exacting encounter as the steep ground tested both my balance and the soles of my boots. Crossing a one-man suspension bridge I started my next ascent. Breathless throughout I leaned into the slope, climbing above the treetops where the ground is no longer visible and the sea is just a memory. Despite the loneliness the constant drone of insects bring the journey to life as if my every move is under the watchful eye of the forest.
On my final decent I could see the coastline and clifftop path that I hoped would lead me back to the road.
As the ground levelled out I came across some farmers herding their flock and beyond the sheep pen I spoke to the head of the family who invited me back for tea. At the ranch we chatted for an hour and I enjoyed some refreshment before rejoining the road. I now had another 16km to walk though the air was calm and pleasant. Stopping to chat to a trucker I learnt that the Saturday night fayre at Plymouth was quieter than my visit on Friday, and of course, by now many were heading back with thoughts of tomorrow and work.
Traffic continued to race by me and as I neared a bend 3 horses galloped past which I found quite astonishing. Despite the unique experience on this busy highway, I felt their adventure might well be short-lived and tried to warn on-coming drivers about the peril that lay in waiting.
During the last 5km of the day rain came in heavy and I felt relieved to reach the Backpackers in time to reach the evening deadline. Once dry I was invited to supper with an American family who spoke of my Commonwealth journey and a possible walk from Canada to Mexico.
Day 13 Mokau to Piopio
Starting late I commenced in hot conditions stopping at Awakino for coffee where the bargirls bought a copy of my book.
At the petrol station I was treated to some groceries by the attendant called Sonia, as from here I would find nothing for comfort for the remainder of the day. It was a continuous slog beside the river amid beautiful mountain scenery culminating in a tunnel carved through the rocks, where after the terrain levelled out for a few km.
There was a spatter of rain over a 5km stretch and I stopped at a sheep station where the farmer gave me water and asked about my mission. Thanking him I continued through the smaller settlements realising that the only hope of shelter lay at Piopio. A few km from here the farmer I spoke to earlier pulled up and offered me a bed for the night telling that there was nowhere to stay at Piopio.
I was grateful for this and spent a lovely evening with him and his wife. They had both travelled in the UK recently and spoke of the wonderful time they spent there with their daughter who stays in Bristol.
Day 14 Piopio to Te Kuiti
Before returning to my start point my hosts phoned the press at Te Kuiti to arrange an interview. The initial 10km encounter to Piopio involved a small mountain walk in cool refreshing air which I found invigorating.
Stopping at a café in Piopio I wrote up a few postcards and continued in warmer weather to Te Kuiti, which had the look of a substantial town. Crossing the railway line I located the press and spent an hour with the correspondent.
Once finished I found shelter at the Te Kuiti hotel and enjoyed a lovely Asian meal and a couple of beers. Later I spoke to a guy from Queensland who was a diver but in recent times had suffered with a form of cancer and was spending time out with his daughter. He was a lovely guy who was enjoying life and seen much of the world too: before retiring he bought a copy of my book and I felt content that I had made inroads into the return journey to the Bay of Plenty.
Day 15 Te Kuiti to Kihikihi
Starting early I met up with the press correspondent on the road for a photo shoot. After bading farewell I continued my journey to Waitomo junction where I stopped for coffee.
It became a stop- start affair and at 12.30pm I rested at Otorohanga where I had lunch and a cup of tea. Beyond here it was back to Highway 3 flanked with pastures and sparse rural settlements. Despite the occasional interest from cattle that often climbed hill and dale to catch a glimpse of this stranger of the road, I saw little else until I required a refill of water. Stopping at a house to gather water a lady and her husband bought a copy of my book and went on to tell me about their the connection with the Queen and their dairy farm. They have relatives in England and have done business with the Royal Family over the years.
Stopping just once more for water I made good time reaching Kihikihi before dusk where I lodged at the Hotel for 25$. I was now only 25km from Cambridge, which was accessible along a minor road.
Day 16 Kihikihi to Tirau
Leaving early I made a good start along a minor route reaching Cambridge around 1pm. Crossing the bridge I went into town and attended an interview with the Cambridge Editor. I replenished my food supply at a supermarket across the road and returned to the bridge where I continued along Highway 1.
I had hoped to take a short cut to Tauranga and complete the walk early but couldn’t find the junction. I did however stop at the Karapiro Café, which I visited on my first walk of New Zealand. Chatting for a while with the attendant I was able to show her the occasion which turned out to be exactly the same time of day as before.
I had enjoyed the interaction and plodded on to a park where I rested and contemplated my next course of action. As I had missed the turn off for Tauranga I would now continue to Tirau. This was taken up against teatime traffic and was a bit monotonous to say the least. Stopping at a motor café before dust I saw another sign for Tauranga but realised I would find no other settlements along this route. Asking for water the café owner phoned The Oxford inn at Tirau to see if they would accommodate me. On confirming they would, I decided to run the remaining distance, as darkness was imminent.
The next 14km stretch was perilous and demanded some character as I had already walked 40km. I stuck to the task arriving at 9.20pm much to the surprise of the landlady who expected me an hour or so later. After an hour of beer and food I retired to slumber.
Day 17 Tirau to Rotorua
With great uncertainty about which route to take I eventually opted to go to Rotorua and visit Tauranga over the weekend which proved to be a long drawn-out affair.
There was little on the road to break up the day though I stopped at the only café en route but could not find a telephone to contact Jim so he knew of my change of plan.
It was a very busy environment and a hot day, which only added to the discomfort. It also seemed a very long 50km: in fact by the time I reached the outskirts I still had another 16km to go to reach Whakarewarewa. At least it was nice to be back at base and nearing another thousand km for cancer awareness having conducted over 12 interviews during the event and still a few more to do.
Day 18 Rotorua to Te Puke
Carrying a lighter pack I departed along the Whakatane Road amid strong windy, wet conditions. I was soaked through before making my first stop, which was at a cafe near Okere Falls. I left my poncho to drip-dry outside under cover whilst enjoying a coffee and a chat to the owner. On leaving she gave me an oat biscuit, and wished me well for the remainder of the journey.
It was a tough slog to Paengaroa though the showers had given way to prevailing winds, and I was glad to find a chip shop where I bought a fish supper.
After consuming the meal I headed off on the final leg of 10km to Te Puke. Nearing the town the rain swept in again – much heavier now soaking me beyond comfort of walking and so I retired to a Motor Lodge where I paid 84$ for a room.
Day 19 Te Puke to Tauranga
The final steps of this particular walk would lead me to the iconic Mount Maunganui and the Port of Tauranga. I stopped at a shoe warehouse to buy more walking shoes as my second pair had been worn down to the insoles. Whilst here I picked up some snack food and headed into town where I stayed at the Backpackers. The Port was lovely and I made a trip to the beach taking a photo of a cruise liner leaving the quay. To my right stands Mount Maunganui bathed in the beautiful warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. Before retiring I soaked my feet in breaking tide as I walked along the shore to the harbour jetty.
There is still much to see in New Zealand and I will be walking a further few days to pick up the remaining prominent towns along the Bay of Plenty. My next visit to the country, hopefully later this year, will involve a walk for the Cancer Society along the west coast of the South Island. My story will be available as an on-line publication later this year. Please click on EBOOKS on the Home Page.
PHASE 3 – THE THERMAL REGION
Having completed two walks in New Zealand covering most of the prominent places around the North Island, I thought it would be fitting to finish my tour of the Thermal region at Napier in time to watch the third and final test match between New Zealand and England.
I had been to the other games at Hamilton and Wellington where the series at 1-1 was now poised for a grand finale. The Barmy Army who were heading back to Taupo for some Bungi-jumping/adrenalin adventure sports, were happy to drop me off in town. I had walked most of the Thermal regions and passed through Taupo on my last visit in 2002. So I decided that it would be good to finish a round trip of the Noth Island at Napier where this particular adventure had began.
By now my equipment was virtually depleted, and I only had a few dollars available: with no towns en route I had no option but to camp out for the next 3 days until reaching Napier, and rejoining the Barmy Army – hopefully by Good Friday – which was also the eve of the test match.
Day 1 Taupo to Rangitaiki – 35 km
Leaving the Barmy Army around 4pm I set off along the Napier Road (Highway 5), armed with a tin of sardines and a mixed grill for supper tonight.
The wind was strong but at least keeping the temperature to a more comfortable level, as I made good progress despite the unwelcome teatime traffic. The whole region looked sparse sharing its course with Taupo, Waikato, Hastings and later Hawkes Bay which would conclude the great tour of New Zealand.
It was hilly terrain which I knew little about, yet inspiring with tall pines flanking the road, occasionally giving way to farmland. This part of the journey falls into Waikato which is the richest diary farm land in the world and it came as no surprise to see only tiny communities made up of small farm houses.
I made good progress, covering 25km, but at nightfall I was thirsty and tried to obtain water at the local fire station. The duty fire people explained that the water was not fit to drink and with the next settlement 10km away I had to press on into the darkness. A truck driver stopped by to see if I was okay, and luckilly had a large container of water which he gave me to consume whilst finding my way to shelter – hopefully at Rangitaiki.
It was a clear sky with the moon two thirds full so I chose to walk along a forest trail beside the road as the safest option with trucks still thundering past allowing no respite for ‘the man of the road’.
Arriving late at Raingitaiki the owner of the Lodge was unable to help and suggested I tried the Tavern a further 5km. Not wishing to disturb any one else at this late hour, I continued beyond the forest land hoping to find a suitable campsite. On the next hill I climbed a fence into a field which was sheltered by bushes and here I set up camp for the night.
Day 2 Rangitaiki to Tarawera 35 km
Decamping at dawn I set off in the cool air with hope of a comfortable session with mist still rising from the valley below. A farm stood out in the wilderness as my only focal point, and as the day unfolded the road was soon encompassed by mountains of indigenous forestation. There were mile after mile of gorges broken by running streams, and as the heat kicked in I stopped at a view point to photograph a prominent waterfall.
Sublimed by this eco-wonderland I resumed under the strain of the heat – hill after hill in draining sub-tropical temperatures, and at the next bridge a running waterfall intised me to a little backwater where I stopped to bathe and cool down my feet for a while. Refreshed and invigorated I pressed on at good pace stopping to take snaps of the colourful vista which flanked the road almost to the next settlement.
At 1.30pm I stopped at the Tarawera Tavern and ordered a full meal – I was starving at this point and it was so hot that I planned to stop for a while. The lady called Ngaire was very kind and said I could camp at her site where there were excellent facilities at my disposal. Whilst enjoying a chat to some tourists who were heading back to Coromandel I decided this would be an excellent place to stop and as the next settlement was 40km away I should take time out to relax and enjoy the experience of travel in an unspoilt region. It was a lovely place with hot springs, a great camp site and friendly people.
Before setting off to their destination the couple gave me some fruit for the next day’s walk and whilst relaxing in the shade I was treated to a sermon from the local Jehovas Witness group. The two sisters were pleasant company and we enjoyed a good chat for an hour as we discussed the alements of modern society and the good things that make us feel grateful for life.
Later, having completed my washing and set up camp for the day, Ngaire opened the bar for me and the local ‘wasp terminator’, Bonny. He was a great character – had travelled far and wide, settling in Australia for a while, but proud of his homeland where he owns a small holding here beside the Tarawera Tavern.
We had a lovely time and later were joined by Ngaire’s friends who told of great indigenous mountain trails leading to hot springs and settlements that formed part of an old route to Napier. A few more tourists stop by and a trucker decided to stay the night on the campsite. We sat together and enjoyed a lovely home-cooked meal and later he was able to display some musical talent playing his guitar late into the night. By the time I hit the sack I was tired yet content that I had stayed at a wonderful little settlement which was the highlight of the journey so far. It was difficult to grasp the content of this amazing journey which I felt had given me more than what I’d experienced in the larger built-up areas.
I slept well on this – knowing that there was still more to look forward to in the next two days.
Day 3 Tarawera to Te Pohue – 32km
I was awoken by the sound of Ngaire’s pig who was probably dreaming about pork sausages or at best a trip to the market! After packing for the day I shared my breakfast with the pig (an apple) and departed into the cool, still air. Ascending another great mountain in winding formation was an enduring task rewarded by awe-inspiring scenery. The terrain was so steep that trucks now crawled along at snails pace unable to impose their authority on the road. Glad at least about this, I leaned into the hills and made steady progress stopping for a tea at a cafe where I dried off my cancer research shirt which I’d hoped to preserve for the test match. I stopped once more at a picnic spot and enjoyed an orange given to me the previous day. Later clouds emerged bringing cool air to the road as I finished the day around 3pm at the Te Pohue Hotel.
The landlady called Yvonne, sat outside with her friends who lived on the outskirts of the settlement. She knew who I was because Ngaire had phoned her to ask if it would be alright for me to camp in her paddock tonight. All was well and her friend who also supports England in the cricket, brought a copy of my New Zealand walk which meant I could at least afford a meal and a jug of beer!
After camping and a wash, I was able to enjoy my meal with a drink whilst chatted with a local couple – the lady worked at leisure facility which I had passed earlier. By nightfall the traffic had subsided with the prospect of a Good Friday rest, and so I retired to a deep slumber in the sancuary of the pub paddock.
Day 4 Te Pohue to Napier – 41km
Rising before dawn I set off intent on making a good start so as to reach Napier in time for the Barmy Army cricket game scheduled this afternoon near Nelson Park. Scaling the remaining hill took a fair chunk out the day and apparantly on descent The Barmy Army passed me in the coach though I was totally oblivious to this. Katie had seen me and texted me to confirm the arrangement over accommodation. I had wrapped my phone up in my tent prior to departure from the paddock, and so on locating a cafe I unfolded the tent in the grounds of its nearby orchard.
Whilst enjoying a beverage I spoke to a couple returning from Napier who also bought a copy of my book. The lady was an ex-pat and both were interested in my travels. We must have talked for an hour and the guy gave warning of a full crowd at the test match this weekend. He also spoke of the importance of England fielding first on a wicket that usually contained a few surprises early on in the piece, but would otherwise flatten out later and provide a good surface to bat on.
Before leaving I spoke to another cricker fan who was heading into Napier to join the tour. He was surprised I was walking there and praised my commitment. On departing I walked beyond Esdale where Vineyards heralded my arrival at Hawkes Bay, and as the ground flattened out the sea began to shimmer on the horizon. Throughout the day traffic loomed past towing yachts and caravans making the road a hazardous environment and turning right into Bay View was no exception as I struggled to cross the road.
Collecting groceries at a nearby shop I then crossed the Railway line and walked the cycle route into Napier, stopping to baptise my completed journey with a dip in the sea. The celebration was short-lived as the power of the rolling Pacific was something to behold sucking sand from beneath my feet, leaving only pebbles to balance on. Retreating to solid ground I continued my journey around the harbour and into town where I located the cricket ground. On reaching this point a lady kindly offered to help me find my hotel and later dropped me back to the cricket ground where I finished the day with a beer and a song with the Barmy Army.
So ends a great tour – at the town of Napier where I started this wonderful journey. I had passed through so many regions, rich in diversity and each with their on indelible stamp. It is an experience I won’t forget in a hurry, culminating in a seasaw cricket series which ended in England’s favour beating the homeside 2-1.
So its onward now to Portugal and Spain and hopefully more days with the Barmy Army too!
Look out for the Spring Newsletter in May, more titles on EBOOKS, a summary of events and forth-coming activities.
At this stage I would like to say a massive thank you to New Zealand for being a wonderful host during the cricket series and for all the support you have given me throughout my travels.
The Barmy Army have been magnificent on this tour and I can say from personal experience that every one warmed to their presence, making it a tour to remember!
THANK YOU ALL AND GOD BLESS.
COMMONWEALTH WALKS TO DATE
THE BRITISH ISLES – 20,000 km
John O’Groats to Land’s End
Round England Walk
Round Great Britain Walk
4 Coast-to-Coast Walks of Ireland/UK
SOUTH AFRICA – 1000 km
Coast-to-Coast – Cape Town to Port Elizabeth
AUSTRALASIA – 3000km
The Cape to the Bluff – New Zealand
Round North Island Walk – New Zealand
WALKS IN SOUTHERN EUROPE
Around France, Spain and Portugal – 3000km
Newsletters regarding walks, publications and fundraising are published here every season. Updates/walking diaries will be posted when appropriate and possible to do so.
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