Down the other side of the ridge, the shapes of further hills ahead rose up out of the plains. I passed a village called Beer. You’ve got to love the way the English name villages. The sun was beaming hot and I ran out of water again, foolishly having only a half litre bottle to carry it in. The day was filled with long straight flat roads. I realised that I had passed a house a couple of miles back and forgotten to stop to ask for water. Dehydration began to feel uncomfortable and added to the aching pain in my hips. I sat down painfully to consider my options. A long stretch of several kilometers was ahead of me with no more houses, but I couldn’t face retracing my steps.
At the end of the imaginarily ‘endless’ road I reached a farm, but the gate had angry warning signs and barbed wire all over it. It was locked and I couldn’t climb it. I was informed that I was on CCTV and that they did not accept visitors. I’d started walking eleven hours earlier and by this point I was exhausted. My hips, shoulders and knees were very painful and I was desparate for some water.
I was aiming for a campsite, up on a hill and there was a footpath to cut up to it. But when I got there the footpath didn’t seem to exist, just a deep ditch, too wide to jump. Having walked all the way across the field I had to walk all the way back. I couldn’t see how I could make it the last bit up the hill. But I did, very slowly over the next three quarters of an hour. I shuffled painfully into the campsite, only to discover I didn’t have enough money.
“Where’s the nearest cash point?” I asked, after explaining my problem.
“Not far, about a mile down the road at Sainsbury’s.” came the answer.
I was shown my allotted spot and I slid my pack off my shoulder with a contorted grimace to set up my tent. Every move was achingly painful on my hips and my shoulder hurt sharply. The thing is, each time I thought I couldn’t go on any further that day, of course I could, just slower and slower. My concept of what hardship actually means is lacking to say the least.
It turned out to be two and a half miles to the village of Street. With pain and fatigue my walking speed had now slowed so much that it took me over an hour to get there, even without my pack. My hips were too painful to take more than short steps. Be very wary of ‘a mile’. It is a generic term used by lots of people which can mean anything from less than a kilometer, to more than four miles. By the time I got there I was moving like an old woman, bent and shuffling.
Every step around the shop was a haze of pain that I was too tired to know what to do with. I gathered up the food I would need for the next couple of days, and cash, but as I left the shop I knew I couldn’t face walking back along the verge of the main road. The sun had gone and the sky was nearly fully dark.
When I reached the main road I forlornly stopped and stuck out my thumb. Then I shuffled on a bit more with my thumb out, before coming to a wretched stop.
“Hey, would you like a lift?” The driver was a bearded rocker in his twenties in a black t-shirt. He looked like my saviour.
“Yes. Yes please.” I lowered myself into the seat, while my joints shouted at me for my disrespect.
“I saw you in Sainsbury’s, looked like you were really struggling.”
“Yeah, I overdid it today. Long walk. Thank you so, so much. It is so kind of you.” I breathed.
Walking to the sink to brush my teeth at the campsite was a no-go. Unless I was imminently going to pee myself, I wasn’t moving from my tent. I leaned out of the tent to spit and lay down as my hips reiterated just how displeased they were with my careless attitude towards them.