The first warm-up trek for our 350 mile trek has been completed. We covered almost 50 miles in 2 days. It rained.
We set off during the worst of the rain, but moving along at a good pace, we felt we were getting there quickly. About 10 miles in, I began to suffer. My feet were wet. I knew I’d be getting blisters on this journey, but had no way of preventing them whilst pools of water formed inside my “waterproof” boots.
We could see Ely Cathedral in the distance, my mood lifted, and onwards we continued. We sort of knew the route; it was just a case of following the river. We were content, making good time and everything was flowing nicely. We chatted, we walked and we rested when we needed to. We did not look at the map properly. We couldn’t pinpoint where we were on the map exactly, but we were following the river, so we must be right. I’m glad we learnt this particular lesson during our warm-up trek. Here’s a picture, can you guess what we did wrong?
Yes, we quite happily followed the river round a bend and started walking in the opposite direction. We ended up walking up the A10 to get back on track, adding hours to our journey, and leading to a long hard trek past our campsite into Ely. Also, I accidently left my phone’s GPS switched on, so the battery was dead by the time we arrived in Ely.
Fizzy drinks, sandwiches and ice-cream saw us watch the sun set before another 3 mile hike through to our campsite. We phoned the campsite to say we running late. The owner said not to worry and to just knock on the first caravan on the right.
Happily arriving at our destination, the first caravan looked deserted, we phoned up again and were told to knock on the door and to ask for Michael. We did so and out came a rather unhappy Michael. He wandered back into his caravan. Then he wandered back out and apologised, noting that he wasn’t going to lie to us, he had had a few. Travelling towards his office, he realised that keyless he’d not have much luck with the door, and so returned to the caravan to get his keys. Twenty minutes later and we were finally ready to pitch the tent.
Once we got sorted and settled down it was 11pm, so straight to bed. I slept quite happily most of the night, but was perhaps a little on the warm side. In the morning we had a nice cup of tea and got ready to set off.
It was then we were greeted by Michael, who asked if we stayed there last night, whether he had met us, and whether we had paid. He then quite happily wandered back off, and we set off on our journey. The next two hours were pleasantly uneventful.
Just after 11am we were wet, hungry and demoralised. We also had the misfortune to stray slightly off the path, walking along a track, which bent around right back to the footpath. I say misfortune, we were walking past caravans through a Marina and although we were hungry, we weren’t doing too badly. As I said, it led straight back to the footpath so we were fine. Had we known we didn’t have to walk around the outside of the marina, we would have saved ourselves a couple of hundred metres, so there was a little wasted effort on our part.
However, like a Brothers Grimm fairy-tale, we had our first Hansel and Gretel experience. We encountered a particularly vile woman, who was extremely concerned that we were quietly walking through private property within metres of a public footpath. Could we not read a map? Sarcasm and bitterness obviously ran through her veins. We felt suitably accosted and apologetically scuttled off as quickly as possible, before she could potentially eat us. So there we have it, perhaps not a cannibalistic witch, but certainly a troll under the bridge.
From there we stopped for lunch during a break in the weather, perhaps earlier than we should have, but certainly in need of nourishment. We definitely need more food that we can snack on whilst walking.
Tuna and rice, along with a good cup of tea, helped ease the pain of the journey, and we set off just as the weather decided to rain again. I left my warm jacket on and promptly had to take it back off a couple of hundred metres later when I realised I was now too warm.
To make up 20 miles for the day we walked a little towards Cambridge, then away a little, then towards again. This, along with the stop-start rain, made for a very up-down journey. The sun is shining, we’re heading towards Cambridge, all is good. Oh dear, we’re walking slightly away from Cambridge, it’s raining on us again, and Heley has just navigated us round a neat little circle, not so happy now. Up, down, up, but we continued through it, and at least everywhere else we visit is not going to be a twenty minute car journey from home.
Getting back to Cambridge was good. We were greeted with glasses of coke and waddled off to kickboxing. I say waddled, Heley walked, she was more or less blisterless. With my heavy old waterproof boots I managed to achieve 17 blisters; I waddled.
I learnt a lot this weekend. I’m glad I’m getting new boots, I’m glad I’m not walking alone, and I now realise that somewhere between 350 and 380 miles is a bloody long way to walk. I’m quite looking forward to it.