The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 6 June 2008

Day 53 - Bellingham to Byrness

6 June
Distance: 14 miles

Not too long after setting out this morning, having cleared Bellingham and being once again amongst greenness, we came upon an unexpected sign.

Right, it told us was the Pennine Way, straight on was an alternative route of the Pennine Way. Decisions, decisions.

The translation of the sign was, of course: right for an obvious path with waymarks; straight on for no discernable path, but many bogs and heather fields to negotiate.

Quite predictably we didn't make our lives easy and went down the bogs-heather-no-discernable-path route. Well, it does make the days more interesting...

Everything had been very quiet indeed all morning, with no signs of other people, when around noon towards us came a chap with the most enormous rucksack.

I've been stunned at the size of backpacks that we've been seeing. Mainly people B&Bing with a pack bigger than mine (whatever are they carrying?). Yesterday we met a chap who had quite a big pack, which he reckoned weighed in at about 50lbs, but compared to this chap today it may have been a daysack.

Massive pack or not, the chap seemed happy enough apart from his sunburn (I obliged with some suncream for him) and we had a bit of a chat before we moved on and into the forest.

Looking at the map I'd thought that the last five miles of the day was going to be another of those 'just put one foot in front of t'other' trudges, as the map showed that we were walking through forestry.

In reality great swathes of the forest have been harvested so there was only about a mile and a half that we were in amongst the trees. For the rest of the time we had views, and fine ones they were too.

Alas, not all was rosy: the forest track was not nice. It was one of those stone tracks that alternates between slipping under your feet and trying to twist your ankle away from you. Mick found it as tedious as I found the disused rly line a few days ago.

Nevertherless, we made it to our destination without trouble (having nearly met three other people walking the PW, but we all came upon each other at the same time and it turned out that the other three knew each other; we didn't like to butt in) and I had parcels to look forward to.

Today is the day when the Icebreaker t-shirt that has been chasing me around the country was due to make its third attempt at reaching me. We checked in at reception and I asked if two parcels had been received.

The owner looked at me so completely blankly that my heart sank. I was sure that I was not destined to get my new top, and secondary to that we would have no food for the next few days.

Then something must have dawned and she said 'the dehydrated food?' and bustled off.

So I'm sitting here typing this, holed up inside of the tent by way of midge avoidance, wearing a non-smelly t-shirt. It's a nice change - even if Mick & I are now somewhat matchety!

We also have something to look forward to today. Mike (the chap who undertook his first backpacking trip in 30 years with us in terrible weather last December) is on his way up to Cottonshopeburnfoot (which is where we actually are) and will be walking with us for the next two days.

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