Thursday, July 26, 2007

Logbook: Hadrian's Wall IV


Sunday 22nd - Walton to Carlisle

After “it started with a full English breakfast”, I don't really have a lot to say about our seventh day of walking. The fact that I only took ten pictures all day -- and almost all of them were of my Mom -- is significant of its lack of interest. Consisting of an almost mind numbing succession of walks across wet farmlands and through muddy barnyards -- with only the occasional brief transit of some tiny villages -- our trek had pretty much become a slog for distance. I won't say it was bad -- it was still a decent country walk -- but it was nothing compared to what we had just done in the previous week. Plus, as the miles added up, so did our accumulated exhaustion. Thankfully, by early afternoon we entered the city of Carlisle which, while not a big city by any means, struck us as huge, noisy and congested in comparison to where we had been. We were very happy to find our B&B and take a break. One bright spot for the day was that my Mom had been in contact with a guide from a recent walking trip she did in the south of England, and he and his wife joined us for dinner. We had a delightful time with them, and it helped to both clear the day from our minds and postpone our thinking about the final day of walking ahead of us.

Img_1710Monday 23rd - Carlisle to Bowness

Our eighth and final day of walking was a 14 mile endurance test for the mind as much as for the body. We left Carlisle on a five mile riverside path which had nothing much to recommend it and some rather annoying down-up staircases across tributaries to its discredit. After that, we had five miles along a combination of road walks and farm walks. Between the two of us we took only a dozen photos, and almost all of them are of one or the other of us pointing at a sign showing how many miles we had left to walk! As if that wasn't bad enough, the last four miles were along a flat, straight road across a tidal marsh. For almost two hours we could see where we were headed but it never seemed to get any closer. To ward off road-induced dementia I engaged my mom in a rambling discourse on nothing in particular which at least helped to pass the time. By late afternoon we reached our B&B -- still about a half mile from the end of the walk -- and decided to stop and take a break. After a dram, a shower and a quick nap, we headed out for the final half mile push into the town of Bowness that sits at the end of the Wall path. We got drenched by a downpour along the way, but that didn't dampen our spirits as we entered the little hut that marks the official end. We took a number of ceremonial photos, gave each other hearty congratulations then headed straight to the local pub for dinner. We had done it! We had walked the entire 84 mile length of Hadrian's Wall!

Img_1722_2Tuesday 24th - Bowness to Carlisle to Edinburgh

It's hard to describe the physical and emotional collapse one has after completing and endurance activity, but I'm sure many of you know what I mean. So, it was with very little energy or conversation that we got up, had our last full English breakfast, packed up and went to the bus stop to catch a ride back into Carlisle for our connecting train back to Edinburgh. Of course, the bus never showed up. We just sat quietly and looked at each other from time to time with that knowing looks that says, "It's always something, right?" After a while, the husband of our B&B hostess drove up and stopped, surprised that we were still at the bus stop -- he couldn't remember the bus ever failing to show up before -- and offered to give us a lift on his way into town on errands. But for him, we might still be there! Anyway, he dropped us off at the station and within minutes we were on a non-stop train to Edinburgh. Upon arrival, we walked the few blocks to our hotel and dumped our gear then got a bite to eat. In the afternoon we just hung out, even watched a movie on TV. I know this all sounds a bit morose, but it really wasn't. We were very mindful -- and extremely happy -- about our extraordinary and wonderful trip. We were just tired. We commented often on many of the great aspects of our accomplishment, and on how good it felt not to have to walk any more. It was a fabulous trip in every regard, some parts just a little more fabulous than others! But, all things considered, we had set our sights on a very difficult goal and triumphed in the end!

Img_1712Back in Edinburgh...

We spent most of yesterday in iLife, sorting and rating photos then exporting a simple slide show and burning it onto DVDs for my Mom to take back and show her friends. We also caught up on some email, and I spent some time backing up data files onto DVD for my Mom to take back to storage. To say the least, it was a welcome low energy day. This morning we took the shuttle bus to the airport and got my Mom sorted out for her flight. We had a few minutes left for a cup of coffee, sharing more fond recollections of our fabulous walk together, and talking about what we might do next and where. My Mom is welcome on The Voyage anytime! Finally, we said our good-byes and I watched her walk through security before heading outside to catch the shuttle back to the city. After more than two months of sharing The Voyage with friends and family, I am now solo-exploring again. While I have very much enjoyed all the company, it does feel good to be completely dynamic again. Speaking of dynamic, my "plans" for the upcoming Arctic cruise on my beloved Polar Star appear to be in some jeopardy. I'll fill you in on that -- and whatever I come up with going forward -- in the next Logbook entry from The Voyage of Macgellan!

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