Walking over 500 miles has taken it’s toll and the cumulative wear and tear on my legs is making itself felt. My knees in particular have taken a hammering on the seemingly endless steep descents. It’s not the descents themselves that are causing the problem so much as the steps that have been built into many of the hillsides to reduce erosion. I’m not sure who they were designed for, but the treads are much too deep for me to walk down (and sometimes even up) them comfortably. The resulting jarring is becoming steadily more painful, and making it harder and harder to get in and out of the little tent. I hope my knees will last out the trip or I’ll be reduced to park benches for the night – or B&B’s. On the up side, at least the swelling in my ankles and the pains in my big toes joints are reducing. It’s taken 450 miles but my feet seem finally to have got used to having the weight on them.
The risk of sunburn has also receded, partly from the significant amount of time that it’s raining, but also from the tan I have somehow managed to acquire in spite of the weather. The bikini tan of my long Asian trip last winter has now been almost entirely replaced by a more practical hiking tan. I am now marked with the imprint of my shorts and T-shirts and, most annoyingly, my hiking boots. When I take them off it’s strikingly noticeable that the tan stops three inches short of the end of my legs, leaving my ankles and feet as pasty white as ever. When I get home I’ll have to go about in cut-off trousers and bare feet until I’ve evened things up! But almost more comical are my hands, where the tips of my fingers have stayed significantly paler than the rest, presumably from my habit of holding my rucksack straps as I walk.
Rob is also suffering a little although, having walked about 30 miles so far, it’s more from the unaccustomed activity than excessive distance: and the shock of having a young rabbit run out from the tent vestibule when he unzipped the fly – less icky but more startling than the usual slugs! Leaving aside a near heart-attack during the rabbit incident, with just stiff legs, a few scrapes from slipping over in the mud and a small blister on each foot, Rob is making a pretty good showing compared to me when I started. By day three I’d skinned my heel and somehow got it infected so that it took 10 days before I could start walking again.
With all these aches and pains, when today dawned cool, wet and windy we decided to take the day off to rest our battered bodies. Despite our various infirmities, a slap-up lunch at a lovely gastro-pub in nearby Burton Bradstock followed by an afternoon nap restored us enough to take advantage of the on-site bowling alley at the holiday park where we’d set up camp.
But while my body withstood the rigours of the game, my psyche took a heavy blow. Rob, it turns out, is a bowling shark. He lured me into the alley with much talk of his lack of experience. Having allegedly played five pin bowling far more than ten pin, he exclaimed over the heaviness of the balls, and added credence to his story by sending his first two straight down the gutter and adopting an embarrassed expression. After seven frames I was in the lead and really thought I was in with a chance…until Rob bowled a strike in the next two frames to snatch a triumphant victory. With a better forecast ahead I’m planning an especially long walk for tomorrow to get my own back!