Back to work!
So it’s the Monday after the weekend before and I’m feeling so much better than I expected I would after walking the 70 plus kilometres from Orzola to the lighthouse at Playa Blanca. The blisters healing quickly and hardly a twinge from my legs and back.
As I’ve written before, the walk is something I’ve had in mind for some time. And I have to say, despite the blistered feet and inevitable aching legs I really, really enjoyed the experience. I wanted to take some time out, clear my head.
It was hard work to do – but incredibly rewarding. It’s given some perspective to life here, and highlighted to me some of the good (and bad) things. I’m not turning into a hippy or anything – so don’t worry I’ve not come out of it a changed man – it just adds some clarity.
Starting early and getting ready about 4am, I was carrying my stuff downstairs and nearly took a tumble missing a step on the corner where our staircase turns. I didn’t know if I should read it as a sign – was it a sign? Was it telling me I shouldn’t do this? Or was it that the very fact I had failed to tumble down the stairs a sign that I was meant to do it? Actually, as I’m not one for signs, I ignored it as such – the only thought that went through my head was “Sh*t, that was lucky, how would it look to everyone if I’d cried off with a twisted ankle or broken leg before I even start”! I’m not going to go into immense detail as Elle took over the blog yesterday and mapped out and diarised my progress as I did the walk. But instead I’ll put down the things that stick in my mind from the event. My mind, to be fair – once I was into a rhythm (the key to long distance walking) was fairly blank! The other important thing to keep going is to be able to switch off the almost inevitable pain of ‘foot friction’ which happens however good your boots or preparation.
To set the scene, my Dad had timed his holiday so he could act as ‘support vehicle’ and there were plans to meet me at specific points – which soon became flexible as the days passed… to top up water, provide food, encouragement and being my Dad, some welcome (or unwelcome) advice. This walk would be infinitely more difficult without his help… My Dad is fantastic, prepared to ‘muck in’ and more than happy to nap at the roadside to kill time between stops!
Day one didn’t start great when shortly after setting off on the hill out of Orzola, when I attracted the attention of two Alsatians (I love the breed and used to have one – but ill trained dogs can be unpredictable so I am very wary) at what is an aloe vera shop on the hill coming up from the village. They were clearly protective, and were not restrained (with apparently nobody there) and behind a wall that was not high enough to contain them. This resulted in me going off road, clambering over volcanic rock around a small hill they couldn’t see me behind, to get past. If anyone has tried clambering over such rocks you’ll know that this cost me time and put more pressure on my leg muscles than I would have liked, far earlier than necessary.
After getting to Haria and having a coffee with my Dad, I faced the part of the walk that I knew was going to be the most taxing, coming up the hill to the top of the Famara cliffs. I knew I’d be off road for quite some time and I wouldn’t meet up with my Dad until Teguise. It was the most physically demanding part of the route but by far the most enjoyable. The worn path had me wondering how often people might use the route if I fell (having seen some walkers take a look at it and turn around) – or how the hell would they get the helicopter in! Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating a little for effect, but compared to the road parts of the route it was pretty desolate. The views at the top made it all worthwhile…
Arriving at Teguise it was good to see my Dad again – and fantastic to have a cream cake and a coffee by way of a bit of a reward for several hours of pretty hard work as I tramped there alone from Haria.
I’d set myself the goal of Masdache for day one, I wanted to get at least half of the walk done day one. I got there. I had planned to sleep rough in a bus shelter (or anywhere else I could find), meanwhile Elle had negotiated me somewhere to stay as she didn’t like the though of me stopping out. She’s such a girl sometimes!
I had the offer of a bed, hot meal and hot bath via Elle from our friends Lynne and Steve – how could I refuse! And how glad am I that I didn’t refuse! Lynne picked me up from the El Grifo winery, and transported me to their home, where I arrived to a hot bath, some foot lotion (I wouldn’t normally do anything so girly, but at this point was happy to dispense with my macho tendencies for any sort of relief), a hot meal, and a very comfortable bed! By this time I was stiffening up. I must have looked like an 80 year old hobbling around the house and requesting an early night!
I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. I woke the next day feeling much better and a lot more mobile than I had expected! I was dropped off at the exact point I stopped the previous day and was back to it again! A couple of hours later my Dad appeared with a sandwich and a water refill and continued to park ahead of me all the way back in case I needed anything… Each time I stopped – for a cigarette and a drink of water – it was getting harder and harder to get going. After sitting down on a wall at the Stratus bodega to take a call from Elle, and finding it very hard to get my muscles working again – I decided not to sit any more…!
Finally I ended up sitting down for a coffee with my Dad at Femes looking down on Play Blanca. And hell did that hurt getting up there. I’m a pretty determined and (some say) competitive person (Elle would probably say verging on insanely so!). I’d never doubted my ability do this either physically or mentally – it was only more a nanosecond – but I do remember thinking to myself “I can see Playa Blanca now – would it be bad form to claim I’ve done it at this point”. I never would have done that – but I can’t deny the thought crossed my mind…
I’m so glad I didn’t succumb as the best was to come. The very best moment for me, and I have to admit to getting a bit emotional at this point was the long slope down from the base of the hill into Playa Blanca. I could see MY town, I could see MY house, and a few hundred metres down the road I could see the lighthouse. It had crossed my mind at times during the previous couple of days that people will expect me to write about this and I can’t think of much else to say apart from – “I walked a bit – I enjoyed it – and it hurt”.
It was on this bit that it all came to me – what I’d seen, what I’d learned, what I’d done – and just how proud of myself (hope that doesn’t sound arrogant) that I’d got off my arse, stopped saying I was far too busy, and had managed to make a small amount of money for a couple of well deserving and fantastic charities.
Things the walk taught me about the island…
The island is a truly beautiful and unique place! Not that I didn’t know this, but every now and then we need to take some time out of our lives and work to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds us.
The walking poles I’ve been laughing at for so long actually do help ease the load on walking over long distances. However, I have to say they do still look rather stupid – especially when carried by people wearing lederhosen or spandex using two of the things to assist them on a 500m trip down the high street to their favourite bar!
There’s far too much rubbish thrown from car windows – it really riled me to see it. Funny how when you have time to think whilst you’re walking along about how there are some superb vantage spots to pick off some of the scumbags who do this with a sniper’s rifle. Perhaps sometimes my methods may be a little extreme – so as a solution I’d be very happy to see the Guardia handing out big fines for littering.
That there are many, many good people on this island who care about others – I’ve had an incredible amount of support and the donations made via JustGiving.com to the charities I wanted to support have lived up to what I had hoped for.
Conversely there are a small number far too wrapped up in one centimo reductions in the price of pot noodles at certain shops or the well being of feral kittens to really give a damn about much that goes on around them! (As a side note – tourists and residents should stop encouraging the feral cats and instead support the likes of 9 Lives who are trying to minimize the problem by neutering and vaccinations).
People with dogs should have walls big enough to contain them. Also, it really infuriates me to see dogs chained, uncared for and with no water and no shade. I’d actually like to take some of these owners and chain them out to see how they like it!
The local farmers are incredibly friendly and almost all of them will say hello as you walk past…
Geckos can be scary creatures! Yes really! Walking along with a clear mind, nothing but the sound of the breeze a gecko taking a dive in to a (thrown away) coke tin can be louder than you think….
What I learned personally…
I’d had the most incredible support from Elle and my Dad!
I worked away for a couple of weeks last month, and I’d spent these last couple of days away from Elle. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. No, it doesn’t – I couldn’t love her any more than I do. Time and distance has nothing to do with it…
My Dad, not that I didn’t know this, is one of the most incredible people I know. This whole experience has meant a lot to me. And the best part of it is that I got to share it with him!
I have some incredible and supportive friends both on the island and throughout the world….
Moving average speed: 4.9km per hour
Time moving: 14 hours and 38 minutes
Time stopped: 4 hours and 32 minutes (drinking water and coffee, eating sandwiches, and smoking :))
Everyone who has supported me and made donations
Lynne and Steve (and the other kind residents around the island who also offered)
Lou and Joe at Balan Sports, who donated t-shirts emblazoned with the details
Jorge and the other guys at the Princess Yaiza gym in Playa Blanca who helped me get into shape
The charities for giving me the extra motivation for the walk…
All of our friends who turned up at the lighthouse to welcome me home (even Sam pulled himself away from Facebook!:))
..and of course Elle and my Dad!
As of the time of writing the donations to The Rose Road Appeal and Niños del Tercer Mundo stand at £749.50… If you still want to give to the two charities you can click on the banner below! (The page remains open until 2015!)