Friday 22nd July 2011
Ewan was having a break from walking today as his ankle wasn’t up to the task. Don’t waste any pity on him though, as thanks to his new position with the Dogs Against Drugs Charity, he got the chance to attend a champagne and canapés party on a Tall Ship and spent the day in the lap of luxury. It was my wedding anniversary today, so it really should have been the other way around but like the little trooper I am, I trudged on! Another hearty Yell breakfast was had and I got the ferry out and met my sister Claire at South Nesting, where I left the car and she drove me back to the Ayre of Atler where we had reached on the Lunnasting leg.
The amount of miles covered and the niggling injuries on the ankles and knees were really starting to take their toll now, which meant walking was rather unpleasant. The weather was also pretty rotten so the enthusiasm levels weren’t what you would call sky high. Getting my boots completely soaked while trying to cross the head of the Dury Voe begun a sequence of events that lead to me feeling quite sorry for myself. At one stage over the next 14 miles I was able to stop, laugh off my pitiful mood and get going again, but to be honest, I spent the majority of this walk feeling more negative and de-motivated than I had at any other stage on the whole walk.
The first of my series of mini ‘disasters’, as they felt like at the time, was when I was afflicted with an upset stomach. This was something that had been planned for and there was a supply tablets stored away in the little first aid kit to deal with such events. Unfortunately I had forgotten to pack this and it was still in the my car, which was about 10 miles away. I did however have a lot of packets of balsam hankies and a good sized packet of moist toilettes so all was not lost. A few more minor feeling sorry for myself moments occurred before I stumbled upon a sheep that fallen on its back into a bit o a hole and whilst lifting it out it managed give me a good kick to the shin. Now, I now what some of you reading this will think….the old ’a man from Yell happens to stumble upon a helpless ewe and gets a bruise on his shin from trying to help her to her feet’ routine but I promise you my intentions were nothing but pure.
About 7 miles in I managed to go over the top of my ankle quite badly. I hoped it was something that could be walked off and I tried for the next 7 miles but was not in luck. I was still 4 miles from the car when I came to Kirkabister but was limping quite badly so I moved up to the road. The road is pretty close to the sea so I didn’t feel to bad about it. I made the decision that I would not flag any passing cars down but if someone stopped I would take a lift back to my car. I thought there wouldn’t be too many cars in rural Shetland that would pass a poor, hobbling soul in his charity walking t-shirt without stopping to ask if he was okay (I was obviously still feeling very sorry for myself)! It took about 15 cars & vans on this stretch of single track road before somebody did. In fact one uncharitable lady went past me 3 times! There were a few unpleasant phrases that were uttered on the 2nd and (especially) 3rd time she drove past. My faith in humanity was restored when a fantastic family stopped and gave me a life back to the car. Not only did they give me a lift but they also sponsored us as well. This along with the scoot stop tablets from the first aid pack that I had left in the boot of the car, made life seem much better!
It was difficult to judge the scenery and walking here in relation to other places. The grey, wet and windy conditions often mask our coastlines beauty and how you feel whilst walking can have an effect on your perception of the terrain. In fairness the North Nesting area, while I had decided at one of my more pitiful moments to call this blog ‘North Nesting can officially **** off!’, that was much more to do with my temporary Victor Meldrew moment than North Nesting. On a nicer day, with a bit of a spring in your step, I’m sure this would have been a great walk.
That was the end of the walking for the day. I had done less miles than hoped and my ankles and knees were in tatters but I was going out a night with my lovely wife to celebrate our anniversary at The Levellers concert at the Tall Ships event and hopefully Ewan would be fit to join me tomorrow. I met up with Ewan at the concert and I was limping more than him, which was good, as he felt guilty enough to buy me a Venison Burger and a Steak Burger from the over priced food stalls.
I am writing this blog quite a piece later and can now look back and see how much psychology was involved in this challenge. At the time I found it hard to understand why I was letting little setbacks or thoughts get the better of me but looking back it was a culmination of several factors. There was an element of disappointment that we had been held up and weren’t going to be able to get the whole Big Trek finished by the date we’d planned but it wasn’t helped by the fact that this was the first days walking alone since near the very start. This day made me appreciate just how much we had managed to push each other on, we’d both had low moments when it felt like we would never get the challenge finished but you kept each other going. When I was by myself, tired, sore, ill, a month in to the challenge and feeling out of inspiration, it was much harder than I’d ever imagined it would be to, as a good friend of ours says “Have a word with yourself“ and get on with it!