The idea behind ‘A Walk a Week’ is simple – in April/May 2011 Im going to be walking 300km through Thailand (www.deathrailwaywalk.com). So in the 16 weeks leading up to the expedition Ill be doing a walk a week as training. Not just physical, but also mental.
While I walked the 72km of the Norfolk Coast Path I thought about ENDURANCE. As humans, everyday, we have to endure something; a boring conversation we can’t escape, a hot stuffy tube ride squished up against a strangers armpit or a long and tedious staff meeting. But when we push ourselves out of our comfort zones (especially in the physical sense) the things we have to ‘endure’ can make life that little more challenging.
PAIN – I’d bought new hiking boots and this walk was the first use. So naturally in the first few hours Id developed blisters. I applied blister plasters Id brought for such occasions; but unfortunately I had more blisters than plasters. Let me tell you walking long distances with blisters is excruciatingly painful.
THE ELEMENTS – The weather throws all sorts of situations at you. I faced sleet, rain, mud, miles of pebbles – all which brought their own level of challenges.
COLD – It was below 0 every night and not much above during the day
MAKING MISTAKES – I went the wrong way twice. First I went down a road for 9km instead of the intended ‘sand dunes’ that had promised to be picturesque. Second, I got lost and ended up in a ‘common of circular walks’ which saw me walk around in circles for an hour and end up back at the entrance.
SOLITUDE – Being alone means you don’t have to ask permission to do things and you can eat whatever you want! BUT…it also means there is no one to talk to at night in the tent (hence going to sleep at 6pm each night), no one to tell you its going to be okay when your lost, hungry, crying, sore and feeling…lonely.
THE UNKNOWN – For this trip it was ‘where to pitch the tent’ each night. This proved difficult but I managed a
* golf course (shhh)
* campsites closed for the winter
I did have one ‘episode’: I was tired, lost, in pain and lonely. Quite frankly I was over it. I caved, and rang my fiancee. “If I cant do this, how can I do Thailand?!” I cried. “Everyone gets lost Rachel. Thats the whole reason your doing this trip – its training!” Tom reassured me.
After the phone call of tears and reassurance I felt surprisingly…on top of the world. I realised that as much as I hate the pain, the frustration, the loneliness and everything else Id had to endure…I actually live for these moments. Because when you come out the other end – your always a better person for it. You’ve learnt something, been stretched and grown as a person.
As I walked onto Cromer Pier, at the end of my walk, I was proud. Id made it. I knew that whatever challenge I gave myself…Id always acheive.
While waiting at the bus stop for the coach back to London I had a lovely encounter with a man in a red jacket.
Man “Hello there, that looks like a lot of stuff!”
Rachel “Yes, I just walked from Hunstanton”
Man “What today?! No you can’t have”
Rachel “No, it took me 4 days. Now Im waiting for my coach to London”
Man “London, is that where you live then?”
Man “Where abouts in London?”
Rachel “Elephant and Castle”
Man “Oh yes I know there. What are you eating?”
Rachel “Im treating myself!”
Man “Is that all from Morrisons?!!”
Man “Well have a nice journey then”
15 minutes later the man in the red jacket returned
Man “Hello again”
Rachel “Oh, hello!”
Man “The bus driver is just warming up your bus”
Rachel “Oh good!”
Man “So what do you do in London then?”
Rachel “I work for a kids charity”
Man “Oh nice. Well happy new year” …and he reached into his shopping bag and pulled out some chocolates and gave them to me!
Rachel “Oh wow. Thanks!”
Its the little acts of kindness like that from a stranger that give one hope and strength and it was a great end to this journey.