ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
[personal profile] ladyofastolat
So, I did it. 71 miles in two days, with surprisingly little rain.

This is very long, and has no photos, since it's a bit awkward uncomfortable to carry my camera along with my rucksack, and it looked like being gloomy weather, and I'd photographed the coastal path many times before. So it's long, picture-free and dull. I just want a record for my own reference in the future.

The Bank Holiday bus timetable always poses a real problem with my coastal path walks. Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor all have a reasonable bus service and are all clustered within a 6 mile stretch, so finishing in this vicinity seemed like the best idea. The best starting point for this seemed to be Shalfleet. The trouble with this was that the first bus didn't get there until 9, which felt a bit late for a day with over 30 miles of walking, but it would have to do.

Then, just before I settled down to sleep on Saturday night, I remembered how I'd solved it last time. Instead of leaving the car next to the bus station in Newport, I'd driven to Shalfleet early in the morning, and then got 2 different buses back there in the afternoon. Since I had 3 possible finishing locations and unknown timing, much study of the bus timetable ensued. In the end I concluded that starting early was a Good Thing - especially given the fact that rain was forecast to arrive at around 1 - but, then again, there was the risk of having an hour's wait at the bus station on the way home. I decided to let fate decide. If I happened to wake up before my alarm went, I'd do it. If not, then not.

What a stupid thing to think just before bed! Naturally, this meant that I slept barely at all, waking up every hour or so - and then lying awake worrying about the fact that I was getting so little sleep, and had a REALLY early start awaiting me on Monday.

Anyway... I got up early, wasted rather more time than I should have done in drinking tea and making lunch, and drove to Shalfleet, getting there at about 7.25. And then away, walking anti-clockwise around the island, since that got all the boring bits out of the way on the first day.

I happily filked in my head all the way to Cowes (9 miles), but had no pen or paper, so had to stop, since I didn't think I could carry too many verses in my head and didn't want to forget what I had.

The recently-fallen bit of coastal path between Cowes and Thorness Bay had been re-opened. Yay! The inland diversion adds almost a mile.

VERY low tide at Thorness Bay.

The floating bridge has been out of service for MONTHS, while they replace it with a new one (name to be decided by public vote, with - predictably - Floaty McFloatface a leading contender) so I had to get the replacement passenger launch. The chap on duty called me "flower" and called the man behind me "bud." This amused me. :-D

Lots of road walking today. There was a round-the-island cycle ride happening, with thousands taking part. My route and timing didn't coincide much with theirs, but I kept seeing evidence of their passing: mislaid power bars lying all forlorn in the middle of the road, dropped gloves, lost full water bottles etc.

Lunch at Seaview (20 miles.) Last time I walked the coastal path, I got blisters on the balls of my feet, and I could feel my right foot getting a bit sensitive, so I put a second layer of thick walking socks on. I'm not sure how wise this was, in retrospect. Although I didn't get any blisters on the soles of my feet, I DID have a blister on my left heel by the end of day one, and blisters on the tops of my toes by the end of day 2. I've never had blisters from this boots before, so perhaps they came because the extra layer of socks made me effectively Too Small. But, then, I've never walked 75 miles in 2 days before...

The rain came, exactly as forecast, at 1, when I was at the 21 mile mark. I pulled out my waterproof jacket, grudgingly put on my voluminous waterproof trousers, and trudged around Bembridge Harbour, but the heavy rain - and it was never torrential - eased off after about half an hour. Half an hour later, it was really little more than mist in the wind. So that was nice.

As well as the randonee, was also an installment of a series of extreme endurance challenges, which challenged people to run (or walk) the entire perimeter of the island in 24 hours. The main day for this was Saturday, but there was a two-day option for those who couldn't manage it in one. (I might have signed up for this, were it not for a, working on Saturday, and b, the fact that a condition of entry was raising several hundreds of pounds in sponsorship.) Just past Bembridge Point - and, oh, how I love that moment when you FINALLY round the eastern tip of the island and see south coast ahead - I overtook two people in bright jackets labelled "route support," who were, I think tidying up all the route markers along the way. They tried to recruit me to join a long-distance walking group.

From then on, there were loads of luminous route markers along the route, and no possible chance to get lost. And then, in Bonchurch Landslip - about 33 miles in - I passed the definite challenge participant, walking slowly and painfully, with a number on their back. In the next two miles, I must have passed well over 50 of them. Given that they were two days and well over 60 miles into the challenge, doing the same route as me, I find it strange that they were so clumped together. I presume these were the extreme tail-enders - but a surprisingly large number of them, and surprisingly close to each other.

VERY hide tide by now, with very big waves crashing into the revetement between Sandown and Shanklin. Lots of sad-looking, empty tourist attractions and outdoor cafes along the grey, wave-lashed beach.

I finished in Ventnor (35 and a half miles) and got the bus at 5.22 p.m. Studying the bus timetable as I travelled, I realised that despite my perusing of the timetable the night before, I had messed up. My bus was due in to Newport at 6 p.m., but the bus to Shalfleet left at 5.55, and the next one was over 2 hours later. (Only half the number 7 buses listed in the timetable go via Shalfleet.) "Oh well," I thought. "There's a taxi rank nearby." I very seldom take a taxi, and I don't think I've EVER used one when by myself, or got into one that hasn't been pre-booked. "But millions of grown-ups get taxis every day," I said. "I can do this thing."

But there was little traffic on the roads, and very few people at bus stops, so my bus got in 6 minutes early, so I could catch the bus to Shalfleet, after all. Yay!

Yesterday I had to get up at 3.30 for May Morning. As is usual, the knowledge of such an early start meant that I barely slept at all. *sigh* I was awake before my alarm went.

The arrangement was that I would drive to the house of a couple of fellow dancers, who live near the edge of Cowes, and they would give me a lift out to the dancing, then drop me at Shalfleet on the way home. This duly happened. Rain was forecast at dawn, but the clouds cleared and when dawn came, the sky above was a perfect cloudless blue. At least, the sky above was. Low clouds lined the entire perimeter of horizon, which made for some dramatic upward-pointing rays as the sun rose. A small chink in the clouds allowed us a glimpse of the rising sun, but then it was hidden again.

A VAST cooked breakfast at 6.30 a.m. in a pub in Yarmouth. Yay!

I started walking from Shalfleet once again, this time heading in the opposite direction. It's more satisfying to walk the entire path in the same direction, but the buses - plus the fact that I was dependent on a lift from people who would be driving through Shalfleet on the way home - meant that I needed to do it this way round.

Walking to Yarmouth, I worked on my filk, this time writing verses down as I finished them. The rain overnight made all the boardwalks around the Newtown Estuary VERY slippery and slowed me down quite a bit. I felt completely fresh and unstiff at the start of the day, but definitely wearied quicker than the day before. I was beginning to feel quite footsore just 8 miles in.

Through Yarmouth, and then around the northern coast of the pointy west tip of the island. It started to rain when I was on Headon Warren. I resisted putting on the waterproof trousers for as long as I could, finally putting them on near Alum Bay...

Five minutes later, it stopped raining. I peeled off the waterproofs again and headed up onto West High Down. Some half-hearted rain came and went for the next hour or so, but not enough to worry about.

Getting quite weary now, and afraid that if I stopped and sat down, I'd stiffen up and REALLY not want to start again. So I had lunch (near Brook - 20 miles) while walking. At Grange Chine, the steep steps down caused sudden stabs of sharp pain in my left shin. I looked at the map on my phone and realised with dismay that I had at least 3 hours still to go. I really didn't want to give up, but I also didn't want to cause myself an actual injury. Last time I ploughed on despite shin pain, I had problems for weeks. But there were no good bus options before Ventnor (only Chale, but that would involve a wait of nearly 2 hours) so I had no choice, really. My shins continued to hurt on down hills for the next few miles... but then stopped hurting completely.

The sun was out by then, and it had turned into really rather a nice day.

Chale took an eternity to arrive, but Niton came pleasingly quickly after that. A sign told me that Ventnor was in 3 and a half miles. Since it was then 4 p.m. and I was averaging around 17 minutes per mile (a couple of minutes slower than my usual speed) I reckoned that I'd have no problems getting the 5.22 bus again.

Turns out that they lied. Miles passed, too, but time passed faster. I knew that the buses were at 22 and 52 past each hour, so there was PROBABLY a 5.52, but what if there wasn't? What if this was the time when they switched to their evening service? I had a bus timetable in my rucksack, but what if the very act of stopping to check the timetable was what meant that I missed the Last Bus? Still about 2 miles out from Ventnor, I started very gently jogging short stretches every now and then - NOT really a clever thing to do while wearing hiking boots. I reached Ventnor seafront... but the bus stop was up in town, "up," being the operative word.

I made the bus with about 30 seconds to spare, VERY red in the face.

A little over 35 miles today, making almost 71 in total. Opinions vary wildly on the length of the coastal path - published sources vary from 65 to 72 - so it was pretty much chance that I managed to settle on a route that gave me two walks of almost exactly the same length. I'm glad I didn't opt to stop at Shanklin instead of Ventnor on Day 1 - something I briefly considered.

When I reached Newport, half an hour after having enough energy left in me to run for the bus, I found that I could barely even hobble. I hobbled over to the bus to Cowes, and since once again the bus from Ventnor was early, arrived in time to get the bus that stopped near our fellow dancers' house, not the one that took a different route through Cowes and would require me to walk a massive TWO HUNDRED YARDS further. Even so, the short walk from the bus stop to their house seemed to take an eternity.

I reached my car at the same time as Pellinor reached Cowes, having been off LARPing all weekend, so I was able to pick him up from the ferry, then get in, collapse, and order him to wait on me hand and foot for the rest of the evening.

I've got today off work, since I worked Saturday. I'm pretty stiff, although less than I feared. I'm glad that I did it... but not sure I'll do it again. Maybe back to 3 days next time. Or maybe I just need to do in on a weekend that doesn't involve getting up at 3.30 a.m., climbing a Down before dawn (because, oh yes, I had an extra mile or so there) and standing around for over an hour watching dancing.
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September 2017

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