Day 8 – FINISHED!

Day 8 dawned slightly cloudy and started with me dithering over whether I should wear my boots or my tennis shoes. Part of the trail that day would be pavement and part trail. I was torn, but as it wasn’t forecast to be rainy, I went for the tennis shoes (oh the desperately interesting dilemmas of my life!)

The day progressed immediately to me insisting that we should go one way, when in fact, and as Sevy pointed out, we needed to go the other direction entirely.  This, along with my still sore feet and the blisters that wouldn’t go away and the knowledge of having to walk 15 miles that day, oh! and my continuing sinus infection, put me in a slightly sour mood. Very mature of me wasn’t it.

Thankfully going the right direction and only retracing our steps for a bit, we were headed for the coast. As we walked through the hills and fields, we came across an old man who was being viciously barked at by a dog off the lead, with the dog’s owner ineffectively reprimanding the dog from about 100 yards away, but not in any real hurry to stop the old man’s suffering.  Finally the dog was under control and the man went on his way. We came up to him just as there was a set of wooden stairs down to a bridge.  It took him about 20 minutes to get down, and they were such narrow steps and surrounded by trees, that we couldn’t get by him. It was awkward and sad. I don’t think I want to be out walking alone when I’m in my 80’s to be barked at by dogs and have to catch my breath at each step. A humbling moment.

This was also around the time that Sevy decided to pop in her headphones and listen to her ipod since we were past the really stunning scenery.  And while yes, I did generally walk about 20 yards ahead of her, my slightly sour mood stayed that way since I didn’t have my ipod with me and now, if I had wanted to, didn’t have anyone to talk to.

But it was tricky to stay sour for long with the still lovely views for much of the day. My tennis shoes were much lighter, and though I had to duct tape my sock to my ankle to keep it from continually slipping down, they were very comfortable. And before I got too sore, I was able to appreciate the countryside, taking one of my occasional pictures. (I wish now that I’d taken more shots of the landscape, but it was hard to get the energy to take a photo when it was raining and/or I was tired!)

We made our way through more and more fields, seeing more and more sheep.  And while my tennis shoes were indeed comfortable, my ankles were used to having some support so I rolled my ankles several times, once into a fresh pile of poo.  Lovely.

As we got closer to the coast, we could see Scotland (apparently, there was no way to know what country you were looking at really. No giant sign with men in kilts and playing bagpipes, etc., but we had faith in what the guidebook said.)  Also in the guidebook were dire warnings to beware of the long stretch of dike along the marsh. It was possible to get caught in the tide and swept away. Or at least this is what it was made to sound like.  As we ate our lunch at the benches in front of the dike and tried to sort out what the tide table meant, a ranger came by. We asked if it was dangerous to walk out on the dike.  Oh, not at all, he said. Reassuring!  It was quite windy and a long stretch of flat and boring road.

But it was that much closer to our destination.  Nearing the end, we wandered through a fairly lovely wooded area next to the water.  While lovely, it seemed unending.  We stopped to rest and watched the tide come in. Then back on our feet for the last stretch.  I called my brother on the way in (Sevy may have been a bit perturbed about that it seemed, and in retrospect I guess it was a bit rude) and was on the phone as I crossed the “finish line”.

There were two older American women who finished near the same time we did.  It was a kind of anti-climactic moment; I couldn’t quite process that we’d finished, considering I felt sore and was tired! We headed down to the water in Bowness-on-Solway, technically not the Irish Sea, but on the west coast, so in effect, we had walked from coast to coast. (Never mind the short metro ride in Newcastle that started our trip.)

Once I took a picture of Sevy at the water’s edge (not sure why I didn’t get a photo of me…oh well…) and we took our pictures at the small pavilion that is the start/end of the walk on the west coast, we headed to the pub. That’s where we got our final stamp in our passports and sat down for a well-deserved rest!

This was also the day that someone in Cumbria, the county we were in, was going on a shooting rampage. It happened about 50 or 60 miles south west of where we were. A bit scary as there would have been no way for us to know about what was happening and on the news, it said that it was some walkers (not on Hadrian’s Wall) that approached him at one point, only to have him say something to the effect of, “Go away and you won’t get hurt” while clutching a shotgun.  So what was a very big day for Sevy and I was a very big day for the entire county and country for vastly differing reasons.

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