Hadrian's wall

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
Trip End Oct 25, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Did we conquer it?
For the most, I suppose, in jumps and spurts, bits and pieces. If you glue them all together I think we must have managed to cover most of it. In a - disorganised - fashion, but that was to be expected.
Funny thing is, we all thought at least one of the others would have studied the map, worked out where to start and finish, how to get back to, what? accommodation at the end of a strenuous day walking. Eating, shopping, things like that.
None of us had, we walked the wall clutching maps and shuttle time tables that no-one could make sense of, four headless chicks, wondering if there was any chance of a drink, a toilet, or a ride in the middle of no-where.

It was absolutely stunningly beautiful. Anyone contemplating Hadrian's Wall or the Coast to Coast, I'd say, go for it. Not just the scenery, the animals, birds, picturesque villages and hamlets, but the people, the locals, are a sweet blessing. Made me proud of my countrymen, such kindness and courteousness, so good to feel it is still there after all the reports of bad behaviour of some Brits abroad.

During my stay in France my sisters had got together to discuss the trip. We would stay in B&B's but not knowing how far we could walk each day there was no point booking in advance. As it might be busy, we would take camping equipment with us, just in case. No problem, I have, had, a station car, plenty of room for a tent in there.
Somewhere along the line, camping became the main option, weather permitting, which was fine by me. Only there was just one day after returning from Cledat to dig the old gear out of the cellar, clean it up, check the air-beds, fill up the gas tanks, buy torches etc..
We had to be at the ferry terminal between 3 and 4 pm and I had a doctor's appointment at noon, a good hour from Amsterdam, so that was cutting it a bit close. Hmm.

To cut a long story short, after being held up by a road block, a bad accident, redirected and realising I wasn't going to make it to the doctor, wondering how to get back home avoiding the traffic jam, the car conked out. I mean, completely dead - I just managed to steer it off the road. So I am stranded, no mobile cos I couldn't find my sim card - 2 French, 1 South African, what happened to the Dutch one? No time to get a new one, never mind, I'd get one in England. But now I was up the creek. Fortunately a business man pulled up to make a call and reluctantly let me use his.
The AA would try and reach me within an hour. It took an hour and a half of standing in the scorching sun, not knowing what was going on, praying it was just the battery. That prayer wasn't answered, the AA man took one look at the car as I pleaded, "I've got to be on the ferry in a couple of hours," and said: "You might be on it, but this baby's going no-where."
Distribution something.
Oh, my poor sisters, they can't handle things like this.
He dropped me off at the train station, and I was working out how we could still make it to the boat and sort out a car in England when I realised I was on the wrong train. F*ck.

Finally back in Amsterdam, my sister Mieke a nervous wreck, but daughter Rose, cool as a cucumber, has her little Twingo packed to the roof with all our stuff. Without so much as a greeting I am pushed in, let's go, sister Femke will be at the terminal with her car and all will be well. With a bit of luck we can just squeeze the lot in.
Ha! Her car, a dainty version of a Jeep, has practically no baggage space at all and when she opens the rear door we are dismayed to see that that is already taken by her luggage.
Forget the camping stuff and hurry - hurry! Mieke and I grab a bag each, trying to remember what we had packed, hoping we got the knickers and toothpaste instead of kettles and cutlery.
We boarded in the nick of time.
But off we sailed, and after a smooth crossing we went to pick up Patsy, sister number four. She had just flown in from Brussels and luckily missed all the commotion. Also the meaning of economically packing had seemed to escape her, I'll never know how we managed to get all our stuff in.

The first night was spent at a pub, they did accommodation, I mean. We also watched a w.c. soccer match there, much to the amusement of the men, who were delighted for us when Holland won. I think. Yes, they must have. Followed by fish and chips, the portions big enough to feed a large family. Malt vinegar and dandelion lemonade, ah, happy memories.
Anyway, next day was Saturday and we had a heart-warming time in Chester-le-street, where we grew up. Visits to the market, shops, church, old schools, pubs and houses. We even spoke to people who remembered us from way-back: 'Eeh, thems the girls.......'

It was really nice but now we had to get down to the walking business.
How and where?
A kind, fatherly man at tourist information, his tie weaving through his shirt in an odd, distracting way, put aside his chocolate ice-cream, remained totally unruffled and benign when accosted by us 'girls' - and let's be honest, we can be a bit much - took one look at us and assessed our needs instinctively and perfectly.
'Have a nice cup of tea somewhere and come back in 45 minutes,' he smiled reassuringly. And so we did, and we calmed down, and he found us a romantic cottage, situated near the wall, remote and wild, for a very reasonable price.
'Be sure to get your shopping in first, you wont find anything there,' he warned us, and we could have kissed him. I hope his wife appreciates him.

Anyway, we all felt we were really lucky. We walked, it was wonderful, some bits where quite rough, specially with the strong winds, but nothing that couldn't be managed. Other parts were a stroll. You could sometimes see other hikers, walk along together if you felt like it, but for the most you were on your own. Stops, tea and coffee, sandwiches and cakes, not very many, but you wouldn't really want that.
However, I did manage to get my foot caught in some hole, fell over, flat on my face and twisted my ankle badly. Nothing near to rest or wait for help, though a man appeared from no-where, running down the hill, saying he was a nurse and could he be of assistance. That was kind.
But Patsy, for once someone's mobile was actually working, called a friend, who lived nearby and came to the rescue. Stayed for dinner, watched a match - thanks Francis (and sorry for hitting you in the heat of the moment.)
And Alan came to stay with us, our neighbour from Glenroy Gardens, who we have known for all our lives. How special is that? All of us fighting for his attention - you managed that with great diplomacy Alan! - it was wonderful seeing you again and thank you for the lovely meal.
Ah, all sorts went on, apart from the walking. Patsy decided to collect dry sheep turds for our fire after hearing cow dung was used as fuel in South Africa. Mieke fashioned some knitting needles out of twigs, picked a whole bucket of sheepwool and, well, we are still waiting for the final product to materialise. Femke kept an eye on the finances and on the unruly party in general. I'm not quite sure what I did, but I am sure my sisters will have ideas about that.
Patsy and Mieke insisted on going the whole hog so they would have something to boast about, whereas I had no qualms about leaving the beaten track for some tempting stretch or other. But, well done, girls, you persevered and can surely be proud of yourselves.
Then there was the question of music. 'You've been fiddling with the knobs,' said our landlady Val, walking away piqued when I pointed out the CD player didn't work. I hadn't, and I missed my music, so I turned the car stereo on full volume for 'This is how a heart breaks' onIy to get thumped rather hard by Patsy, normally quite a gentle soul. Four sisters, all very different, but in spite of or because of those differences, we make a colourful and challenging team.
It was a great experience, and all in all, we all had a lot of fun - I for one am ready for the next.

A special thanks now to Femke, for being such an efficient, patient and careful driver. You did such a good job, and thanks for saving us all at the last minute.
I'm sure I speak for Patsy and Mieke too.

This is a long one, and still I only just touched it. Next will be shorter, I promise.
Will be leaving for France in a couple of weeks and by the looks of it, Dick and Ezra, our two boys, will be joining us. Some camping, some time in Clédat. Rose will be there already with Twan, so the whole family will be more or less in the same place.

Haway man, I'll be back then. Gan canny now, tara.

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Rui on

I'm really happy knowing you survive.....

reading your text and seeing your photos i really feel proud and jealous from you:-)

thanks for share with me this incredible texts

i'm happy feeling you having fun


katherine-anne on

good to know u are watching out for me :)
thanks for your kind comment - hope we'll find time for a game of mah-jong before i trot off again. adeus, rui

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