, ,

The Trial (Is there anybody out there walking the wall? pt 4)

Our first full day walking as a three turned out the be very interesting. The boys really enjoyed it because for the first time the entire day was spent walking across fields and not on the roads. I was feeling OK, though after the day before, a little apprehensive. Onwards and upwards, the walk started by climbing and carried on that way. This path would take in 3 trig points which should give you an indication as to how high we were going.

There was rain in the warm air and a very slight breeze. Something about the open hills, the relentless upness of it, and my own personal feelings of not being as capable of this challenge as my non-Samoan friends. My non-attorneys were a few steps ahead of me as the enormity of the outside world feel on my thoughts. A darkness loomed and as the clouds grew blacker, so did my spirit. As we reached the first trig point I was holding myself together. That’s when the rain started.

At first, it was just heavy warm water falling from the clouds close enough to touch. Then came the wind. A howling monster whipping raindrops as big as your fist thundered against us causing me to exaggerate. We pressed on, fighting the elements. Soon the rain stopped however, the winds decided to stick around. Everything was going OK. We had found a coffee van which gave us a rest bite and a much needed hot chocolate. Mick and Steve drank coffee, they’ve always been much more grown up than me.

This part of the walk seemed very popular with many other walkers joining the path. Quite a few of the elderly enthusiasts out for a Saturday stroll with their sticks raced past us. They reminded me of Landstriders from ‘The Dark Crystal’

The terrane became harsher and more violent. The Romans had picked quite the most inhospitable site to build the highest part of their wall. Sheer cliff faces gave us some quite breathtaking views. Though with the wind pushing us in the direction of the drop, quite scary ones too. By the second trig point my mind was racing with fear, excitement, despair and doubt. Being up on the hill getting battered by the wind was thrilling, but in the back of my mind demons where plotting.

The walk continued over the very rough landscape. Through woodlands and over rocky climbs. Steve trundled off in front for a bit while me and Mick chatted silliness about the state of Roman building regulations. We found Steve waiting for us by a very large pile of ruins. It looked like a fort. This was also the most people we had seen, all clambering about the wall and the fallen stronghold, despite what the signs were telling them. We passed through and up a small but steep hill to an avenue. It was here that my mind fell in on me.

By the time I caught up with my friends I was struggling. Not just physically, though my legs were hurting, but mentally. We had at least 8km of this relentless rock path to go before we could stop and I had entered a personal crisis that only I could sort out. I told the boys to carry on, stop waiting for me. Reluctantly, and only because this part of the path was well populated, they agreed.

So now I was on a journey to beat my own mind. Up and down of rocks and hills. Just pushing through. Not allowing myself to give up. Tears and turmoil ravaged my thoughts. At one particularly low point, both mentally and geographically, I got talking to some people we had seen a few times on the trail. I chatted with them for a short while before they kicked on towards their destination. This small interaction helped me more than they would ever know.

Time marched on and I did too. Then came a phone call. Mick was telling me they could see the pub we were stopping at. From checking the distances I wasn’t far behind them. I pressed on through the fields, finding the easier paths rather than the dangerous looking rock climbs. Soon I could see the little white build my friends had reached. Pushing against the wind I fought on through. Hurting and emotional I got to the Twice Brewed public house. The first people I saw was the group from the hill. I gave them big hug before sitting down with the boys. They had already ordered me some food and for that, I was so grateful.

I decided that was it for me, so after food, I got a taxi to our next digs while the boys went back on the hillside for another couple of hours. But there was no time to rest. As soon as I got to the guesthouse I was told I had to get ready to go to the pub as Malcome, the guest house owner,  had it all arranged that the bys would be meeting me there. One very painful and quick turn around later and I was meeting some lovely people while waiting. My friends soon arrived and the plan for the next day was decided.

I went through hell on those hills, but like the sun spreading warmth as the cloud moves out of the way, my friends helped me back to my version of normality without having to do anything. That and the kindness of people. The world can seem like a dark and lonely place at times. Today I was reminded that there is still hope.

Photos by Mick Arthur