Well, we’re a couple of days into our legendary attempt to hike Hadrian’s Wall. All I can think about is “Why the HELL did I want to hike Hadrian’s Wall?”
Day One was an almost impossible mission. Fifteen miles ploughing through the countryside, seven and a half hours of grueling bag-dragging. Bruises forming on top of bruises. Muscles and tendons shrieking. It’s beautiful and all that, but hikers in this country must be nutters, I said to myself.
This opinion was reinforced by a pair of gear-clad old blokes striding towards us as we crested yet another hill. One of the men, with a gigantic binocular pouch hanging like a pregnant belly, beckoned us closer as though to impart a secret.
“Around the corner and down the hill, there’s a bridge,” he stage-whispered.
“Yes?” I said, certain some amazing discovery was about to be shared.
“In the river below there’s a rock with some spoor on it. I climbed down to get a closer look.” He was hissing through his teeth by now. Both Roo and I tried to look suitably impressed.
“I looked at it and smelled it, and – “ (he paused for dramatic emphasis) “ – it smelled like Otter droppings! So keep your eyes peeled – there could be an otter about!”
He seemed so excited with this discovery, I didn’t dare ask him what in God’s name had prompted him to sniff an old turd sat on a rock. Much less to climb down off a bridge for this purpose. To say nothing of how he knew what otter shit smelled like… We exchanged our best Interested Looks (the ones you perfect for those moments a nutter starts naming every train station in the country) and fled. Before he could tell us how the poo tasted…
Poo continued to be a bit of a theme, as trudging down a particularly boggy lane we came face to… back end, with a muck spreader! Ever known the delight of following one down the road, travelling at 30mph, too wide to overtake and liberally splattering raw sewage with every jolt? Smells good, eh? Well we got the Full Story – sandwiched between two massive hedges we had to walk behind the poo truck for about a mile. I learnt an interesting thing then – no matter how long you walk behind a truck covered in liquid shit, you never get used to the smell. I could never be a farmer.
All in all we were glad to see the end of the first stage. Roo was limping slightly and we were both dead tired. All we could think of was tomorrow’s hike – just slightly longer than todays. Over slightly hillier terrain. And by then of course, we’d also be carrying the tent…