The reason there was no update yesterday was that my [insert body part] hurt.
The day started with a plan, Jana suggested we go and hike in the nearby Peak District, a hilly area near Manchester, now you probably know that already but my relationship with my body and any physical exercise is like the relationship river ducks have with Mt. Everest.
Jana asked me, the day before “how much do you feel like walking?” a question I was, at the time, not prepared to answer (Somehow giving an answer like “I ‘unno, from here to the bathroom when the need arises” did not feel like a proper answer to what was asked) so I shrugged and said that “I like walking! I don’t mind!” proudly remembering that one time that, out of my unwillingness to pay 8 euros for the taxi ride from the airport to Mitilini, I walked 6-7 kilometers, (when I got home I felt exhausted and proud).
I checked the area that we were going to visit, it seemed nice, green and hilly, like the Shire.
This will be a bundle of fun.
Right now, I am so exhausted, typing these words makes my toenails hurt.
Anyway, we set off quite early, got on the train and got off on a picturesque village where the trail started.
We followed a river for a while, all while being under the shade of some wonderful big tress, passing by old buildings and well maintained pathways. Greeting and smiling at other fellow walkers that were passing by.
This is how things were for about an hour or so. Near the end of the second hour, the trail started to climb (I am quite sure the ascent wasn’t that steep, but in my mind it was near vertical) on the top of which I was well out of breath. I asked for a breathing break where Jana and I chatted about books and nice stuff. I was a little bit embarrassed but hey, we were nearly there, right?
Soon after we took a break on a hillside overlooking some farms, it was then where I first checked Jana’s very detailed map while munching on some chocolate buttons.
Wait a minute I thought, here are the Ashes, we are here.
But where is Edale…? That’s where we are going right? Where is it, where is it…
Oh, here it is.
We are not nearly halfway there!
A mild sense of dread started to condense in the back of my mind, but the sun was nice and warm, the hills were green and the path seemed to go downhill from now on. Oh, how wrong I was.
We were moving steadily uphill for quite a while I was beginning to suspect that this might end up being a tad less fun than what I thought it would be. An hour or so later during another breathing break we consulted the trail description.
I shuddered when Jana read aloud “…don’t let the relative ease of the trail so far, this is where the hard part starts”. But I soldiered on for a while, cursing my decision to bring my faithful, heavy Kata with me.
Then we entered the really hilly district. I was stopping for breath every 5 or so minutes, my eyes fixed on the ground, not that there was much to see, no cute houses here, no nicely paved paths. Just a rocky, uphill track, quite a few sheep and people that were running up and down
whose ,I suppose well meant, greetings my ears were interpreting as smug, annoying taunts directed towards my huffing and puffing form.
Right before a stone fence that blocked our view of what lied beyond we took another nibbles break, where we sat on a windy hillside that had a very nice view of the trail we followed to get here, and a mountain way behind us in the distance that we decided to call boob mountain, cause of its shape. Which I thought was a bit too loose a name since, many hills must look like boobs. Provided you are horny enough.
I had a sandwich and finished my water and we set off again.
Beyond the fence I saw what I was hoping to see. Downhill slope. No more fighting against gravity, from now on it seemed like a breeze. Our next stop, Jacob’s Ladder, it should be pretty close from what I had seen on the map. So I followed Jana as she started on a path and enjoyed the descent and thought that the worst was behind us.
After about 40 minutes of gentle descent, a few things started to bother me. For one, there were no runners around us any more. I also thought that we should have passed Jacob’s Ladder by now. I was beggining to question my map reading skills. Had I misjudged the distance that badly?
I also didn’t remember seeing that round hill that was 50 meters in front of us, I am sure I would have noticed such a domed… round… boob…like… mountain…? Oh no… it can’t be.
That was when we realized we had probably taken a wrong turn. A very wrong turn. It took us a while to figure it out on the map. We had taken a 120 degree turn somehow, which means that we had been backtracking for the better part of an hour. Downhill. Now we had to backtrack… uphill.
Something inside me broke. My water was long gone by that point. It is strange how a gentle descent can feel like an unfair ascent when you are demoraliZed and tired. But we had to do it, to get back on track, near where we had our last snack. When we arrived at the point where we took the wrong turn,none of us could explain how we could have missed the right path.
My only theory is that this place is… strange. Like the Bermuda Triangle or a Thinny, shifting, changing with it’s only purpose to trap travelers and wanderers in its treeless, windy hills.
We were now on the right track but this is when my memory starts to fail. The majority of the rest of the hike is a series of images,feelings and bits of conversation with Jana. We arrived at Jacob’s Ladder about an hour+ after we should have. Which was basically a tiny stone bridge over a river. I briefly debated whether I should drink from the water then proceeded to drink and fill my bottle. At that point I was basically a slowly moving machine that processed water into sweat. We passed through a farm and some gates that you had to jump over, making them pretty much fences in my book and then, the first real sign of civilization, a farm that sold ice tea and other beverages. Talk about location and marketing.
We were on the last leg, nearly. After a brief ascent that my exhausted body , like an abused wife, was too broken to complain about, ( even though moaning and complaining was my natural state by that point) we reached the fabled village of Edale, I must have felt what The Hobbits felt when entering Rivendell.
We had about 40 minutes to catch the train back to Manchester, so Jana and I headed in the first pub (also deviously placed right where the path enters Edale) and let me tell you, I have not tasted a sweeter, smoother, more refreshing beer than the one I had at that pub. I don’t even remember the name of the beer. I can barely remember the details of the pub.
But that beer, that feeling, will forever be with me.
The hike, including our detour,turned out to be around 20 Kilometers, it took about 7 hours.
So what did I learn? What did I gain from all this?
I guess I already knew that I am as fit as a bag of crisps, but it feels good to know that if zombies where chasing me really really slow, I could maybe out-shuffle them for about 20 klm.
I found out many different muscles that can hurt though (I did’t even think to look for muscles behind my knees before yesterday).
I also enjoyed reading a map and not just looking at it, but actually needing to understand where I am – A difference similarly felt when doing homework and then doing the same thing in a final exam.
I learned what a jump gate is.
I drank from a river and that made me feel like Bear Grylls for 2 seconds before I had to sit back down again to rest.
Most importantly I realized first hand that the effort put in something makes the rewards all the sweeter.
Unless that particular beer is always that good and refreshing in which case, fuck you, Peak District.