Left and right of me cars were racing by, going 80 kilometers per hour across the grey asfalt. I clearly picked the wrong road. Sitting in the grass in the hot afternoon sun, I took out my roadmap. Damn. Did I really take the wrong road again? The road leading up to this t-junction was pretty dangerous and it wasn’t going to look any better. What to do? I was musing, thinking about what would be my next step. Go back? This wouldn’t help at all and would bring me back to Mitchell. Or should I just say, Fuck it, and go down this road. It is not that far. The tractor that raced past me, was going at the speed of burned potatoes and I knew for sure he wasn’t planning on burning them any further. In these kind of situations a boy on his skates, carrying a backpack of 20 kilo’s shouldn’t be in such a place in the first place. I decided to walk down the roadside. It didn’t take long before I had to find my way through a thick bush of nettles and prickly thorns, so this plan also backfired. There I was, standing in the midst of those nettles alongside this hazardous and far too busy road…. In the end I got a ride to the next village, but this was a nice example of the risk of travelling through England on skates. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t know it was going to be this straining.
After I left Land’s End, I was slowly fumbling my way eastwards. It really felt like this, I was fumbling. But I kept going. It was then when I met my first downhill experience. The roads in Cornwall have a very specific kind of roadside. They are called “Cornish Hedges” and are stone walls, overgrown with blackberries and nettles. While I was going downhill, cars were passing me by at high-speed and I was going faster and faster. I tried to slow down, but it didn’t really seem to work. The only option I had was to drop myself and take a good close-up look at those famous hedges. From this moment on I decided to walk downhill.
16 Kilometers was the max and it seemed a good idea to go to Penzance Backpackers hostel and enjoy one of their comfortable beds. Most of the time the next morning you start all fresh again, but I just lost all spirit. Being confronted with those steep downhill roads I got scared. I really got scared. Fear to get hurt. Going downhill was very difficult and while I definitely tried, each time I ended up at the side of the road. Whether there was grass or not, when I was going too fast, a controlled drop was the best way to go. And there I was, lying at the roadside again, when a car stopped. The window rolled down and a young man with a scruffy hat asked if I was ok. And if I wanted a glass of water. What? A glass of water? Do they always have a glass of water at hand? Do they drive around the country offering people glasses of water? I laid down for a while and suddenly realized I took the wrong road. I ended up walking back.
It isn’t easy. Almost half the day I spend walking, solely because I just don’t want to end up in a hedge again going downhill. But also because I can’t manage to skate uphill. When I walk I notice I’m enjoying myself. No ankle-pains (which makes me instable on my skates), and going downhill isn’t something to be scared of. The quality of the roads don’t matter anymore, so I don’t have to focus 200% only to go forward and not hit any traffic.
Each day I notice I spend more and more time walking. When I’m on my skates my posture changes.No more music. Protection on. Corners of the mouth automatically go downwards and a big frown takes form on my forehead. And the fun time is over. Ignore the ankle pains. Trying to make mileage and be safe. Most of the time I can go on for about 2 or 3 hours after which I’m happy again to walk on my two trustworthy feet. This isn’t going to work. I’m going too slow and I’m not enjoying myself. I have to think of a new plan. I’m going to walk and skate where I can. The midst of England is reasonably flat and the roads are better. But for now I have to make up for the loss of the last couple of days. Otherwise I won’t reach Scotland within 4 weeks. Should I get a bike to get some speed? Or should I walk 50 kilometers a day on my rundown sneakers? At night, when I’m lying in my tent staring at the meadows, this is what I’m thinking about. And about maintaining my integrity. Will I stick to the plan at all cost, or will I adjust and reach my goal in an alternate way? Sometimes you don’t have to choose and things just happen.
After skating uphill for a while, I sat down in the shade of a wall. Across the street there was a restaurant with a little pub, where a too fat and loud Englishman in a mobility scooter was chattering constantly. After I caught my breath I stood up, when suddenly a lady approached me and said: “He, didn’t I see you in Penzance? We saw you working your way up a hill!”. After a short talk she asked me where I was going to sleep. I told her I was going to sleep in my tent, somewhere in a meadow. Before I knew it, I was invited to spend the night at her place and after having seven leagues in my boots, I was welcomed with a kings meal of salmon, potatoes and salade. Soon we got talking about my adventure and that I was thinking about getting me a bike. “Hey Marc, we have a bike for him, right? The orange one just standing there. Lets have a look!”
And there I was, the next morning, tinkering on “Wesley the Kraken”. Did I really just get a bike? Totally out of the blue? I was in total disbelieve. These people who I didn’t know, take me into their house, feed me and even give me a bike! Is there a choice to be made or do I follow the two-wheeled flow. I’m really convinced I should follow the flow. I accept the bike and gonna make sure I’ll be in Edinburgh within 4 weeks, just in time to meet up with Adventure Henk to travel through Scotland together. He will go on his longboard and I will probably go on my skates. No more Cornish Hedges, less traffic and good roads. Travelling downhill will still be exciting but is something to worry about later on.
Meanwhile I found the time and space to go on with my journey in a relaxed way. A way where I’m not constantly scared to end up underneath a car or to break something while going downhill. I can focus on the stories now, the myths and the legends. I don’t know for how long ‘Wesley the Kraken’ will accompany me during my journey, but despite the rain I still have the feeling this is going to be one awesome adventure through some rough lands.