Heading West

Waking early in time for breakfast, I packed up and set my sights on Lizard Point. A good 11 miles from my current hostel the YHA at the Lizard would signify a huge milestone in my journey. I’d tick over the 100-mile mark if I made it, and being the most southerly point in mainland England it had all sort of confidence inducing statistics that would boost my morale and confidence going forward.

The weather was good, my back not so much. Early on in the day I started to feel sharp pains in my left shoulder blade and along my back every time I made sudden movements, in particular lifting my bag on and off. With the wetsuit now in my pack too, I estimate the weight to be between 23-26kg depending on how much water I’m carrying and any unusual movement with that on was clearly imparting stress on my shoulders and upper back.


Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, as I’ve grown older I’ve taken an increasingly matter-of-fact view towards physical discomfort and pain. Quite in contrast to my younger self, I now tend to push myself too far before realising it’s ok to take a break and I certainly think this was in play again here. I carried on walking, and an hour or so later I approach a couple walking a little slower than I was. As I closed in, they turned and I realised it was the Swedish couple from the previous evening. Having not realised before that I was travelling with my surfboard, he proceeded to shout “That’s dedication that is!” in my general direction and after having a short chat to them near the Eastern end of Kennack sands, I pushed on with anticipation that there may be a wave. From quite a distance away I could see that there was white water breaking on the beach and my anticipation grew that I may get the first surf of my trip.

Sure enough, I spotted a little black dot in the distance that signalled someone was in the water and having told myself to paddle out at every opportunity, I knew I’d be joining them shortly. It wasn’t ideal however. Putting my first feet in the sand I could see that although the wave looked powerful, it was closing out on the sand with few opportunities to put anything like a decent ride in. Oh well, shorebreaks can sometimes be fun as they pick you up and its more about making the drop and surviving the closeout than anything too technical. Painfully suiting up, trying not to aggravate my shoulder blade, I jogged passed the Swedish couple who had now made it to the beachside café and set about the short paddle-out into the line-up.

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The other surfer had given up now, either fatigued or frustrated at the lack of opportunity but this meant I had the ocean to myself. Sitting next to the rocks on the western end of the beach, I swung at a promising looking wave and paddled hard. Pushing up, the wave tipped over and as I tried to cut in the lip struck my side and sent me tumbling, impacting the sandy seabed and rolling me in a washing machine of sand, seaweed and saltwater.

Standing up in the shallow water, grinning, I turned to see the Swedish couple beaming at me from the shore and sending them a wave, I turned and returned to the line-up for another go.

The next hour and a half saw much of the same play out, with short rides intermingled with longer wipeouts and feeling pretty shattered, knowing I still had a significant walk to go, I paddled to shore and settled down in the sun to dry off.

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After a pretty awful chicken burger, and a slightly better ice cream, I resumed my hike towards The Lizard with everything besides my shoulder in good spirits. There was no signal at Kennack and I was beginning to worry about getting into the hostel that evening. It was now approaching 3pm, and with comfortably 3 hours of walking left I would not be arriving until late.

As soon as I had signal, I got online to the website and my heart sank: no availability. With little other option for the evening, it looked like I’d have to camp out and with a stiff wind picking up from the west it really didn’t looked enticing. Despondently sitting atop a cliff 2 hours out from the YHA, I considered my options. Either I resign to the fact that I camp here, I call the YHA and see if they have any space, or push on and knock on their door and ask for a sofa if I have to.

It is not possible to contact most YHAs direct, and instead you go through to the head office. Dismissively saying there was no room, and knowing full well they’d just gone on the website like I had, I hung up in a huff and pulled my bag up and marched on. My shoulder was very painful now, and with every jolt or twist I had searing pains up my neck and down my left arm. I decided to try and reach the YHA and enquire there as to whether they’d had any cancellations or if I could merely sleep on a sofa for the evening in the knowledge that a night outside in a bivvy bag would not allow my shoulder to recover.

The last two miles approaching the Lizard Point from the East is simply beautiful. Passing through Ruan Minor and the lifeguard ramp each little inlet or cove yields another turquoise scene blending into deeper hues of blue as the water deepens out to the West. With every false headland I become increasingly tired but there’s no doubt that I’ll make it, and finally turning to see the point in the distance, the nerves kick in in anticipation of whether I will be able to stay.


It was really this day that I turned a point in my mind. I found that every day I was camping out, or thought that’d be the case, I was getting stressed and nervous about where to sleep and not enjoying much of the day because of it. The strain of carrying all my gear was causing me physical discomfort and mentally I just was excited about the journey ahead. In contrast, when I was in the hostels I enjoyed the journey so much more, taking my time and exploring more in the knowledge that I had somewhere comfortable and safe to sleep.

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It’s all a process I guess, and learning what I do and don’t enjoy on this trip is half of what I wanted to achieve. As I knocked on the door of the YHA, I was greeted by two exceedingly kind volunteers and no sooner had I said that the website said it was full did they reply with “But we have loads of room!”

My heart lifted.

As it turns out they really did, and I was in a room with only one other person; an Austrian walker suffering badly from blisters.

“You’re my new hero, man!” he beamed as I explained my journey and the weight I was currently carrying. Little did he know I could barely move. He’d been walking from the opposite direction, from St Ives and as we discussed our respective journeys we bonded over tales of pain and discomfort but also the amazing variety and beauty of the coastline we both covered. Yet another character in another hostel and I yet again reminded myself that the experiences and people you meet are half of the journey itself.

Drifting into a fitful and difficult sleep, my shoulder and back stiffened to the point of barely being able to move and I knew something would have to give. If I kept on the way I was going I wouldn’t finish this journey, and as I lost consciousness I knew that I would have to change my goals. Resting in comfort that I had made it this far, and learned so much about what I could achieve and what my limits were, I felt comfortable in the journey ahead and contemplated my next milestone; Lands End.


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