Turning a Corner

I was hoping to fully rest at the hostel that night at the Lizard, allowing my shoulders to recover and my attitude likewise. It wasn’t as easy as that though. As my Austrian friend sprightly packed his bag and bid farewell despite his agonising blisters, I was still yet to move from lying flat on my bed. I knew I wasn’t in a good state, and in some Macho manner I decided to try and not reveal any weakness until I knew I was alone to find out exactly how sore I was.

I attempted to role over to my side, but as I twisted my shoulders the burning sensation I felt yesterday returned with such vengeance I physically gasped and proceeded to collapse on to my back again. I physically could not move. I tried several more times to role over, each time increasingly stiffening my shoulders and neck to try and resist movement. It still didn’t work, and after nearly half an hour of trying I resigned to the fact that I may not be able to go anywhere today.

Awkwardly, I twisted my legs out the bed and with all my concentration I rigidly sat up and took stock. Resting my elbows on my knees I had to figure out a plan. I already knew this hostel was full tonight and so I had to move elsewhere, but to exactly where I had no idea. There weren’t any more YHAs for miles and hotels were so pricey I couldn’t afford that luxury. AirBnb is a go to for me when looking for cheap, hospitable places to stay and having a surf on my phone I found a quaint looking place in Porthleven. Although I wouldn’t be able to walk that far today, I knew that if I could reach Mullion I would be able to get to Porthleven by bus, rest up, and evaluate my journey on from there.

Sending a request to stay, I tentatively packed my backpack and slowly tried to warm up my shoulders in preparation for strapping up and setting off. Edging out the door on the most Southerly point of mainland England, I looked out to sea before turning to face the coastline to the northwest. It’s a rugged part of Cornwall, and looking out from Lizard Point you can see the swells crossing over as they wrap around from all angles. Compounding the physical pain I was in, and perhaps related too, I awoke that morning with a stomach that was by no means settled. Hiking the short distance to Kynance Cove I opted to rest for a while and take stock, chatting to a chap I’d met the previous night in town and trying to settled myself over some breakfast and a coffee.

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The previous night, whilst hungrily consuming a burger in the Lizard town itself, I’d overheard an exuberant conversion between some locals about how the surf was good at Poldhu, a little cove just out from Mullion. The man in question was distinctive due to a bright pink cast up to his knee on his left leg, and I engaged in conversation as to whether I’d get a wave later today as the tide pushed in. There was potential apparently, although wind was an issue, and ending the conversation and returning to my coffee I turned to see him mount a quad bike previously resting next to the café and he proceeded, cast hanging loosely to the side, to couple a trailer and drive off in a far from stable manner.

Feeling somewhat better I summoned the motivation to put some more miles in my feet and faced with the lack of response from AirBnb, I knew that the sooner I reach Mullion the sooner I could figure out where I may stay the night sand rest up my ever increasingly sore left shoulder. The walk to the west of the Lizard is not a patch on the approach from the east. Much flatter and far less colourful, the only perk over the next hour of walking was a beautiful rainbow that emerged just off the cliffs out to see as the morning sun mingled with an isolated shower. Unfortunately that meant I was about to get wet! It was refreshing though, and felt good to be cold and wet having spent much of the previous few days in the warmth and sunshine.

 

I made the walk to Mullion without much of an issue, but I knew my shoulder hadn’t recovered and I was still desperately waiting for a response on AirBnb. I’d been finding it increasingly stressful when not faced with a definite place to stay. Whether it was finding a spot to wild camp, or simply not knowing if a hostel had rooms, I found my days were being preoccupied more with physical discomfort and emotional uncertainty than actually enjoying and exploring the coastline as I’d intended. Speaking of which, as I sat on the harbour wall at the picturesque port town of Mullion, my eyes were not on the quintessential Cornish setting but instead transfixed on my phone waiting for a signal to see if the hotel had space.

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Nothing, I couldn’t get a signal anywhere, and so I had no choice but to make my way towards Porthleven in the hope that at some point I would receive a confirmation or I could at least find somewhere else to stay. Awaiting a bus to Helston, I sat in the sun and felt deflated that despite achieving so much already, I wasn’t comfortable at how the journey was going.

As the bus pulled up, my first bus journey of the trip so far, I was greeted with a new challenge altogether. As I took a step on, the driver turned and proclaimed that he could not let me on with my board. Protesting, he eventually succumbed and I clumsily clambered aboard with my board in tow and, knocking every pole and seat on my way through, slumped into the nearest seat feeling completely drained and exhausted. It was already 4.30pm, I had a 45 minute journey into Helston and without a place to stay for the evening, had a lingering sense of unease that I was abandoning the coast in the hope of finding a more comfortable, safe place to spend the night.

45 minutes later the bus pulled into Helston and I struggled off and perched on the wall near the stop I’d need to get to Porthleven. I still hadn’t heard anything. Considering options, with Mum on the other end of the phone, I sent a message to another place in Praa Sands in the hope that one of them at least would reply. The bus to Porthleven pulled up. Do I get on and risk it? Or do I stay put and wait for the next one at 9pm? My decision was made for me, as the driver flatly refuse to allow me on with my surfboard. Apparently public transport doesn’t allow you to travel with a surfboard around the surf capital of the UK?! Ridiculous. Collapsing back on the wall, I sent another message to the B&B in Praa Sands, and before I could even lock my phone I received a message back.

They were free!

Now how do I get there?! The bus had just left, and besides the driver wasn’t going to let me on anyway. The only option seemed a taxi, and quite frankly at this stage I’d have hired a limo if it was the only option.

A short but expensive taxi ride later, with the drivers young son riding shotgun in the cab, we pulled into the familiar outskirts of Praa Sands and I hiked up the old entrance to the golf club to where I’d be spending the next three nights. A cosy little bungalow sat at the top of the hill and as I walked up the driveway I could just see I figure sat by the full length window waving in my direction. I must have looked a picture. Sweating, exhausted, with a slight hunch trying to take the weight off my left side, I only realised when I broke a smile at the figure in the window that I must have had a very furrowed expression on my face too.

Katie answered the door in such a welcoming manner, introduced me straight to her husband David, and promptly showed me everything I needed to know before letting me settle and shower. I knew immediately I’d feel at home here and having clean off, taken a few deep breaths, and changed into something that didn’t the distinctive ‘Eau de Backpacker’ smell I stiffly descended down to the beach bar for some stress free dinner.

Half a pint of Lushingtons down and all seemed well. I was in a place I knew – I’d surfed here many times before – and with the knowledge I’d be here for a few days at least, I could rest my shoulder and forget about the excessively heavy backpack I’d been carrying for the last 120 miles.

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As the sun dropped below the headland on the right side of the beach, the sky began to illuminate the thin and wispy cloud with hues of yellow and orange. I took a walk down the beach and, shoes finally off, dipped my feet in the surf as the tide started moving in. I felt good, less stressed; a weight lifted both physically and metaphorically. I’d begun to notice that instead of appreciating the magnitude of the places I was walking through, I was instead having to focus so hard on the physical completion of the miles ahead of me that I was rarely taking stock of the beauty of the landscape I was travelling through.

Now, with a shifting mind-set and the opportunity to hike without the stress of finding somewhere to sleep that evening or whether physically I could reach my desired destination, I was borderline exuberant. After all, part of this journey was about learning what I enjoyed and what I could achieve, and as the sky turned red, before the colour dropped into the deep indigos and blues of night, I felt like I was beginning to understand what I wanted to get out of this journey. I was a little over a third of the way through the trip in terms of mileage, but had a whole new aspect to come in terms of surfing and exploring the wonders of the north coast. Wearily climbing the hill back up to the house I felt considerably more comfortable and content in the challenge ahead, and knew that basing myself here for a few days would allow my shoulder to recover and set my sights west towards Lands End.

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