My biggest challenge so far has been my feet. Although I’m not an experienced walker, I like to think that I’m relatively fit and I was relieved that 15–mile days, with 5kgs on my back weren’t a problem, but my feet aren’t happy. My first pair of shoes caused me tendonitis, so I switched to my trainers, which gave me blisters. Four days in and things seemed to be settling down until small stings/bites appeared on my ankles, which promptly blistered and caused my ankles and feet to swell. I felt seriously fed up and frustrated, my feet seemed set on testing me and the odds seemed stacked against me making it through the first leg (Dover to London), let alone the next 600 mile stretch (London to Iona).
Over dinner I mentioned the bites to Debra from Hornchurch, she immediately ran off to her room to grab a big bottle of Aloe Vera gel, insisting that I should keep it. So kind when she’d literally just met me a few hours before. Similarly, Clover, who we stayed with in Hartley, on seeing my swollen foot rummaged through her medicine cabinet and was thrilled to find that she had some old antihistamine tablets. Meanwhile, having posted a photo of my swollen foot on Instagram and Facebook, I found a whole host of concerned messages from new and old friends alike. How kind and caring everyone was, albeit slightly embarrassing that my puffy foot had become the centre of attention. My frustration turned to gratitude for everyone’s support.
Amazingly my foot made a speedy recovery overnight and was able to stride the 11 miles to London in time to enjoy a lazy picnic in Greenwich Park, with our friend Alexandra who’d joined us for the last few miles to Southwark.
I was happy, relieved and had learnt two big lessons. Firstly, to keep the faith. Secondly, to banish expectations and embrace each day as it comes. You can prepare as much as you like but new challenges, delights and opportunities will constantly be thrown up that no amount of research would have either avoided or discovered. For someone who likes to be organised and in control of things, this is hard, but something I’ll now be more aware of.