Tuesday 2nd July 2019
The plan was to walk from one end of the UK and back again in 15 days and achieve a Guinness World Record. This year´s Camino por Amor walk would involve myself, Steve Poulson, Benjamin and Joseph Soden in a non-stop relay that would help raise funds for the work here in Central America. But not one thing worked out to plan, apart from sleeping in a comfortable campervan!
On our arrival in the UK for the annual Coin Race, Benjamin was still recovering from a serious stomach infection that had left him in hospital. Steve was in high spirits and had just made it out of Honduras after riots closed the airport where he was waiting to board his plane. He was hit with tear gas as police rushed into the airport to carry away the protesters. Joseph was having treatment with me for a serious injury to our knees when we were out on our last long training walk in Guatemala. So, the fabulous team of four were basically down to one and two halves!
As we met to plan the new walk we decided that we could attempt the walk as we had planned, but in two teams with Steve walking only from Land´s End to Kendal - the midway point in the UK - and Joseph and me walking from Kendal to John O´Groats and back again. It was all going really well.
Benjamin was unable to walk and so he and Steve drove from Kendal to Land´s End where Steve would walk on his own back to Kendal, supported greatly by Benjamin in their newly-acquired support vehicle. Joseph and I took off from Kendal with high hopes we would get to the end of the UK in 7 days. It would mean we would each have to walk 40-50km per day.
Day one saw us reach the border with Scotland and achieve our target while many people followed our live GPS locations on the website and via Facebook. On day three I had walked my first 20km and it was now Joseph´s turn and so I drove behind him for quite a way before having to stop much further on in a layby and waited. I was not expecting Joseph to dropped off by the police and could see that he was not doing well and was rescued by the police who were very happy to give him a short lift to our luxury support vehicle.
I now needed to find a hospital as Joseph´s ankle and foot were swelling up rather fast. One stop at a nearby hospital led to having to take him to a much larger one. The outcome was not good and while I was there they checked out my ballooning knee and recommended a couple of weeks of rest with hot and cold compresses. We decided to rest for one day and then continue.
The next morning was not that easy as Joseph was still in agony and really unable to drive while I walked. Hence, the boomerang plan came into place (plan D) whereby I would walk 10km up the road and then 10km back to the vehicle. Then drive the vehicle to 20km and do that all over again. It was going to prove to be a long day, but Joseph filled himself with pills and struggled on with the driving later that morning.
This new plan would mean I would now have to walk for both of us, but knew that just getting to John O´Groats would be a challenge as our team was now down to one walker, like Steve. On one of the days my knee was so swollen that I decided to go with plan E and use a scooter to try and catch up with lost ground and rest the knee. It must be 55 years ago that I last got on a scooter and so had no real idea of how difficult a task this would be. On the first day I managed to get to 60km on the scooter, a massive challenge for anyone of any age. At one point a police patrol car pulled me over as I was heading up the A9 dual-carriageway and pleading with me to look for small and less busy roads to get to John O´Groats.
Plan E returned after two days to plan D as the scooter was causing me more issues than the walking and so we limped our way slowly across the Scottish borderlands. The narrow roads were at times rather terrifying as lorries and cars sped by at 60 miles an hour. There were many moments I had to jump into a ditch or a hedgerow in order to avoid being mown down. The views were incredible and despite the wind and rain I enjoyed the walk, but went many miles without seeing a single person.
At one point a campervan almost knocked me over as it came around the corner rather fast. Four cyclists had just slowed down to say hi and wish me well and were a little further up the road. Then I heard a screech of brakes and saw a cyclist lying in the road. The campervan that had missed me had now hit one of the cyclists and left him with serious head injuries. Fortunately coming the other way at exactly the same time was a fully crewed fire and rescue vehicle and they quickly sought to his injuries and arranged for his medical evac.
It was a timely reminder to me of the dangers we faced on the roads and Steve was not faring well as he had been admitted to hospital with weak knees and had to rest for 24 hours before continuing his journey.
Our arrival in John O´Groats was not what I wanted really as I had been saying to Joseph that amazing we had been kept safe all this way and was thankful. No sooner had I crossed the road and walked a little further when I was hit by a campervan leaving the town. The vehicle carried on its journey and I took its number plate, but it could have been worse as I had just been hit by the large wingmirror and this had left just a small pain on my left shoulder for a while, but all good in the end.
I can´t say that John O´Groats is worth the visit, as the tea shop in town closed just as we arrived in the rain and the rest of the place seemed abandoned. Joseph and I took the decision to leave as soon as possible and drive, after having the official photos taken, to a much more welcoming town a little further South. I thought I would feel a sense of excitement at getting to our goal two days before Steve, but we took the decision to drive South to get a final medical check by our very good friend Doctor Alex Rollings, and then surprise Steve on his final two days and offer to walk with him and his growing team of walkers had to support him during the final days of the walk as he was suffering from weak knees and general tiredness.
The last moments of the walk were captured and placed on Facebook and can be seen here as we arrive together in Kendal and complete this year´s Camino por Amor walk while outlining our plans for next year´s challenge.
Thank you to everyone who got behind the walk and supported to help us raise a total of £7,500. Now for some recovery time and preparation for 2020!