chapter 6 public footpaths

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found in the trash

We spend some beautiful days in the Lake district, during the days cycling around and at nights lying in front of the fireplace reading books accompanied by the cats. One day we visited the buddhist temple our driver had told us of, it was my first temple to visit. I was a little disappointed for it´s clean, modern look, but what do I know? The people we talked to seemed very nice. At the café we just sat down and drank tea some other people had left behind and when the waitress came she gave us more tea without charging. We went there by bike. Cycling in the lake district is like this: up and down hill, around pastures SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESseeing millions of sheep, small stone houses, and trees about to turn green. Up and down, up was hard work (for me at least) and cruising down for what seemed minutes long an absolute pleasure, and up again, good exercise. Looking at the hobbit-land, trying to keep left because unconsciously we kept driving right all the time and because of the stone walls the curves were quite dangerous, although there wasn´t much traffic. We went up again, until we saw the lighthouse (is there anything more beautiful than lighthouses?) and the water of the Irish see (or rather sand, as it was low tide) from the top of the hill close to Ulverston.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESUnfortunately the weather kept being not so nice, but at least it didn´t actually rain much, it just kept grey and fresh.. we went to the “beach” to take a nap, it was one of the least beautiful beaches I have seen and it was cold to sleep. But we enjoyed it despite. As a kid I always wanted to see quicksand, now I did, it looks just like wet sand. On the way home we tried every dumpster of Ulverston but there was nothing, nothing thrown away and lot of bins locked. We decided to spend some money and bought wine for dinner, (you have to be 25 years old to buy wine!! what? seriously? luckily we had our IDs with us). We ate pasta with tons of the wild garlic that was growing all over the forests. 🙂

One day we decided to go trekking for some days because being lazy and sleeping long, we could do at home, too. We were super lucky as the next morning was the only sunny day of the week. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Sunny mornings make us happy. we started in Ambleside where my friends aunt kindly dropped us off on her way to work, we didn´t have any plan except for a friend that recommended to go either to Langdale, or Coniston if we wanted bigger hills and nice views.

The sun was out, we were happily discovering the small port of Ambleside, eating some seagulled fish and chips, I stopped to buy a postcard for my mom who was turning 60 the next week, the postcard-seller, a man of about a hundred years while asking if the stamps were for overseas kept telling jokes about a girl who didn´t know Australia wasn´t europe as they speak english there. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHe told the joke to everyone, and was so happy to hear the other postcard I bought was going to Argentina. Now that´s far away isn´t it.

Walking barefoot around the lake we stuck out our thumbs. We had made a cardboard sign saying “Anywhr” (no space for e´s) and started hitching. After 5 minutes a car stopped. They were hiking instructors of our age going to Langdale to practise and get more qualified. Could a day ever be so perfect? The landscape is amazing, and the couple explained us everything. We started walking in a valley and after 30 min we already didn´t find ourselves on the map anymore. At least we had maps! SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe landscape is very different to the middle-european one as there are no trees on the hills. That makes a really picturesque effect. And it´s so nice to find empty open space. It was already afternoon and we were hoping to find somewhere to camp with wood to make a fire to warm us up at night. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBecause we didn´t bring food. Each of us thinking the other had the bag of lentils and other things to eat.. and the rest of the wine in their backpack! So we carried only a pan, hoping to find some stinging nettles or anything. It seemed to start raining, soon, but as we crossed a pass on the other side it was sunny still. We enjoyed the sun and the walking and talking, sometimes you have to move your feet to make your mind start working. After an hour or so the path we were following stopped in the middle of nowhere, our feet sank into black mud, hiding below the dry grass. After some orientationless walking with wet socks we came to a street and followed it. Another look at the map and we confirmed being right. Climbing the wrynose pass which was 25% gradient. Even at this altitude there were these old, dry stone walls, the dikes, everywhere, what labor must it have been to build them! At the top we needed a break. Lying on the dry grass in the late afternoon sun we instantly fell asleep. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI woke up with my friend continuing to read the book we started to me. Soon we started walking again, trying to find the public footpath marked in our hiking map, which clearly didn´t exist! We gave up, following the road down to the valley instead, starting to think about where to pitch our tent. We tried several paths (flattened grass) going left, soaking our shoes each time, but they all turned out to be no paths and we didn´t want to walk left, crossing the hills completely without any landmarks. So we kept south. We came to a small river with some trees and a house.  It looked like an oasis. They had a sign saying they sold “free range eggs”. I don´t like eggs so much and also I´m trying to be vegan, but we started to get really hungry after half a days walking and being used to move little and eat a lot. So we knocked at the door. A man came out and told us in super angry tone that they barely had enough food for themselves. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Turning our heads down we were about to leave when he came out again and said that he had changed his mind, and sold us 6 eggs. We decided to walk a little further as long as there was light. If we kept close to the small river and the road we couldn´t get lost, also there were trees, that meant we could make fire. We came by some lonely standing houses, one of them being a school outdoor activity center.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES We asked if they would sell us some food, and the man in charge told us in his Scottish accent they weren´t allowed to. But then when we were discussing if we would search the bins, even if they could see us, he came back out again with some ham-mayonese sandwiches he gave us. People are so nice! Not a good country for vegans, though. We walked on, and after some time decided we had found the perfect place to camp.  It was a sheep pasture by the river with trees and stone walls and rabbits, it was some kind of stone wall semi-circle with 7 pine trees and lots of moss. We pitched the tent, I made fire. Evening mist rose, the sun disappeared, and slowly star after star came out.  We tried to dry our shoes and socks by the fire while lying in our sleeping bags and read the book. And burnt the socks.. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe tried to keep the fire small so people in the valley wouldn´t worry. We ate eggs and stinging nettles and drank black tea. We fell asleep really early talking about the story in the book (the kiss of the spider woman, by M. Puig). And as always when I camp out I asked myself why I don´t do it more often. The next morning we awoke by the loudest woodpecker I had ever heard. The tree must have been hollow. We opened the door of the tent and saw sheep and lambs. 🙂  Stumbling outside we saw that it was all misty and wet, our shoes included. We made fire and breakfast, drank tea and ate one hard-boiled egg each. And kept going with the book. Then it started raining, and our mood dropped down, we went back to sleep. Outside the children from the outside education center thing went exploring, they didn´t even notice the rain. We woke up again and it had stopped raining, but it was still cloudy and pretty cold. We packed our stuff and started waking. We still had to find a way to go east, or left. “Public footpath” signs were everywhere but left. When we saw what looked like a path we took it, although it didn´t exist on our map. it let us up a hill, through a forest and down again. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES I thought we were more or less going parallel to street except going all up and all down. I kept complaining, feeling like a child that doesn´t want to walk any further. Uphill again, no! Our feet and half of our legs were wet, the landscape looked exactly the same wherever you looked. I felt lost and super exhausted. Poor friend of mine who just kept listening and walking. According to the map there must have been a lake, it just couldn´t be we didn´t see it. We always hoped to see it from the next hilltop. We felt stupid, can´t we even read a map? We came across a waterfall and further down there was a wooden bridge which meant we couldn´t be in the middle of nowhere. Walking on, (I wanted to just sit down and cry) we spotted to men working to repair a stone wall up on a hill. We approached them to ask for the right way and walking up that hill to them made me feel I was using my very last forces. strength is psychological and I hate the cold. They told us, we had to go left and back north a bit (at leat we were right about the rough direction) and that it would have been difficult to cross the big hill (somewhere around “the old man of Coniston”)SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES without any path, so better we went around it, but there was no way to go to the “town” without crossing a big hill. He indicated us the way, if we went down to the valley (we could see farm houses in the distance) there were a tarmac road which then led to a gravel road crossing the hill chain on a smaller hill, it was the longer, but easier way. When we made it through all the mud and the mist and the cold down to the valley we found it on the map, the same road we walked yesterday, just maybe a kilometer or two from where we started in the morning!  What lazy city kids we were! We found the gravel path it said 4, 5 miles to go to Coniston. Yes! That would be easily possible before nightfall. We made a break, resting and my friend started reading our book to me. The novel is about two prisoncell mates talking, taking care of each other and sharing the little food they have. It gave us strength, however stupid this may sound. We started ascending and after a few hundred meters we already were above the mist and humidity so that there was no sun, but sun behind a small layer of clouds. With new energy and taking about what we would cook and eat once we arrived home we climbed higher and higher. Half the way up we lay down on a mossy field (no humidity!) and fell asleep immediately,SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES it was nice and warm and we could have slept the whole day. – “One more chapter, and we keep going, ok?”. Soon an old couple took us over, they were easily over 60 years old and walked by as if it was the easiest thing in the world. We talked to them and they kept eating dried fruit and chocolate in front of our eyes. We were starving but didn´t ask them because they felt pity of us and would have given us some for sure if they had enough. And after all we were 40 years younger. And it was our fault to not have food, by that time we started to think about it as a well deserved punishment and an important experience we could learn from. I don´t know how, but we made it to the top. I really came to my limits, physically, I couldn´t have walked one meter further uphill. There we took another nap. I was exhausted, but happy again. White sheep with black heads and black sheep with white heads waking about. We couldn´t really see far, because of the clouds, but from there it was just going down, we could see Coniston Water already. Must be a nice view when you have nice weather. The way down we were cheerful again, talking on and on about food and about how George Orwell describes hunger in “Down and out in London and Paris”. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAt about 6 in the evening we reached the parking from where hikers start to climb the Old Man of Coniston. It was just gravel, some parked cars and a puddle with a duck in it. We asked a man who was just starting his car how far it still was to go down to the town and he answered in german that we should jump on the car, he would take us. We went straight to the only supermarket and bought oat cookies, humus and apples and sat down on next bench to eat. It was the best food I have ever eaten in my life! The town of Coniston is really beautiful! We tried all dumpsters, but no luck 😦 Then we stuck out our thumbs and the first car stopped, taking us half the way back home, there again the first car that passed stopped, a butchers car, taking two vegans/vegetarians/freegans. Apparently hitchhiking works in England, but skipping not much. People in the Lake District are so nice! The butcher took us all the way to our aunt´s house although he wasn´t even headed there. Then we ate all we could and slept almost two days. 🙂 Coffee, food, bed, cats, book, wine and outside the rain.    – to be continued –

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