January 2001 - Holywell

Today was a strange day. I had got back to my dormitory at the hostel I was staying at in Newquay late last night to find that there was another body asleep in one of the other beds (before I had been alone). As it was a mixed dorm and I could not see its face I did not know even if it was male or female. As I crept around slowly getting ready for bed, I enjoyed trying to deduce its identity from its possessions which were lying around the room. I turned out my light, and fell instantly asleep.
When I woke the next morning to an amazing view over Newquay from our window, I discovered that I had spent the night sleeping near a lovely Austrian girl named Julie. She had come to Newquay for a few days to get away from everything as some things in her life had not gone according to plan. We had breakfast together in the hostel and talked about travelling and the differences between our countries landscapes and cultures, whilst occasionally too laughing at a surf lesson which was taking place just outside our window. She was planning on visiting the Eden Project today, so I was delighted to give her the low down. I explained the fact that if you went to school in the South west you will have been to the Eden Project on at least 2 school trips!! After breakfast she kindly offered to show me where the laundry was in Newquay, so we walked for a short distance, she became another Guitar carrier on my journey, if only for a short distance, and then just like that, we parted ways.
I was quite excited to wash my clothes, as I’d been wearing the same ones for over 10 days now, however it was as I sat there, in the cute little laundry, in my fluorescent blue pyjama leggings and sandals, with a tiny bit of my scrotum on show through a whole between the legs, that the stress of the day began. I had been so at peace talking to Julie overlooking the sea, that the great list of tiny annoying jobs that I had in my head had slipped away. Here in the launderette they hit me. My mind was flooded with things I needed to do, emails to send, people to ring, things to buy, things to post (Newquay is the biggest town I will stop off in so it’s the only chance I’ll get to do many of these things). I finally managed to complete my list of jobs by 1.30pm, and boy was I stressed. I was the kind of stressed that leads you to violently swear just because you have an itch. I was conscious that though only a short walk, Holywell was 4 miles away, and I had to find somewhere to stay or wild camp before it got dark at 5, so my plan was to get walking and get there as quickly as possible.
What I did not realise was how hard it was going to be to find my way out of Newquay. It was suddenly not as simple as before, I followed the coast for what seemed like miles, with no signs pointing me to the coast path, I came to the river NAME, with no sign of a bridge to cross it – I was lost, trapped in this town. A huge wave of claustrophobia came over me and I began to panic. I was sweating, my mind was moving at 100mph and I was getting angry. When I finally found the tidal footbridge across the river I turned into the wind and began what would be my most depressing 4 miles of walking so far.
The sky was dark. The air was cold. The wind was strong and I was walking into it. It was beginning to rain. My feeling of panic and stress had slowed and now morphed into a feeling of depression. My body ached, my bag suddenly felt heavy for the first time in days. I was home sick. I was lonely. Yet despite all of these feelings, I was clear that I didn’t want to give up, I definitely wanted to be doing what I was doing, it was just that in that moment, I was hating it. These thoughts continued for the next 2 hours, the occasional tear streaming down my face as I arrived in Holywell, to find it was like a ghost town, even the pub was closed for winter. It became clear that a wild camp was my only option, so I headed off into the vast and disorientating sand dunes to find a sheltered spot from the wind. I began to erect my tent, when the excitement of it all hit me. Just as it had in Padstow last week when I camped; I was suddenly really happy. There is something about wild camping, something freeing. I had always heard it said before, but am now starting to understand it. For me it’s the realisation that I will just survive. When looking for a spot it always feels like it’s the end of the world. But actually, once I’m all set up, I survive, in fact I do more than that, I enjoy myself. Its something that western society seems to try to hide from us, our innate human ability to survive. I mean don’t think I’m ignorant, I realise of course that people are in far far worse situations than I, and that I am in relative luxury with a warm sleeping bag and tent. But it has still been enough to help me to discover a new part of myself – yuck! I hate that phrase, and really hoped I’d never say it on this project, but I guess I just blew that one!
As darkness began to descend on the sand dunes I climbed to the highest dune to keep watch over my tent and look out for the evening predators. For the only predators that I fear when camping, are people. I find that my hearing is my worst enemy in my tent, as I constantly think I hear footsteps and voices nearby, so I tend to wait outside the tent until its dark enough that any dog walkers or evening wonderers will have left the area (its far less scary if I can see them, rather than hear them from my tent). I take comfort in the fact that if anything, I am the thing they are probably scared of – the weird creepy man who sleeps in the sand dunes.
So here I am, 4 hours later at 9pm in my tent, in the sand dunes at Holywell. The 5th of December firework displays are well underway all around me, but my spirits are high. I’ve sat here and written over 3000 words of blog entries. I think I felt bad for not creating anything today, I was just not in a good place earlier, although I am pleased to say, that apart from the fact that I am bursting for a pee but don’t want to go out in the rain… I am feeling pretty good.

Goodnight everybody x

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom. I think the highs and lows you experience are characterisitic of solo travel and adventure, all part of the process and the 'growth' if that's the right word. Enjoy it all, this is a great project!


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