Wednesday, 5th July.
Pile of Shite
How did I end up hiking on the Isle of Wight?
I found myself at Waterloo Station (ah, there you are!) and said to the
teller, "One ticket to Ryde, please!" It was all downhill from there.
The train journey was swift and uneventful, and I arrived in Portsmouth
after 11am. To get to the island I had to transfer to the ferry. At the
ferry terminal I bought a choc-chip muffin and a drink. "Is that all?"
asked the woman behind the counter. "Is that all?" I mimicked in her
country accent. Hmm, low level of amusement from her. Two kids were spinning
their sister around and around in a stroller. "I DON'T CARE - ROCK AND ROLL!"
the kid yelled out. I looked at the tourism posters for the Isle of Wight on
the wall behind me. Ew, lame. Looks like the Isle of Wight is England's
Except without the charm.
Conversation betwen slightly crazy-looking bloke and woman with posh
accent. Weird bloke is with something resembling a woman, the posh sheila
is with her nice family. Scene: somewhere between Portsmouth and Ryde.
CRAZY BLOKE: I'm going to Devon on holiday...with my girlfriend.
gestures to strangely-clad creature on his left
POSH SHEILA: Oh.
CB: Have you been there?
PS: Uh, no...
She's trying not to encourage him, but doesn't want to be rude.
CB: It's supposed to be lovely.
CB: It's all paid for, y'know, we get picked up by the bus...
CB: ...and the barges...
PS: Sounds lovely.
CB: We're going to Bembridge this afternoon.
Crazy bloke then loses attention, he and his girlfriend resume
torturing each other.
I landed in Ryde and discovered a town that
wouldn't be out of place on Tasmania's north-west coast. Elderly tourists
everywhere, bored kids, and pseudo-surfies. I got myself some lunch and
then headed off on my trek round the island.
After enduring some dull walking and dull scenery I got off the beaten
track. Another mistake. The previous night there had been a torrential
downpour on the Isle of Wight, and the walking tracks were muddy as. I was
slipping along, struggling under my heavy backpack when I encountered a bloke
out walking with his kid. Well, the little girl wasn't doing any walking, he
was carrying her. He asked me for directions (oh the irony) and decided to head
off in the same direction as me. He was coping a lot better with the slippery
conditions than I was, and he was carrying a kid and wearing a pair of sneakers!
Me and my you-beaut walking boots weren't going so flash.
Then things started getting ridiculous. I took a wrong turn at the
Bembridge Windmill (a must-see on the Isle of Wight) and ended up on the wrong
side of the airport. (Airport? You must be kidding.) To get back on track I
had to walk along a road. No verge for me to walk on combined with traffic
whizzing past at 60mph meant I was walking in brown underpants territory.
So I crashed through a hedge so I could walk in the paddock alongside the road,
paddock bloody well stank to high heaven, must've been all the rabbit droppings,
trudged along and made it back onto a public footpath through the paddocks.
Late afternoon, humid, insects, no insect repellent, beating a path through the
blackberries, dodging dog shit, staring competition with a cow, ugly female
jogger, Brading railway station, bored youth on bikes, pack getting heavier,
old rocker in a t-shirt and leather jacket walking by the railway line, smell of
my own BO, straps cutting into my shoulders, sleeping mat getting caught on
thorns, roadworks, traffic diverted, temporary traffic lights, dopey road
worker taking down signs at the end of the day, finally I'm in Sandown. And I
find the campsite, put up the tent, and take a load off.
After eating my naan bread and cheese, and some caramel slice for pudding,
I listened to a European athletics meet on the radio. flashback sequence...
My very first full-time job after I finished university was at the Department of
Social Security in Tasmania. During the Atlanta Olympics I was doing field
visits with a "senior" member of staff. This involved visiting
social security clients in their homes, making sure they're ok and that they're
not ripping off the taxpayers of Australia. We were listening to the athletics
on the radio, and heard a running race featuring a runner with the same name
as one of our more notorious clients. "Probably got fit running away from all
those robberies" my supervisor deadpanned. ...end flashback