Post 18: After some pleasant walking through a wooded area, Windermere the lake came into view and all our aches and pains were forgotten. The Dales Way leaves you enticingly on the edge of the Lake District, whetting your appetite for future long-distance walks! We then posed for photographs at the ‘official’ end of the walk, a built up slab of slate with a small plaque. Gary probably would have preferred not to have his physical state recorded on print for it was a sorry sight. It was 3.30pm.
‘Hurry up,’ I said heading down the path to Bowness-on-Windermere. ‘We have a train to catch from Windermere station at 4.20pm.’
Emerging onto the busy main street of this tourist honey-pot was like re-entering the earth’s atmosphere after a six-month stay on the Mir space station. The contrast from what we had been through was stark, with noise from cars and lorries, screaming children with ice-creams, prams on the pavements, and crowds of shoppers. I was already wishing I was back on the Dales Way. However, before we had time to ponder on our situation, a bus to Windermere went past and stopped a few hundred yards up the hill.
‘Come on, run for it,’ I said. The torture was not over for Gary.
‘Oh, I can’t run,’ he groaned.
I ignored his pleas and tried to sprint. If you have ever tried to sprint with a 30lb pack and walking boots on, you’ll know it is impossible. Despite this we managed to clamber on the bus to arrive at Windermere station on time. We needn’t have bothered as our train was late and there is no colder place than a railway station. Combined with our growing hunger, we chilled down rapidly so that by the time the train arrived half-an-hour later we were in the first throws of hypothermia. However, we survived to arrive at Oxenholme station, then got a connection to Preston, albeit late, to find we had missed the Leeds train. A student called Sue was having a panic attack as she hadn’t seen her boyfriend for two weeks. I hadn’t seen my wife for four days and was much calmer, although in view of the considerable effort on the walk it seemed like four weeks, for Gary it seemed like four years. Just when you need a porter to assist you, they are nowhere to be found. After checking of the timetables, we decided we could go to Manchester, then get a connection to York. Sue came along too, which was good from my point of view as Gary was past interesting conversation. Having survived relatively unscathed, I was feeling quite chirpy and proud of myself and Sue was good company, having a great love of walking and the Lake District; she had also completed various projects on National Parks. After changing at Manchester, then more confusion, we finally managed to get a train to York, arriving at 9.45pm where Gary’s wife was waiting to give us a lift.
Looking at Gary she said, ‘Heck, where have you been, the desert?’
There was no answer. It would have been difficult to describe Gary as a ‘New Man’ at this point. To be one, don’t drink out of streams unless you have sterilising tablets; there is usually a dead sheep just up-stream from where you are drinking. By omitting this simple precaution, Gary made regular trips to the toilet and the Doctor for the next six months. In addition, don’t underestimate the amount of energy required in walking with a pack over a number of days. Keep the daily mileage to reasonable amounts, say twelve miles in mountainous areas, fifteen in hilly areas and twenty over very flat countryside. Have some shorter days to recover or have a rest day.
When I got back home my normal shoes would not fit as my feet had swollen by half a size; whilst on the walk make sure your walking boots are large enough to allow for some expansion.