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Rendezvous in Cockburnspath

Yakunchja. After 18 days filled with solitary hiking, blisters, chocolate and cold Pot Noodles, there was a stunning moment at which the A1 came into view. In itself not that picturesque, but it signified only a few more humps to the east coast of Scotland. Climbing through one last forest, the sea was waiting for me, and a messy mobile home park. I got to the last waymark on the 212 mile (and then some) Southern Upland Way, but there were no throngs of cheering crowds, no flags were being waved. Even the television crews hadn’t turned up. Perhaps it was because my trudging had sped up towards the end, and I was early. Maybe the television crews, like me, had been convinced that I was going to die of exposure on day two, and had written me off. They obviously hadn’t been talking to the RAF pilots who had been following my progress as they performed their low level, terrain hugging flying exercises, flying around their tornados and harriers through valleys and between trees. One RAF pilot decided to say goodbye by flying right over my head at supersonic speed as I walked over the last open section of moorland. No, the military weren’t keeping the media abreast of my progress.

It was up to me to celebrate the completion of the epic stroll alone, or perhaps with the company of a tipple or two. I hadn’t even drunk so much as a snortorino since I had set off from Glasgow. While waiting for a train at Berwick Upon Tweed, I toyed with the idea of having a cheeky pint before I departed for Newcastle. Being in a room full of people, stale cigarette smoke and sticky carpets would be a good way to integrate me back into the society I had turned my back upon in the wilderness weeks. The purity of this thought was besmirched when I saw a skinny track-suited chava being searched and cautioned by the police. If this was society, where a man can’t even go to a pub without a reminder of the bubbling undercurrent of social unrest, give me back my bothies in the wilderness.

I snorkeled in and out of consciousness on the train, suffering from a cocktail of exhaustion, relief, and sunstroke. I nevertheless felt pleased with my achievement, though I still can’t figure out what I did it for. My subconscious has relegated it into that place where it keeps things that are hard and finished. I know this because last night I awoke with a start in a cold sweat. Four days later, I had dreamed that I still had three more days walking to get to Cockburnspath.

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