Tag Archives: Beaches

Aitutaki Island, Cook Islands – Impresions

While staying on Rarotonga, fellow backpackers mentioned travelling to Aitutaki, the Cook Islands’ second most popular location. So, I booked a flight and went to see what it was all about.

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The Island
Aitutaki is 45 minutes by small plane north of Rarotonga and is the main island of an Atol of 15 islands is a loose equilateral triangle, surrounding a much more defined lagoon. Indeed, many people fly to the island for a day trip, with an hour long tour of the island, and a half day lagoon tour.

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The atol is vastly quieter than Rarotonga, with fewer locals also. Some tourists have said the locals live more poorly here, I think they don’t need the lavish housing of Rarotonga or NZ. The community is more friendly, not that those on Rarotonga aren’t, the Aitutaki community is just more friendly. And, if you stay more than a couple of days, you quickly become a member of said community. Unlike Rarotonga, Aitutaki has no dogs, so the cats have taken over, making it their island.

Lagoon Tour
On my first full day on the island, I was collected in the morning and taken out on the water with 16 others for a full day tour. We headed towards Honeymoon Island, stopping to snorkel on the way. Unfortunately my old waterproof camera decided not to work, but it was an enjoyable swim with some giant blue trevally and a rusted shipwreck.

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Honeymoon island is the classic tropical island, and would be empty except for the Kite Surfing school in it’s only hut.

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We crossed to Maina island, where we stopped for lunch, a fantastic feed of fresh tuna steaks, chicken and local salads, including the classic curried papaya.

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It was then back onto the boat to our second snorkelling spot. We passed a 2000 year old Brain Coral as we swam along a series of bouys eventually meeting the boat in a metre of water. The bar opened and we drank beer as we floated in the warm water while a giant white trevally swam around us. Our third stop had to be cut short as the wind was picking up and the water was getting a little dangerous, but we got a quick dip to see some blue and purple coral.

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We then stopped off at Tekopua island, also known as One Foot Island, for a walk around and another beer. There’s a post office on this little island, so I handed over my passport and got a stamp. It was then back to Aitutaki and the end of an excellent day on the bay. That night, the guys in the hostel, kite-surfers who had been there for two months, had cooked curried fish and curried papaya. As I said, community.

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Scooter Adventure
With a day and a half to spare on the island, I called the hostel owner looking for a scooter and he brought me his personal one on loan. Unlike Rarotonga, you don’t need a licence to ride on Aitutaki, this gave me free reign of the island and I took full advantage.

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I found some prime snorkelling sites, and got in on a couple, although it was murky in both.

I found some good cafes, the Koru Cafe at the end of the Airport Runway, and the Avatea Cafe at the other end of the Island, serving amazing fish tacos. I found my way to a Marine Research facility where they were breeding clams, both the small local ones and the giant Australian ones for repopulating the lagoon.

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With the aide of the scooter, I climbed the two higher ‘peaks’ on the island, barely over 100m, but still providing excellent views. This is from Piraki…

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… and the tallest at 124m, Maungapu.

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Then as darkness fell, one of hostel mates snuck us into a local resort where some of his friends were performing after the local feast. It was nice to see the traditional dancing and music for the first time.

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Impressions
While I was only on the island three nights, I felt that was about enough to see what the island had to offer. I liked the quietness away from the crowds in Rarotonga, but in turn, it was a little too quiet for a tourist. Still, it felt like the real Cook Islands and not the tourist centre that is the main island.

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Until next time,
The World Wanderer.

Rarotonga Island, Cook Islands – Impressions

Three and a half hours by plane north east of New Zealand is Rarotonga, the largest and capital island of the Cook Islands.

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As COVID lockdowns ease across New Zealand, I skipped out on winter for a bit and shot off to this tropical paradise. Here are some of my explorations during my time there.

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The Island
Rarotonga is surrounded by a reef where waves crash sometimes a hundred or more metres out. The shallow lagoon it provides makes plentiful snorkelling available right from the beach, assuming clear waters on windless days. The island sits atop a 3000m volcano with 600m sticking out of the water. Thankfully, Rarotonga has been dormant for millions of years.

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The inner parts of the island are hilly, with many climbable albeit forest covered peaks. On the south east is the largest lagoon with four explorable small islands. As a tropical island, there are huge amounts of sun, sand, palm trees, coconuts and, of course, mosquitoes.

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A road runs around the coast and is a constant buzz of motorcycles, scooters and small vehicles. Two buses run in opposite directions on an almost hourly basis, circling in about 50-75 minutes depending on number of stops. Bussing is affordable enough that you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of sitting your scooter license and its associated costs. Much of the island is on ‘Island Time’, though, so the buses don’t operate on Sundays, and businesses tend to close early.

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Rarotonga is a dog island, with dogs everywhere. While most run loose, they are collared but aren’t wild, having their own territories around the Island. They tend to get excited when you walk along the beach, but ignore them and they lose interest quickly enough.

Round the Island Walk
With no buses running Sundays, what better day to walk the entire ring road of the Island? At about 32km, it’s a fair walk in the winter tropical heat, thankfully at around 27-28ºC with only 70% humidity. Still warm, but not hideous.

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Thankfully in many places there is an offshore wind, and the shore is fairly close to the road. Also, thankfully, there’s a store at least every kilometre selling all manner of refreshments.

The walk took me about 6 hours with most being flat. My problem with flat walks, is that I tend to walk too fast, sustaining around 5.5km an hour with few breaks. This caused my Tibialis Anterior muscles – the front muscles below the knee – to be in pain for the next three days.

The island has plenty to see. The south has the best views out to the ocean, while the south east, around the second largest town, Muri, has the best lagoon views and its four smaller islands. The north is the site of the main township, Avarua and the North west is the airport, where tourists tend to hover waiting to watch planes fly over. The island’s peaks can be seen from all sides, although I felt the best views are the north and the east.

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Raumaru Walk
A couple of days after my Island Circuit walk, I decided to climb one of the hills near my hostel, on the island’s western side. The start of the walk is near where I was staying, so together with one of the girls from the hostel, I headed out in the heat of the morning.

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We cut along a road to the inland circular road and climbed an easy dirt road to the trailhead. From here we followed a dirt track skimming under branches. It wasn’t a hard walk, more of a steady gentle climb. The main issue was the heat with sweat pouring off us for much of it. It had rained overnight, and showered twice during the walk making the path slippery even in my hiking boots.

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About a kilometre and a half into the climb, the trail came to a rock scramble, with a knotted rope and climbing struts hammered into the rock wall. I got a few metres up, and with a good ten more to go, I decided against proceeding. I could have made it, but was concerned about coming down on the slippery rock, and my companion was adamant she didn’t wish to climb. Taking advantage of what views we did have, we headed back down.

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Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruise
There are many cruises in the Lagoon out from Muri, I chose Captain Tama’s as they seemed very popular. And, indeed, on the day we had four boats and about 80 people, not including the ‘captains’.

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The weather, however, was not the greatest, and we were told the snorkelling might not be the best due to the murky waters, but we were heading out to see what was possible.

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We got out near the edge of the lagoon, but found it indeed too murky and rough to snorkel. Annoying, as this was why I came, but it is what it is. We headed back to one of the islands for lunch, a show and a bit of a swim in the shallow but still murky waters. Then it was across the bay and back to the main island and home.

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Cross Island Walk
While the Cross Island walk can be done without a guide, I chose to go with one to hear stories of the island and its local flora and fauna. Pa was the guide I wanted to walk with, a local hero, but it wasn’t to be.

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Pa had been crossing the island on tours barefoot for 35 years, doing more than 5000 times. However, when COVID hit, and at the ripe old age of 70, he retired, handing the reins to his niece’s husband. He was awarded the above monument for his efforts.

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The walk was still good, and I learned a lot following Bruce, with the walk being fairly easy and the partial climb up The Needle on ropes and chains fun and the views across the island great.

One other in our small group struggled due to fitness levels, which slowed the walk, but as it was only a half day walk anyway, there was plenty of time.

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We ended at the Papua Waterfall with lunch provided before being dropped back at the hostel.

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Markets
There are two main markets on the island, The Punanga Nut day markets, every morning but Sunday in Avarua, and the Muri Night Markets, 3 nights a week. Both offer different experiences and were worth the visit. The Punanga Day Markets are the classic markets, selling clothes, food, drinks, and on Saturday mornings some of the island’s best selections of fruit, vegetables and local cooking. While it’s quiet most of the week, Saturday morning can get busy with tourists.

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The Muri Night Markets is more of an outdoor food court surrounded by food shacks. While there was some local food types, there were many typical foods, such as waffles or pizza on offer. The atmosphere, however, was still great.

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Snorkelling
As the island is surrounded by a shallow lagoon, if the weather is right, there are many good places to snorkel. I had several occasions to to get in the water, even hiring fins to make getting around a little easier.

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I was able to spy many different varieties of fish during my sessions, some the length of my arm. I was even able to see several Moray Eels while swimming, usually just poking their heads from holes, but on one occasion, one at full swim.

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I had brought my old waterproof camera, and used this until one day it just stopped working. After that, I had to do what I could without it.

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Impressions
Overall, my time in Rarotonga was most enjoyable. A couple of weeks away from New Zealand’s winter on a tropical island. While it was more expensive than I was expecting but not surprising given COVID shut down the country for most of 2 years. I got to see many sights, both physically and culturally, and while the Cook Islands’ culture has its similarities in NZ’s, it was good to see the differences. A fun overall trip to what I am calling Little New Zealand.

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Until Next Time

The World Wanderer

Cape Brett Track – Northland, New Zealand

With winter and rain on the horizon, my hiking season is coming to an end. Nevertheless, with a short gap of sun I did find an interesting overnight walk and shot off up to the Bay of Islands in the Northland province.

The Bay of Islands houses Russell, site of the first European settlement in New Zealand. And, at the eastern edge of the bay is the Cape Brett Peninsula, a forest covered area with a lighthouse at its tip. One of the islands just out from the end of the peninsula is also home to one of the region’s better known tourists spots, a natural arch of rock called the Hole in the Rock.

After my drive north from Auckland, I stayed at a backpackers in Rawhiti, right near the beginning of the track, driving a winding road to Russell for dinner.

Day 1 – Oke Bay to Cape Brett Hut – 17.3km – 8 hours

My backpackers is a kilometre from the trailhead of the Cape Brett Track, and my parking was included in the price, otherwise places charge NZ$10-20 for the night. I walked along the road past Kaingahoa Bay, to Hauai Bay, through the waharoa and up stairs.

With Oke Bay at my left, I began the climb up the highest peak on the track, Pukehuia, although at 345m it isn’t as tall as some of my previous climbs. Most of the walk will be through forests, so I am resigned to just enjoying what I can. As the climb to the top of Pukehuia is over 2km, the track is not particularly steep. But as the day is warm, I made it to the rest stop at the top covered in sweat, but with great views of the Bay of Islands.

I stopped for a brief break, and when I was about to leave, I met one of the three other people I’d see during the walk. I set off again, and on the far side of the hill is a track leading south which is marked as closed. There’s also a good view south to another pair of rocky peninsulas.

At the base of Pukehuia is another closed track, this one also leading to the remains of Whangamumu whaling station. Soon after, I reached the predator proof fence that crosses the entire peninsula. It’s an electrified fence that keeps the possums out, although the gate was open when I arrived, I closed it once I’d gone through. For my second climb of day, smaller than Pukehuia, and the second highest of the walk, with a pair of peaks which I called the nipples. As I climbed down the first of these nipples, I passed the other two people I would see on the trail, and continued on to the far side of the 2nd nipple, where there’s a shelter. I stopped in an open grassy areas nearby for lunch with Outu Bay below.

Over the next several kilometres the trail descended to the Wait ui Stream before climbing steps to the junction of the only side trip of the walk and location where the Water Taxi collects people. As it would have added an hour to the walk, I skipped it and continued on up the hill to be regaled by views of the end of the peninsula and climbs yet to come.

As I drew closer I could make out the track climbing along the sheer cliff face on the most dangerous part of the walk. Thankfully, today the wind was calm.

After the fourth and shortest climb of the day, I came to the cliffs leading up to the entrance of the aforementioned most dangerous part of the walk, the clifftops.

At one point, on the way to the pole that marks the highest point, there’s a guard rail to protect walkers. Beyond the highest point the thin trail leads along the top of the 200m high cliff.

And from this last rise, the lighthouse came into view, along with Piercy Island, home of the Hole in the Rock.

I climbed down to the old lighthouse, which is now redundant, replaced by the smaller (a tenth of its size), stronger, electric powered one on the other side. From that vantage point, I could for the first time see the old lighthouse keeper’s hut below, which has been converted into the Cape Brett Hut by the Department of Conservation. The rest of the walk is down the hill on long switchbacks, but after a long day walking, my legs are a bit like jelly.

On arrival at the hut, I discovered there was already a dozen people there that had walked in earlier in the day. The hut also had its own cookers, pots and cutlery. I had been warned that as it’s late summer, the water may have run out, so I carred in extra water. But, I found there was still water in the tanks, although I still used my own water first. After reading for a while, I cooked my dinner and returned to my bunk for an early start the next day.

Day 2 – Cape Brett Hut to Oke Bay – 17.3km – 8 hours

More people had arrived after me the night before, and the hut was rather busy. There was also a cyclone pushing down on Northland, so most people in the hut were arranging to catch the water taxi before the seas got too rough. As I hadn’t seen a single person walking back the other way on day 1, I assumed they’d also got the water taxi too. Maybe I’m too cheap, but I came to walk, so I hikedout. When ready, and with a far lighter pack in the morning, I climbed the hill back to the lighthouse.

As I crossed the dangerous portion of the track, the wind was a little stronger , but nothing more substantial. While today was supposed to be mainly cloudy, most of the morning was sunny. The track was now familiar, and I remembered all the parts I walked over the day before. During the day, I met a family of 8 heading to stay in the hut overnight. I hope they didn’t get stuck there, as the water taxi doesn’t come in choppy water. A few hours later, I emerged from the trail, down the stairs and through the waharoa.

I walked the 1km to my car and drove to my night spot over an hour away in the city of Whangarei.

Overall,
The Cape Brett track was a nice overnight hike made more challenging by its distance, several climbs and the last section. While I usually prefer not to double backalong the same track, sometimes there isn’t other walking options. Overall, a good couple of days, although I wish less of it was in the forest.

Until next time,
The Lone Trail Wanderer

Abel Tasman Coastal Trail – Nelson – New Zealand

For my second hike in as many weeks, I flew to Nelson at the top of the South Island. From here I will be doing a pair of hikes, but the first is a coastal and listed as one of New Zealand’s most popular hikes. Thankfully the school holidays are over and as I start on a Monday the trail is expected to be quiet.

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track Great Walk! is a 60 kilometre, 3-5 day walk which I did over four days, the last of which was a short day due to having an early pick up from my transport company. In addition, there are several inlet crossings on the trail, one of which doesn’t have an alternative high route, so tide times are important to ensure there are no delays.

Day 1 – Marahau to Torrent Bay Village Campsite – 17 km – 5.5 hours + Side trip to Cleopatra Pool

It was an early start from the hostel this morning to get to the pick up location, and I wasn’t able to find a coffee. I was collected with six others, most of whom were being dropped off like me at the southern start point.

As we pulled up I noted a cafe right next to the trailhead, but when I got there, I found it was closed on Monday and Tuesdays. I guess I’ll have to find time to make my own coffee. I started out along a boardwalk to where to the stony trail began and headed into the bush that I would annoyingly be spending much of the hike in. From time to time as I walked I got views along the golden sands of Porters Beach.

A couple of kilometres into the walk, I stopped at Tinline Campsite, the first of many, where I made a coffee.
As I drank, I had my first meeting with a Weka. It seemed friendly, but I would soon learn not to trust these thieving little beasties, thankfully not because they took any of my stuff.

After coffee, the trail climbed a little, making the views just that little bit better. I climbed down a steep thin path to Coquille Bay Campsite before continuing on. A couple of kilometres later, I did the same at Apple Tree Bay Campsite, but learned that climbing down to every beach campsite meant climbing back up to the trail again, usually on a steep path.

I was looking for a lunch spot another couple of kilometres later as I rounded Stilwell Bay. A sign sent me to Yellow Point Lookout in hope of finding a nice spot, but after a short walk, I discovered to my disappointment, there was very little to see at said lookout. I also had my first encounter with the wasps in the National Park, which were everywhere. They paid me little attention, and I learned later that this entire region was rife with them due to the plentiful beech forests. Next to the Yellow Point Lookout path was the path down to Akersten Bay Camp where I dropped my pack and took lunch, but not before visiting the small cave at the end of the beach.

My camp for the night was to be on the other side of a bay usually crossed at low tide. But as I knew this ahead of time, and with low tide several hours away, I took the high tide route around and was able to walk 10 minutes on a side trail to Cleopatra Pool, part of the Torrent Bay River.

The river runs down a slide into the Cleopatra Pool, and as I dipped my feet in the cold water, I watched a couple of women slide down.

After my break, I walked the hour around the bay and when I got to the campsite, I found a nice spot, pitched my tent and went for a walk. The Torrent Bay Village is a village of baches (beach houses, to non-Kiwis) with numerous private property signs. I wandered around a bit and enjoyed the golden sand, swam in the bay and waited for more people to arrive, but even at low tide came, no-one crossed. Tonight, it would appear, I would be the ruler of the camping ground, with my sole subjects the mozzies.

Day 2 – Torrent Bay Village Campsite to Awaroa Campsite – 18.5km – 7 hours + Side trip to Awaroa Lodge

It was low tide on my waking and people were beginning to stream across the dry bay. As I got ready and had breakfast I watched more and more begin the soggy crossing. I bumped into some later and they told me they were all coming from the Anchorage Hut or Campsite.

When ready, I walked through the village and along the beach a little before beginning the climb up the hill on the far side. It was not a tall climb, and I soon came to the Torrent Bay View point.

I headed on, winding through the forest on a curving path that stayed fairly level. These paths/tracks are very wide, as are all Great Walk! Paths.

I crossed a stream and climbed a little until I came to the Halfway Pool, formed by a stream coming through the area. Compared to Cleopatra Pool, Halfway Pool isn’t even a half sized pool.

I continued on, crossed the Falls River Suspension Bridge and began a slow descent to the turn off to Medlands Beach. I had a quick look at the carving there before continuing on. I rounded the bay and came down onto the Bark Bay spit, where I dropped my pack, took off my boots and had some lunch.

When I headed out again I noted that the bay behind the spit was dry, so decided to cross instead of going the long way around. At the far side, the water was just coming in and was too deep to cross without taking off my boots. On the other side, I put my boots back on and climbed the short steep path to the trail.

It descended slowly down to Tonga Quarry where stones were extracted for the Nelson Cathedral. The quarry was once a Campsite, but was permanently closed after storm damage in 2018. Another short climb led around to Onetahuti Bay where there had been a warning of a deep stream crossing the beach. It wasn’t deep and I crossed with little issue.

I sand walked to the end of the beach, which is not the most fun, and dropped my pack and boots for a break. I then crossed a bridge and headed back into the hills before coming to a T-junction, one way heading down to the Awaroa Lodge, the other continuing the trail. A group of girls were deciding if they should go to the lodge, but decided not to, so I tailed them a little way before they stopped and I continued on. Just over a kilometre later was another shorter route to the lodge, and with the thought of a cider creeping into my mind, I decided to take it.

The Awaroa Lodge did indeed serve cider along with hot chips, so I had a couple of drinks and relaxed. After an hour, I pushed on, following a flat path that would lead to a bay crossing. The bay still had water in it and I had to decide to wait possibly hours for the tide to go down, or to go around. I decided to go around, although I hear I could have easily crossed as the water was only waist deep. I cut through the Awaroa Glamping site instead and ended up bushwhacking a little to get back to the path. The rest of the trail was hard work, especially as I had relaxed so long (nothing to do with the cider, nope). An hour later I finally arrived at the campsite, set up my tent and to get away from the sandflies and Weka, got in. Just before dark a noisy group arrived, but thankfully stayed at the other end of the campsite.

Day 3 – Awaroa Campsite to Mutton Cove Campsite – 14km – 5 hours

In the morning, everyone was up early to get the low tide crossing of the bay, all except the noisy crowd who were barely rising when everyone else was heading out.

Halfway across I noted there was still water higher than ankle deep, so I removed my boots and put on my flip flops. The rest of the crossing was slow and muddy, but I got there, cleaned up my feet as I looked back across the bay, put my boots on and headed off.

With a minimal climb, I crossed the peninsula to Waiharakeke Bay and walked along the bay until I came out on Goat Bay Beach.

There was a steep climb over the hill at Skinner Point, but I noted the tide was still out enough that I could try to rock hop around instead. I deemed there would be plenty of time to come back if I got stuck, but there weren’t any issues.

I jumped down onto Totaranui Beach and walked along to the campsite where there were plenty of RVs and people on holiday. I stopped and made a coffee before pushing on again, heading past the Totarani Education Centre on a grassy path…

…before climbing a small hill over to Anapai Bay Campsite, a small beach camp.

I stopped for a rest before pushing on over a pair of short ridges.

I came down into Mutton Cove Campsite where I would be staying for the night. The camp was a large grassy area, but there was a lot of wind coming off the sea. I found a tucked away spot and pitched my tent. For much of the afternoon, only the occasional other walker would come by to stop for a break then head on again. Of course, I was not to have the place to myself, as late in the afternoon the noisy bunch arrived, thankfully camping at the other end.

Day 4 Mutton Cove Campsite to Wairau Bay Carpark – 8km – 2.5 hours
Today is a short day as I need to meet the trail transport in the early afternoon. I set off at my normal time, again just as the noisy crowd awoke.

I headed up the first steep climb right out of the camp as it crossed the peninsula to Wharwharangi Bay, and walked along the trail off the beach. The trail cut inland and passed the Wharwharangi Bay hut where I stopped to get some toilet paper to clean my sunglasses, then off again straight away onto the highest climb of the trail.

I powered up the sometimes steep trail and eventually came to the summit feeling strong. I took a break on a seat before beginning the slow descent around into Wainui Bay, where I was 2 hours early for the pickup.

I had hoped there might be a shop of similar nearby, but it was not to be the case. So, I found a camp table, got changed into long clothes to avoid the sandflies and just waited. The vehicle was early, and as all five of us were already there, we packed up and headed back to Nelson.

Overall,
The Abel Tasman was a nice little hike with one main issue for me, a large portion of it was spent in the forest. I’ve done plenty of forest walking in my time, but it tends to feel like I am on a treadmill with a screen showing forest displays. You climb and descend, turn left and right, but really have no idea where you’re going. I found this to be a typical case around the northern South Island. Other than this, I found the walk interesting and the various inlets a good respite from the forest. I did also note that two thirds of the people walking were woman. I noted similar on my next walk too and certainly aren’t complaining complaining.

After a day’s break in Nelson, I’m off to the Nelson Lakes Region for a more alpine walk.
Until next time,
The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Isle of Wight, England – Impressions

After lockdown eased and on the first British long weekend, I couldn’t help getting out of London. I’d put this trip off after booking it a year ago, and I’m now looking forward to exploring the island a little.

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The Isle of Wight is in the English Channel off England’s south coast, near Portsmouth, Southhampton and Bournemouth. The island is known for being Queen Victoria’s favourite summer holiday location and a hotbed of dinosaur fossils and a pivotal defence for the region against the Spanish Armada and in the Battle of Britain.

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My trip to the island was long, with an hour-long train ride across London, a 2-hour train to Portsmouth and a 25-minute catamaran ferry crossing to the township of Ryde.

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If I’d done a little more research, I’d have noted one of the world’s last commercial hovercraft services still operates from Portsmouth to Ryde and would have booked that instead of the ferry.

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With several hours to kill before my accommodation opened in Shanklin, on the south side of the island, I hung out in Ryde for lunch and had a wander around. After many weeks of rain in the UK, the sun decided to make up for it all in one go, marking the arrival of summer. I ordered takeaway fish and chips and sat in a small park overlooking the channel while I ate. Of course, fish and chips are a staple in London, but fresh cooked on the seaside is just better.

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Due to track upgrades, the cross-island train was closed, so after lunch and a climb through Ryde’s commercial streets, I made my way to the bus station for the trip to Shanklin. I arrived almost an hour later, but still too early for my accommodation. I stopped off at the local information centre/cafe, grabbed a map and a cider, then I began looking at things to do for the weekend. After checking into my accommodation, I explored the township, finding a path down to the beachfront.

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While Ryde is a typical British seaside township, Shanklin is a typical beachside township with many hotels and restaurants on the shoreline. The Pirate Cove and Jurassic Bay Adventure Park spanned several blocks, with plentiful ice cream stalls dotted about. At the end of the bay is the Shanklin Chine, a small tourist gorge with woodland paths leading up the cliff to come out near my accommodation.

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The Chine is nicely set up with well-manicured paths, a waterfall and a heritage centre with historical displays. Later that evening, coloured lights came on in the gorge, giving it an almost magical feel that photos don’t quite do justice. Then, after a beachfront dinner, I headed back to my accommodation.

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The following morning over my Full English Breakfast, I had to decide what to do for the day. While one of the main attractions on the island is The Needles, a series of chalk stacks in the bay, they’re 2 hours away by bus on the far end of the island. So, I decided on the less travel option, to the township of New Port near the island’s centre, to check out Carisbrook Castle, the Newport Minister, a museum of island history and a Roman villa.

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Newport is an hour by bus, and the castle on the hill outside of town, a further 20-minute walk. When I arrived, I discovered they weren’t accepting walk-in visitors, so I booked a ticket online. With 90 minutes until I was allowed in, I walked to a local supermarket to get some lunch, then back up the hill to wait for my entrance time.

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Carisbrook Castle was built in the 12th century atop a hillside where several roman forts had once stood. It is most notable for being the prison of King Charles I before his execution for treason and then 250 years later, the home of Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s daughter.

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On a more personal note, the major sporting venue in Dunedin, New Zealand, was named after this very castle. The castle was in better repair than many I’d seen in the UK over the past few years. After I toured the castle and the high keep on the hill above it, I made my way back into town.

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I contemplated taking the bus to the Needles, but it drove by before I could get to the bus stop, so decision made, I headed back into Newport. When I got to the Minister, I found it was closed, at 2 in the afternoon on the Sunday of a long weekend. Disappointing.

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I headed to the Roman Villa and found that closed too, and was equally bemused to see the museum also closed. I’m not sure if this was due to the COVID lockdown or if the smaller town didn’t merit having these items open on a long weekend? So, I caught the bus back to the beach. But instead of stopping at Shanklin, I continued on to Sandown at the other end of the bay. With tourists enjoying the sun and beach, I walked around towards the white cliffs.

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When the path ran out, I walked back towards Shanklin, past the Sandown pier. The beachfront goes all the way to Shanklin, so I decided to walk the 3 miles back. A peaceful and enjoyable walk. In Shanklin, I stopped for dinner and a couple of ciders before heading back to my accommodation for the night.

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The next morning after breakfast, I caught the bus back to Ryde with the intention of walk to a nearby winery. But during the bus ride, I discovered the short tour I wanted to take was also on hold due to COVID. So, with nothing else to do, I went to the waterfront for lunch and awaited my ferry back to the mainland. Thankfully, I was able to take an earlier crossing to Portsmouth and its Emirates Spinnaker tower before my 2 and a half hour train ride home.

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Overall Impressions
The Isle of Wight was a lovely weekend away from London, but many things were closed due to the timing. This made travel times on the island long and meant I couldn’t see everything I’d have liked to. Disappointing, but perhaps I’ll return again in the future with a vehicle to make getting around a little easier.

The World Wanderer

Camino Portugués de Costa – Spain Days 6, 7, 8 & 9

In late August 2020, with the world still under the heel of the COVID-19 pandemic, I walked the Portuguese Coastal Camino de Santiago over 12 days.

Back to Days 3, 4 & 5

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Day 6 – Villadesuso to Baiona – Spain – 14.6km

I left the Albergue looking for coffee and breakfast as I walked through the Villadesuso with nice views of the coast. I then ran into a Portuguese couple I’ve seen for the past two days and walked with them to Mougás, 2km away, where I found a cafe. After eating, I continued on along the side of the road, occasionally dipping down to the seaside before climbing back again. I met a carver outside his shop who was very friendly and offered me a stamp for my credential. We chatted for a bit, and I bought a Camino shell from him for my pack.

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I continued along the coast, and when I reached the village of As Mariñas, with its small lighthouse, the trail climbed a hill. It was again nice to climb something, but it wasn’t difficult.

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On the other side, the trail led down into the edge of a built-up area with views out onto the bay.

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Further along and found the Portuguese couple at a pilgrim rest area. We walked on together for 3km before arriving into Baiona, a large tourist town on the beach. They continued on while I located my Albergue and showered before heading into town for lunch and a beer.

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Afterward, I explored the tight streets, investigated the front of the castle on the peninsula, including the beaches on each side. I then went for a walk to the end of the bay, where I climbed a hill to the statue of the Virgin Mary – Virgen de la Roca.

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The height also gave me great views across the bay.

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Day 7 – Baiona to Vigo – Spain – 30km

As much of today will be a slow process of walking into increasingly built-up urban sprawl, I was prepared for a boring day. I walked out of my hostel, and along the road to a local cafe for coffee, before finding a panaderia for some fresh baked goods. I then walked down the coastline road to the end of the shops before following it inland and up the hill towards A Ramallosa. After several kilometres through back streets, I came to Nigrán and, on the far side of a roundabout, found the statue of a pilgrim.

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After Nigrán, the path began to climb but remained in the sprawl. As before, the height offered some views, this time across the bay of Ría de Vigo to two large islands, Illa de San Martiño and Illa de Monteagudo.

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The path continued along, giving more views of the islands, but grew more steadily built up. I rounded the edge of the bay and entered the main built-up areas after Coruxo and began to see tall buildings in the distance. For much of the rest of the day, I walked through busy central city streets and roads. There is a fair amount to explore in Vigo, but it was hot, and I was footsore from all the pavement, so didn’t hang around. I then discovered my hostel was in the old town, a fair way away from the trail, so put my head down and marched on. I eventually arrived to find my hostel in what appeared to be a run-down area with plenty of graffiti and empty buildings. But after checking into the hostel and showering, I went for a wander. I turned a corner and came out on an open area filled with cafes, and on the far side, it opened into a large commercial area.

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I hung around the area, chilling out at a restaurant, enjoying people watching and seeing the culture of the area as I drank beer. When darkness fell, other bars and restaurants opened, including a pizza place. I have enjoyed local food but had a hankering I just had to sate.

Day 8 – Vigo to Redondela – Spain – 17.5km

After breakfast in a local cafe, I headed a couple of kilometres up the hill back to the main path and continued on. The heat started early today, but it’s only a short day, so I wasn’t in a hurry. Over the next couple of kilometres, the path climbed up to about 150m and stayed there for much of the rest of the day, allowing me to enjoy the views along the way.

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The trail and the views continued as I walked through the higher urban areas.

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The pavement joined Senda de Agua – water track – a dirt path through the forest, past a small waterfall, and this painted rock.

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After several hundred meters, the track came out into the suburbs again, giving a view of Ponte de Rande before disappearing back into the forest.

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I began descending and emerged at another urban area near a church – the Igrexa parroquial de Santo André de Cedeira – with another view across the harbour.

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From there, it was all downhill into Redondela, which is the official end to the Portuguese Coastal Camino. But this isn’t the end of my walk, the Central Route from Porto also stops here, and this is the trail I’ll follow the rest of the way to Santiago. The heat is apparent, and so is the fact the two trails have connected, as there are many more pilgrims on the streets and in cafes.

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After finding my Albergue, I showered and headed back into town, where I found the Celtic Lead Irish Bar and enjoyed lunch and a couple of beers. I then met up with a Portuguese couple I’d crossed paths with since Esposende, and we wandered the hot streets before finding our way back to the Celtic Luad for more beer.

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Day 9 – Redondela to Pontevedra – Spain – 19.7km

As I prepared for today’s walk, I watched several groups of pilgrims go past in the dark outside the hostel. I’m up early today as it’s going to be another hot one. And now I’m on the Central Route, the number of pilgrims has noticeably increased. I head out and follow the cobbled town roads on my way out of town. After passing several peregrinos, I stopped on the main road for breakfast and a coffee. I then raced on along the road for a short time before coming to a street vendor selling fruit and drinks, but more importantly, offering stamps. I stopped for another coffee before heading off again, passing a group of five Spanish girls on the side of a busy highway. The path then led through a small village with a pair of Albergues and yet more pilgrims. The hard road turned to a dirt road surrounded by trees and began climbing slowly as it made its way around the end of the Ria de Vigo bay.

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The trail headed back into a built-up area before heading down a steep downhill to the main road. At the end of the bay, I came into the village of Arcade and crossed the river that fed into the bay.

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On the bridge, I ran into the Portuguese couple. I walked with them for the rest of the day following the road through several villages as we made our way to Pontevedra, the capital city of Galicia. We stayed in the same Albergue and after showering we walked around the city to see its sights, two grand churches…

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…a bridge, a convent, and the ruins of an ancient church.

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Next, Days 10, 11 & 12, where I finish my pilgrimage in Santiago de Compostela.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Camino Portugués de Costa – Portugal & Spain – Days 3, 4 & 5

In late August 2020, with the world still under the heel of the COVID-19 pandemic, I walked the Portuguese Coastal Camino de Santiago over 12 days.

Back to Days 0, 1 & 2

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Day 3 – Esposende to Viana Do Castelo – Portugal – 28.5km

With yet another hot day coming, I headed out from the hostel and quickly found a coffee and breakfast. I then headed to the beach and followed the wooden boardwalk along the seaside. It was just early enough for holidaymakers to begin making their way down to the beach. But, it would also be the last beach I’d see for the rest of the day as the path cut inland through suburban roads to the town of Marinhas.

I then followed backroads through several villages, with only the occasional view of the ocean. I came through the township of Belinho and crossed the main road, heading between two buildings with interesting stonework. The houses here are all very different, many are covered in patterned tiles or stonework. I’m told the tiling is very common in Northern Portugal.

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I continued on for another couple of kilometres making my way to the Rio Neiva after which there is a stiff climb, the first on this hike. However, a recent flood had wiped out the bridge, so a detour took me well down towards the coast to another one. On the other side, the path led me back up the hill where I passed the Italian walkers I’d met the day before. I then climbed a hill near Castelo do Neiva, a church with a fair view along the coast and ocean.

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The trail then led me up over a small peak – 155m – then through a eucalyptus forest where a sign pointed me to a house and a stamp. On the other side of the hill, I came to a large old monastery, Mosterio de São Romão de Neiva, where I stopped at a pilgrim’s stop for some water. There are many Pilgrim stops along the trail, with stone seats, water fonts, and sometimes pools to wash clothes or dip hot feet into.

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Then, after the township of Chafé, I climbed a steep set of roads and came down with a view of Viana do Castelo across the Rio Lima, including the church on the hill, Santuário de Santá Luzia.

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And a closer look…

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I crossed Ponte Eiffel, a bridge built by Gustave Eiffel, I’m sure I don’t need to mention any of his other projects. The bridge is near a kilometre long with a thin walkway on either side. My accommodation was right on the other side, so I got a good shot of it from the other side, including the bay.

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At the hostel, I had originally booked a bed in a 20-bed room, but due to COVID, they had closed it, upgrading me for free to a room with four beds, which I had all to myself.

Day 4 – Viana Do Castelo to Caminha – Portugal – 28.4km

After breakfast at the hostel, I headed out through town following the high route, which passed below the Santuário. After a couple of kilometres on the same kind of road with only the occasional view, I decided to detour down to the beachfront, where I passed the remnants of several windmills. With the wind off the ocean, it was cooler than on the higher path.

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Then after an hour, I climbed the hill at Carreço back to the higher road for another impending climb. As the Camino has few ascents, I treasured any climbs as they usually come with views.

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On the other side of the hill, I walked into the town of Âncora and then to the beach – Praia de Âncora. With the heat continuing to rise, I again enjoyed the cool ocean breeze.

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I followed the trail along the beach for a couple of kilometres into Moledo where I had my first sight of Spain and Monte de Santa Tregá.

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I followed the road around and into town where I spied the word “stamp” in yellow on the ground along with an arrow pointing to a balcony. On it, a strange man was smiling at me and offered me a stamp which he assured me was free. We chatted for a bit before I again headed on. The remaining 5km into Caminha was a flat and straight road. That evening I ate a cheese and sausage platter for dinner – why not – before going for some beers with an Italian guy I’d run into a couple of times. But, like many others I’d met in Portugal, he wasn’t crossing into Spain due to the much higher COVID rate.

Day 5 – Caminha to Villadesuso – Spain – 20.2km

As it’s Monday, the ferry to Spain doesn’t run, but the guy at the Albergue told me I could catch a water taxi from 8 AM. I went down to the harbour at 9 AM, but no-one was there.

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I went for a coffee, and when I came back, other pilgrims were also waiting – two Spanish guys and a Swiss girl. Eventually, the four of us were able to catch a water taxi across the harbour.

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We arrived in the sleepy town of Camposancos, where the path took us up the hill. It didn’t climb too far before heading us down again to A Guarda, a seaside town with plenty of charm. Now I’m in Spain, the clocks have gone forward an hour, and it’s already lunchtime. But by the time I got to the end of the town, I’d neglected to get anything so decided to get something at the next village. I left A Guarda passing a beach with some topless ladies, something I discovered is common in Spain.

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There is no longer wooden boardwalks, the trail is now along a rocky path. Also, Spain has a more strict mask-wearing policy, so I have to be more vigilant. The trail led me along beside the sea for sometime before climbing up to the road, then a couple of kilometres further on returned me back to the beach.

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After 6km I came to Portecelo, but there were no shops in the village, so I kept walking. After another 6km I arrived in Oia where there were 2 restaurants, but as it was only mid-afternoon, I grabbed a bag of potato chips and a coke. 4km further on was my stop for the night, Villadesuso and I got settled into the Albergue.

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Compared to Portugal, the Spanish speak less English, so it was time to put my Spanish lessons to the test. I found a restaurant in a hotel with special peregrinos rates: €15 for 4 courses, including a drink. However, the waitress spoke no English, but I managed to get by with my limited vocabulary and even managed a short conversation. Then it was back to the hostel and bed.

Next, Days 6, 7, 8 & 9, where I drink at an Irish bar Spanish style and reach the capital of Galicia.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Camino Portugués de Costa – Portugal – Days 0, 1 & 2

In late August 2020, with the world still under the heel of the COVID-19 pandemic, I flew to Portugal to begin the Portuguese Camino de Santiago. The route I chose begins in the city of Porto and runs along the coast to the border of Spain, where it makes its way slowly inland to Santiago de Compostela.

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The total length of the route is 280km, which I plan to complete over 12 days. Unlike the Tour du Mont Blanc, which I completed recently, Camino Portugués do Costa is fairly flat, so it will be more of a daily hike for distance than massive climbs. And, before water, my pack will be between 9kg and 10kg. Except for the first day, the trail is well marked, either with the symbol of the shell with an arrow or just a yellow arrow.

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Day 0 – Porto Arrival
I arrived in Porto the day before the hike and was collected by a regional workmate. From the airport, he took me on a tour of the city, showing me several sights, including this temple in Gaia north of the city. The haze is actually fog.

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We then stopped at a top seafood restaurant for some local delicacies, cod patties, squid, and sardines asadas. Amazing. My workmate then dropped me off at my Albergue. After booking in, I went for a walk and found this church – Igreja do Carmo – with its tiled facade.

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That evening, I hung out with a slowly growing group of employees, new pilgrims, and other recent arrivals. We drank beer and waited as an asada – BBQ – was prepared with salted beef. Then, a dozen of us crowded around a table and enjoyed a great dinner. Afterwards, a fire was stoked, and we sat around drinking more beer while an American guy played guitar.

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Overall a great experience, and this even before I’d started walking.

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Day 1 – Porto to Vila do Conde – Portugal – 33.2km

As I went to bed later than expected, I woke late – 7 AM – and went down to pack. I’m usually more prepared at night, so it takes less time in the morning, but last night was fun. By 8, I was ready to head out. As I’m walking the coastal track – Senda Litoral – along the river to the beach and along the beachfront to Vila do Conde, my official start point is the Cathedral. I walked downhill to the Cathedral, adding an extra 2.7km to my route, stopping on the way for breakfast and a coffee. The below Monument to Bishop Pedro Pitões is at the front of the 12th-century religious site.

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I then found my way down to the river and followed the road around to and past the Ponte da Arrábida bridge watching some old fashion streetcars run back and forth along the tracks.

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After 6.3km, I arrived at Foz do Douro, where the river meets the sea, and followed the boardwalk along the waterfront in front of houses and the Parque da Cidade. Next to the port, I spied the first beach. On the other side of the port, I passed the industrial part of the city, another beach, and a massive refinery. Then, after walking 20km, I finally left the confines of Porto city at Boa Nova Lighthouse and stopped for lunch at a local restaurant.

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For the rest of the day, I walked along wooden boardwalks above the sand, slowly making my way north. From time to time, I passed small quaint seaside villages in classic Northern Portuguese style, the outer walls of the houses covered with tiles.

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At one point, a fog rolled in blocking views out to sea and further along the beach. There’s a cold current running along this region of Portugal, and on a hot day, the fog rolls up the beach. It’s odd, as I associate fog with cold days, but the sunbathers don’t seem to mind, although there’s not much swimming going on.

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I eventually headed inland and crossed a bridge into Vila do Conde, where I quickly found the hostel. After 37.5km, I was footsore and ready for a shower. A few buildings down I relaxed with a large beer before going for a brief walk around town. It didn’t take me long to realise walking more after today’s long walk was just silly, so I headed back to rest and prepare tomorrow.

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Day 2 – Vila do Conde to Esposende – Portugal – 24.4km

Well rested, I headed out in the morning, following a side road to a cafe where I stopped for breakfast and a coffee. I then followed a road towards the ocean, crossed at a tiled mural began along the beachfront.

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Much of the coastline in front of Vila do Conde is a beach, but when the town ends, so does the sand.

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The rocky coastline continued for several kilometres before the trail took me inland. I followed a series of back roads through farmed fields and long white greenhouses with only the occasional view of the sea. Without the constant breeze from the Atlantic Ocean, the heat became more apparent. For the second day, it was clear blue skies and sunshine, weather that would last for the duration of my time on the Iberian Peninsula. The road continued on through the township of Apúlia, where I discovered a break room for pilgrims. It was simply a small room with a pair of vending machines, some seats, and the all-important stamp. To officially complete the hike, I need to get 2 stamps a day in my credential – also known as the pilgrim passport, so any opportunity to get stamps is welcomed.

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And in one of the vending machines, I was surprised to see beer, but I bought snacks and coke instead. While I was there, a large group of Italian pilgrims arrived. They seemed suddenly interested when they discovered there was a stamp and, ignoring social distancing, crowded inside. I chatted for a bit with some English speakers before heading off. As the pilgrimage was initially a religious experience, the trail wends its way past numerous churches every day.

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The trail then led me through a forest on a dirt road before coming to the small township of Fão where I crossed Rio Cávado. On the other side, I followed a side road into Esposende, where I found my hostel wasn’t open for another 2 hours. I hung around in town, had lunch, and enjoyed the weather down near the river. For dinner, I tried something I’d been told about called Francesinha Especial.

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This feast is a triple-decker sandwich made with a meat paddy, steak, ham, beef sausage, and chorizo, lavished with melted cheese and topped with a fried egg. The entire thing is smothered in a special sauce and served with fries.

Next, Days 3, 4 & 5, where I see a church on a hill and cross into Spain.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Lands End, England – St. Ives to Penzance, Part 2

A four-day hike around the toe of England – Land’s End, Cornwall. See the first two days – St. Ives to St. Just.

Day 3 – St. Just to Treen – 18.5km (11.5 miles)
Stage 3 overall was moderate with only a couple of difficult climbs.

As we had walked a mile past St. Just the night before to the YHA, we were already a mile ahead of schedule for the day. After breakfast, we checked out and headed along the gully to Gribba Point with a view back along the coast to Cape Cornwall. Ahead of us, the coastline stretched away as the trail cut across the cliff tops and only descended into a river gully once.

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We climbed our way back up the cliff and around to the rocky Aire Point with White Sand Bay growing ever closer.

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Beyond Aire Point, the trail grew more sandy as we came down into Whitesand Bay with Sennon Cove settlement on the far side where we aimed to find lunch. We watched surfers in the bay as you crossed a small amount of sand before climbing around the cliffs towards the town. On arrival, I found a fish and chip shop and a pub to enjoy a relax and an ice cold cider.

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After lunch, we headed up the cliff and the final kilometre to Land’s End, the westernmost point of England’s mainland. We walked briefly through Legendary Land’s End, a tourist mall, before pushing on in the heat.

The way around the coast was mainly across the tops of the cliffs with only one climb down into Mill Bay and back up the other side. From here it was rolling hills all the way around to Gwennap Head, the southernmost point of the Land’s End peninsula.

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We stopped for a break at the lookout at Hella Point before climbing down into Porthgwarra, a small village with a beach nestled in the rocks.

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Further on we were warned of a cliff slide near St. Levan, so walked cautiously but found nothing of concern. We could soon see Logan Rock ahead, our end point for day 3.

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We came to the top of the cliff over looking Porthcurno beach where there is a natural Open Air Theatre, but after a long day in the sun, neither of us felt like paying the money and lugging out bags up and down the cliff to see it.

At the top of the cliff on the other side of the beach, it was only a fifteen-minute walk to our accommodation, Treen House B&B and its host, the lovely Claire.

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Treen House B&B is only 50 metres from the local pub, but up a hill. After the day’s walk, it was perhaps the hardest walk we had to make.

Day 4 – Treen to Penzance
The initial part is ‘difficult’, going quickly to moderate, before ending on an easy walk along roads.

We left the lush comfort of the Treen B&B and walked along the road down to Penberth. As it had for the previous three days, the sun beat down with only a soft breeze to cool us as we climbed one of the few cliffs left on this coastal adventure. We descended into a gully, ascended the other side to walk along the cliff and then down towards the community of St. Loy Farm, where we finally had some shelter from the sun through a small tree reserve.

Past the community, we had to for the first time rock hop along a beach for about fifty metres before heading up Boscawen cliff on the other side.

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For the rest of the morning, we walked along the tops of the cliffs on a fairly easy route towards Lamorna where we came around the cliff to find a cosy little village nestled into an inlet. The heat was pretty sweltering, so we stopped off for lunch and a cold drink. We then continued around a rocky cliff, up Kemyel Cliff and passed alongside the Kenyel Crease Nature Reserve where we started to see more civilisation.

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We hit roads not long after at the township of Mousehole only a handful of miles around the coast from Penzance. The remainder of the walk had us following the main highway along the coast. We stopped for an ice-block to cool us down before pushing on. Many people catch a taxi or bus from Mousehole as it is all road walking, but we decided to finish on foot. The concrete under our feet was hot, and you could feel it through your boots as we pounded the pavement.

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After an hour on the road, we finally made it back to our accommodation in Penzance and dropping out bags off at the car, we headed to the local pub for a well-deserved cider.

Overall
The four-day hike from St. Ives to Penzance is an excellent and moderately difficult walk, made harder by the beating sun at this time of the year. It’s an experience and finding the little hidden away golden beaches and peacefulness of the trail, it was overall a good time. At no point would I have considered it severe difficulty as I have seen mentioned online, and only barely strenuous because of the constant heat.

The Trail Wanderer

Lands End, England – St. Ives to St. Just, Part 1

It’s been some time since I’ve put on a pack and headed out on the trail. I’m now living in London in the UK and decided to get out and see what England had to offer.
After some deliberation, my brother and I settled on a four-day hike around the toe of England in Cornwall, called Land’s End.

This is my first full coastal hike on what I’m told is the best scenic hike in England. At 66km or approximately 43.5 miles, I  split it over 4 days, plus a day to get to and from Penzance, our starting point.

Transport
Land’s End is around 300 miles from London. To get two of us down there by plane or train is very expensive, and we didn’t fancy 9 hours on a bus. This time it turned out far cheaper to hire a car.

Accommodation
There are camping grounds around Land’s End, but we decided to go ‘glamping’. So we booked backpackers and B&Bs to ensure we got a hot shower and soft bed after each day of walking. If you do this, it is best to book a fair time ahead to ensure you get a room, especially in summer when it’s most popular. Also note, most accommodations have late checkout and 5 pm check-ins, forcing hikers to walk during the hottest part of the day.

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The day before our walk, we drove down from London, a five-hour trip. We stayed the night before the hike in Penzance and would be staying at the same place at the end of the hike. This was so we could leave the car securely parked for the duration of the walk.

Day 1 – Penzance to Zennor – 11.5km (7 miles)
This first stage of the hike was the hardest but thankfully the shortest. While it is listed as ‘severe’ and ‘strenuous’, I would consider it closer to ‘difficult’, especially in mid-summer under the constant sun.

We left the car outside out accommodation and bought train tickets to St.Ives, taking only 10 minutes and delivering us to the trailhead in style.

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On arrival in St. Ives we found the small town to be set between picturesque gold sand beaches, something not normally associated with the UK. In the blue skies and hot sun of mid-summer, tourists and beach goers swarmed the small town.

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We started the walk with a tour of ‘The Island’ on St. Ives Head giving the above views out across the town and beaches. On ‘The Island’, St. Nicholas Chapel, also gave a picturesque view.

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We walked around The Island and then along Porthmeor beach on what was to be the easiest walk of the day. Then, a short climb around the cliffs as he headed towards Clodgy Point.

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The initially wide sandy trail weaved through long grasses and short bushes that did nothing to protect us from the constant sun. While there was a very light cool breeze, it did little to alleviate the heat.

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The trail crossed the top of the cliffs, ascending and descending through rocky gullies that lead down to precarious crags. As we headed towards Pen Enys Point, we left the sandy beaches long behind us.

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This section of the coast is perhaps the most desolate part of the region except for the occasional Foxglove flower dotted here and there. After two hours, we’d left the touristic day walkers behind leaving only the occasional other hikers.

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We pushed on in the heat, following the South West Coast trail around cliffs that just didn’t seem to end. As we made our way past Mussel Point, we found a lone park bench sitting in a short bend on the trail. After hours of hard climbing in the sun, we sat down for a well deserved 30-minute lunch.

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For the rest of the afternoon, we slogged on, climbing across various rocky outcrops until Zennor Head came into view. From here the climbs became longer and steeper until we came over a ridge to see a farm building on the edge of the village of Zennor.

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This announced the end of the first day. We headed along a road towards the small village where we could finally down packs and enjoy some shade. We found our way to the Tinner’s Arms, the only pub in the village, and relaxed on the grass under umbrellas enjoying cold drinks until our accommodation, Zennor Chapel B&B opened.

Day 2 – Zennor to St. Just – 18.5km (11.5 miles)
Stage 2 had some difficult parts but was overall fairly moderate.

From the window of our room, we could look out to the coast and even watch a family of rabbits play on the lawn. After a refreshing night’s sleep in comfortable beds, we went down for breakfast and picked up our prearranged packed lunch.

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We walked out of Zennor in the late morning. The weather was similar to the day before, cloudless blue skies with only the slightest breeze. Without even that slight breeze, the day would have been a lot harder.

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We set out along Carnelloe Cliff with the memories of the previous day still heavy in our minds. But unlike the end of the first day’s with its constant ascents and descents began fairly flat and skirted around the tops of the cliffs. Today we started to see more nettles on the trail and as we both wore shorts we were forced to get used to that constant stinging sensation. We could have worn long pants to avoid this, but in the heat, no thanks!

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Out first distant target was a jutting set of rocks known as Gurnard’s Head. As we walked towards it, the climbs began in the heat of the day. After an hour we walked past the rocky peninsula and climbed the Treen Cliff on the far side. We found a set of rocks on the far side with a luxurious cool breeze and stopped for a break.

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A distance marker pointed us to Pendeen Watch, a lighthouse atop Pendeen New Cliff. We set that as our lunch break point and marched on. The trail, in general, became smoother with less climbing as we followed the clifftops, but the nagging sting of nettles continued. Early in the afternoon, we crossed the Tregaminion Cliff to see the golden sands of Portheras Cove below us. On the other side, we could see Pendeen New Cliff, although no lighthouse yet.

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But as we neared the beach, Pendeen Watch did became apparent. We descended into the cove and walked briefly on the sand before climbing the other side. Near the top, a switchback trail descended the hill to a road which climbed again to the lighthouse. We stopped for a well-deserved rest and to eat the rather abundant lunch we’d been provided.

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From the lighthouse we could see chimneys further along the trail, marking the entrance of the Levant Mining area. The afternoon sun beat down on us for perhaps the hottest day of our walk. As we entered the mining area, there were far less grassy trails and more gravel. This didn’t help with the heat.

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We struggled on as the water in my pack began to grow warm. We were able to find a small shop as part of a museum in the ruins of Britain’s largest tin mine. We purchased a bottle of cold water each and drained them in seconds.

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Feeling a little more refreshed, we pushed on along the cliffs to Kenidjack Castle ruins where we got a view of Cape Cornwall and the edge of St Just, our stopping place for the end of day 2.

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With our target in sight, our strength’s began to wane, and we staggered into central St. Just, a thriving town which after a couple of days in the ‘wilderness’, had far too much traffic. On arrival, we discovered our accommodation was a mile further on from the town. We rested for ten minutes before pushing on to the YHA Land’s End and a welcome shower.

Next, the final two days of our hike, St. Just to Penzance.

The Trail Wanderer