Day 66

on Jul 29, 2010 | 3 comments

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Brora to Helmsdale

Lesley was right, the bed in my room really was comfortable and after a very long day on the A9 I really didn’t want to get out of it this morning. But, that attitude wouldn’t get me to John O’Groats so I tentatively put my feet on the floor to see if they were working, which they were although things were still a little on the painful side.

I pottered around as per normal hoping that my feet would ease up a bit before the day’s walk and going down to breakfast I was hopeful that things were looking as though they might be ok.

Breakfast was fantastic! There was so much of it I couldn’t eat it all even though I really really wanted to. It certainly set me up perfectly for a day on the road.

Belly full I finished off sorting myself out and popped downstairs to settle up. Lesley and Andrew were lovely and I really enjoyed my very short stay at Pandora’s B & B.

I’m beginning to find it difficult to get excited about the walk each day knowing that it’s all going to be spent walking along a road, dodging traffic. Unlike previous stages on this journey of mine there’s not a lot to occupy the mind other than keeping an eye out for lorries and large camper vans. Even the fact that I’ve been walking along the coast these past couple of days hasn’t helped with the enthusiasm levels and this morning wasn’t any different. I was going to do the walk because I had to, no other reason.

With that, I headed up the A9 out of Brora and soon found myself on the open road with nothing but fields on one side and the train line and coast on the other.

About a mile and a half up the road I spotted some other walkers coming towards me, pulling what looked like carts behind them. We said hello and struck up a conversation. They were walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End in aid of The Goodman Project helping the street children of Dehli, India. I think they were jealous that I was nearly there, having only started a few days ago themselves, but they looked determined people and certainly seemed in high spirits.

In fear of my feet giving up the ghost after standing still for so long I said goodbye, wished them luck and carried on up the road towards Helmsdale, my destination for the day, a short eleven miles from the B & B.

I was doing ok, even with the pain in my right foot, and I was hopeful of making good time and giving myself a good afternoon’s rest before tomorrow’s walk. The traffic wasn’t too bad – it seemed a little lighter than yesterday – so I didn’t have to jump out of the way of too many lorries for the first part of the day.

Nearly three hours in to the walk I met another JOGLE walker – Matt – walking to raise money for Solar Aid who are trying to fight climate change and global poverty. If you’re feeling generous please head over to Matt’s Just Giving page and help him on his way.

We chatted for a good twenty minutes or so, him trying to get as many tips out of me as he could. He was already suffering with his feet and was also finding being alone quite difficult to handle. I told him about the other JOGLE walkers I’d passed a couple of hours earlier and told him to try and catch up with them and maybe walk with them for a bit.

He was a really nice young chap and I wished him well, shook his hand and got back to my walk for the day. My feet were beginning to complain a bit but I only had about four miles to go and I really wanted press on and get it done and dusted.

This wasn’t to be the case though as my feet – or should I say my right foot? – really did fall apart after that second chat-stop and I found a wall to sit down for a bit. I was really upset and frustrated with my right foot. It was as bad as it was at the beginning of this walk, clearly not enjoying the road walking again. There wasn’t a lot I could do about it though seeing as that’s all I had ahead of me until I reach the John O’Groats but when has something like that ever stopped me from moaning and complaining?

After my short break I hit the road again, determined to reach Helmsdale before I had my lunch. It was only eleven miles for goodness sake and it should have been a walk in the park compared to some of the days I’ve had on this walk, but like a number of other short days it really wasn’t turning out to be anything like that at all.

At one point my worst nightmare happened. I was walking along, listening to my music but not too loudly, when a lorry went to overtake a cyclists from behind me. This lorry must have come within a couple of feet of me and the wind as it went by almost knocked me off my feet. I wasn’t happy and it scared the life out of me. I’d really had enough of the A9 at this point but there was nothing I could do but to struggle on.

I was going ok, gritting my teeth and trying my best to ignore the pain, but reaching Portgower, a mere two miles from my room and relief from the pain of walking, I had to stop and have something to eat. I sat on a crash barrier, the only thing I could find vaguely seat-like, and rested up while I ate.

I think I was there for about fifteen minutes before I plucked up the courage to stand up and put my pack back on and trust me, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I was now going to make the final push of the day and get to Helmsdale even if it was through floods of tears because of the pain. This really was turning out to be a bad day.

You’ll be pleased to hear that I made it to the Belgrave Arms hotel and in not too bad a time all things considered. I grabbed my key, went to my room, dropped everything on the floor, took my boots off and collapsed on the bed.

As I lied there I looked through to the bathroom and spotted a bath – two days in a row…heaven! I struggled up and immediately started to run a nice hot bath to try and sooth away my aches and pains. It was wonderful I can tell you.

Feeling a little bit better I plonked myself back on the bed and rested my feet for a bit. I couldn’t sit back and do nothing for too long as I wanted to post some maps off – reducing the weight of the pack a bit – and also to post off another postcard to the girls.

Fortunately the post office was a short hobble up the road so it wasn’t too much of a problem, he says. While out I also got my supplies in for the next couple of days so that was good.

I chilled out in my room until it was time to speak to the girls. Having wifi I was able to have a Skype call with them again, which really put a big smile on my face after another tough day on the road. They’re so great and I miss them so much, but to be able to see their happy smiling faces has been a treasure throughout this long walk of mine and I’m so glad I decided to carry the weight of of the netbook. If I hadn’t I’m not sure I would have coped with a few snatched seconds on the phone every day.

For dinner you’ll be unsurprised to hear that I again had fish and chips. I went to La Mirage for a fish supper. The place had been recommended by Lesley at Pandora’s B & B so I had to check it out.

Walking up to the restaurant they were clearly proud of the fact that they’d been voted No. 2 fish and chip shop by Clarissa Dixon Wright of Two Fat Ladies fame. I had high hopes for an excellent fish dinner. The fish was indeed very nice but overall, I’ve had better. It filled a hole nicely though so I won’t complain too much.

I didn’t want a late night having not had the best of days so I headed back to my room to chill out.

I hope tomorrow’s slightly longer walk goes better than today. I’ve got three days left before the end of this journey and I really can’t stand the thought that the final miles of this amazing adventure are going to be spent swearing and cursing at my lousy feet!

Photos and Route Details

If you want to find out more about this day you can see the photos I took or view the route details.


  1. Dave

    July 29, 2010

    I reckon the realisation of what you are about to accomplish will kick in, and the final couple of days walking will pass in a state of pride and achievement. Yes, the feet might hurt but it’s not going to stop you reaching John O’Groats so not an issue. PMA!! All the best for the last 3 days matey, your Mum & Dad will be watching over you and bursting with pride.

    • Darren

      July 29, 2010

      Cheers matey. I hope you’re right. The pain is quite exquisite but I’ll make it, you know I will!

  2. Darren

    July 29, 2010

    I forgot to mention when writing up today’s walk that there were some scales in the bathroom of the B & B so I weighed myself. They reckoned I’d lost 18lbs since the day I left for Land’s End. That’s mental!!