Dies illa tremenda – Roman Gradual
Yesterday was the first day that I really felt a sense of crushing doubt about this undertaking.
I had been looking again at the route in its entirety, partly to try and tie down the relationship between accommodation and food for each of the days. Two things struck me. Firstly, that there are going to be stretches of the route where there is huge pressure on accommodation: when you get up to the West Highland Way, accommodation options are few and far between. Places book up very early, particularly in the summer months. Most people doing the WHW are only doing this route, and therefore can say with certainty they will be starting at Fort William on day X, and arriving at the various stopping points on days Y and Z, exactly when they aim to. We are starting so far ahead and from so far away that it is entirely possible that we’ll be way off schedule by the time we get that far north. That in itself isn’t an issue; but it does mean that I can’t book that far ahead with any certainty. And by the time we do know with certainty, it is entirely probable that there won’t be any availability. Secondly, and a possible cause of our being knocked off schedule, is that many of our days are very long. Because Easter is so late this year our school term is a scant 8 1/2 weeks long, we have had to compress the route. This is not only a function of the number of days we have available, but also because of the limited accommodation options along the way: some stages have enforced breaks at the end of the days.
So I was looking, for example, at the stage of the walk along the Offa’s Dyke Path. The length of our days along this section are, respectively, 34km, 33.5km, 30km and 29.5km.
It struck me forcibly that I am unlikely to be able to cope day after day with slogs of this length. I spent several hours not getting very much done, starting a series of little jobs and putting them down unfinished, bothered by a nagging sense of uncertainty. Or rather, certainty, that this is something that I am simply not going to be able to do.
Right at the end of the day our patterns of thought shifted.
We thought that the solution might be simply to keep to time. If we need an emergency recovery day, we just might have to take it. And there would be nothing to prevent us skipping a day and picking up the route again having left a gap.