One critical difference about walking solo is that I’m going to have to schlep everything I need in a single pack rather than dividing camping equipment between two people, one of whom is more Atlas-like (hint: it’s not me). Trying on new rucksacks in Trekitt with a variety of weight bags was instructive: when I added an extra kilo to a 9kg pack, the muscles around my ribcage turned out not to be strong enough to let my lungs expand fully. Keeping total pack weight as close to 9kg as possible means not taking cooking equipment – somewhat of a relief to me because the idea of lighting a small gas bomb without it falling over fills me with trepidation – and anyway, it is a well-a fact that I do not cook. I’ve booked tables at various eateries and identified strategic places where I might get breakfast, although there are two consecutive days around Holyhead Mountain where there are no cafés, and I will have to get creative with the offerings on the menus of the pubs or restaurants the night before. Or forage.
Yesterday’s first mission countdown task, therefore, was in the order of ‘flight crew equipment late stow’, finalising the packing and being ruthless about jettisoning anything that might remotely constitute doubling up (hat has gone since the zip-up fleece has a hood) or surplus (sadly the tiny binoculars fell into that category).
The next task on the list was to ‘activate the orbiter’s fuel cells’ and take a short walk to test out the rucksack comfort and knee impact. The ‘weather briefing’ suggested that the skies would be clearer on the north east of the island so Stephen drove us round to the pretty village of Moelfre with its lifeboat station and we walked a short way widdershins up the coastal path. (The weather briefing also has a weather warning out for rain and thunderstorms tonight, but the worst of that system should pass before I get going tomorrow.)
Proof of concept: the pack was fine! The knees were fine! Some care needs to be taken on the limestone which characterises this part of the coastline (it’s an SSSI for the geology) but I can shoulder my pack with, if not a degree of confidence, then at least without a sense of certain impending doom… unlike the poor crew and passengers of the ill-fated Royal Charter, almost back from Melbourne when it foundered and broke up in hurricane force winds in the pitch-black night of 26th October 1856. But I’ll write more about that when I walk round here properly, next week.
Views of the sea are the most instant of balms for the soul. Not that I find myself in any particular need of solace, since I am fortunate enough to be looking forward to two weeks of joining up the various familiar sections of the 250-km path round the Anglesey coastline that was designated an AONB in 1966 – but my packing expert was turning around to head home, and this is the start of a new phase of our 28 years of marriage where we’re not working in the same institution or walking together. And so that needs processing somewhat. The final element of the NASA countdown is to clear the blast area of non-essential personnel, but I feel very strongly that my camping and hiking and cooking and pretty-much-everything-else expert is absolutely essential. However, it seems he’s also essential for the start of term to happen in orderly fashion, so part we temporarily must.
For now it was enough to spend a final peaceful hour together looking out on a broad horizon, admiring the clarity and colour of the water as the calm waves plashed quietly on the pale limestone cobbles, enjoying the play of the late afternoon light on the surface of the sea.