I was always loved the articles by Julie at Wish I were here. She always reveals the place to her readers using the power of all the senses.By the end of her latest article I had the scent of the forest in the nostrils and could feel the nip in the air. Usually at the end of one of Julie’s posts I am left marveling at her remarkable style of writing. But this post left me wondering. There is a sentence that goes like this “You shouldn’t hike alone out there, they warned me. …… There will be others on the trail. I’ll be fine.”
Julie did encounter a few shady characters during her solo hike but thankfully all’s well that ends well. Julie’s walk reminded me of a walk my sister and I took in Grasmere one February. We set off from Windermere in the morning with no particular plan in mind. We crossed the lake by ferry , walked up to hilltop to Beatrice Potter’s house. The walk was pretty. We passed sheep grazing the meadows, streams flowing rhythmically, a few bouts of the English rain and some generous dose of sunshine now and then.
All was swell till we reached Ambleside for a rather late lunch. In our new found enthusiasm for walking we decided to walk to Grasmere , Wordsworth’s birthplace via the Rydal caves. We bought a map for 10GBP and set out at 3.30 pm. The scenery was stunning as it always is.
But here’s a few mistakes we made.
1. It was winter meaning the sun sets at around five-ish. The walk we choose to do was two-hour walk ( At the end of walk we realised that the 2 hour time frame was for much fitter people. we took a while longer).
2. We bought the cheapest map, not necessarily the most practical one. Our map had a set of directions thus ” After passing a set of 7 stones stacked one above the other”. By the time we reached the above landmark there were only 2 stones and we passed by completely missing the turning.
3. We had no torches. Half way through the walk the sun set and it became dark and we had no way of reading our 10 GBP map!
4. We wore all black. There was a time when we left the trail and headed towards the road following the sounds on traffic. But once on the road ( there were no footpaths) we risked almost being run over by buses since we had no discerning luminescent marks to warn the speeding cars that were negotiating sharp turns.
5. We did not have water at all. Never again !
6. No one had a clue where we were.
There was one thing that worked for us. We knew that we had to walk west. So we followed the setting sun and walked in to the deserted town centre of Grasmere wet, cold and scared but in time for the last bus back to Windermere.
Sometimes even the most seasoned travelers take their safety for granted. After a few safe trips one get lax.
Always let someone know where you are going. Start with your family. If you have a fixed itinerary ,share the details of your flights/trains/buses and hotels with them. If you do not have a fixed plan make it a habit of checking in with friends and family back home at regular intervals. In this age of the internet it is difficult not to find connectivity within 50 mile radius. If you are going on day hike let the receptionist at your hotel/hostel know your plans. If you are going alone just ask him/her to check on you at the end of the day or the next morning. I cannot stress on the fact that a place is only as safe as you make it.
Stay safe and happy travels.