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  • Chris Jones

Day 87, 88, 89. Thursday 15th - Saturday 17th June. Helmsdale to Wick.

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

There's no way to dress it up. The train journey from Lincoln to Helmsdale is a complete pain in the arse.... Michelle dropped me off at the station at 9.30am, I got off the last train at 10.20pm. 🫣 Lincoln to Newark, Newark to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Perth and then Perth to Helmsdale. Each train was arriving later than planned so I was panicking that the 5 minutes I had to make the transfers would mean I'd miss each connection but fortunately, they held every train back, to think that they play with this big train set every day of the week, they really are crap at it... toilets locked out of use, air con not working, plug sockets not working, buffet car closed because of staff shortages and, the robbing bastards charged me £120 for that privilege... perhaps a few of the morons running the train networks should pay a visit to Germany or France or maybe Japan. Can it really be that difficult ???

Anyway, it's not like I had to walk far did I, just sit in a cramped sweaty tube all day looking out of the window. I vowed to myself that this would be the last train journey I'd be making to Scotland, I'd be walking back into England in a month or so...

I pitched up by the side of the river Helmsdale tucked behind an old boat and had a peaceful nights sleep. This pic was taken at 11.25pm, it doesn't get dark up here !!!



It was only a short walk the following morning onto the coastal path and looking at the cut grass and well signposted path, I stupidly thought I was in for a lovely day walking along the coast...



I couldn't have been more wrong. The John O' Groats coastal path was a complete nightmare. It seemed that each little village you either left or arrived in, the path was great, well marked out and signed. Get a few miles out and your on you own mate. The path would just end so you found yourself up to you waist in grass or nettles or gorse or bracken, or most of the time a mixture of all four. Then, when you think you're on the path again it arrived at a five foot high stone wall with no way of getting over it or a farmers gate, locked and covered in barbed wire so you can't climb over it... very frustrating and bloody hard work having to backtrack all the time to find an alternative route, it was over 20C with very little breeze, this was killing me and winding me up.... it was very clear that either the farmers or the land owners, didn't want walkers passing up the coast....



I'd just climbed down a very precarious valley and then climbed up the other side when 2 men approached going the other way. 'Are you Max'?, one of them asked. Looking down at my name on the front of my shirt, just to make sure, I replied that sadly, I wasn't. 'Oh well, got any plasters have you' one of them asked... I did so we all removed our packs and had a good chat while we did a swap, a compede dressing for his nicely blisters toe for a very large cereal bar. The trade was offered, I didn't ask for it, I would have happily shared my first aid kit with a fellow wanderer as I'm sure they would have done for me. It turned out, Max was a young fella they had heard about walking from Lands End to John O' Groats, I had also been told that there was a young Irish girl also walking the same path, I hoped they were fairing better than me but I guessed I'd never know, we were all walking in the same direction so were unlikely to meet up, the chances of us finding the same wild camping spot would be rare.

I stopped for some lunch and sat under a large monument, built, it seemed out in the middle of nowhere, it turned out that it wasn't far from the road as a guy had parked up and walked down the steep hill for a look. A while later, I noticed someone walking the same route I had just walked, it was Max. We sat and had a good chat and it turned out he was heading for the same campsite as I was in Dunbeath, lunch finished, he sprinted off so I said I'd see him later. At some point in the afternoon, I noticed on the map that the road came very close to the field that I was falling around in so I gave in, I walked the last 3-4 miles on the side of the road. It skirted along the sea so I had some lovely views and it was much easier walking.

Just opposite the campsite in Dunbeath was a little bar/restraunt so naturally, after the day I'd had I went straight in. Half way through my pint, in walks Max and the Ellen, the young Irish Walker I'd heard about... they had stuck to the path, they were as knackered as I was so I got them both a cold pint before we all headed over to the campsite to pitch up.



A beautiful little campsite, only £8 each, fantastic showers, a drying room to dry our washed underwear and a couple of plug sockets so we could charge our phones. Max and I went back over to the bar for some dinner, can you believe that they had disconnected all the sockets throughout the place so you couldn't charge your phones ??? I know we're suffering with our energy costs but seriously ?? My burger was ok I suppose, the service waiting for a beer wasn't great so no tips were left and I won't be racing back... I needed sleep and when the other two were up and away in the morning, I had a lazy start, I didn't leave until 9.30, I knew I'd be wild camping that night, I was in no rush to get back on that bloody path... 🫣



The next day was much of the same although there was more road walking because the road ran very close to the sea. I stopped in Lathron after finding the Lodge, I sat on a bench looking over this lovely little harbour. I stripped off my shirt and my boots & socks and sat in the sun enjoying the gentle breeze. It was lovely and peaceful so realising that my shorts and pants were also soaked in sweat I decided to strip these off too so they could dry out on the bench, I was alone with nobody around so I was hardly going to be arrested for indecency was I... 😬 I sat back on the bench and for a short time, all was well in my world. Until, I open my eyes and happened to look down, I noticed something black just above my left hip bone, roughly where the elastic band of my pants would sit... a bloody tick !!! 🫣 a grabbed my tweasers from my first aid kit and gently removed the little bugger and promptly using the tweasers snapped it in half. In a bit of a panic, I began a thorough search incase his mates had decided to bury their way in for a free ride, sure enough there was another one just above my right arse cheek which was a little more difficult to extract... but then, to my complete horror, looking down !!! No, surely not... one had burrowed itself into 'little Chris' !!! Wtf... had I not been flapping and a little more focused I would have got a photo for you but to be honest, I was a little panicked so as carefully as I could, using the tweasers, I made sure I extracted the cheeky little critter in one piece... open surgery of my little chap to removed half of this little hitchhiker was going to really spoil my lunch break, I was very attentive !!! I then took great pleasure in crushing the life out of her, I'm not entirely sure if ticks are defined by gender but surely that one must have been a female !!! The cheeky little bitch, I felt violated... I'll tell you what I did feel, I felt that I would be avoiding any more waist high grass, that was for sure.

I thought I'd get further than Lybster that day but I was exhausted, it was 4pm, incredulously, there were 2 pubs in town, neither of which opened until 6pm, on a Friday, what is going on in this world ? 🥵 Instead, I walked down to the harbour, stripped down to my shorts a lay down on the harbour wall in the sun, with my feet dangling in the cold sea water. I drifted off, woke up and my feet had turned blue, my god that water was cold but incredibly refreshing on my aching sweaty feet. I actually decided I wouldn't bother with a pint, I was just going to head up the path a bit further and bed down, leaving the harbour and walking back towards the path took me past one of the pubs and an old English chap heading in there took one look at me and said, "you look like you need a pint boy, come on, my round"... it seems even if I try to avoid ending up in a pub, it just happens... There are 2 pubs in the village as I already mentioned, the posh one at the top of the street and this one. However, this one was clearly used by the nicest folk in the village. The landlord passed me a note which was quickly copied, when I left an hour later, I'd added £40 to the fund, had a lovely fish supper, plus a couple of pints of course and I was instructed to pitch up on the village green, just past the public toilets... what a result... 😉



It was only a 15 mile walk to Wick on Saturday, much the same, bits of good path, lots of getting trapped and having to backtrack. The final few miles was on the roadside where I finally found the campsite. £24 for 2 nights, I needed a day off, I know I'd only been back on it for 3 days but I'd walked 52 miles in those 3 days, my legs were incredibly stiff, my feet were killing and that bloody tick had traumatised me... a rest day it was then...


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martin.goodwin
martin.goodwin
Jul 05, 2023

Do you carry a mirror for emergency crack, back 'n' sack checks ??? I burst out laughing when I read that tick bit ..... bit embarrassing as I was at work sat opposite my manager 😉😉😎 nearly at the Top mate. 👍👍🍾

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Cousin Janet
Cousin Janet
Jun 20, 2023

Oh no I hope you’ve checked yourself thoroughly to make sure you don’t have any other hitchhikers and any other creases anywhere some days look so beautiful but some days are clearly a struggle aren’t they?

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