Thursday 7:-00. After applying blister plaster and two layers of moleskin, and taping the whole thing securely, I noticed my middle toenail was turning black. “Boot Bang” its called. I was reminded of Wild, that incredible hike on the Pacific Coast Trail. I’m no Cheryl Strayed. I’m not out to purge my dark past, or reinvent myself. I’m seventy five years old, and this may be my last hurrah as far as long distance hikes go. I have neuropathy, plus a bad hip, and more than occasional twinges of sciatica. Jennifer said last night, “It’s about hiking. You adjust, you make do, you deal with what confronts you.” We’ve, mankind that is, has been walking long distances for hundreds and thousands of years. It speaks to our most basic human need to be on the move. I love wide vistas, and big sky.
Once the boot is on, my foot felt pretty good. After a delicious breakfast of crepes with blueberries and raspberries on top, and another fabulous view of the ocean, we set off. High tide again, and a few good surfers out to catch the morning waves.
We walked up Cliff Rod to Droskyn Point where we could look down on the little town and the lovely wide beach. More uphill, past a youth hostel and onto the SWC Path, and another sharp ascent to the cliffs. Once up on top, it was lovely. We began to see stone chimneys, really like stone smoke stacks, left over from the tin mines in the area. The ore lies imbedded in the granite, and those tall round stone chimneys housed pistons that hung inside the chimney like plungers. The steam engines drove the piston up and down to pump out the water from the mine shafts which went deep into the ground below sea level. We saw wired mounds, like giant anthills, or upside down baskets. These were the sites of abandoned mine shafts. The sides of the cliffs had been scraped away to get at the ore. Great heaps of granite everywhere.
We passed gun emplacements from the First and Second World Wars. The cliffs were high here, and at one point, we explored what must have been an military arsenal of some sort, with bunkers, and gun emplacements, concrete pilings, tunnels that were partially caved in, and covered. This was a very high headland, and commanded almost 180 degrees of lookout. Very good place to watch for the enemy.
We followed along the path, making a sharp descent down into Trevallas Coombe. The path down was difficult, deeply cut in places, and loose stones made the footing unreliable. I had a death grip on my walking sticks, and my boots lost purchase. When we got to the bottom, we followed a road that led past several more stone chimneys to a little cove which must have been where they loaded the ore onto ships. Many different paths meandered up either side of the cove. Checked our trusty guide book, and followed the path between a narrow road and the river to the Blue Hill Tin Streams, a tin mine that is open to the public. We stopped just to take a picture. Then started up a very steep ascent, so steep I had to stop every 40 steps to catch my breath. Beautiful views of the ocean and the cliffs from the top. Some had been ravaged by the miners.
Looking down on the ocean, we saw two tiny bright yellow markers bobbing in the water. They were so far below it took us a while to realize they were two swimmers, one behind the other, slowly making their way around the headland where we stood. When we got around the headland, we saw two yellow rubber boats paddling out of the next cove,Trevaunance Cove.
By now we had gone 4.6 miles and it was 11:30, better time than usual. We stayed up on the cliffs, following the signs for St. Agnes, where we thought we could catch a bus to Portreath, our next B&B. The path led us inland, and along a shady path, the first shade we seen since we started. It was lovely in the shade, a restful stretch into town. In St. Agnes, we asked for directions, and were told to climb another steep hill. At the we were told we’d find a bus stop near the Institute. Sure enough, we huffed and puffed our way to the top of the hill, and there was another patch of shade, and a bench, and a bus stop, just across the road from the Mines and Mechanics Institute. Now it was 12:45 and we had gone 6.2 miles. We bought lunch at the Coo Coo Café in the Mines and Mechanics Institute. A very nice lady helped me carry out two coffees, and two croissants out to the bus stop.
The bus took us up and down and around the narrowest, curviest roads at breakneck speed barely squeezing past oncoming cars. Saw more old chimney towers. Stopped at the train station in Redruth, where we were somewhat put off by a drunk that wanted to latch on to us, and was pretty obnoxious. Glad to get on the bus for Portreath. We were somewhat surprised to see that Portreath is a National Heritage Site. It’s because of the beauty of the coast line from Portreath south.
Our B&B, Cliff House, was only steps from the bus stop. We thought we’d stop first at a quaint looking inn just across the street from the bus stop that advertised “home-made food.” This was our second encounter with drunken men. We walked into the bar, backpacks, hiking boots etc. and were greeted with cheers, and guffaws, really, guffaws. “Give us a hug,” said the loudest of them, which I did. Yick. The barmaid said quietly, “Sorry for that.” She suggested we go to the little café on the beach.
We walked through the quiet village of small white houses. Jennifer said the houses were all painted with the same pallet, and she was right. We passed a complicated series of locks that fill with the tide, and lead to a channel out to the sea. Beautiful white sandy beach, leading up to cliffs on both sides. We found a nice little café on the boardwalk above the beach. It was about 4:00 by the time we finished our meal, not sure if it was a late lunch or an early dinner.
Gillian, our hostess at the Cliff House showed us into our nice room on the ground floor, with a double and a single bed. She had recently moved to Cornwall from London, purchase Cliff House on a kind of whim. She was eager to befriend us. Told us her story, and was disappointed when we said we had already eaten. She said she had four other guests, men who were staying for a few days. Her dog barked quite steadily as she talked, obviously wanting to go for a walk. After two pretty light days of walking, we decided that the next day would go for it, and make the trek all the way to Hale, about thirteen miles.
Word for the day – Porth, as in Porthcothan, Perrenporth, Porthtowan, and Portreath. Porth is the Cornish word for bay, or cove. Told us by Mary Neale our hostess at the Penlan in Porthcothan.