Steady rain beat at our windows all night long. By morning it had stopped, but the bushes showered us with great droplets as we brushed past on our way to breakfast. Intermittent showers forecast, so by 9:00 we had packed up, put on our rain gear, and left Portreath.
Up we climbed on Beach Road, curving and turning to Battery Hill, where we found signs for SWCP. Once on the path, we climbed again, another steep ascent to the cliffs. Now the walking was on the flat, and we looked out on a lowering sky and sullen sea. No rain as yet, although very humid, and warm. Off came the jackets. Surprisingly, I liked the path much better. It was soft and more forgiving underfoot, wider in places. The pastures on our left were shamrock green in this subdued light, rich and inviting. I’d always heard that cows stand up in the rain, and all face the same direction. These bovines reclined in all directions. Maybe it wouldn’t rain.
The clouds were another surprisingly pleasant aspect after days of brilliant sun. We made good time on this level ground. Our walking poles were always in hand, arms and legs coordinating each stride, like cross-country skiing without the glide. I lost myself in the rhythm. Vast and limitless sky. The ocean far below, spreading westward in mellow grays to meld with the cloud banks on the horizon. An awareness, a kind of euphoria took over, and I felt refreshed, at one with the Universe.
The euphoria didn’t last long. We had one steep descent that jarred my hips, and pounded my knees. Then a steep ascent back up onto the cliffs, my head pounding, my chest heaving, one step at a time, count, one, two, three. At the top, our reward – a bench where we could sit down, regroup, and drink in the beauty of the ocean. We had set ourselves a challenge for this last day on the Atlantic coast. Thirteen miles to Hale, and then a bus to Carbis Bay, just north of St. Ives, where our next B&B was located.
The clouds gave way a bit, and as the light got brighter, we began to notice the beautiful wild flowers along the path.
Gorse was in bloom with wide swaths of spectacular golden flowers, and cruel looking thorns. There were delicate Queen Anne’s Lace, and foxglove, pink flocks, and the white blossoms of chives that gave off a faint onion scent. We crossed several stiles, and met a steady but not terribly frequent succession of day walkers, often with a dog happily running along beside. We were surprised at how few through hikers there were, identifiable by hiking boots, backpacks, and water bottles. Every so often there would be a car park with a dirt road leading past a few fields to a main road that paralleled the path.
Around 12:00 we came to Hell’s Mouth, an awe-full, deep ravine, and looked down on the crashing waves, and evil looking rocks. Just past Hell’s Mouth we followed a path over a grassy knoll and down the hill to the charming Hell’s Mouth Cafe, a tiny cottage set back from the road, with picnic tables out front. We had been walking for three hours, and come a little over six miles. Not Bad. We sat down outside, and enjoyed a latte with a flapjack for Jennifer, and a scone with butter and jam for me.
Then back up onto the cliffs. Sat down on the grass to watch the seals basking on the rocks. We couldn’t get a good photo because they were very far away. Supposedly there are wild ponies in this area, and signs to talk quietly and keep dogs on leash. But we didn’t see any ponies. Soon we could spot Godrevy Island, and the light house, said to be the inspiration for Virginia Woolfe’s To the Lighthouse, one of the few books I’ve read of hers. Godrevy Point was the second big headland we encountered since Portreath, and the light house attracts lots of visiters. We sat on the side of the path and looked south toward Hale. Only six more miles to go! Miles and miles and miles of wide beach and sand dunes.
Up and down and over the dunes and through we wandered. Sometimes it felt like we were in Florida, walking through the high grasses, that in places grew over our heads. So many paths, like rabbit runs, that we lost the SWCP and wandered aimlessly, Our land mark was a headland that signaled the beginning of the Hale inlet, but we lost sight of it in the dunes. Eventually we sat down to rest, and along came a man who led us back to the SWCP. He said Hale was at least a mile to go. Back on the trail, and mountains of dunes. The Hale headland seemed to keep receding.
Sand is tiring to walk on, and the sun was very hot now, about 3:30. Just by chance, Jennifer spotted what looked like a cafe up above us on the dunes, near a caravan park. We climbed up to the cafe, and sat outside gulping down our cider. Delicious! I had french fries. Jennifer had a pastie. We’d been on the trail for 6 1/2 hours. Gone about 11 miles. We asked the waitress about a bus to St. Ives. We thought it would be easier to get the bus on the road outside the trailer park, rather than wander around in Hale. She said there was a bus stop just outside the trailer park. We walked up the hill and down to the road, dragging a bit by this time. Sure enough the Hale bus stop that Jennifer had found on her I-Pad the night before. What luck! A young man slouching along by the road,muttered, “the bus is always bloody late,” as he passed. But our luck held, and the bus arrived in ten minutes. We asked the driver to let us know when we got to Corbis Bay. Soon everyone on the bus knew we wanted the Atlantic Hotel. A great chorus went up when we passed it by. The driver stopped about 500 feet from the hotel. We checked in. Our bags had already arrived. The hotel had a restaurant, so we could relax, take a shower, and not have to go anywhere for dinner. A GREAT DAY! We had walked 12.7 miles. Just about what we thought.