When the road disappears
If there's any more people around
When the tour runs aground
And if you're still around
Then we'll meet at the end of the tour
The engagements are booked
Through the end of the world
So we'll meet at the end of the tour"
- They Might Be Giants
So, nothing like the best single night's sleep ever (as mentioned yesterday), before the last day of the longest walk of your life. We awoke in the clean, pretty, quiet, sunny room together, and rolled over and stretched and yawned languorously and finally roused ourselves to go downstairs for, oh yes, another ass-kicking breakfast. Our B&B, Hazelwood House, was also an attached tea room, and that's where we ate. And we not only got breakfast included with our room tariff, but also a complimentary lecture on the history of ancient Britain, going back to, oh, about William the Conqueror, delivered by the patron of the house, who seemed like he didn't have enough people to talk to generally. He also cooked a mean veg full English breakfast.
And so for the fourteenth morning in a row, out of well-formed habit, we got out of town and hit the trail. And it just wouldn't be the C2C if the day didn't start with an immediate 300 meter climb! This time, they even kindly quantified our discomfort for us. But, nonetheless, up we went!
As we walked, I found my internal soundtrack for the day was Death Cab for Cutie's "I Was a Kaleidoscope". This is just the beautifulest, saddest song. I made a mental note to tell Sara about my fixation with it today. Meantime, I sang a few verses aloud to Darby, trying to give her the flavour:
And I was a kaleidoscope… the snow on my lenses
Distorting the image
Of what was only one of you
And I didn't know which one to address
As all your lips moved
This is when I forget to breathe
And all the things I scripted, they sound unfounded
And it's that look that you're giving me
That tells me exactly what you are thinking…
"This ain't working anymore."
At length we topped out the locals never letting us forget the sort of country we were in. Another bit of a stretch down the lonely road; and then it was back onto one last moor! Overall, this all struck me as a very traditional stretch to end on: we'd got some sheep, we'd got some stone walls, we'd got some gates, we'd got some heather and of course the opening hill.
Me: "Well, this is it."
Darby: "This is what?"
Me: "This is IT. The end of our adventure. I'm just savouring the last day. I'm actually glad we've 16 miles to do today I intend to enjoy each of them. Hmm, I just realised that soon I'll have to give up this eating like a horse business . . . no more heaping plates of beans on toast with oceans of tomato sauce . . ."
We followed the trail through some gorse and a gate, and out onto a nice tree-shaded lane. What's wrong, by the way, with this picture? (hint)
Me: "It's been an awfully colourful tour. The Cowboy and the Preacher. The Ugly American. The Old Guy [Gordon]. The Dutch [there was a strange Dutch couple the last couple of days]."
Mark: "You've got to watch out for the Dutch."
Then, back onto a bit of road, and into the pretty hamlet of Littlebeck. Here we came upon a small group of people feeding ducks on a bench. Who could it be, but the Dutch and Gordon! Here, you finally get to see him, belatedly: Voila! Told you he was colourful; note the flower in his lapel. We sat and chatted for awhile, while observing the mating habits of ducks. We found ourselves talking about the C2C, and its creator:
Gordon: "Funny guy, Wainwright miserable, unsocial. He picked routes where nobody goes, because he didn't like running into other people."
And then the four of headed off together into Littlebeck Forest, which was supposed to be one of the last best treats on the C2C. There were some falls. A lot of lush foliage. Some amusing obstacles. And this: Your ass? Or a hole in the ground?. And, of course, plenty of rocks and mud. Just for old time's sake.
There was also a man-made feature, The Hermitage, a boulder hollowed out to make a cave (and with the year 1790 etched above the entrance). Darby and Gordon were having a grand old time walking together. Eventually, we detoured to look at a 30m-high waterfall called Falling Foss; but Gordon gave it a miss, and we didn't hook up with him again until the end of the trail. This bridge was actually more interesting to look at than the falls. We then exited the forest up a lovely gorse-covered hillside, and set off down another road.
Along the way, I shot this daisy. I also shot a buttercup, but it didn't come out very well. I shot a cow! And Mark in repose! And, one of my favourites, this one of Darby demonstrating I'm not the only one who scribbles on the hoof. I like that shot. I hope she does.
Me: "Darby and I were considering that at some point we will see our last sheep."
Mark: "We'll see sheep from the train. I'll probably see sheep taking off in the plane."
Anyone for a roll in the hay? We were then taken by surprise by, okay, one very last stretch of moor. This lonesome tree was our guide point out. You can guess what the ground was like.
Me: "What's all this brown squishy stuff? Is it rocks?"
Darby: "Nope, not rocks."
Me: "Um, is it sheep shit?"
Darby: "No, I don't think it's sheep shit."
Me: ". . . I know! Rain!"
And so then we were faced with one last decision point about routes: continue on the moor, or divert onto a road. None of us could seem to develop a strong enough opinion to overrule anyone else's also-not-very-strong conflicting opinions. So we let the Queen decide, by flipping a coin onto the ground. The Queen, her head coming up tops, chose the road! We were right to trust HRH the ole gal, as it turned out to be a lovely stretch.
We paused for our very last lunch stop (sniff). While lounging in the grass, Darby picked up one of those annoying Crotch Beetles you're always hearing about. She let it hang out on her for awhile, until it crawled up behind her backpack, at which point we had to relocate it.
You'll remember me, when the west wind moves, upon the fields of barley . . . I do like that shot. I also shot some more flowers, but Darby wasn't able to tell me what kind these ones were. The clouds outpaced us for bit, and we got a taste of sun. We passed through a bit of civilisation, High Hawsker I think it was, where we got a shock about how close we were to being done. Although it depended on how you walked it. As Mark well knew.
Because shortly after that, he proceeded to drop the two of us like trousers. He had learned, a day or so before, that the C2C route sort of willfully angles north to the coast permitting a last scenic stretch down the coastal cliffs to Robin Hood's Bay (with the addition of several miles). You might imagine how he felt about that. Moreover, as Darby and I speculated, deciding to peel off and cut straight through gave Mark pretty much the one opportunity he had all trip to be in control of his own destiny. We bid him adieu at a fork in the road. He'd be waiting for us at Wainwright's the waterside pub in Robin Hood's Bay that was the official end point of the C2C.
And so Darby and I set off together, alone. We passed some more barley (albeit fenced in with barbed wire). We spied some sheep. We talked at length, and in depth. This was a nice opportunity for us. We talked awfully earnestly about life, about learning. I, for one, considered it a real highlight.
Finally, somewhat unexpectedly, there was nothing left between us and the sea but some greensward, and a cliff edge. Wow. We took a commemorative, here-we-are-together-we-made-it! shot. I realised I was genuinely stirred to see the sea. Corblimey. We had just walked across England . . .
Only three more miles to the end point! But what a three miles! Cliffs to the north! The trail going south only a couple of yards from the cliff edge. And gorse (of course)! It was beautifully sunny, breezy, and picturesque; and we were both smiling a lot.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, as we traversed the razor edge of the coast on a straight path directly, unerringly to Robin Hood's Bay, Darby yet played with her maps. More stunning cliff vistas opened before us, to the south. We passed through several gates; and in one instance took an alternate path to skirt erosion of the cliff side. (Yikes!) Soon enough, Robin Hood's Bay came into view.
We entered town from the East, descending the long, steep, winding main drag, all the way down to the water. There: Wainwright's, the official terminus of the C2C. Waiting inside: both Mark and Gordon, looking very happy and settled and refreshed. Taking first things first, Mark instantly bought us all a round; and we toasted our success in completing the Coast to Coast path: "to a good walk and to good friends old and new."
Once we had all safely gotten on the outside of a pint, we three walked out to the water's edge for a more complete commemorative shot. And, of course, the all-important dipping of the toes in the North Sea.
Me: "So, next is to get you to do this Himalayan bike ride with me."
Darby (instantly): "What's a good bike gonna cost me?"
Me (smiling broadly): "That's my girl."
When the air chilled a bit, we went back inside for a last round. I have no recollection of what Mark was on about, but I do love this series: Mark regaling Darby. Mark highly amusing Darby. Plus Mark and Darby.
Very soon, dusk fell on the coast and upon us, as we checked into our last B&B . . . had our last dinner together on the C2C . . . and enjoyed the warm, golden glow of accomplishment, of survival, of friendship.
In the morning, only the train journey back to London.