“Amor Fati” (Love your fate.)
– F. Nietzsche
If you ask me what has been my most favourite journey, I will probably never change my answer, no matter how much I travel. For nothing can compare with the experiences and peace I had on my 21 kilometre hike from Coverack to the Lizard Peninsula in South-West England.
It was Easter break back in April 2014 when I left the confines of my University accommodation in Bangor, North Wales to travel to the beautiful countryside of Cornwall. My adventures that took me from Bangor to Oxford, London, Cornwall, Cheddar Gorge, and back to Bangor are all part of a small novelette I wrote called Random Rambles, which will probably never be seen by eyes other than mine! But this journey from Coverack to the Lizard Point in south-west England does perhaps deserve to see the light of day.
The village of Coverack in Cornwall, England is an interesting little place. Only one pub in the village could boast of WiFi, and I felt almost isolated when I was there. With no internet to keep in touch with the usual, mundane, every day concerns of life, I was able to get in touch with me. My journey to Coverack had been relatively uneventful, and I was extremely disappointed as my scuba diving adventure had been cancelled due to bad weather. After dropping off my heavy haversack at the hostel I was staying in (YHA Coverack), I walked down to the beach. I couldn’t remain unhappy for long though – the beach was an unbelievably pretty sight! It had to be a painting, I thought – this was a thing of imagination, this could not be reality! I watched the sun set, reading my book and just soaking up the tranquility of it all. I slept off early as the next day, I would be on my way to the Lizard Peninsula, the southernmost tip of the UK.
Two alarms and a heavy breakfast later, I left YHA Coverack and started my journey to the Lizard Point via the South West Coast Path. For those who don’t know, the South West Coast Path in England, UK is a long-distance footpath and national trail that runs along the coasts of Devon, Cornwall, and Dorset. It stretches for almost 630 miles. The south west coast path from Coverack to the Lizard (which is around 12 miles) bifurcates into two pathways – an inland route and the coastal route. The inland route is easier, with well-constructed roads and steps, while the coastal route, though more beautiful is much more challenging, with an undulating terrain and rocky surfaces. I took the coastal route – if I was going to walk so much anyway, I might as well walk the more beautiful one! I expected to meet a few travelers on the way, but there was no sign of any humans on the coastal path. The summer was when all the tourists flooded in. The path wasn’t as crowded during Easter. I was surprised because the weather was exceptionally beautiful – a clear blue sky, the sun out, and a soft cool breeze – such a rarity in the United Kingdom!
music gave me the best company –
Tere liye nayi hai zameen, naya aasmaan,
you, the earth and the sky have been born anew)
Likh de hawaao pe koi nayee daastaan…
(Let the wind carry the new story that you now write)
This song set the mood for the walk quite nicely, only to be followed by –
hu yaaro, na ghar hai na thikaana,
(I am a lone traveler, without a home or a shelter)
Mujhe chalte jaana hai, bas chalte jaana.
(All I know is that I have to keep walking)
Over the next couple of hours, I saw nature at its very best. I walked, without a care in the world, a skip in my step. Obviously, it didn’t last long. I tripped over a perfectly flat surface (I tend to do that quite often I have no idea how) landing hard on my bum, with my right palm on a thorny bush. I looked around and there was not a soul in sight. Glad that I at least hadn’t embarrassed myself in front of other people, I got up, brushed the mud off my clothes and hands. There were small scratches on my palm where the thorns had pricked me, but the bleeding stopped almost immediately and I was back on track, albeit a little more careful than before, and no more a skip in my step! I looked up to the sky as I walked, and saw two aircrafts side by side on their way to their destinations. It reminded me of the movie Rang de Basanti, and at that very time, my ever-faithful IPhone played Luka Chhupi from the very same movie!
Kaise tujhko dikhau yahaa hai kya
(How do I show you what I have here?)
Maine jharne se paani maa, tod ke piya hai
(I have broken a glass waterfall and drank water out of it)
Guchha guchha tha ye khwaabo ka uchhal ke chhua hai…
(I have touched the bouquets of dreams that were thrown into the air!)
In some way, the initial words of the song suited what I felt. The vast expanse of water on my left and the beautiful meadows and cliffs around me couldn’t be described. I wanted my family and friends to know where I was, I wanted to describe what I saw and what I felt, but for the first time, I realised how truly limiting language could be. This was something they had to experience on their own.
I had no map with me, but even with my faulty sense of direction, there was only one rule to follow: keep the water to your left. I did not lose the sight of the sea for more than a few minutes – it was called the coastal path for a reason! Another half an hour later, while walking down a steep slope, I slipped. And this time, I landed on my knees, face down, putting my hands out to hold myself so as not to smash my face into the mud. My bottle flew out of the side carrier of my backpack, and my phone flew out of my pocket. “Damn!” I cried out, lying on the ground. I quickly got up, found my muddy phone and bottle and wiped them with spare tissue papers (which I had “stolen” from some restaurant!). I looked at the state of my trousers – they were stained with mud, especially at the knees. Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt. I looked down in the front, and saw a huge stone staring back at me. I let out a deep breath. Had I tripped a little further away, I would have smashed my face on that rock.
Fear struck me for a few minutes. What if I had tripped there? What if I hadn’t been able to throw my hands out, and had smashed my head on that rock? There was no one around. All the worst possibilities came to my mind. Who would have come to help me? How would they contact my family? Scared, I took one little step at a time. Suddenly the idea of walking for 12 miles alone, without anyone knowing where I was didn’t seem fun anymore. However, as I made my way down, I started laughing at my stupidity. It was done with. All that had happened was that I had slipped. That happens to me all the time! There was no point in getting scared – as long as I was a little careful about where I put my feet, I would be fine! Fear would just worsen my trip! And so, determined to not fall again, I went on ahead, enjoying the day and the beauty that nature offered me. I sang out loud, no one could judge my singing skills here – the performer and the audience were one and the same, though I am sure the insects, birds and animals around must have definitely wondered who was shouting about disturbing their peaceful haven. I danced to the music, swaying to the beats now and then, and waving every time I saw a bird in the sky or any animal. If anyone saw me at this point, I am sure they would have thought I had gone mad! But I didn’t care, I was having too much fun with myself – and that, I think is the best kind of fun you can ever have!
Solitude is addictive. That journey is perhaps a bait, or motivation, or even perhaps just a reminder in my mind’s pensieve, of the unbearable happiness and contentment I feel when I am secluded from the rest of the world. I didn’t experience this seclusion for long though – almost three hours after I had started walking from Coverack, I came across humans! An elderly couple was on their way to Coverack. I greeted them warmly, and they told me I would meet more humans on my way now. I wasn’t really happy about it but after a few minutes of chatting with them, I resumed my solitary walk to the Lizard. Half an hour later, I came across the Kennack Sands beach. There were quite a few humans there, but what made me smile was the sight of two fawn coloured Labradors swimming in the waters. They were having a gala time, playing fetch with their masters. Not for the first time did it cross my mind that my dogs, Jazz and Cosco, would love beaches! I looked around, and my eyes fell on the signpost which read Cadgwith 2 ½ miles; Coverack 5 miles. I had covered 5 miles! It didn’t feel it at all! One more mile and I would be half way through!