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Walking Land's End to John o'Groats with Mark Moxon

Okehampton

Okehampton Castle
Okehampton Castle is dominated by what looks like a chimney, but which turns out to be a section of wall

With my right foot showing signs of imminent failure and my tent a useless pile of sodden super-light fabric, I needed to concentrate on keeping my mind happy. When your body and your gear give up the ghost within an hour of each other, there's little else you can do except pander yourself.

Recovery Process

Okehampton Castle
Okehampton Castle

My first priority was to get some food inside me and enjoy a decent night's sleep, and the Plymouth managed to rustle up a perfect meal for me. The pork medallions in mustard and honey sauce lasted about as long as the sautéed potatoes, broccoli and carrots, and to wash it down I sampled a couple of the real ales on offer from the kegs sitting behind the bar. You know you're onto a winner when the beer is served from barrels that have nothing more fancy than a tap on the front, and it seems that CAMRA agrees, as the Plymouth was voted the North Devon CAMRA Pub of the Year for 2002.

Phone Therapy

Sunday morning awoke to me phoning people for advice. I called Sarah, a physio friend who'd very kindly offered to help me out over the phone should I need advice, and after I'd explained what the problem was and how it had happened, she said it sounded like an inflamed tendon that was being irritated by my boots. The best approach would be threefold: first, get some ice on it to reduce the swelling, because it's the swelling that causes the pain; second, get hold of some chiropody felt and stick it around the affected area, to keep pressure off the tendon; and third, shed as much weight as possible from my backpack, because the lighter the load, the less the chance of irritation. It all made perfect sense, though she was also keen to point out that if it continued to hurt, the only real solution would be to see a professional, in the flesh.

Big Pack, Little Pack

Okehampton Castle
Looking down into Okehampton Castle from the main keep

In sorting out my new backpack regime, I was ruthless. I adopted the kind of Buddhist minimalism that I apply to travelling in the Third World – nobody notices if you smell over there, so you can get away with hardly any clothes – and I managed to reduce my weight by about half. The box I put together to send to Peta weighed 7kg, and I managed to dump another 1.5kg by carrying less water and by chucking out some of the more paranoid medicines and toiletries that I figure I can live without (such as athlete's foot cream, hydrocortisone cream, deodorant and so on). My pack, therefore, has now dropped from 17kg to 8.5kg, which is about as light as you can go if you still carry all the wet weather gear you need, the relevant maps and route guides, a computer, minimal water, food and two sets of clothes (one for walking and one for civilisation).

The Second Castle

Okehampton Castle
Okehampton Castle

Determined not to let my unscheduled visit to Okehampton turn into the self-pitying wallow that it could easily have become, I decided to keep myself busy. Apart from tackling the planner's wet dream of reorganising my pack for the new challenge ahead, I decided to explore Okehampton properly, as I'd only briefly shot through at lunchtime the day before.

A Startling Collection

Okehampton Castle
Okehampton Castle

When I travel, my portable computer is a great way to break the ice, especially in places where technology is a complete stranger. Not many people in the developing world have seen a fold-out keyboard and a tiny palmtop computer, so whenever I'd pull it out and start typing, I'd get an audience of people who couldn't quite believe what they were seeing. Amazingly, I got pretty much the same reaction in the Plymouth as I settled in for a Sunday afternoon with the Cornish Knocker crowd.