The most remarkable thing about today's walk is how lacerated it has made my feet. Whenever I've walked I've developed an unhealthy obsession with blisters, and at last that obsession has something to work on; I'm the proud owner of a small patch of raw skin on my left Achilles tendon and two blisters on the underside of my right foot that are so deep below the skin that they're thankfully unbroken. They are, however, bloody painful to walk on, and when I walk – or, to be more accurate, hobble – it feels like I'm standing on a couple of drawing pins.
It could have something to do with today's route, which took me from just north of Helston to the centre of Truro, and therefore to the centre of Cornwall; all except about a mile of today's 17-mile hike was on tarmac, and tarmac is really hard on the feet. Or it could have something to do with the fact that I walked 17 miles yesterday as well, which would have softened up my soles, ready for another pounding today. Then again, it could also have something to do with the awful night's sleep I had last night; I think my money's on the latter.
Pengoon Farm was a great spot; the old couple who ran the place were utterly charming, the local pub was a delight, and the walk back to my tent was lit by a combination of moonlight and the dull glow of the long-departed sun. Looking forward to a good long sleep, I tucked up into my new sleeping bag, lay down on my new inflatable sleeping mat, plonked my head on my new travel pillow and whispered goodnight to my new tent as the chirpy silence of the countryside muffled around my ears. It was bliss.
And then all hell broke loose as the guy in the caravan at the other end of the field slapped in a CD, cranked up the volume to disintegration point and pumped the field full of the kind of bass that you normally only hear coming out of night-clubs, rock festivals and drug dealers' cars. The ground literally shook; it was like someone punching me in the small of the back in time to the funky dance beat of Primal Scream's 'Loaded', and for about ten minutes I lay there in that awful no man's land between praying for a power cut and pulling on the jeans to go out there and ask him to turn it down. It wasn't a slightly irritating noise; it was a declaration of war.
The problem was that the racket was coming from one of those caravans that you steer well clear of if you want a long and fruitful life. The grass had grown over the wheels, there was a collection of rusty junk outside that would one day prove fatal to a wandering child, and the stains up the side of the caravan spoke volumes. In America they talk of trailer park trash, but this guy suited the Australian term far more; this was definitely the home of a feral.
Luckily for me, someone else in the caravan park reached the end of his tether before I did – possibly because he had a wife in tow who insisted that her husband go and sort out that terrible noise – and because the music was so incredibly loud, I could hear every word of the shouted conversation that followed.
Man: Can you turn that music down?
Man: Turn that music down! You can hear it in all the other caravans. It's ridiculously loud!
Feral: Hey, don't fucking shout at me!
Man: I've got to shout because your music is so damn loud!
Feral: I said don't you shout at me!
Man: Turn this music off now!
Feral: I said don't... shout... at... me! Ask me to turn it off politely and I'll think about it.
Man: [through gritted teeth] Turn off your music. Please.
Feral: Hey listen, I'm a human being, don't yell at me. What's your name?
Feral: My name's Alan. What's your name? Treat me like a human being and I'll be nice, shout at me and you can forget it.
Feral: Here, shake my hand. Treat me like a human being. Come on.
Man: Listen, will you just turn off your damn music? It's ridiculous playing music this loud in a caravan park at night.
Feral: Shake my hand.
Man: [sighs] I don't believe it. [shakes hand]
Feral: There, that wasn't hard, was it? [turns music down] Goodnight, then.
Man: Um. Yes. Goodnight.
As I lay there, I couldn't help admire the feral, even though he was quite blatantly a nutter. After all, he had managed to control the conversation from the start, despite the fact that he was the one shattering the delicate peace of the caravan park; I wonder if that was the agenda behind his sonic invasion.
Rain and Hedgerows
As I drifted off to sleep it started to rain, the wind started to howl, and it started to get uncomfortably humid in my tent, but worst of all I started winding myself up about today's walk. The thought of 17 miles struggling through grim Cornish weather filled me with a deep foreboding, and although the tent held up and the rain drowned out the sound of the feral's incessant but quieter music selection, I slept badly. At 6.45am I eventually gave up trying and got up before my alarm went off.
Luckily the rain had stopped, though breakfast consisted of a solitary muesli bar and the exciting job of packing away a soaking tent into my backpack. Everything I owned was damp from the inevitable condensation that comes from sleeping in a rain-pounded tent, and as I trudged off into the early morning mist, I couldn't help noticing that just over the hill it was still pouring down. 'This is going to be a long day,' I thought.
I was right, but it wasn't because of the rain; in fact the weather cleared up, blue skies poked through the clouds, and by lunchtime it was another perfect Cornish day. The day felt long because of the type of walking: today's entire journey was along Cornish lanes. Cornish lanes are famous for their extremely high and fascinating hedgerows, making them difficult to drive down but beautiful to behold, and at this time of year the hedgerows are dotted with blue, white and purple flowers that no doubt get botanists all excited. They're a lovely sight, and what can be more wonderful than walking down miles of Cornish lanes in the sun?
That's what I initially thought, but after a while it gets more than a little wearing. The Cornish countryside is gorgeous, but when most of the hedgerows are taller than you are, you simply can't see anything outside the road. You catch tantalising glimpses of rolling fields and picture-perfect tin mine ruins, but most of the sights of Cornwall remain resolutely hidden behind the hedges. It's like wearing blinkers.
But despite the blisters and the invisible countryside, this was yet another lovely day in the heart of Cornwall. The villages I passed through were wonderful; the fish and chip shop that I walked past at noon was like manna from heaven; and the cathedral in Truro, where I finally dropped my pack and felt the blood flow painfully back into my feet, blew my mind.
And hey, I hummed Primal Scream all the way round, which was no bad thing after suffering at the hands of Terry Wogan. Perhaps that feral did me a favour, after all...