As I was sitting in the hotel lobby waiting to check in to my Edinburgh hotel the previous day, a couple from New York makes friendly conversation with me. As I tell them my reason for being here in the United Kingdom, the lady asks me if I’m going on a Spiritual Journey.
“I hadn’t really thought about it that way, but I suppose in a way that is exactly what I am doing.”.
I don’t sleep well again for the second night in a row. The lack of air conditioning has my body in a sweat, coupled with my increasing apprehension. I just need to start walking. I make my way down to the dining area of No. 61 to my first vegetarian English breakfast, complete with French Press coffee. It’s a lovely morning with crisp temperatures and blue skies.
I’ve ordered a packed lunch from each of my guesthouses so that I do not have to worry about finding food each day. I let the nice lady know that I’m not a big meat eater.
“How about a nice cheese and onion sandwich then?”
I’m not one to complain. I pack my lunch into my backpack, and before 9 a.m. I find myself walking back towards the Metro station. I only have about five minutes to the next stop, which takes me to the official starting point of the Hadrian’s Wall path, the Segedunum museum.
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, perhaps a big ticker tape parade wishing me well, but that was far from the case. The entire area is empty, and the start of the path is unassuming. I hang out in the museum for a short spell, ask the people behind the counter where the start of the path is, and then head outside to get started. It all begins with a single step.
The remains of some Roman Baths are only a few yards from the start of trail, next to the lovely river Tyne. It gets me excited to see architectural history so quickly. The walking has begun.
Day one is a twelve and a half mile journey through the industrial section of the city of Newcastle, mostly following the river Tyne. It is not what I was expecting at all, but of course I have to get out of the city before I can see the countryside. Asphalt is hard on my feet, and combined with my lack of sleep the first two nights, I’m suffering greatly, both mentally and physically.
Six miles in and I find myself in the middle of the beautiful city of Newcastle. I find a park bench along the river and devour the cheese and onion sandwich. Not bad at all. I drink water sparingly, as there is really no where to pee on this first leg. The lack of hydration further adds to my discomfort. I realize that I will need the strength of a Greater Spirit, and say a silent prayer to be able to continue.
I check my phone way more often then I should have, and my battery life disappears quickly, only adding to my stress. I then get lost and end up off the trail, following a road westward. My GPS shows me that I am still heading in the right direction though, and after a couple more miles I re-connect with the trail on the outskirts of the city.
The homes of the United Kingdom along the way hold my fascination as I slowly make my way forward. Eventually I see the markings that lead me to my final destination for the evening, The Big Lamp Brewery & Keelman’s Lodge.
My feet hurt something awful, my legs barely can take another step. Back and shoulders are screaming in pain. My face most likely has all my pain and worry visible in my wrinkles and tired eyes.
The young gent offers me a beer as he checks me in, then shows me to my room for the evening. The room is unassuming, but all I need is a bed as I am exhausted.
I have a lovely quiet dinner at the Keelman, then go straight to bed, thinking that I might have to use a taxi to make it to my destination the following day.
I sleep for eleven hours straight, which was exactly what my body needed. I’m still sore in the morning, but stretching does me wonders, and after breakfast, I’m feeling reinvigorated.
A large group of women walkers are having breakfast with me, talking about their journey, as today is their final walking day as they are going in the opposite direction as myself. They tell me about their favorite sections of Hadrians Wall, as well as their bad luck with pouring rain and cold conditions.
I listen intently as a light rain starts to fall outside.
I take my time and wait out the morning drizzle, enjoying the country side I find myself in. Around 10 a.m. I leave the Keelman, and back onto the path I go…..