Cornish ChallengeIt had been raining for several hours and we felt thoroughly chilled and wet, despite our waterproofs. The forecast had mentioned showers, but this had gone beyond that- the showers we had experienced earlier had morphed into a cold, insistent downpour.

It had taken us much longer than we had anticipated to complete our mileage that day, slowed by our heavy packs and tricky terrain. As we trudged wearily down the road in pitch darkness, desperately searching for the Youth Hostel we had been trying to locate for the best part of an hour, the realisation hit us that it was now nearly 11pm and our chances of checking into the Youth Hostel, even if we found it, were now remote.

Our trek had started so well. Granted, it had poured as we left the car at St Ives and headed up the hill towards Carbis Bay and our first night’s accommodation. Even the greyness of the sky and hint of rain the following morning hadn’t dampened our enthusiasm as we lingered at St Ives, purchasing a vegetarian Cornish pasty for lunch.

Cornish Challenge

Beyond St Ives, the South West Coast Path is rollercoaster like, climbing and descending its way around rocky coves and dramatic headlands stretching out into the sea. Hands are often needed to negotiate huge boulders and at times it felt as though we were scrambling. We ate lunch near Zennor Head, and picked a dramatic but sheltered spot amongst the rocks, where a kind couple asked up what we were doing and dug out some change to contribute to our cause.

Lunch with a view at Zennor Head

Lunch with a view at Zennor Head

Pasty and cake tastes so good after a tough walk with a nice view, but we still had a long way to go, and, rather demoralised that we could still see our starting point after several hours of walking, set off towards Cape Cornwall.

Beautiful rocky coves

Beautiful rocky coves

The next part was quite bleak and exposed, and felt more like wet and boggy moorland than coastal path. At some point the showers that had threatened all day became heavy and persistent, with a leaden grey sky indicating that they had set in for the day. Our progress seemed frustratingly slow, as we concentrated on placing one squelching foot in front of the other. I would have been fascinated by the chimneys of the Levant mine punctuating the dramatic, grey landscape had I not felt so tired, and we plodded on, trying to beat the darkness that had now started to fall.

Gurnards Head

Gurnards Head

It was a relief to reach the road to St Just, but our relief turned to concern when we realised that we may not eat tonight. I was overjoyed to see an open Chinese takeaway but by the time we were served with our portions of chips we didn’t really want them. Spurred on by directions from a local, we headed out of St Just, into the darkness and relentless rain, to try to locate our Youth Hostel.

Unfortunately, there were no signs, and although Helen has a GPS we could not work out how to reach it and walked up and down the hilly road, looking for signs. Concerned about the time, I tried to call the Youth Hostel twice but it went to voicemail; I think it was at this point that both of us could quite easily have lost it, but both said afterwards that we realised that this would actually achieve very little!

Eventually a kind passing motorist pointed us in the right direction (up a track we had passed several times which had no signs whatsoever) but by this time it was almost 11pm, and, sure enough, when we reached it the reception was deserted and the doors were locked…

Just as we faced the prospect of sleeping with our bivvy bags in the toilet blocks, a guest came out of the lounge and saw us, dripping wet, at the door. She opened it, saying ‘I don’t work here’, so we gabbled that we had a reservation for the night and had tried to call… she said ‘was that you who rang? I heard the phone.’ I replied ‘yes… just let us in will you!’ and to her credit she did, saying she wasn’t going to leave us out in the rain.

Helen suggested that we crash in the lounge, but I was on a mission as I felt we badly needed proper beds, and a chance to get warm… so I started pushing open doors on the premise that empty rooms wouldn’t be locked. I opened the first door to see several bunk beds, so shut it quickly and tried a second room- this was a small empty room with a single set of bunk beds, which was similar to what we had booked (although the bottom bed was a double so I upgraded us!) so I said to Helen ‘This is our room for tonight!’

I made us a hot drink whilst we tried our best to dry our sodden gear, and we settled down for a rather cold, but dry and relatively comfortable night.

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