an idiot on the isle of wight


Wednesday, 5th July.
Pile of Shite

How did I end up hiking on the Isle of Wight?

I found myself at Waterloo Station (ah, there you are!) and said to the teller, "One ticket to Ryde, please!" It was all downhill from there.

The train journey was swift and uneventful, and I arrived in Portsmouth after 11am. To get to the island I had to transfer to the ferry. At the ferry terminal I bought a choc-chip muffin and a drink. "Is that all?" asked the woman behind the counter. "Is that all?" I mimicked in her country accent. Hmm, low level of amusement from her. Two kids were spinning their sister around and around in a stroller. "I DON'T CARE - ROCK AND ROLL!" the kid yelled out. I looked at the tourism posters for the Isle of Wight on the wall behind me. Ew, lame. Looks like the Isle of Wight is England's Tasmania.

Except without the charm.

Conversation betwen slightly crazy-looking bloke and woman with posh accent. Weird bloke is with something resembling a woman, the posh sheila is with her nice family. Scene: somewhere between Portsmouth and Ryde.

CRAZY BLOKE: I'm going to Devon on holiday...with my girlfriend. gestures to strangely-clad creature on his left
CB: Have you been there?
PS: Uh, no...
She's trying not to encourage him, but doesn't want to be rude.
CB: It's supposed to be lovely.
PS: Right.
CB: It's all paid for, y'know, we get picked up by the bus...
PS: Hmm.
CB: ...and the barges...
PS: Sounds lovely.
CB: We're going to Bembridge this afternoon.
Crazy bloke then loses attention, he and his girlfriend resume torturing each other.

I landed in Ryde and discovered a town that wouldn't be out of place on Tasmania's north-west coast. Elderly tourists everywhere, bored kids, and pseudo-surfies. I got myself some lunch and then headed off on my trek round the island.

After enduring some dull walking and dull scenery I got off the beaten track. Another mistake. The previous night there had been a torrential downpour on the Isle of Wight, and the walking tracks were muddy as. I was slipping along, struggling under my heavy backpack when I encountered a bloke out walking with his kid. Well, the little girl wasn't doing any walking, he was carrying her. He asked me for directions (oh the irony) and decided to head off in the same direction as me. He was coping a lot better with the slippery conditions than I was, and he was carrying a kid and wearing a pair of sneakers! Me and my you-beaut walking boots weren't going so flash.

Then things started getting ridiculous. I took a wrong turn at the Bembridge Windmill (a must-see on the Isle of Wight) and ended up on the wrong side of the airport. (Airport? You must be kidding.) To get back on track I had to walk along a road. No verge for me to walk on combined with traffic whizzing past at 60mph meant I was walking in brown underpants territory. So I crashed through a hedge so I could walk in the paddock alongside the road, paddock bloody well stank to high heaven, must've been all the rabbit droppings, trudged along and made it back onto a public footpath through the paddocks. Late afternoon, humid, insects, no insect repellent, beating a path through the blackberries, dodging dog shit, staring competition with a cow, ugly female jogger, Brading railway station, bored youth on bikes, pack getting heavier, old rocker in a t-shirt and leather jacket walking by the railway line, smell of my own BO, straps cutting into my shoulders, sleeping mat getting caught on thorns, roadworks, traffic diverted, temporary traffic lights, dopey road worker taking down signs at the end of the day, finally I'm in Sandown. And I find the campsite, put up the tent, and take a load off.

After eating my naan bread and cheese, and some caramel slice for pudding, I listened to a European athletics meet on the radio. flashback sequence... My very first full-time job after I finished university was at the Department of Social Security in Tasmania. During the Atlanta Olympics I was doing field visits with a "senior" member of staff. This involved visiting social security clients in their homes, making sure they're ok and that they're not ripping off the taxpayers of Australia. We were listening to the athletics on the radio, and heard a running race featuring a runner with the same name as one of our more notorious clients. "Probably got fit running away from all those robberies" my supervisor deadpanned. ...end flashback

I slept.