Towns / Cities Visited: 95
Countries Visited: 20
Steps Taken Today: 13,923
Steps Taken Around the World: 2,822,056
We awoke lazily to the calming quiet of the countryside. Before long we were popping out of our Airbnb into the tiny town of Moretonhampstead to find a little information on Dartmoor National Park, which we were currently in the middle of, and what there was to spend our day seeing. Our search found us talking to the extremely friendly man at the visitor centre, who gave us plenty of tips and a information booklet on the park. With the booklet in hand, we headed just a few door down to pore over what to do, while we indulged in the delights of tea and scones for breakfast at the cutest little tea house. A quick trip to the nearby deli to grab some filled baguettes for lunch later on, and we were soon giving the dogs at the house we were staying at one last pat and tumbling into the car.
Off into the moors we drove, and after a bit of a drive down some more narrow, bramble sided country roads, we came to our first stop; Hound Tor. Now, if you, like us, had no idea what a tor is, it is a free standing rocky outcrop jutting up from atop a generally gentle sloped hill. The name Hound Tor is thought to come form the fact that the rocks resemble the silhouette of dog heads peaking over a natural battlement, but excuse me if I just can’t quite see it myself. I don’t know, you decide for yourself though.
Parking in the tourist car park, we threw on our jackets, and headed up the sweeping slope towards the striking rock formation. The air was cool, and the sky overcast; the perfect weather for taking a stroll in a national park. There were quite a few other hikers around and a few dogs, and as we neared the tor we noticed there was even a small group of beginner abseilers trying their hand on one of the more sheer sides of the rocks. We decided to do a little light clambering ourselves and soon found a perch atop on of the tall stacks of rock; taking a long moment to admire the beauty of the lush green moorland that surrounded us.
As we sat, we heard a conversation carried on the wind from below us between a mother and her two daughters. One daughter, who was probably about 12, was saying that she wanted to spend her birthday money on purchasing some Harry Potter collectables, like Voldemort’s wand. Her mother and older sister took the opportunity to shout her down, telling her it was a waste of her money and that she should spend it on something else. My partner and I just rolled our eyes as we chuckled quietly at the fact that we quite happily had just purchased ourselves wands from Harry Potter World, and, even at our age, had absolutely no regrets about doing so. Seriously, its that little girls money, and if buying Harry Potter related paraphernalia makes her happy then be supportive; isn’t that what birthdays are supposed to be for, buying yourself fun things instead of practical purchases. We climbed back down to continue our exploration, hoping in our hearts that she disregarded the disdain of her family and bought the wand anyway.
With our head shaking done for the day we headed further into the tor and decided to climb the largest part of the outcrop because, well, why not. On the way up though, a wasp decided to jump in between my hand and the rock I was reaching for and somehow, blaming me for its predicament, it took it upon itself to sting my hand. Thus bringing to an end my 27 year streak of never having been stung by one. As I quietly swore to myself while making sure it hadn’t left half of its behind in my palm, I held onto the fact that I’ve managed to get this far in my life still having not been stung by a bee, broken a bone, or had a blood nose. Small victories I guess. Anyway, a little more tenderly, I finished the climb to the top and admired the view while sharp waves of pain from my hand sent shivers up my spine.
Deciding it was for the best, we headed back down to the car for a little first aid and painkillers, before deciding to take one last short wander around the heather which surrounded the base of the tor, before continuing. The walk was made mildly uncomfortable by the fact that the sky couldn’t decide between rain or sunshine, meaning we played a rather endless game of jacket on / jacket off. However, the ferns, and dainty yellow and purple wild flowers, made the hike picturesque enough that our annoyance was tempered.
With the tor thoroughly explored, we jumped back in the car, continuing our drive towards the south of the national park. A few kilometres down the road though, we spotted a small group of ponies just unassumingly grazing on the open grassland. Naturally, we stopped the car and hopped out. The next fifteen minutes was spent using carrots from our food stores in the boot to try and befriend them. This caught the attention of a few other visitors to the park, including a father and daughter who also stopped for a look. After a little persistence, we manage to convince one of the ponies that we weren’t a threat, and managed to exchange our carrots for pats. A successful stop, methinks.
The next part of our drive took us through seas of yellow furze bushes, until we came to the more forested southern region. At this point we turned off the main road and headed towards where we would be going for our second hike for the day; the area around Burrator Dam. We parked the car, and grabbing our packed lunch we found a peaceful spot beneath some almost magical looking moss covered oak trees, and took a moment to eat surrounded by the soothing soundtrack of nature.
With lunch out of the way, we began our walk. As my partner ran back to double check if we had locked the car, I crossed the small stone bridge that forded a river into the dam and waited for him on the other side. As I paused, a blue car came across the bridge, and an enormous scraping sound resounded through the air. As the drove past I saw the lady swearing to herself, and as I walked back to see what she’d done, my partner caught up asking what the noise was. As we both looked at the edge of the bridge it was more than clear, the poor driver had taken the corner a little early and had scraped the side of her car, leaving a massive streak of blue paint on the stones. I sincerely hope that wasn’t a rental car or it’s going to cost her a fortune.
The hour long hike led us through some stunning scenery, through lush green mossy woodlands, down sun-drenched paths between shady trees, past almost fairy-esque wild mushrooms, and beside babbling brooks, until we found ourselves in a clearing beside a pine forest. Wandering around grazing was a beautiful grey mare, and her truly adorable foal. We spent a fair amount of time just watching them. Our attempts to get close enough to pat them went unrewarded, but seeing them in such a tranquil place was a gift in and of itself.
By now it was time to head back, so we could make the two hour drive to our accommodation in south Cornwall. The journey went without much of a hitch, except for a 15 minute wait on a barely two car width country road right by our rural accommodation, as we paused so that workmen could paint ‘slow’ on the road, and we could wait for it to dry. The home at which we were staying was a large country property, with a big welcoming house, and a stunning view out the back of the rolling hills beyond. My partner made us a quick dinner, and we spent the evening getting some work done and relaxing.
As I lay in bed I allowed myself some time to bask in the quiet of rural life. When I stopped and listened, really listened, the night was broken only by the soothing symphony of crickets, and our own gentle breathing. Today had been a day of losing ourselves in nature, and it had calmed my anxious soul. When I was a teen, growing up in the country was anything but an appealing situation, with little to do in my free time that didn’t include having to travel at least half an hour to the nearest larger town. Now that I am older, I sometimes wonder if I would find solace in a quiet country life, or if I would become restless with the sounds of my own thoughts, and lonely in the isolation of my singular existence. My personality can, at times, be an enigma. I, for the most part, am an introvert, happy in my own company with little use for the distractions of others; and yet, on occasion, I find myself craving bustling social interactions. I like to sit alone in an apartment reading, but like to do so both to the sounds of uninterrupted rain, and to the buzz of city life whipping past just outside my window.
Where will I find myself when the time comes to settle down? When the world has been seen, and my soul is weary, I do not know where my heart will lead me. This is the journey I am on; not only a journey of the world, but a journey within. I do not know if I will find the answers I crave at the ends of the earth, but I know for certain that I will not find them stagnating in endless decades of working. Thus I march on, through the cities and the forests in equal measure; to search under every rock, and behind every door. Each day of this journey expands my mind and my heart; it enlightens me; and perhaps that is answer enough for now.