Over the Christmas holidays, when Nasty and his dad went mountain biking, they wouldn’t let me come along because they said I would be too slow. Nasty said something like, “Look, it’s not one of those scenic routes where you peddle along at a leisurely pace and admire fluffy white clouds.” The fact that we didn’t have another mountain bike was, of course, another cause for concern.
But I tagged along nonetheless. Armed with directions and a map, they dropped me off mid-trail and I set off to meet them at the top of a hill, while they drove on to start cycling further down behind me.
No fluffy white clouds indeed. As this was the first thing I saw:
I don’t know what in the English countryside would kill bambi. A fox? But why would it leave it half eaten, right in the middle of a trail?
I suppose there are no tigers and lions. Whatever it was, I hoped it doesn’t get me.
That was my first time hiking on my own. However, I don’t think it qualifies as hiking. When does a walk become a hike? At the same time, it’ll be quite odd to say “that was my first time walking on my own“, because, believe it or not, I can actually walk on my own. Only just not in the woods, and with dead animals.
Aside from the initial bambi shock, it was refreshing, very quiet and extremely muddy. I was the only walker for most of the walk up, but groups of cyclists rode past me and I was surprised at how friendly everyone was. There were lots of smiles and hellos and I suddenly felt all hopeful about humankind…
Along the way, two cyclists got separated from their group and weren’t sure where to go. They decided to ask me, the lone person walking in an area she’s never been to before. It turns out they were going where I was going as well. I consulted my map to be sure, gave them directions, felt very smug about myself, and as they went off, one of them called back to say if they got there before I do, he’d buy me tea and cake. I smiled and waved. Yeah yeah, whatever.
After a while, I got to the top. It was apparently the highest point in South East England! In the whole scheme of things, compared with other countries with mightier mountains and more exotic landscapes, this couldn’t have been that remarkable. But the view was gorgeous, the air fresh, and the light beautiful.
As I walked up towards the old crumbling tower at the top, the cyclist appeared and told me that there’s tea and cake at the miniature tea shop peeking out from the bottom of the tower. I smiled, thinking that his promise was really just in jest and he was just telling me what’s available at the shop.
I queued up, eyed the price list, and started counting my change. When I got to the front of the line, the lady waved me off and said, “You don’t have to pay! It’s all been taken care of! Take your pick of tea and cake!” I was so surprised I just stared at her. What? How would she even know it’s me? That’s when the cyclist came by again and nodded to the lady to confirm that I was who he was talking about. I suppose not very many Asians go through there. In fact, I was the only one I saw that day.
I felt so bad about doubting him I thanked him profusely and asked for a tea and banana cake.
Repeating more of my thank yous, craddling my tea, cake and map, I found a bench and again marvelled at the view, how friendly everyone was, and how generous that cyclist was. Granted, it’s not extravagant, but when was the last time a stranger bought you tea and cake? It’s funny how the smallest gesture can really lift someone’s mood remarkably and change their perspective of the whole day.
In reality, it was actually a freezing cold day and I struggled to eat my cake with my gloves on. I thought of creative ways to wipe snot off my nose without any tissue and as I warmed my fingers grasping the cup of tea , I wondered when Nasty and his dad would get there.
But thinking back now, I remember the day with warmth and fondness…
After we finished our tea, we set off again, with me aiming to meet them at the parking lot where the car was. However, the route down was much less straight forward. At one point, I was standing in the middle of a cross-roads with six different trails pointing in different directions.
The signs were pretty pointless. Bridleway is a new word I learnt that day. It apparently means a trail that can be used by walkers, cyclists and horses alike.
Dude, I know there’s a path. I can bloody see it for myself. But WHERE does it go to?
I think it’s the equivalent of having road signs that say PUBLIC ROAD.
I must have chosen the wrong path at that six-trail junction because what began as a trail that veered slightly off direction, as it went on, I became wildly off target.
More of those bloodly signs. So one is a footpath. Now that’s different. I don’t know where I’m going, but at least I know I won’t get run over by cyclists or horses. But perhaps eaten by Bambi Killer. Maybe walkers take pride in finding their way without signs.
As the afternoon went on, I got more and more lost. I’m good at city maps, but I’ve never had to use a map where there aren’t roads and street signs. How in the flipping world was anyone supposed to tell where they were?
It got darker, there were no longer any sign of other people, and I was utterly utterly lost. At that point, my enthusiasm for photos waned as I comtemplated a night in the forest.
I eventually found a road (without a name) and apprehensively matched it to one on the map and gingerly trudged along it.
I emerged sometime later to find Nasty walking up the hill trying to find me, and his dad following behind in the car. It turns out they’ve been having a pint in the pub waiting for me. So much for a movie-esque reunion where an Edward Cullen-type would race to me with teary concern, sweep me off my feet, hold me tightly in his arms and declare that he would never ever let me go again. Ever.
Humor me. Ignore the fact that we agreed to meet, if it was open, at the pub by the parking lot.