Monday, 27 August 2012

Last Man on Earth Part Two.


After exploring the cool-looking waterfall and pretending to be Indiana Jones for a bit, I began to climb the western slope of the Valley of Desolation that led up through a pine tree forest then out onto open moorland.

Suddenly I saw a movement on the ground a few yards ahead of me and I froze. Out of the long grass slithered a Slow worm. I had only ever seen one of these before, this when I was a kid on holiday in south Wales.  Although it looked like a foot long snake a Slow Worm is actually a legless lizard, you can tell by the shape of the head.  I was able to get good and close to it and watched it for a while before it slid off into the undergrowth.

Filled with that happy feeling you get when you've just seen some unexpected wildlife I hit the open fells and climbed up to Simon's Seat.  This is a jumble of crags and boulders that sits at the top of the fell and at 1,590 feet is the highest point in the area.  Reaching the foot of the boulders I climbed them until I reached the summit then sat and ate my sandwiches while taking in the view.

I realised that I had not seen another human being in over four hours, something of an achievement on this overcrowded island.  This was the solitude I had been looking for after the stress of my home city and I leant back against the crag and felt like the last man on Earth.


I descended from the fells and walked back along the river until I reached the camp site.  After a quick wash and brush up I walked up the road to the village pub and sat at an outside table with a pint of pale ale.  The pub was busy with families and couples and I felt a bit out of place sitting on my own. I wanted my wife or friends to be with me so we could talk about our day but instead I was the lone guy sat nursing a pint and gawping at the hills.

Getting bored of this I went back to my tent to cook my dinner.  I realised that I had forgotten my camp chair so had to sit on the grass while I ate my half-cooked Savoury Rice and burnt can of Stagg Chilli.
After being eaten alive myself by the swarms of Midges that lived by the river I doused myself in insect repellant then sat back against the wheel of my car, drinking a bottle of red wine and smelling like a chemical factory while watching the stars come out in the darkening sky.
I was in my sleeping bag and snoring by 22:30.


I was awoken by a gentle quacking sound outside my tent and stuck my head out to see what was occurring.  It was just growing light and a low lying mist blanketed the valley. I found myself face to face with a small brown duck.  The rest of the camp site was still asleep so I brewed up a black coffee and sat on the misty ground sharing a couple of cold pancakes with my new duck friend.

The girl who ran the camp site was walking her dog and came over, asking me how I had enjoyed my solitude.
I told her it had been good but also said that I couldn't help feeling that solitude is better when you've got someone to share it with.  She laughed and wandered off into the mist.
I broke camp and drove back towards the city.  I was ready for people again.


YeamieWaffles said...

I love this story Tony, to be able to escape and just avoid all of humanity for a period of time must have been absolutely blissful, to be completely alone for so long sounds like an incredible feeling.

Pat Hatt said...

Takes getting away to realize we like having certain people around. Of course a duck is good company I suppose haha

Al Penwasser said...

This is a great story.
You're a regular Thoreau.
Without the goofy beard which slipped beneath your chin.

Janet Johnson said...

So true about solitude! Especially solitude in nature.

And midgets. Gosh. Nasty little buggers.

Amy said...

Great photo, and nicely written!
I love that feeling of marvel upon having a close encounter with a wild animal! This trip sounds very cleansing. I'm glad to hear you conquered your stress. And, made a new duck friend!

D4 said...

That's a nice ending. Guess you got what you needed, didn't you?

Bart said...

oh man, u guys have stagg's chilli up in the uk? thats awesome. I love that stuff.

Janie Junebug said...

Did you see 27 Hours, young man? Always call your mom before you head out into the wild.

Janie, who is quite concerned about your well-being

The Angry Lurker said...

I can do without people sometimes, I liked that trip....a lot!

Vinnie Vinegar said...

Good tale lad

Tony Van Helsing said...

Matthew: A rare event my friend.

Pat: It was a tearful goodbye when I left the duck.

Al: Who the hell is Thoreau?

Janet: They have a nasty bite, those midgets.

Amy: It didn't take long to get dirty again.

D4: Guess I did.

Bart: It's only any good if you eat it in a field.

Janie: Don't worry, I always take a chainsaw in case I have to hack off any of my limbs.

Lurker: Glad you did mate.

Vinnie: Did you read part one?

Al Penwasser said...

When I wrote that, I wasn't sure you'd know who he was. In fact, I'll bet a lot of Americans wouldn't know, either. Thoreau was an unemployed layabout who wrote a book called "Walden" in the 19th century about his solitude in the forest primeval near Concord, Massachusetts (now mostly filled with Red Sox fans). It's a godawful, dreadfully boring book that American Literature professors use to torture their charges. Google his picture and you'll get my lame attempt at humor. Don't read "Walden", though. YOUR story is MUCH more compelling.

Nicki Elson said...

I think I could've died happy never knowing of the existence of slow worms. You've ruined that now. Let's just hope I forget about them before bedtime.

EC Stilson said...

This sounds so magical! There's nothing like solitude--and a good can of Stagg Chilli. :)

I'm constantly surrounded by children, so I can't imagine how wonderful being alone in nature--even for a little while--would be. Nature just has a way of relieving stress and revealing what's really important. ;)

Tony Van Helsing said...

Al: Cheers mate, and thanks for the Walden warning. I shall avoid.

Nicki: They are perfectly harmless and even cute, in a reptilian sort of way.

Elisa: Solitude is ok in small doses but having kids that love you is more important. Don't worry, when they grow up you can go as native as you like.

Kianwi said...

I love that, 'solitude is better when you've got someone to share it with.'
I loved this narrative! im glad to hear the rest of the trip. And how cute was that duck! Im glad she got some pancakes :)
By the way, I got an email that you left a comment on my post, but the comment must have been sucked into a void, cause it's not there. It made me laugh, cause as a girl, I sure never thought of bashing in the door! :)

Bart said...

lol I eat it anywhere

Stina Lindenblatt said...

lol Nice pick up line. :)

I've never heard of a slow worm until now. Sounds kind of weird (the worm, not that I've never heard of it).

Tony Van Helsing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juliette said...

Stagg chilli and red wine! Yes! Do you like the dynamite hot stagg chilli though? Solitude is good for you but I know what you mean about it being better to share with someone! Hope it did you good.

Brigitta Huegel said...

Dear Tony,
I believe that you enjoyed solitude - to value people/togetherness again. We all need a pause sometimes, recharge batteries.
In Germany we call the slow-worm a blindworm - harmless, but you have to recognize them as such - not that you meet an adder (we have them both in the Heath).
PS: Instead of 'You are witty and pretty' I have a new blog: - I heartily invite you over!