comments iconDay 36: Teamwork


Today walk: 26.20 miles

Total walk:  533.30 miles

Today raised:  £ 50.00 +  ¥ 299.00

Total raised: £11,763.09 + ¥ 88,872.45

The definition of a team is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That might sound a bit too profound or me and that is because it is a statement by Aristotle explaining ‘synergy’ but I think it works for teams too. This is not about me it is about Xuelin and I–a team.

One of the joys of being part of a team is that you can be free to focus on what it is that you do best which in my case, at present, is walking and Xuelin can focus on what she does best which is everything else–namely, planning routes, booking accommodation, budget control, record keeping, making sure we are stocked up with medical, food and liquid supplies, managing our wonderful team of Chinese translators, maintaining links with Chinese media, fundraising, injury treatment, taking photographs etc. etc.

So let me say a little about today: It was our first day in Scotland and I have to say we were missing Northern Ireland. We started at the Port of Cairnryan where I would start my journey up to Glasgow on the A77–a road which should take is almost all the way there. The good news is that this reduces the chances of me getting lost. The not so good news is that the Port of Cairnryan is an extremely busy crossing point between Northern Ireland Scotland with the distance between the two countries being about 20 miles.

This meant that the A77 was almost a constant stream of heavy trucks going in both directions along a narrow road which twists and turns as it hugs the south Ayrshire coast and with only the occasional short footpath when passing through a village. Walking over 26 miles with heavy trucks passing within a few inches of you is wearing and I always end the day with a thumping headache.

The key is always to try and make eye contact with the truck driver as soon as possible–if you do then they will slow down and give you some space if not then I have to jump into the ditch or the brambles to avoid them. Last year I walked about 500 miles along the BR116 in Brazil which has been described as the Highway from Hell, one of the most dangerous roads in the world, because of the number of fatalities, accidents and kidnappings.

The A77 wasn’t quite in that same league but I was still extremely glad to arrive at our hotel, Woodlands Bay outside Girvan in one piece. When I arrived Xuelin showed me a front page from the Daily Express which had the headline ‘Walking Can Add Years to Your Life’ and I replied well that is true unless you are flattened by a truck in the process.

In between dodging the trucks on the A77 I was fascinated by one sign on the highway which was in Russian Cyrillic script. I followed the sign to a large cross and memorial to the Russian crusier, Varyag which had run aground on ricks at Ledalfoot in 1920 almost 100 years ago. The memorial told me that the Varyag was a ship that had achieved distinction in the Russo-Japanese War at the Battle of Chemulpo Bay (a port in Korea which was neutral in the war) in 1904.

It was all very interesting but I was thinking what on earth was it doing sinking off the coast of Scotland on the other side of the world in 1920 and why the memorial on British soil to a Russian naval vessel. I needed to do a bit of Internet research to find the answers which were not as exciting as I had imagined:

During World War I the Varyag had been send for a refit in Liverpool–Russia and Britain were allies in the World War I as in World War II. When the October Revolution happened in 1917 and the Russians disengaged from the War the Royal Navy seized the Varyag. As it was being towed to the naval base on the Firth of Clyde it ran aground and was sold to a German firm after the war for scrap. Still not sure why in 2006 we decided that this was a good moment to create a monument–as far as I can see there was no loss of life and it was not a vessel in service when it sank.  Perhaps just seemed like a way to make the Russians happy in 2006 and apologise for taking over their most important warship, selling it to the Germans for scrap and then sinking it.

It had been an exhausting and nerve jangling day but I had managed to complete a very dangerous and 26.2 mile long stretch of the A77 so to celebrate I took my team-mate out for a celebration–fish and chips from Gazianos in Girvan, soaked in vinegar and salt and wrapped in real newspaper we sat shivering on the seats overlooking the harbour and toasting a good day and a great team with Diet Coke.