It all feels hazy now, a few days down the line. So much of what I’ve done this week has been in mild dehydration under hot sun. Exhaustion plays with your memory, makes the brain blank out. I haven’t had a terrible time, just bad guts, that’s all, but my body needs all the nutrition it can get and I’ve had a week of missing out. Exertion means it hits me harder, the lack of water, the hunger. It hasn’t been all that bad, I’ve still walked at least ten miles a day, mostly 13. It’s just that I’ve had to take a day without food during that time, and almost no water, to let my digestion calm down. Skimming the edges of dehydration, sipping enough to keep my mouth from caking dry, gulping 2 litres the next day, flirting with the headache that comes so quickly. Roaring hunger at night but eating nothing, trying to understand what it is that stops me fully digesting.
A walk like this is a balance of energy versus pain. As I come back to this experience again, remembering so much pain from last time and seeing its onset yet again, I can see how easily small things have big effects. Muscles tense from exertion? I won’t slide into deep sleep. Not enough sleep? I will be tired and achy all day. Not enough to drink? Move immediately from dry mouth to blinding headaches. Not enough to eat? Tired and listless, no motivation. It’s clearer here, in this situation, the onset of negative reactions comes sooner.
So I can see my problems and I know what to do about them. Broadly speaking, I’m doing pretty well. I’m sleeping a lot more comfortably than last time, thanks to a new air mattress, and I’m stretching a lot more and more efficiently, thanks to better knowledge of how my body works and what I can do to allay injury.
But there’s nothing I can do about ‘runner’s trots’ (https://amp.health.com/digestive-health/exercise-diarrhea-constipation). It’s something I had to deal with on the last walk and it’s back again now. Well it could be that. Or it could be drinking untreated water from wells. Or it could be a reaction to my diet, strange new foods and an unbalanced road life where I eat the same things repeatedly. Or it could be too much magnesium, maybe I don’t need to supplement my intake just yet. So many different answers to the problem, all with different solutions and if I try and implement them all, maybe I’ll mess with my energy levels still further. So I continue – maybe drinking bottled water more often, maybe taking my magnesium supplement every couple of days rather than every day, maybe limiting the amount of peanuts I eat, they make my tummy feel funny. It’s a balance, nothing more than a balance.
It’s not all been about belly problems. I’ve had a lovely week too, as usual. The land continues to ripple further, I’ve even had to climb a hill! I felt that in the muscles of my thighs. The weather continues to be wonderful, sunny days and cool nights, which I avoid by sleeping under tree cover rather than on field edges where the dew chills to frost. I’ve even had two nights where I woke up with no condensation on or inside my tent – and for someone who has already got into the routine of wiping it down with a special cloth and storing the outer separately to avoid a wet inside tent – that is a pretty special occurrence.
I continue to be totally blown away by how friendly most people are – they stop, with smiling eyes, and enquire who I possibly could be and what I’m doing here. I stumble out a Ukrainian explanation of my journey and they are appropriately amazed and wish me well. People give me food quite often, or just wish me Udachi ‘good luck’.
I had a wonderful breakfast with Anna, her husband, mother, daughter and great grandmother. A roadside meeting where I asked for directions brought Anna across the road, suddenly here was a woman fluent in English! She’d studied for 14 years, to degree level, and here she was in the family village without a job, her and her mother and husband together keeping the usual cows and garden, selling milk for subsistence money, going abroad to Portugal, picking fruit with her husband to bring back the bigger money, the house maintenance money, the pump for the well and new car battery money; too attached and happy in her rural life to leave it for the city, the way so many young Ukrainians do (and people all over the world). Pickled gherkins, homemade cherry wine, omelette made with eggs and cream from their animals and I leave with a bag of walnuts and some chocolate. It’s proper good food that sits well in my tender stomach. It was also great to speak proper English with someone, to be fully understood and to connect with someone.
Anna has given me a contact for a tour guide in Kamaniets Podilskyi, who will show me round. It will be my first tourist town, a castle and a gorge apparently. I’m headed there next, another 5 days walk away.
First, before I leave Vinkivtsi tomorrow, I’ll visit a school. Another random encounter outside a village shop led to the proprietor calling her English speaking friend who turned out to be a teacher. I received an invitation to go and visit the school which I am very pleased to do, not only because it means that I can take an extra day off in the town, which I think I needed.
During this journey I’m raising funds for Target Ovarian Cancer – my own cancer 7 years ago led to the realisation that ovarian cancer is not diagnosed in many women until an advanced stage and Target Ovarian Cancer do their best to improve early diagnosis, fund life-saving research and provide much-needed support to women with ovarian cancer. If you’d like to donate, click here. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/onewomanwalkseurope