We’d travelled across the world, through 5 airports, overcome every obstacle we’d faced, and now our luggage was in the wrong country. To top it off, this wasn’t the kind of trip where we could wait for our bags to arrive and make do with whatever we could find at the tourist shop and gas station. We were hiking across the country, and the gear we needed for the trip wasn’t in the country we were hiking across. Boots, clean clothes, water bottles, trekking poles, scotch…
Our luggage was supposed to arrive Sunday night. We weren’t optimistic, but we boarded the train from Newcastle to Carlisle to at least knowing we could get a decent meal, a shower and jump over into Scotland for a drink or two. We checked in, ate at the pub across the street from our hotel, threw some darts and had a pint, then headed out for Scotland. Frankly, Scotland was a bit of a bust. There’s no border patrol in that part of the country, so we didn’t get our passports stamped, and the only pub we could find was in a hotel in Gretna Greene, where we got under-poured and over-priced drinks. On the plus side, I’m complaining about drinks I had at a hotel bar in one of the oldest cities in Scotland…it could be worse.
We caught the train back to Carlisle, grabbed dinner at The Turf – think the UK version of TGI Fridays – and walked back up the street to the hotel, fingers crossed for luggage. Our hunch was right. No luggage, no clean clothes, no gear. No scotch.
We’ll skip ahead past the part where the owner of the hotel was a bit of an ass, and where I learned that a cheese & onion pastie tastes pretty much like hot foot and armpit, right along to where we actually got to start our hike along the River Eden. We’d bought toothbrushes and deodorant at the pharmacy across the street, so I didn’t much care that I was setting off for my hike in four day old clothes and Chacos. I was hiking and I was determined to be happy.
The first day’s hike was different than what we’d expected. The first few miles followed the river pretty closely and was full of the views and sounds of the river, pleasant and easy. The walk along the river turned into a walk through fields and farms. We saw sheep and cattle (a recurring theme), had a pint at The Stag Inn, and made our way on toward Newtown. We hiked through more fields and farms, enjoying the sites, amused by the sheep (REAL BRITISH SHEEP!!!), and hopeful that our bags would be waiting for us when we arrived at The Belted Will in Hallbankgate. We reached Newtown, only to realize that Brampton was a 3 mile hike along the highway. We would later learn that Hallbankgate was 6 miles from Brampton (for future reference, 6 miles is about 10 minutes by taxi). We arrived in Hallbankgate, got our room and learned that our luggage had still not found us.
The family that owns The Belted Will is awesome. They allowed us to use their phones, phone chargers, offered to drive us wherever we needed, and were very accommodating to the two Americans in the middle of northern England without their luggage. I’ve promised to return on a future trip, carry on luggage in tow. We had a great dinner (mushroom stroganoff for me), had some great beers, and threw a few games of darts, all while trying to get the luggage situation sorted out with Air France. After getting nowhere with Air France the next morning, we made the decision to have Stephen (one of the owners of The Belted Will) drive us to our next destination, The Manor House in Haltwhistle, where we could then take a train into Hexham to buy some clothes and proper hiking boots. We got to Hexham and made our way back to the hotel, ready to have a taxi drive us back out to Gilsland, where we could rejoin the wall, determined to not lose another full day of hiking.
Imagine our surprise when we walked into the hotel and saw our luggage. Needless to say, a celebration was in order.