Wednesday 27 August.
Disaster struck today. After about 10km walking my back went into spasm, probably due to not having carried a heavy pack for some time. I have been through this before at the beginning of walks and a good dose of anti-inflammatories eventually clears it up after a few days, I just have to take it easy until I get fitter. Moira helped me by leaving me stretched out on the path while she carried my pack for about 500 metres, came back picked up her own rucksack and I limped along unladen. We managed this until we reached the village of Shepherdswell where I had to give up for the day, there was no way I could make the remaining 13km to Dover. There was a railway station in the village and we were reliably informed that trains ran to Dover every hour. We had only 30 minutes to wait for the next one; it was a 10 minute journey to Dover Priory station. I managed to make it from the station the kilometre to Dover backpackers where we were staying the night.
The day had started very well, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. We were up at 6:30am and spent an hour on the computer working out a route from the hostel to the North Downs Way that the Via Francigena followed all the way to Dover. Moira had booked breakfast and it was very good for £2 each. There was muesli, toast, scones, muffins, coffee and fruit juice. We made up for not having eaten much yesterday. We talked to a guy from Greece over breakfast. He was a maths teacher and was starting his new position at the local high school next Monday. He was busy looking for accommodation. Another girl, from Ireland, was also searching for a place to stay, she was starting teacher training at a college in Canterbury.
It was 8:30am when we got going and with the help of the map on the iPad there was no problem finding a route to Pilgrim's Way and the first signpost and waymark for the North Downs Way. From there it was pleasant walking on traffic free tarred lanes all the way to a typical old English village, Patrixbourne.
After the lovely flat surface of the lanes we were now directed through fields and rough ground. It was the first time we had ever followed a trail that went right through the middle of a ploughed field. Away from the farm land there were lovely sections that went into the forests with the thick foliage cutting out the bright warm sunshine. The rough surface was not helping my back which was getting steadily worse and I was fortunate to make it to Shepherdswell. Not a great start on our first day.
When we reached Dover Backpackers, it was attached to a pub and our room was up in the attic. It was all right and we had it to ourselves, so peace and quiet. I immediately got my shoes off and stretched out on the bed to rest my back. It eased slightly and Moira went to the nearest pharmacy for anti-imfamatories. Hopefully I will be fit enough in the morning, at least we will get over the channel and take it from there.
We had fish and chips from a nearby chippie for dinner. There was a TV in the room so we relaxed watching it until bed time.