Many years ago my friend, Es, and I went on an impulsive (but somewhat planned) Cornish adventure. We landed in the UK earlier that year (2008) and we were keen to make the most of our visit.
We wanted to let the road just take us on this magical journey along the coast. We hired a small car at Heathrow airport and leisurely drove down to Cornwall. Our only plan was to see the ocean. We had a truly magical visit chockfull of new experiences until we hit Newquay on day three of our one-week adventure. Here’s a small snippet of our Cornish adventure:
We reached Fistral beach in Newquay at sunset. The never ending beach, bathed in a fiery sunset, was mesmerising. As two South African girls that are used to heat and tonnes of sunshine we giggled at the fact that people were swimming in the icy Atlantic waters, but at the same time we were impressed by their ingenuity of wearing drysuits to keep the cold at bay. Children were running around on the beach with wellies on and here we were, in true South African style, with bare feet digging our toes into the soft, but icy, sand. Our belief is that if you are barefoot on a sandy beach, you only need to invest in a good nail polish to have beautifully manicured feet!
The golden hour was running out. The flaming rays were steadily consumed by the enclosing darkness of nightfall. It was time to find a resting place for the night.
We left the beach, all the while dodging potential golf balls from the nearby golf club, and it wasn’t long before we found a hostel that was spitting distance from the centre of town. It looked perfect! They only had one twin room left and we booked it for a two-night stay. We really loved the look of Fistral beach and wanted to discover more beaches in the area.
We settled in for the night, had a bit of a girly chat before we both fell asleep after the adventurous day. It was around 2am when I awoke in a panic. Someone was standing in front of my bed! I couldn’t quite make out the silhouette in the dark – the head of the creature was very round and looked unnaturally disproportioned from the body. I yelped and scrambled to switch on a bedside lamp. My hands reached in the air for my glasses.
With the speed of light it was clear that the red, swollen lollipop head was in fact that of my once beautiful friend, Es. Her words still echoes in my head until this day: “I’m itchy”.
Her face, arms and legs had swollen massively, like a giant profiterole, and has gone a funny red tinge. I was surprised that she managed to see anything at all! Needless to say that poor Es’ bed was teeming with bedbugs. We couldn’t risk any of our belongings to get infected (if it wasn’t too late by then) so we packed up and sat on my bare, but hopefully bug-less, mattress to wait out the night. By 5am Es’ swollen head had gone down back to her old self and we decided to check out – we couldn’t do this two nights in a row.
Unsurprisingly, the staff were in complete denial (despite the walking evidence next to me) and refused to refund our second night. We left broke, puffy and super tired. Now, you may laugh at the fact that I said broke, but it was true at the time – we were as poor as church mice and we tried to save every penny.
At dawn we were not in the mood to sit on a chilly beach – it was nearly November after all – and we decided to try and find somewhere warm to go. We found a Sainsbury’s that opened at 7am. We wandered around aimlessly inside Sainsbury’s for about half an hour before deciding we need breakfast and coffee. We bought some stale croissants from the yellow sticker shelf and headed out in search of a warm cup of coffee.
The only place we found open was an internet cafe (yes, it was that long ago!). We went inside to lick our wounds, check Facebook and find a new place to stay for the night. As we were moaning and groaning in Afrikaans we were extremely surprised to learn that the internet dude (as we called him) understood every word! He shared in our woes and we learnt that he is from South Africa too! Albeit he was a city boy and we are both plaasmeisies…
After a few more minutes of the obligatory ‘where are you from’ and ‘what do you do’ and ‘how long are you in the UK for‘ chats he offered us a place to stay. We thought about it for a minute or two – I mean he didn’t look dodgy or anything, plus he was South African – and decided that we needed to deliberate outside.
We discussed the pro’s (free accommodation, hot shower) and con’s (erm, the obvious – how stupid are we?!) and decided that this will be good for us. We went back inside and agreed to this arrangement. We shared details and arranged for a 7pm arrival…
As 7pm came nearer we started to doubt this arrangement. The night was drawing in and we pulled up into the drive way, but was shown to park in the street instead. We expected to be shown to our bedroom, but instead we were shown to the garden shed!
You read it right; the accommodation he offered us was in his garden shed. We stupidly thought that this was a great idea! We didn’t consider the fact that there already was a dusty mattress inside the shed or the fact that this thing only shuts with a padlock from the outside. We were too tired to think straight. We graciously accepted the offer and enquired about ablutions. For this we were allowed inside the house. We had our much needed hot shower.
Cosied up in the shed inside our sleeping bags the realisation of what can happen has hit us square in the face. We decided to take turns to stand guard throughout the night. Every sound had our South African senses as heightened as meerkats when a predator is in the area. We didn’t sleep well for a second night in a row.
At the crack of dawn we decided to leave. We found the house empty with a key and a note: ‘Gone surfing! Please leave the key under the mat when you leave’.
Seems like we had nothing to worry about after all!