Lost luggage, lost wife

Reliable luggage transfer is an essential component of long distance walking. Few people want to carry their luggage for the 300 km length of the C2C, so most use a luggage transfer company.

Reliable companions also are critical. You want to walk with someone who has your back, just in case the wheels come off.

After my day off in Richmond, I was ready to tackle the next phase of the C2C: a 19 km walk from Ingleby Cross to Claybank Top. The contour map says everything you need to know about this section of the C2C. It starts up then goes down then goes up again four more times before finally coming down at Claybank.

Contour Map for Ingleby Cross to Claybank

The first up was good. It was a glorious sunny morning, and I felt energetic.

The descent into a pretty valley was long and gentle. We started up again, this time onto a moor. The path was good and the people we met cheerful. One told us where to score the best scone. On a moor. Who knew?

By late morning, we caught our first glimpse of the North Sea — a thin blue line on the horizon.


Our first glimpse of the North Sea

Near the top of the second hill, we stopped for lunch.

The Norwegian weather report predicted an hour of rain starting at 1 pm. Everyone on the C2C swears by the Norwegian weather report. The Norwegian government collates weather information from a wide variety of sources, which makes it super-accurate.

The first raindrops fell at 12:20. Hmm, a bit early. Hurriedly, we finished our lunch and donned our rain jackets. Just as we were leaving the lunch spot, we were joined by a Canadian couple who we’d met at our B’n’B the night before. They’re not just Canadian—they’re from Ottawa.

“Isn’t this glorious?” Pat enthused, gazing toward the North Sea. She seemed blissfully unaware of what was coming.

We set off, hoping to make the last three ascents and descents before the path got muddy. At 1 o’clock, we stopped in the shelter of trees to put on our rain pants. Normally, I hate walking in rain pants because they make me feel like a small child bundled into a snowsuit. You can imagine how hard it was raining.

We began our next ascent. It was steep and the path was muddy and slippery. The descent was even worse. The English seem to have built their paths before someone had thought up switchbacks. In Canada, paths zigzag to lessen their grade both going up and coming down. In England, paths go straight up and straight back down again. The sides drop off precipitously.

We passed a woman in a bright red jacket, carefully using her hiking poles to inch down sideways. I felt sorry for her because she obviously wasn’t an experienced hiker and whomever she was with was nowhere in sight.

When we got to the bottom of ascent #3, I told Julian that I couldn’t do two more ups and downs. By now the rain was sheeting down. And it had been raining for well over an hour. So much for the Norwegians.

He found a route around the base of the hill. Huge puddles bisected the path. We came across a couple of young guys — one in shorts — taking photographs. They were soaked through, but they told us they intended to hike through the next phase — 13 km of moorland — before stopping for the night. We wished them well and hurried on.

The hotel was like the one in The Shining: cavernous and empty. Two young women staffed the reception desk and pub, and at the same time ferried guests from Claybank. We asked if our luggage had arrived. It hadn’t, which one said was unusual because it usually came in the mornings. Otherwise, they both seemed disinterested. We took off our boots and went in stocking feet to the pub to warm up.

At 4, we asked after our luggage again, and again we were told ‘no’ and that this was unusual. The receptionist scribbled the phone number of the luggage transfer company onto a post-it note and suggested we call them. She seemed annoyed that we kept going on about it.

The luggage transfer company, Sherpa, swore they’d dropped it off in the morning.

The receptionist said they hadn’t seen it.

Our Canadian friends’ luggage was missing too, which gave us faint hope. If both sets were missing, surely they must be in the same place?

Julian got on the phone.

I tackled the receptionist. She admitted that she had no idea where our luggage was. Usually, Sherpa drops it off in the morning in a public area. Hotel staff don’t note its arrival or put it into the guests’ room. Usually, it is still there in the afternoon when walkers arrive to collect it. She didn’t see a problem with this system. It had worked perfectly for 20 years.

The only explanation she had was that it had gone off in a taxi that had picked up guests in the morning.

”Then it could be anywhere?” I asked bleakly.

”Oh, yes.” She agreed, with what I thought was more cheerfulness than the situation demanded.

Foolishly, Julian and I had left both our Canadian and our UK passports in our luggage. And my ipad. And our dry clothes.

I went off to share the bad news with Pat and Dave. Pat helpfully told me that she always carries her passport on her person. Then, being a woman, she sensed her blunder and said to cheer me up, “Well, it could be worse. We met a man who’d lost his wife.”

After Julian and I had cut away from the track, the weather socked in. Pat and Dave were behind us by about a half hour. By the time they got to the last two ascents, the top of the hill was lost in mist. A frantic man approached them to ask if they’d seen his wife. She was wearing a bright red coat, he said. He’d taken her up an ascent, turned his back for a second and she’d disappeared, like one of those troublesome toddlers you read about. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, he claimed, as if this was a good reason to lose one’s wife.

Pat and I thought that Dave and Julian (respectively) would be in a great deal of trouble if they’d lost us in the mist and rain at the top of a hill. Just as we agreed on this point, Julian arrived with her luggage.

The receptionist had called the taxi driver and asked if he had our luggage. He said he didn’t know if he did, but he’d come back to the hotel and we could take a look. When he opened up the back of his van, he had about two dozen bags. Clearly, he had missed the section during training that had explained the basic algebra of luggage transfer: by the end of the day, bags in must equal bags out. He had driven all over North Yorkshire picking up bags, without dropping any off. Many of the bags were clearly labelled with the names of other luggage transfer companies.

“You dozy bugger.” Julian told him, as the driver squirmed and looked at his feet.

He probably spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out how to match up the bags he’d so thoughtfully collected with their frantic owners.

And the lost wife?

We saw her the next day on the trail, in her bright red jacket, with her husband. Politely, we didn’t mention the storm and neither did they.

Phew…that was close


  1. David and Michelle

    Sure hope that doesn’t happen to us on our Greece inn-to-inn bike trip in October (bags or wife)!

    Have fun!

    David & Michelle
    (soon to leave Long Island)

    1. Post

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