South West Coast Path: Praa Sands

Christmas Day. Alone. I had mixed feelings when I woke up this morning. It’s not the first time I was not with my family in this holiday. But last time around I was working, on travel. The people in the office immediately invited me to their homes for dinner, for company, for festivities. I’m not traveling for work today. I’m abroad, but technically at my home. My family, literally, on the other side of the world for a wedding.

Christmas is not of religious significance to my family. My brother and I are too old for the Santa routine. We haven’t exchanged gifts in almost ten years. The holiday is not a big deal. Yet, Christian or not, anyone growing up in the Western world probably has grown used to the idea that today is a day of family and friends, whichever way you spend it.

I didn’t realise it but subconsciously I had literally thrown myself into the hiking. Let the numbers speak for itself:

Miles walked: 9.8, one loops, starting at Prussia Cove.
End points of SWCP reached:
– N50 05.581 W5 20.798 and
– N50 06.120 W5 25.091
Weather: Cloudy, gusty winds on occasion, no sun at any point
Conditions: Muddy and muddier

One view you *have* to walk to SWCP to see is that of the Port-en-alls House, the mainstay of the small village that is completely used a vacation homes. Walking the path, I wind around the corner to the backside of the house, down a narrow rough stone road flanked on both sides by tall stone walls. So as a pedestrian, I don’t see the whole building in the approach and completely pass through in the backside. Once across the next beach onto the next point, though, I was amazed by the view. It took me a while of recollection to realise this was the very house I walked by a couple times already.

The house, from afar, looks like it is perched on the edge of a cliff, its stone walls both blending in and rising out of the rocking wall. It sits low, not too far above the water. The land raises behind the house, but pales in comparison to its formidable facade.

The ponies. Oh, yes. The ponies. A small herd of Shetland ponies was introduced to the Rinsey Head area to graze the overgown brush. Signage into the area alerts walkers of the ponies. With warnings.
– Do not feed  them as they will grow reliant on humans for food.
– Do not approach them as they are not domesticated (I thought horses have been domesticated for centuries??)
OK. I can deal.

What there was no guidance is what to do when they are blocking a very narrow path I am walking. Do I slowly walk through them? What if they charge me? How “undomesticated” are we talking about, really? Sure enough, as I approached, they all looked up and started warily, not twitching a muscle. I like animals. I pet them in zoos. But I don’t really know a whole lot about the non-human species. So do I stare down at them. Squat down to their level and just make eye contact? Or wave my arms wildly to get them moving?? What do I know?! We must have stared at each other without moving for a good 10 minutes.

I chickened out first. It was a long walk back and I didn’t want anything happening to me to hinder my progress. Yes, nervous Nettie I am. I crept back, backtracking my steps to find an intersection to go another route. Better than calling home and saying I broke a leg falling down a steep coastal ledge because a pony bunted at me. I’ll take the former ding to my pride.

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