Today was the day to eventually get to Hanover!
After 9km of walking we entered the little town of West Hartford. All I knew about it was that Nav and her boys were camping in the back yard of the Blue Barn, and that there is no retail (the convenience store was demolished in hurricane Irene and never rebuilt). And that the river forms a good swimming hole right at the Blue Barn.
Walking across the bridge, we saw the blue house with blue barn with AT sign on, turned up the road and walked on. 3mins later a big red pick-up truck stopped next to us, and a cheerful red-headed woman said to us she is fetching her grandkids but there are sodas, coffee, muffins and donuts on the porch of the house at the Blue Barn. We walked back, had a soda and a muffin, signed the book and was just about to leave when the red truck returned. The woman (never got her name) says NOBO and SOBO combined they get about 1600 stops a year and they have been doing it since the eighties. Such generosity.
Contrasted by this: We walked on, passed a neatly manicured garden and an older gentleman greeted us.
He immediately walked over and proudly told us that the 54 year old man and 8 year old boy playing ball in the garden are both his sons. Uhm…what to say to that…. we said “that must be a record” and was ready to walk on but now he has picked up that we have an accent and asked if we were German. When we said no, SA, he got very excited, telling us his young son loves geography and will love to talk to us, people from Africa!!! Now keep in mind we are standing in the sun (he is in the shade on his side of the fence) with our backpacks on – no fun. He called his son Liam to come and talk to these people from SA. Liam didn’t want to come. There was a 5min “come”/”no” between the two before Liam walked over sulkingly. We are still standing in the heat with our packs. Liam doesn’t want to talk to us, and his 76year old dad tries to make him talk to us. I tried to move things along by asking him if he wants to visit South Africa. That got him going!!! No never, he said. We were a bit stunned and asked why not. He said – you aren’t going to believe this – he knows about SA, Blacks are in control and he can’t go there as he is White and Blacks kill Whites. Trevor said to him that is not true, and the only difference between Blacks and Whites are the colour of their skin not the good or bad they carry inside them (at that point I was tempted to say something about their orange haired president!) but as most 8 year olds this boy thought he knew it all. How sad.
The contrast between our 2 West Hartford encounters was big!
Now let me get to the Hanover part of the story. Hanover is a trail town, the trail goes right through the town. But there are only 2 hotels / motels, costing 4 and 5 times respectively of what we normally pay for a motel. Hikers can’t afford that, not when they are paying for one motel night every week (roughly). The community got together and compiled a list of names and phone numbers of residents who are happy to open their houses to thru-hikers. We got a copy of this list when we were staying at the Green Mountain Hikers Hostel last week.
Yesterday I picked a number from the list, spoke to a stranger and asked if we can come and stay in her house for two nights (as tomorrow is our zero day). The things I have learnt to do on this trip! She asked if we are thru-hikers and carrying backpacks (see Fiona, disadvantages to slackpacking) and when I answered yes to both questions she said she will be delighted to host us! Once we exit the forest at Norwich I should contact her.
Now Norwich is still in Vermont and Hanover is in New Hampshire. They are 2km apart separated by a freeway and a river. Both are trail towns. When we arrived and phoned her we found that she is actually living in Norwich….So we are STILL not in Hanover!
We did however have an interesting experience in Norwich. Jenny (our host) was out when we arrived, we put our backpacks on her porch and went looking for a cold drink and a beer (in that order). We found the convenience store and had a cold drink, but couldn’t see where to go for a beer. I walked into the Norwich Inn, asking whether we can have a beer there. The hostess said they are not serving before 15h00, but that we are welcome to buy beer at the convenience store (next door) and have it on their patio. How absolutely strange (but wonderfully strange for us)!
When we met Jenny we realised a few things. One – she is the priest of this church:
Two – she thought we were only staying for one night (though we are welcome to stay tomorrow too). Three – you are welcome in her home (donations welcome which is totally fair as you do laundry, dirty towels & sheets, and use hot water) but if you don’t mind helping…. ( I made 5 hikers beds, folded a load of hikers sheets and pillow cases and towels and loan clothes). It’s actually nice to do some mindless house work instead of plodding up and down mountains 😀.
Anyway, we are very thankful for the bed&bath&opportunity to do laundry. We went back to the Inn for a meal and are back at the manse now. I have eaten several handfuls of blue berries from the bushes next to the church so I think my vitamin levels are now well boosted.
Closed off the evening with a long chat to Jenny who is a wonderful and warm woman who can ride a unicycle! And has been a welder and carpenter before studying to be a priest!
Tomorrow morning we will get up, have coffee, enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, walk the 2km to Hanover to dump our backpacks at the residence we have now found for hosting us tomorrow night, and have what I think will turn out quite a busy zero day!