Last night was another tough night. I arrived at a town mainly to refill my water, but also really because I wanted to look for a hotel. The town looked promising, with a lot of cafes and restaurants, but after asking a couple of people it soon became apparent there was no hotels. The closest was 7km away in the wrong direction. I realised I was going to be sleeping rough tonight. I had passed a small church on the way in to the town so after a couple of beers, and some free cherries and nuts from a cafe, at about 16:30 I headed back to the church to lay down.
It felt safe there, the one place I knew I could just wait and no one could tell me to leave. If someone from the church came they would even maybe be able to find me a real bed and although I suspected no one would come I had a bit of hope at least.
As 20:00 arrived and the sun started to set I put on all my warm clothes and got under my blanket, laying on a concrete bench in the church garden. It was pretty sheltered from the wind so I was warm most of the night but it was still to be one of my worst nights yet.
There were two guard dogs in the garden next door and whenever anyone passed, or I rolled over and made the slightest noise they would start barking, they kept me up most of the night.
At maybe 22:00 I had a dream inside a dream which has never been good. I woke up lying on my back on the bench with someone on top of me strangling me with my scarf. I couldn’t move for a few seconds and was convinced this was it, my trip was over and I was about to be killed in a church garden. I woke from this dream and was able to move a few seconds later but was still shaken by the whole thing.
At some point in the night I saw something dog-like run across the church yard, I have no idea if this was a dream or real, but the dogs started barking again. Later I heard voices from the next garden, I’m not sure if the neighbours were checking on the dogs as they had been barking all night (probably because of me).
At maybe 02:00 I heard something crunching, like an animal crunching on a huge bone. It just sent images through my head of a bear eating something and I managed to convince myself there was a bear in the yard. But the dogs seemed quiet so I guess it was just them.
After a while of the dogs barking about something, and hearing various growls and snarls that didn’t sound so much like dogs, I decided to go round to the front of the church and sleep at the front door under the light, at least the dogs wouldn’t hear me.
It got too exposed and windy though so after I while when the dogs seemed to have calmed down I went back round o the side to the concrete bench.
I lasted till about 04:30am and then it got too cold, so I quietly moved my stuff to the front, trying not to wake the dogs (unsuccessfully), packed my stuff in front of the church, and set off in the cold of the dawn, still dressed in all my warm gear.
I set off back for the main road and was immediately greeted by two more dogs which weren’t chained up. Luckily they were just scared and I was suitably stressed from the night so I shouted and swore at them, loosing all my fear, and they ran off. Sleeping rough is so difficult and at the beginning I had a rule of ‘only get hostels or hotels when feeling useless’ however now I think it’s ‘only sleep rough as a last resort’.
It is so difficult to relax and sleep well when you are on a hard surface, cold, and have no protection from anyone who wants to rob you for example, or wild animals. The only thing getting me through these moments is remembering that the people I am raising money for have gone through much worse. I cannot sleep rough all the time but the nights when I have no other option are the real tests in this challenge. I’d rather walk 25 miles a day for two months than have to sleep rough for a week.