A big thank you

Paul and I would like to say a BIG thank you to everyone who has supported the walk across Wales. Including all the characters we met along our way such as John & Gwen the dog who rescued us in Tywyn, the lovely couple from Ruthin, the incredibly nice Lloyds bus driver, the beautiful blonde goddess on a her bike to Portmeirion and many many more. We would also like to thank: Heather for being the ‘ground support’ in the last few days and tolerating our smell. Sue and Simon Shield for putting us up and feeding us very well at the end of our Walk. Jules, Tom & Llewie for travelling all the way from Leeds to congratulate us! Ash Sumner for helping to gather friends together in Abergele for a drink and a catchup and all our other friends and family who have supported and donated.

You may be relieved to know that our feet are recovering well.

The last day

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Our last slumber in a tent. Our last 14 mile hike. Our last hill. Our last forest. Our last BAAA session with sheep. Our last brisk walk away from a bull. Our last blister. Our last day in these 8 day old clothes. Our last and final day of friendship.

I’m writing now from my home in Abergele, drinking a gin and tonic, with my chest hair submerged in a warm deep bath full of bubbles. Success has never felt so good. Although I can see my toes peaking over the bubbles… yeah we won’t go there just yet.

Compared to previous days our last day has been relatively uneventful. As you may have picked up, over the past few days Heather had become a kind of ground support team for our walk. Because of the sheer weight of our STUPID rucksacks Heather had offered to drop them off at our next campsite. She was also driving on to Abergele to stay with my parents and then join us the next day at Llangernyw (3 miles into our walk). Our campsite, it turned out was run by one very happy lovely lady and a small army of children in wellies. So Heather whisked us off to The Stag in Llangernyw for our final meal before the last walk. The Stag is the kind of homely old pub that makes you wish you were either a 6ft farmer with spades for hands who’s probably wrestled a few stags to death. Or a wealthy lord, horse tied up outside mincing around gafforing with the land workers… Both characters, it seemed, were in abundance this Friday night.

It wasn’t a heavy night. No sprints through dark forests. Paul and I settled down in our cosy tent to one of the coldest nights yet. I woke at 2am to find Paul sleeping in his man sized bag wearing trousers, t-shirt, fleece and coat. Heather had kindly lent me an adult sized sleeping bag, however after a quick nightie dash with Paul to the toilets I whacked out the ol kids sleeping bag and chucked it over my head. Despite all our efforts this was one very cold sleep deprived night.

Refreshed and ready for the day. We packed up, Paul had noodles for brekkie and we lugged our stuff over to Llangernyw. Purely by accident but much to my satisfaction we ended up walking through the grounds of Hafodunos Hall. Hafodunos is an old Victorian mansion that has been derelict for some time. They’ve recently started doing the place up but over the many years it’s been left as a shell it’s lands have become overgrown and rather beautiful. Wealthy Victorians, being the way they were used to collect exotic seeds from the many corners of the British Empire. So the gardens and lands of Hafodunos are like a spooky half exotic jungle. Apparently, a friend once told me, there may even be opium growing in the grounds. Paul and I stumbled out of this weird Victorian dream into the Llangernyw St. Dygain’s Church grave yard which boasts the oldest tree in Wales and maybe even fourth oldest in the world! The tree is over 4000 years old so we felt the need to go and have a good stare. I find it fascinating that these yew trees are that old and that they’ve had some importance to humans on these isle’s for a considerable amount of time. Although Paul summed it up pretty well as we left by saying “yeah but after the first 1000 years they all look the same anyway”.

We met my dad and Heather in the stag car park, dumped our rucksacks in his car, organised maps and headed off for Llanfair Talhaiarn with an extra team member, Heather. To begin with Heather took on the days walking with the energy of a small child who certainly hadn’t just walked 100 miles. However as the day wore on she did simmer down to our pace and tone again. One trump at a time we wore her down.

Together we stumbled across an empty camping ground (in the middle of August) which openly accepted Allan Lovejoy.

You may think that navigating this last stretch of hills, forests and fields would be much easier than the wilderness of Snowdonia. This was unfortunately not the case. The great thing about Snowdonia is that many hikers actually use the trails as it’s famous for it’s beauty worldwide. The walks through the foothills of Conwy on the other hand are not famous and some are seemingly never used at all. More than once we found ourselves in the middle of an overgrown field desperately trying to figure a way out. One particularly frustrating situation of this sort also involved a huge bull waddling towards us as we clambered over a gate.

I am instinctively scared of farmers and their dogs. This might seem odd for someone who’s just walked across Wales. However when I’m lost on their land and they’re standing still, looking at me as though my brief visit is nothing but a slight irritation in the long history of their families land, I get a little nervous. As I approached one farmer lost and nervous I asked “Would you be able to help us?” my voice decided to break and whimper as the words fell out of my mouth. The surly wise shadowy figure moved out from under the tree and instantly revealed himself as one of the nicest old men on the planet. I felt a fool as the farmer explained in the softest kindest Welsh accent how exactly to navigate his and his neighbours land to get towards Abergele. Maybe it was because I was so relieved but I looked into his eyes and thought, for a second, that I saw an innocent kind young boy framed in an old mans wrinkled face. We thanked him profusely and moved on. There was also a similar incident with a farmers dog, as we leapt out of the previously mentioned bull field into a courtyard a dog came running up to Paul. I shouted “be careful!!” to Paul thinking it would be a trained guard dog. The dog upon reaching Paul instantly fell into his lap and gave him a big cuddle. I should have expected this, given that Paul is to dogs what Crocodile Dundee is to any wild beast.

We were close now. Slowly realising that we would soon have to use sentences like ‘pardon me’ ‘sorry about that smell’ and ‘oh really that’s so interesting, tell me more’ one foot after the other we headed back towards civilisation.

Once we were about 4 miles away I was able to recognise Tower Hill and Tan-Y-Gopa of Abergele. This really spurred me on as we walked through field after field and fought our way through wooded neglected paths overgrown with thorns and nettles. Dreaming of a good bath, getting out of these clothes, a gin and tonic and a good nights sleep. We climbed our last hill and headed down through the forest before turning onto my street and hobbling into my back garden to find the parents ready with the drinks.

After a quite frankly incredible first bath we sat down for dinner, regaling tales of the day and the hilarious near disasters of the past week. The parents had promised a steak and boy did they deliver. The family feast was magnificent. It was good to be home. For now at least I was happy not to be wandering the forests of Wales.

One of the most touching and surprising things about our walk has been the enjoyment people have gained from reading these posts. So when we headed into the good old George and Dragon pub in Abergele that very evening it was really heart warming to hear that many of my friends had been reading them. The rest of the night was spent catching up and trying to remember the story of Beddgellert, much to Paul’s annoyance.

The walk had been a success and it’s clear to both of us that this has been a good healthy thing to do for many reasons. I’d like to post again to thank everyone who helped us on this challenge. Although it’s probably very obvious, having Paul with me on this trip not only made it possible but also made it one of the funniest, most memorable weeks of my life. He truly is a legend and his ability to call things as they are and find the hilarity in every situation made every day, well, fucking brilliant.

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hafodunos

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The dark side of Wales

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Once into our new hostel behind the Swallow Falls Hotel we set about figuring out how to celebrate in Betws town with the girls. Swallow Falls is a large beautiful waterfall nestled in a long valley of towering pine trees. The areas beauty wasn’t completely wasted on me as we headed towards town in Heathers car. However something I failed to notice was the distance between our hostel and the pub.

Once we made it to town we hobbled over to the stables pub in great pain. It was a large pub with plenty of room for Paul to get as loud and lairy as possible. Instead we opted for getting completely silly, laughing so hard we could barely breathe leaving us red in the face mouths agape with strands of saliva dangling from the roof of them. Sarah decided to buy Paul two pints of cider and then he fell asleep in Heathers lap. Laughter and drink had been a perfect cure for our agonising foot pains. However at one point we rather arrogantly decided to cancel our cab back so we could savour every last drop of the happiness we had found in the stables. The girls advised this was a wise idea. It wasn’t. The only way to wake Paul from his deep crotch slumber was by sticking my finger through his beard and teeth to tickle his tongue.

So we headed out into the Dark cold night as the staff closed up. The girls waved us off and we headed in the direction of our hostel, up the hill through the town. We were in reasonably good spirits but unable to string a sentence together right up until we reached the edge of town… We stood staring in fear and disbelief of the mistake we had made. Here in the Welsh uplands the distinction between the end of a town and forestry is never clearer than at night. There are no street lights covering any of the road beyond the town perimeters as it cuts through the forests towards Snowdon. We had no idea how far the hostel really was and we found ourselves staring into complete darkness. We instantly sobered up in a fit of fear, clutched each other and strode into the dark. We thought naively that the hostel must be quite close and we would see the outside lights soon. We were so very wrong. 20 minutes later, we were still clutching the wall on the side of the road, arms hooked for safety filling every second with pointless conversation to reassure ourselves. There was now no sign of life ahead and no light behind. We we’re completely lost in the middle of the night on a thick forest road. The adrenaline had made us forget our crippled feet so we walked faster and faster until finally we spotted a light streaming up into the clouds behind a bend in the road. We limped and ran as fast as we could until we were at the hostel entrance out of breathe and drained, Paul in a state of shock repeating the sentence “I’ve got the worst f**king friends in the world ever”.

To top the night off the hostel gave me a child duvet cover…

This morning. After that rather tiring night out with the girls we sat in a dark dark corner of the hostel dining room and ate our full Welsh breakfasts and slurped tea through beards. Yesterday I had realised that this very room was the same room I had had my lower 6th form ball in 12 years ago. In the time since I had last graced the place with my presence donning a suit way to large for me and brandishing brylcreamed hair stuck down onto my forehead, literally nothing had changed. As we sat eating breakfast a team of teenagers about to embark on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition sat for breakfast. Their rather serious teacher told them what they would be expected to do that day. Their activities involved looking at forests and wild camping ( I was only half listening). The teacher was so serious he made these things which should be exciting and fun sound sullen and boring, he said everything in a condescending authoritative way. Had he trekked for 6 days across Wales? Had he walked 19 miles into Snowdonia from the west coast of Wales? Who knows or cares, anyway he was annoying me so we left.

We only had 7 miles of hills to cover this day, nothing in comparison to the last few days. So we decided to spend more time with the girls. They wanted to mill around Betws and it’s shops so we followed. The shops sold everything from ‘traditional Welsh love spoons’ (no you can’t put one spoon inside another), the famous ‘Welsh human sized bubble generator’ and shark teeth. I befriended an Aberystwyth student doing a survey concerning plans for the river life in the uplands of Wales. Trust me, this was much more thrilling than looking through the various dragon branded tat and trinkets that for some reason fill many Welsh high street stores. I love Wales but sometimes I wish more than this could survive on it’s high streets. ANYWAY I returned to the group to find Paul outside one shop shouting ‘They just make this sh*t up to sell to stupid f**ckimg tourists”

Now Betws isn’t a big town by any means but all this hustle and bustle and business as usual was getting me down. The mountains around Betws are beautiful and I couldn’t stop looking at them. As Paul put it “it was like I had left my personality up there”. Then in one final attempt to cheer me up I was forced onto a children’s train ride. This had the opposite affect. Everyone admitted I looked like I really needed to get back into the woods. They were right. I really kept on looking up at the forest covered mountains, longing, craving to be back on the paths with my hairy friend. So Paul and I set off, the rest of the day was beatiful as expected. We ate lunch over looking the quietest lake I’ve ever been to and walked through gorgeous wood and lanes to our next campsite. We’re getting closer and even saw a sign for Abergele! Only one day left!

We also found some bagged up moss which matched Paul’s beard perfectly.

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Paul’s girlfriend arrives

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We had given the girls strict instruction to be ready at the hostel by 8am to head up Snowdon. We had a ridiculous 11 mile trek down to Betws-Y-Coed after our 7-8 mile hike up and down Snowdon. So it only stands to reason that I only managed to peel myself out of my first bed in 5 days by 8:15. Then wait for the girls to arrive at 8:30 and then after walking a quarter of a mile up Snowdon remember that they haven’t paid the pay and display parking fee invoking a girly run back down the mountain to remedy this before a mountain traffic warden stumbled upon the car.

Anyway we set off down the miners track, the easiest route. There had been much talk about doing the Crib Goch route but having lived that hell once I declined plus snowdon was in a permanent cloud, not great for climbing across a knife edge with 1000ft falls either side. So off up the easy miners track we went.

It was clear from the first few steps up that the girlfriend (Heather) had arrived. The car park passion from the previous night had simmered down but like a forgotten toy at a family picnic I was cast aside on a grassy mountains edge. Somewhat dejected and lonely, Sarah, unhappy with my blister banter tried to cheer me up with tales from her recent flitter down the east Vietnam Coast line. She regaled me with many a story of who she had kissed and who she hadn’t.

On flat ground Paul is king, storming ahead but when climbing mountains I really come into my own. As the guys all know now, nothing creams my corn like a steep incline first thing in the morning. We ploughed ahead making good progress. We had to stop at one point to put a plaster on Sarahs foot as she had cut it on a bath plug a few days ago… It was this kind of domestic disaster that forced Paul and I to go camping in the hills in the first place. The modern home is a hazardous place guys.

As mentioned in the previous post. Paul and I had already spent a lot of time together and our conversation and manly ways had gotten the better of us. Our usual routine when walking was to not talk for hours except when apologising for farting when the other was down wind. Then occasionally slumping into a grassy lay-bye and discussing what part of a woman’s body we find most attractive (five days away from civilisation and boobs guys!). Now we were actually walking with girls, at first I felt as though this routine had been rudely interrupted. But as we climbed higher up Snowdon and into the cloud we realised the girls were in on our level of chat too. Between talking about cake and weddings we all started to discuss which parts of our bodies were sweating most and which particular extremities were aching a great deal. Woman being anatomically different added variety to this conversation which Paul and I had been having repeatedly for 5 days.

Half way up and well into the cloud Heather revealed the contents of her child’s backpack. Surprisingly it was full of children’s treats! We all dined on things too small for our hands and Paul went a little too crazy over a delicacy named ‘fruit winders’ which he quickly started to suck into the hole in his beard where his mouth used to be. Yes. Heather had won again.

At the top of Snowdon we did the obligatory photo next to the mountain dial almost being blown off into the cloud. Then we settled into the mountain cafe and the girls produced a bevy of delights such as more plastic cheese, crisps and pork pies! Paul made sure he had secured all the fruit winders for himself.

On the descent we all hobbled down, except of course Paul. Most people start to develop a sense of self mortality around the age of 7, not Paul, not ever. He threw himself from rock to rock, bounded down the faces below Crib Goch. Leapt across crevices, dancing down snowdon with the grace of Billy Eliot and the personal hygiene of the Tasmanian devil. So we trundled on as Paul sped around and popped up behind the odd rock.

All in all snowdon took 5 hours then Paul and I headed off on the rest of our 10mile hike. We had a brief interlude with the girls (who came by car) at the pub used by the Everest mountaineers in 1953 to plan and train. We tried our best to look all serious and adventurous. I’m
not saying the Everest explorers are comparable to us but if they had been around today I’m sure they would have shaken our hands in awe and exchanged many a boob and fart joke.

The next 10 miles hurt but we made it. Only 2 days left!

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everest

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A photographers wet dream

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After our rather outrageous achievement the day before, we felt we had earned a good lay in. We didn’t stir until around 9, the rest of the campsite was already busy with campers packing up and washing as we tip toe’d from hedge to hedge and hobbled over to the showers like a couple of Scrooges who had lost their piss pots and appropriate century.

Luckily nobody mentioned our little rum party for two on the river front at about 11 the night before so we must have been quieter than we thought. However I don’t think we made loads of friends on this particular campsite. As you might expect of two men (two manly men) travelling for days on end together our conversation and control of bodily gases had been lost completely. So upon arrival, to rejoice in our successful day we let off a small chorus of parps and burps whilst setting up the tent. One of Paul’s mighty roars was unfortunately timed as it interrupted a couple of women singing happy birthday to their friend a little way off. We turned around to find the ladies frozen, cake in hand, staring in disbelief at the noise which interrupted their celebrations. But Paul shouted ‘PARDON ME’ in an aggressive tone and we’re pretty sure that resolved any lingering grievances.

One of the campsite staff had been raving about his warm baguettes so we got a couple warmed up for us, lathered a lot of pâté on and sat around thinking about walking up Snowdon. Baguette man was extremely happy that we’d gone for his delicacy, either, we surmised because he was so happy to have two absolute walking legends eating his food or because not many people order them. You decide.

Once we started walking through the valley along lakes and forests it became clear this was going to be another beautiful trek. We actually only had 6 miles to achieve that day so we could take our time although 1 daunting mile at least would be up a very steep incline to Pen-Y-Pass. Along the way we soaked up the amazing scenery. The RAF appeared to be practicing helicopter mountain landings on the mountain above which looked pretty damn scary. Over one of the lakes we sat and had a rest, Paul threw himself onto a ledge and as I went to take a photo said “I’m basically a photographers wet dream aren’t I!?”

We climbed up through more bloody bogs, Paul’s feet went under a number of times but after a steep climb with our STUPID rucksacks we made it to Pen-Y-Pass hostel. Pen-Y-Pass is the perfect place to start an ascent up Snowdon which is what we planned to do tomorrow with Heather, Paul’s girlfriend and her friend Sarah who were to arrive that evening.

We sat and watched people come down off the mountain. For the first time we had time to wash our clothes, which stank. Like really stank. Put it this way, the staff almost barfed over the till as we traipsed mud up to the hostel reception.

The great thing about Snowdonia is that most people you come into contact with love walking and reel off mountain names like they’re as famous as monopoly board streets. We got many bits of advice from the hostel staff.

Later than expected Heather and Sarah arrived. Paul and I had been sat on the edge of the car park trying to guess which sheep would get run over first and how likely cars coming up the road were to be Heathers. Unlikely it appeared.

Paul and Heather have a special relationship. It’s the kind of explosive love that seems to only find expression by wrestling each other to the ground in a wet starlit car park at 11pm half way up snowdon shouting things like “it’s like you don’t even know me at all!!!” and “stop it!!” In between the slurp and rustle of beard on flesh kissing. Sufficed to say Paul was elated to have her back.

New friends and old friends

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We awoke on Tuesday (in our nighties) at 6am. The sun was just coming up over the Snowdonia mountain range to the north east. This was a beautiful spectacle. As clouds rolled across the mountains sun beams started to stream through and light up the valleys below which all seemed to be glistening from the rain the night before.

We packed everything up, slung our portable homes over our shoulders and started to slip away from Shell Island like slightly over ambitious snails only with feet and bad BO. We had a long way to go and it was very intimidating.

As we turned north to Harlech we could see the Llyn Peninsular arching around past Porthmadog into the heart of Snowdonia. We decided to start walking up through a town called Llanfair and approach Harlech from the hills. We did this based on the advice of a kindly security guard at Shell Island. A reoccurring theme throughout this post and blog will likely be how accommodating, friendly and helpful the Welsh have been to us on our trek.

The Llanfair advice paid off and as we approached Harlech we saw the turrets of Harlech castle. Apparently the sea used to come right up to the castle walls once upon a time. We passed through Harlech quickly on a mission, still aware of the 11 – 12 miles we needed to achieve that day.

From Harlech we of course turned east. Still doing our best to stay in the hills. This meant saying goodbye to the sea and heading inland following the estuary. It was surprising to see how quickly the rugged, baron hallmarks of coastal life gave way to the lush forests and fauna covering every possible surface and filling every crack. Moss starts to appear everywhere in Snowdonia. Literally everything is covered in moss. Later that day I tried to use a phone box which was hard to find for all the moss covering it. If I had stayed still that day I imagine I would have shown early signs of moss.

Even before 11 o’clock we had made remarkable progress. We had climbed the hills of Clogwyn Gwyn and encountered it’s tree pigs (odd). These hills had fantastic views down into Snowdonia and some lovely woods maintained by Coed Cadw who look after many of my favourite woods.

We had high hopes of being in Penrhyndeudraeth (I still struggle to say this) by 1. It was looking just within our grasp when we came to the estuary bridge and it was closed. The only way around involved a 10 mile detour which would definitely mean we would get nowhere near the mountains for camping. This was very annoying. Our walk so far had covered at least 10miles. Our feet ached in the usual agonising way but we really needed and wanted to push on. Once again we found ourselves in need of some wheels. I spoke to some of the locals, knocked on doors, they were helpful but in the end we lucked out with an out of service bus who’s driver decided to take pity and drive us across the estuary. As we chucked our smelly rucksacks on his 55 seater bus a grandma and grandson saw us, exchanged a few words in Welsh with the driver and hopped on too. The driver was a lovely man who asked all about our walk and told us about his son rather coincidently doing a similar walk but in the opposite direction. Indeed we may have crossed paths in Barmouth. His sons walk was for the mountain rescue service in memory of a friend who died last year on snowdon.

I don’t know how many people die every year in Snowdonia but it was with this in mind and a few jokes from the driver that we headed for the mountains. The driver had recommended we head up to Beddgelert if we could to go camping there. As he drove off he pointed out the window and said “Beddgelert that way”. The driver had given us a renewed sense of enthusiasm and with only half a mile missed from our original walk we started the 9 mile trek into the mountains and to beautiful Beddgelert. I mean really, can you imagine an off duty bus driver offering a helpful lift in London!?!

We were now determined. Paul trooped on ahead. We had lunch watching a steam train and befriended one of the track workers. Then onward. The only shame about the route we had to take was that it was mostly on roads instead of footpaths so as to make sure we got there in time. It was obvious that my aching blisters had developed blisters of their own. But the thought of camping closer to Snowdon kept us going.

Whilst walking down a steep incline a blonde lady was cycling towards us seemingly with no difficulty whatsoever, not even breaking sweat. Given our experiences so far it shouldn’t have been surprising that she stopped to talk to two scruffy smelly gits on the road side. This graceful blonde lady asked us about our walk, gave us advice on where to walk, what campsite to use and which pubs to drink in. I looked into her eyes and saw a beautiful future together. Then she cycled off on her way to Portmeirien to pick up some festival tickets before cycling home. What a woman. What a life!

I couldn’t quite believe it when we arrived at the footpaths leading to Beddgelert. We were massively over achieving, we didn’t think we would make it anywhere near this far. The footpaths followed a bubbling river of waterfalls. The sun was shining, It was simply gorgeous. A steam train passed above us and we stopped to watch it pass while waving to all the passengers going by.

We walked through town into our campsite. Paul had been racing ahead and made it into reception first (getting here meant we were closer to seeing the love of his life tomorrow). When I arrived shortly after, limping like an old hermit, news had spread to the staff standing outside reception. I heard whispers of surprise and shock, “they’ve walked from shell island” one man said and an elderly lady exclaimed “how are they still standing”. As news spread across the campsite others started to gather around us and despite our terrible odour they started to reach out to touch us in pure awe. More people started gathering and shouting in disbelief “how is this possible”, “they should be dead”. Eventually the bravest of our new fan base lifted us up and started cheering in a worshiping type manor. A few others put our tent up and fed us from their own pockets out of pure respect…

Ok that didn’t happen. But the staff were damn impressed. We’ve figured out how far we walked and it was 19 miles!

As we started setting up camp (on our own) a wise figure appeared down one of the paths. It was John! The kindly hiker who had rescued us from the mountains of Abergynolwyn. It turned out he was on the steam train we were waving to and he wondered if he would see us in the camp site. We quickly made plans to get down the pub, get some food and exchange walking banter. John also told the correct version of the ancient folk tale of Gellert the dog (of which the town is named after) I had previously tried to remember the tale to Paul with not much luck. Ask Paul about it someday and you’ll see the irritation pour out of his face.

Beddgelert is beautiful, as Paul put it: “it’s like something out of a fucking book or summat”. The stars were incredible, it’s very close to snowdon and I can’t believe we are actually excited for our hike to the top over the next 2 days.

Our feet hurt.

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waterfalls

Nature doesn’t judge. People do.

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Barmouth was just what we needed after Sundays walking. The campsite staff knew exactly what we needed. Beer and fish and chips.

Although rather unwisely but also unknowingly we pitched our tent under a lamp. I’ve been relishing the thought of sleeping under the stars on this trip. So an orange street lamp glaring at me all night kind of ruined that prospect as well as our sleep.

Our feet are getting worse. We set off early and made it up to shell island by 2pm. It was an 8 or 9 mile walk through rugged coast, huge sand dunes and beautiful but windy beaches. The beach walking felt like traipsing across a desert. There was barely anyone around and I got some amazing videos of Paul walking through blowing sand.

Once here, at Shell Island campsite, we found a suitable spot to camp (no lamps) and went to check out the campsite supermarket. It turns out this place not only has a supermarket but a whole village complex which, if was to be called tacky would be erring on the incredibly understated. The village comes complete with arcade, ‘ye tavern bar’, greasy cafe and a camping supplies store.

In our tired, self absorbed moodiness we sat on a pub bench and judged people in a not so quiet way. At one point Paul in utter disbelief and bitterness just slumped his head and arms on the bench tables and said “don’t you think there are sooo many people here who deserve to do this walk instead of us!?!”. I’ll admit I couldn’t contain my laughter. One man sized child sat on a bench next to us and the bench almost toppled over him. His poor brother got severely reprimanded for not following the usual process of sitting down first as to balance out the family weight. Sufficed to say I don’t think we’ll be seeing many campers here in our walk.

So we wandered into the camping supplies store to see if we could find an adult sized sleeping bag for me. The last few nights have been a little uncomfortable to say the least. Having not seen any on the shelves I nervously approached the counter. I say nervously because the tanned, tattooed shop assistant looked like she might wrestle me into submission with one arm alone. She responded to my query by saying “We’ve only got this one left” and pointed at something hanging behind her which I had previously written off as some kind of left over curtain from previous owners who may have left back in the 70s. It certainly would have accommodated me and maybe even the burley shop assistant but I think carrying it would have been quite a challenge. Plus the brown and cream floral pattern was not to my liking. The assistant also quickly added “it’s £55″. I almost asked if that was because it was an antique but chose to politely decline.

Enough about sleeping bags.

Paul and I think tomorrow will be absolutely horrible for our feet. Today we did at least 8 miles on reasonably flat ground. Tomorrow we head 11 miles into the foot hills of Snowdonia and then we need to find a place to wild camp. Bugger! Say what you like about this place, but at least we’re welcome!

The Snowdonia mountain range, visible from our tent, looks misty and intimidating and very very far away…

The profoundness of being Paul

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Sorry we haven’t posted! We are still alive just haven’t had signal.

So Sunday was pretty incredible. We thought the views on Saturday were breathtaking but on Sunday we were just blown away. When we made it to our first summit Mynedd Cefn-Caer we were able to look back down the estuary we followed on Saturdays walk. The valley simply looked beautiful from this point. However when we finally reached the top of Mynedd Rhyd-Galed we were astounded. We had to walk up a steep 1900ft through reeds and thistles to get to this point and hadn’t come across another soul in a good hour or two. In fact many of the paths we were taking that day didn’t really seem like they had been used in a very long time. This all added to the beauty and made us feel like real adventurers. At the summit of Rhyd-Galed we were grinning ear to ear. On the other side we knew we had a steep decent through thick forest and we were quite looking forward to it. However we never could have guessed how difficult that part of our hike would have been.

Our map for this area was at 1:25 scale which gave us much more detail compared to the previous days map. However when it came to the forests of Tarrenhendre and Hendre the map became almost completely useless. After descending down a steep face of more reeds and bogs which trapped and tripped us up many times, we found ourselves in a complicated maze of forest paths. These paths were clearly used for tree fellers and I can only assume that because the paths change somewhat regularly to accommodate for more tree chopping that the map we were using became useless. In hindsight we think it may have been our very first decision to take a left up a mountain forest path instead of a right that meant we spent the next 2-3 hours on a seemingly endless hunt for a way out of this tree lined maze. The trees were pine and absolutely huge on either side, looking into the forest was like looking into pure darkness. So there was no way to find a vantage point to get a good view of where we were. To boot, the fact that we still hadn’t seen anyone started to give this part of the hike a somewhat creepy feel. We started to imagine a scene straight out of an American horror movie, perhaps bumping into a family of genetically challenged loggers who wanted to take us back to their hut. Just as we had finished joking about this, what did we find? A loggers hut! Which would have fit perfectly in any horror movie and had a very Erie feel to it. Luckily if anyone was staying in the pretty disgusting cabin they were out preying on some other innocent hikers, phew! Anyway all these ramblings probably show that the tree maze we had found ourselves in was taking a mental toll.

On top of all that just as Paul figured out that the path we were now on finally married up with some lines on our map he slipped and fell over cutting his trousers, grazing his knee and chucking his recently found shepherds walking stick a few meters into a ditch (Paul’s tip: never walk while reading a map). Paul was now worse off but our rucksacks were again hindering us greatly and causing us a lot of pain.

By the time we eventually figured our way out and down towards the town Abergynolwyn we had lost a lot of time and had a long long way to go over at least 5 more mountains of similar size. Our ambition of getting to Barmouth was not looking achievable at all. We had two options, head on up into the mountains and wild camp somewhere. This would have meant we would be at least a day or 2 behind schedule which isn’t really an option. So we decided on our second option. The mountains had defeated us this day, it was pretty foolish to think we could cross 6 or 7 2000 ft mountains in one day. So we headed for the coast on a steam train to figure out another route. However by the time we reached the Coast, Barmouth was looking even further from reach and by pure luck we had befriended another hiker called John who supported Macclesfield (Paul quickly found out) and he offered us a lift to get a little closer. John had a lovely sheep dog called Gwen (who Paul obviously befriended) John gave us a lot of worldly advice including tips on how to wild camp. We still had a bit of a trek on our hands across the bridge and across Barmouth to our campsite but we made it and were able to look back on the mountains we had first intended to go over in awe and look forward across cardigan bay to the Llyn Peninsular as the sun went down!

Now to explain this posts title. Over the past few days Paul has started to become ever more philosophical in his thinking. It must be the fresh air and constant dealings with the natural world that’s rubbing off on him.

At one point on our first day we were pretty exasperated as we realised we were going to have to walk away from our destination because of how the footpaths were layed out. Paul’s profound interpretation of the situation was this: “Just goes to show, sometimes, you need to walk away from something to get closer to it”

Also when reflecting on our desperate and confused hike through the tree maze earlier that day, Paul mused “The only reason we know that the paths we chose are bad is because we had to live them”.

What a guy.

On another note we’ve also befriended an Austrian couple – Burt and Gondola, who seem to lead quite an amazing travelling life and found our tales of mistakes and lack of preparation hilarious. Burt was rather surprised we actually had maps.

One final point. Barmouth may win the prize for most oddly named venue yet… The “Arousal Cafe”.

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Pretty tired!

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We made it to the Morben Isaf campsite! It only took 9 hours of traversing cliff edges, mountainous woodland and a foray into the largest lowland bog in Britain!

I wanted to write so much but surprise, surprise walking 15 miles with a rucksack which weighs a tonne has completely destroyed me. I think it’s safe to say that we have both never ached as much as we do right now. And yes our feet are ruined!

But let’s focus on the highs…

We seemed to have befriended the barmaid at the Glendower in Aberystwyth who ensured we had the best seats for our full English this morning. I left Paul alone in the breakfast room for a bit, when I came back he leaned in close and whispered very proudly “Jeff I’ve put A LOT of their tea bags in my pockets”, so we won’t be short of brews! You can take the boy out of Rochdale.

The scenery has been breathtaking. Even in some of our darkest moments we’ve both been able to stop and enjoy the fantastic views and beautiful forests.

Having said that, Borth was an interesting place. It consists of only one street lining the shore front and it seemed pretty bleak, like an old whaling town turned tourist attraction. The one street included many shops which seemed to sell everything from creepy dolls to wetsuits. There was also something called an ‘animalarium’? When we made it to the beach we chucked our STUPID rucksacks on the pebbles and joked about our various sweat stains, only to realise there were two gorgeous lifeguard babes watching.

We also bumped into a lovely couple from Ruthin who told us where the best view on the Welsh coast is, as well as letting us know about the infamous nudist beach, which surprisingly, were two different places.

I’m so tired I’m gonna crash. Two last points though, Paul’s lent me his long johns and anti-septic cream so I just spent a few minutes sliding around the tent in an absolute joy. Only to discover moments later that the sleeping bag I’ve brought is… Wait for it… A kids one! Absolutely crushed. Hopefully post tomorrow!

Aberystwyth… is AMAZING!

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We think we might actually just stay here. Not only for the week but maybe forever.

Only joking we are. Right now we are feeling pretty damn excited about our walk. We’ve been thinking, joking and stressing about this walk for sometime but for some reason (alcohol may have helped) now we are literally on the edge of beginning our epic challenge our spirits are higher than ever!

We arrived in Aberystwyth at 5:30. We had used the 4 hour train journey wisely by messing about on Facebook, staring out the window and reading glamour – basically anything we could do to ignore each other and save up conversation for those lonely nights ahead. Then in the last half an hour as the train actually passed the pretty f**king intimidating mountains we’re going to have to climb tomorrow we decided to get our maps and GPS compasses out to plan ahead. We’ve figured out that tomorrow is at least 15miles. It’s quite funny because I think it’s slowly dawning on Paul that this route really has not been picked for any other reason than alliteration. Aberystwyth to Abergele NO PROBLEM!

Aberystwyth has been bloomin lovely. The Welsh accent is amazing, everyone is so nice and friendly. It was predicted rain but was gloriously sunny. We walked around a castle and old university buildings which all overlook the Irish Sea. From some vantage points we could see right down cardigan bay into Snowdonia, which kind of scared us. Then we went to a Greek restaurant overlooking the pub on the pier and a nice ice cream shop with some kind of police barriers surrounding it, presumably pre-empting the weekend hoards flocking to ‘Don Gelatos’ for a cold sugary mouth fix. As the sun went down a man with a goatee came into our corner of the restaurant and serenaded us with just a guitar. Paul ordered half a pint of port and I just stuck to the ‘mythos’ beers.

Preparations for tomorrow’s epic walk are all taken care of. We bought some plastic cheese and rubber ham from spar and made some sandwiches… Boom. Prepared.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a book we are both enjoying reading on this walk by Bill Bryson ‘A walk in the woods’:

“All over America today people would be dragging themselves to work, stuck in traffic jams, wreathed in exhaust smoke. I was going for a walk in the woods. I was more than ready for this.”

This is hopefully how we will feel tomorrow! Although I did just walk up two flights of stairs and end up slumping onto my bed completely out of breath…

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We’re ready to set off for Aberystwyth!

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It’s the day before we start our rather ambitious hike across North Wales, along the west coast and through mountainous Snowdonia. Let’s set the scene a little.

We made the decision to do this walk roughly 10 months ago. It would have been wise to use these months to research and prepare as much as possible. Many people around me (Jeff) have been giving advice and encouragement. I’ve been trying to make notes of all these little gems of advice whether they be from people’s personal experience or from something they once saw on Bear Grills a few years ago. People seem to be mostly concerned with two things. Firstly my feet, the amount of foot tips I’ve received in the last 10 months has been astonishing. Everything from, “just cover them in zinc nitrate, it’s like a second skin!” to “cover yourself in talc and wear loads of socks” and “best make sure you two rub each others feet down at the end of each day”. Like a real grade A chump I’ve taken all this foot advise on board and now have a rucksack I can’t lift above my waist because I’ve got the equivalent of a chiropodists travelling footcare hospital within it. Secondly friends and workmates have been concerned for my safety considering the abundance of scary wildlife they think is lurking around waiting to chew off one of my limbs or infect me with me with some deadly disease. It’s surprising how many times I’ve been asked “will there be bears!?!” for those still wondering… the answer is no, this is Wales there are no wild bears.

Another common theme throughout the last 10 months has been how much I have been regularly joking about how unprepared we are and how Paul and myself have never done anything like this before. Having said that, we have just finished packing and it’s blown me away how prepared Paul actually seems. I now feel entirely dwarfed by his walking gear prowess and we are making a quick stop by ‘go outdoors’ on Edgeware road to ensure we are equal. The phrase ‘all the gear, no idea’ seems appropriate here.

Anyway, thanks to Heather for all her help! If you fancy reading through updates on the demise of our feet and friendship then watch this space!

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We set off on the 16th of August 2014

When we finally do set off on this epic walk we will be updating you about our journey here. We would love to know that we’re doing this for a good cause so please get donating. We are supporting Multiple Sclerosis Society, The Lymphoma Association  and Shelter.

Check out the route we’ve planned so far. The plan is to walk over 120 miles between Aberystwyth and Abergele via Snowdon (the biggest mountain in Wales and England). We’ve never done anything like this before so I expect this blog to be full of mishaps and hilarious near disasters. Haha, right!?

Basically its going to be like Brokeback Mountain only with more Welsh… and hair.