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.