Walking Wales - Days 5 to 804 October 2014
Leaving Beddgelert was a pleasant walk along roads and through woods. I came upon the first rain that evening, but I enjoyed the opportunity to get out all my rainproof gear. I left finding a camping spot a bit late and ended up having to camp in a picnic area with a sign that had a tent with a line through it. I was in the middle of nowhere and left nothing but the small white marks of toothpaste spit.
The next day, in the Rhinogs, was one of the hardest yet. It seemed almost scripted, as if from a movie. The weather wasn’t too bad thankfully, just some drizzle. The challenge was the terrain; bog land. I’m discovering the pink paths on the map aren’t always reliable. If the ground is good this doesn’t matter, I can just head in the general direction. But when the ground is wet and covered in tufts of reed and grass it becomes a demorilising chore. You can step on the tufts fine, but it’s not always easy to see where they are and when you miss a tuft your foot goes into wet marshy, boggy horribleness. I could cope for a while, but I came to a highpoint and saw that I had at least another mile of it to struggle with I decided to trackback a bit a take a different route. The going was relatively better, but the ‘path’ was slowly turning into a stream. By now, my new booots, that I bought to replace the previously leaky ones, are leaking. It was also nearly time to find camp. All I had to do was reach the forest, I could see it so surely it would be easy. But the path disappeared. What I thought was bad got worse - the same tufty marsh land, but covered in bracken that I had to rip through with my thighs. Night was coming and I had no choice. Then I saw a footbridge! That’s where the path must be. At last the struggle will be over!
But no. The bridge was a bridge without a path. What? More marsh, more bracken. Now my aim is the forestry track only few hundred metres away. But it’s wetter than before and although there is a path, it is now a gargling stream. GOD DAMN IT! WHY ME!? Just. Get. To. The. Forestry. Track. After an age I reach the first pine trees and the path is less a river and now more mud. Too deep. Too slow. What now? I’m seriously worried, it’s getting dark. My last hope is to go through the pine trees and hope I find the forestry track (the one that vehicles use). The woods are unlike anything I’ve ever known. It reminds me from the scene in The Never Ending Story where Atreyu’s horse Artax sinks in the bog. The woods have worse ground than anywhere - wet, slimy, fallen trees to go under and over. Deeper and deeper, there’s no turning back now. And there it is! Above I can see the rocks of the track, I climb onto it with my hands. AT LAST I AM FREE FROM THE HELL OF WET GROUND.
But it’s dark, almost headtorch dark. Another hour of walking and I find a secluded spot in a sheep field, it’s tiny, bumpy and muddy. I don’t sleep too badly, but when I wake it’s like I’m in a cold cloud. Everything is slightly damp. Get me out of this nightmare of water! I’m getting ready to walk the final 10km to Dolgellau and my phone dies. I hope to god it’s just the battery.
Dolgellau is a wonderful town. The man in the phone shop confirms that it’s just the battery. Great, I can get one sent on next day delivery to the next town and use a paper mapuntil then. I find the most wonderful Internet Cafe I think I’ve ever been to - loads of weird teas (I get a loose Darjeeling), sofas, cakes and Linux PCs with free Internet! A few emails and googles later I find out that my friend Sam has already sent a spare battery to Dolgellau Post Office. I am ecstatic. I am connected to the world again. There is even a decent outdoor shop, the man is concerned and helpful, we decide on serious mountain boot, no more compromises. I am all fixed. Equipment, food, water, electricity and human kindness.
When I was walking into town that morning I had seen what I thought was Cadaer Idris, but as walked around corner it turned out to be merely one of its foothills. The summit was twice as high. Against the blue sky, it’s immensity literally made my hairs stand on end. I wanted to climb it, even inn wet boots, I knew I wanted to climb it. And so I did, after sorting my life out in Dolgellau I had but 2 hours to reach the summit to see the sunset, almost exactly like when I pushed for Snowdon. Similarly there is shelter on Cadaer Idris in the form of a bothi, a small stone hut with benches.
I didn’t make sunset, but still the view was superb. 360 degrees, peaks, sea and street lights for as far as the eye could see. The trigpoint had a heart-shaped, red-painted stone in memory of a loved one. It had been there since May. I cried, remembering those lost and estranged in my own life. I could just make out Snowdon’s summit in the distance,some 40 miles away. What a journey I’m on.
The bothi was pretty unfriendly really, but out of the wind and good benches, so I actually got a lot of meditation done, which was much needed. The morning’s weather was awful, low-visibility fog and high winds. Unwelcoming for descending the ridges. I took it slowly and soon came out the bottom of the clouds where I met a young fellow who I chatted with all the way down.
From there I walked a back road to Machynlleth, passing my friends Alan and Ruth on the way. Alan kindly satiated my craving for yoghurt and waxed lyrical about intriguing esoteric spiritual themes I’d never considered. I arrived in Machynlleth to meet another old friend of the bus. Friendship is such sustenance.
I planned to get a room for the nigh, but all were full. I slept out in the fields somewhere. In the morning (this morning) I came back to town, had a shower at the leisure centre and hung out at the vegetarian cafe most of the day. I will do some laundry, buy some food, then walk a few hours this evening towards Llanidloes. Machynlleth marks the end of the mountainous region of North Wales, the land is lower, the accents different. This is another phase of the journey. I am certainly not going to complete this journey in 2 weeks, more likely 3.