Last Thursday we set out on our final trip to test out all the gear we plan to take to Scotland and practice walking on the kind of terrain we’re likely to encounter. Setting out on Thursday morning and returning on Sunday afternoon, this was a good opportunity to learn important navigation and camping skills, and find out what walking in hilly areas is like, given the general lack of inclines around Cambridge. This was also my first time visiting Wales and it was nice to see some of the pretty parts of the area, making for a welcome change to the fairly monotonous scenery that we encountered on our trip to Ely.
All packed and stocked up with food, we drove to our starting point at the bottom of Llangynog hill. The first part of the day, to our first break at the waterfall, was very pleasant with nice walking and views.
Things became a little less pleasant, however, as we headed away from well-walked footpaths and onto the heathland on top of the next few hills. Heather isn’t the nicest thing to walk on, and I ended up falling down crevices several times along the ridge. Things got better as we returned to marked footpaths and more even ground over the other side of the hills. Typically, I then twisted my ankle on the flat footpath, after surviving the heather mostly intact. Given my ankle and problems with Phill’s knee, we decided to change route and head for a nearby spot Phill knew would be suitable for camping. This turned out to be a sensible decision as we ended up arriving at around 9pm, just as the light was fading, so probably wouldn’t have made it to the planned camp before dark. It’s good to know that we’re willing to change plans if we need to, rather than just ploughing on regardless of the situation. We then quickly set up the camp and fire, cooked dinner and settled down for bed.
As I found out during the Ely trip, I’m not great at sleeping in a sleeping bag, and this was another restless night. A combination of the lack of sleep and going slightly off-course led a tired first half of the day. I soon woke up as the footpath we were following to Lake Vyrnwy disappeared, and walking along (and through) the river became the easiest path to take. We made it through in one piece, apart from some fairly soggy feet on my part, however, and rejoined the footpath for the final stretch towards the lake.
After a break for lunch, we continued along the route to our planned camping site. The afternoon walking was less eventful than in the morning, but enjoyable nonetheless. The route passed by quickly and we arrived at our destination by late afternoon, giving us plenty of time to set up the tent, make a fire and cook dinner. Camping next to the waterfall was great for the scenery, but not so great for the accompanying midges. Even with head nets on they were becoming a nuisance and any bit of exposed skin was being attacked, so we eventually fled to the tent for the night.
Another sleepless night and the return of the midges in the morning meant I really wasn’t happy and struggled for the first half of the day. Being incredibly tired did have it’s advantages, though, and I managed to zone out and plod along for a large part of the distance we covered. Seeing the lake near the spot we camped at on the first night was a huge relief as it meant we had almost reached our destination for the day. The last couple of miles passed by in no time, and we both were very glad to arrive at the camp site, knowing that the hard part of the trip was over. The feelings of misery in the morning were (mostly) forgotten after an enjoyable evening back at the camp, complete with a campfire, rainbows, and no midges.
After a much better start to the day, possibly due to a better night of sleep, or the knowledge that we were on the last leg of the journey, I was feeling more positive about the trip. A short descent back to Llangynog, followed by a nice relaxed walk with Karl on a route around a couple more hills with lovely views, was a nice reminder that walking can be enjoyable. This was a good end to a trip which I found challenging and tough at several points, and had definite highs and lows.
Just the last few preparations to go now, then we’re off on the real thing…