Te Araroa Part 3 – Keri Keri to Auckland

Prologue

Part 3 of my New Zealand adventure takes me down the East coast of the North Island along the beaches and grassy hills and is a welcome change from the muddy forests that I’ve spent a week walking through. It’s blisteringly hot and I meet some new friends along the way, do a bit of hitchhiking and there’s an unexpected end to the trail.

My notes from this section are limited so this post will be shorter and less detailed than previous ones on Te Araroa unfortunately. I find that as the adventures continue I feel less need to write each day.

Day 15 – Keri Keri to Russell

My cousin drops me off at the same place we met a couple of days ago – these are the rule of thru-hikes, I could have carried on from Keri Keri but would never have felt satisfied knowing I’d missed a few km on the trail.

Back on the trail

It’s a fairly uninspiring 20km walk to the Paihai coast and then I have a choice to keep on the coast or take a ferry across to Russell where I have booked a hotel. After a couple of nights of luxury, I’m not quite ready to start camping again so need to ease myself back into the hobo life slowly.

The ferry across to Russell is easy to find and I don’t have to wait long for another one, it’s more like a little boat and I chat to the captain as we go who says he carries loads of Te Aroroa hikers. Once in Russell, I find the hotel but it’s still early so resuply with food and grab a few beers at a “bottle shop” – the NZ term for an off-licence and go and sit on the beach having a few drinks. After that, I find my hotel, check-in and hit the sack.

Day 16 – Russell Forest Track to Morepork

I wake-up uninspired by this walking lark and think about quitting but know that a couple of hours down the trail I’ll be OK, and I’m planning to get back into tent-life tonight instead of the comfy beds and showers of the last few days.

It was a long day of walking, and I have to divert 2km at the end of the day to find a campsite and a shop for the obligatory evening alcohol. There’s been a lot of dangerous road walking but I perk up once I’ve had a shower and a couple of drinks. The campsite is fabulous and there’s a school group on the site – just before dusk they all do a haka – like you see with the All Blacks in rugby. It was quite interesting to see a traditional NZ/Maori dance with 30+ teenagers.

Day 17 – Morepork to Onekainga Track

Had a good night’s sleep and it was another beautiful morning, feeling a lot more positive after getting back onto the trail and in the tent. I had some emails which made me realise I’d had around £1000 of fraudulent activity on my eBay account so had to spend ages on the phone to eBay and PayPal but managed to get it all sorted/cancelled and refunded.

On the way out of the campsite a car stopped and asked if I wanted a lift back to the start of the trail. The Kiwis are awesome like this, and it’s not the last time I get this generosity. I’ve only hitch-hiked once, in Arizona but here it’s normal and the kindness of the locals in unbelievable.

It’s another long day at about 45km but I found a free wild camping site right on the beach with water and toilets. Spent the evening chatting to some Germans who had hired a camper van and were touring NZ.

Morepork is named after some indigenous owls who make a sound that goes More-Pork! There are loads of strange flora and fauna in NZ, new sounds and sights which I’ve never seen or heard before.

Day 18 – Onekainga Coasta Track to Matapuri Bush Track

I had a decent nights sleep but my feet were very sore after a long previous day. Lots of road walking though which was tough. I found a spot in a forest to camp in and washed myself down in a nearby stream for good measure.

Day 19 – Matapuri Bush Track to Taihauru Estuary Route

Not a good night’s sleep as my feet are sore, I think that I’m going to need another rest day soon. As I’m eating my morning porridge I spy a hiker going past singing “Another Day In Paradise” by Genesis! I’m hidden from view so he doesn’t see me. As I finally pack-up and carry on I meet him having breakfast by a stream. He’s Tim from Canada and we have a chat, he’s staying and eating for a while so I move on, but we’ll see him again soon.

In the afternoon I meet Helena and Sebastian from Holland who have the biggest packs I have ever seen and we camp together in the evening, spending the night drinking and chatting with Tim who had joined us.They are amazed by my small backpack so we show each other our kit – they have jeans, fleeces and a cast-iron frying pan and pot! I can’t believe it, I travel light and have a small 35L pack! Each to their own I guess – whatever makes you happy!

Day 20 – Taihauru Estuary Route to Ocean Beach Walk

Tim and I are early starters so we’re up early and ready to do this next section which involves an estuary crossing which is done by a local who rows you across the estuary on a little boat. It’s another example of the Kiwi hospitality, you just give him a a call and he comes out and rows you across for a small gratuity – typically $10.

The first section is a hilly jungle walk to Marsden and Tim starts off before me but we meet-up again in Marsden as I resupply at a local store. Tim phones the boat-man and a few minutes later we’re being rowed across the estuary by an elderly chap who we chat to about Te Arorora.

Once over the estuary, it’s a 10km walk to a campsite where I’m planning to have a rest day. Tim and I walk together, chatting about stuff which is great. The camp site is really nice and it’s time for a shower and use the launderette. We then hitched into the nearest town, find a sports bar, have a few drinks and hitch back. I’m not a big fan of hitching but here it’s the norm.

Day 21 – Ocean Beach Walk (Rest Day)

Today is a rest/zero day as it’s been a while and my feet were getting sore. Tim and I hitch back to Ruakaka to buy supplies and do some postcards to family. Tim was going to hitch back to the campsite but I decided to walk as active recovery – it was only 5km so not too long.

The rest of the day was spent recovering, eating and drinking.

Day 22 – Ocean Beach Walk to Bream Head

I woke up completely disoriented, not sure where I was. This happens to me a lot, especially after 100-mile races, I wake up in my house thinking I’m still in the race or on the trail and start putting my running/hiking kit back on ready to get back!

Tim left before me so I was on my own today, the day was OK, fairly hilly and I had another complete meltdown at about 2pm – no energy at all. but picked-up after stopping for a coffee and some noodles.

I had another proper campsite for the evening, so got there and pitched-up, Tim arrived a bit later which surprised me as I hadn’t overtaken him. But he said that he’d been swimming a while back so I guess that’s where I passed him.

I walked into town, bought more supplies and had fish and chips from a takeaway, wasn’t feeling very sociable though tonight, so sat in my tent having a few cans before turning-in.

Day 23 – Bream Head to Restahi Track

30km of road and beach walking with a big climb at the end of the day. Not many notes from today.

The campsite at the end of the day is basically a normal house that lets Te Araraoa hikers camp in their garden for a few bucks. They would also provide dinner and breakfast. I got there and there was a sign saying “TA welcome” outside so pitched up in their front garden. There were two Japanese hikers already there – Nobu and Kay and Tim arrived soon after. We ate together in the evening and morning. It turned out this hike was the Japanese couples honeymoon! How many people decide to go on a 2500km hike as a honeymoon?

Day 24 – Restahi Track to Moirs Hill

A restless night of sleep with painful feet and restless legs which often happens on these hikes. Tim leaves before me and I found myself following his footsteps all day through muddy forests. There’s possum traps all over the place which are boxes on a pole which has bait in it, so the possum climbs up, sticks it’s head in the box and BOOM, the trap shuts and it dies! So it’s a strange landscape of possum bodies hanging from boxes – I later find out from a Kiwi that possums are a real problem in NZ so they are waging a war on them.

It got really hot in the afternoon and I had a bit of a crisis with sun cream dripping into my eyes and had to stop, sit down and have a word with myself in the afternoon.

I freedom camped in a forest at the end of the day.

Day 25 – Moirs Hill to Owea

Not a great nights sleep, feeling sticky after sweating all day yesterday and the mud in the rainforest.

I found a general store in a little village called Pinhoi and meet a fellow hiker called Blair from NZ who told me Tim camped here last night and was kayaking up the river as there is a big estuary crossing ahead and the choice is a long road walk, or kayaking but I’m too late to go kayaking. The morning is a boring, muddy walk through farmland and I managed to electrocute myself on a fence after taking wrong turn a few miles back. Then I had a complete meltdown in the afternoon, feeling weak and faint and had to sit down and eat all the food I had and have a coffee which seemed to sort it out.

I go onto the internet and find a recommended campsite at Owea for the night, then head back onto the trail, it’s a really scary high-speed road walk and after about 1km a Kiwi lady pulls up and offers me a ride. Kiwis are like that, and it’s not the first time someone has offered me a lift on these dangerous roads. It’s so dangerous on this section and another 15km so she takes me all the way to Owea. Normally I would never skip sections on a thru hike, but it’s just too dangerous and from what I’ve read, there’s more stuff like this ahead.

I find the holiday park at Owea which is great and make plans for tomorrow which is another estuary crossing which can only be done at low tide or I face a long road diversion again. Then, while wandering the campsite I meet a girl called “Share Bear” from Canada who is hiking with her friend “Sunshine”, these are their Trail Names which are a tradition on long distance hikes, and you can’t name yourself – it has to be awarded to you based on other’s perception. Mine is “Red Shirt Guy” as I always hike in a red shirt. We have a chat , it turns out she had electrocuted herself as well at around the same place as me! She asks if I want a hug, but I’m more of a “shrugs, not hugs” Guy tonight so I politely decline and head into the local town to resupply, have a huge McDonalds and grab a few beers from the bottle shop. Then it’s back to the holiday park and time for bed.

Day 26 – Owea to Takapuna

In the morning I get an email, and for reasons I won’t go into here decide that I have to return home, so get onto the internet and book the first flight I can back to the UK. I say goodbye to Share Bear and ask for a hug as I’m feeling quite emotional and she’s happy to help out! I give her all my supplies because I’m not going to need them now, plus the stuff I can’t take on the plane – like stove gas.

It’s still a 2-day walk to Auckland and my plane doesn’t go for a few days so I’ve got time to walk to the capital city instead of rushing there.

Day 27 – Takapuna to Auckland

This was my last night in the tent, so I spend a while cleaning it, washing it down along with all my dirty gear. I’m heading back into Auckland today so need to look respectable so clean myself up and have a shave.

Mixed emotions – my notes say “If I had known what the TA is before starting, I wouldn’t have done it” this refers to the fact that it’s not a continuous trail, there’s too much (dangerous) road walking and the North Island is a bit boring!

There’s a ferry from Devenport to Auckland and then I find my hostel called the “Juicy Snooze” and have a room on my own. There’s a nearby casino so I head out to it in the evening and blow $100 on blackjack and the slots or “pokies” in NZ slang before heading back to the hostel for the night.

Day 28/9 – Auckland to Cardiff

It’s a short bus ride to the airport and then another huge journey home, this time Auckland to Doha, then Doha to London involving the currently longest flight in the world at about 18 hours! Then I have to get the National Express back to Cardiff and am absolutely wiped out physically and emotionally after the walking and flying.

Epilogue

In retrospect, I enjoyed NZ and Te Araroa. The really scenic stuff is further down the trail and when you get to the South Island it’s supposed to be amazing. People say the North Island is like Wales, and the South Island is like Scotland and that really resonated with me. I thought, why do I have to travel halfway across the world to see stuff that I have on my doorstep? So, I’m committed at the moment to do more stuff in the UK and go and see some of the stuff we have here before returning to NZ to redo Te Araroa.

While I was on the trail I did something called “One Second Everyday” which means every day you take a 1-second video of what you thing is the highlight or lowlight of the trip. It was introduced to me by a girl called Rachael on The Camino and is an interesting experience… What is the highlight of the day? Anyway – here is the stitched-together 1-second videos from my NZ adventure:

https://youtu.be/Pq567YyXIlc

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Te Araroa Part 2 – Ahipara to Keri Keri

Before I start ‘d just like to say that I’m having a lot of trouble with WordPress at the moment as they seem to have changed their editing website and it’s really difficult to work with, so I have to go back to my posts and sort them out! I found that my images weren’t showing-up on earlier posts so have sorted that out but, if you see any glaring errors please let me know!

Prologue

Logo

We’re finally off the 90-mile beach and it’s now a slog across three big forests across New Zealand to the East coast of the North Island. This was a great change from the boring Planet of the Apes, sandy, desolate landscape of the 90-mile beach section but I had no idea how tough it would be!

My cousin lives in Keri Keri on the East coast of NZ and we’re not really close and I hadn’t seen her since her wedding over 10 years ago – but while I was I was here it would be rude not to pop in so had re-connected and arranged to meet her and her hubby when I got to Keri Keri and spend day-or-two there, cleaning myself up, washing all my clothes, sleeping in a proper bed and catching up so that was something to look forward to and keep me motivated through this rough section.

Day 10 – Herenkino and Routra Trails

“Welcome to the Jungle” as the Guns and Roses song goes! It’s a huge change from 90-mile beach and into rainforests with huge amounts of mud. But I’m from Wales and no stranger to mud and the wet, my feet are pretty resilient after years of ultra running in the mountains and fells so it doesn’t really bother me – there’s no point in tip-toeing around puddles and mud as you’re going to get wet sooner or later so just stomp through the calf-length mud and water and am am in a completely muddy and dirty state soon.

I meet an USA chap called Jeremy, an American who has done the Appalachian Trail in the USA and is super competitive and wants to beat me so I let him go ahead and also another German at some point. I have to camp in thee jungle in the evening as the weather is so bad and it rains all night.

Day 11 – Routura Trail to Omahatu

It rained all night but cleared up in the morning, though was really muddy and wet in the forests again. Inbetween the forests there are little towns so I found a place to have a burger and chips for lunch. Jeremy – the American chap I’d met the day before was at the cafe and decided to quit as the trail was too hardcore for him – this is a man who has done the Pacific Coast Trail and Appalachian Trails – and had travelled to NZ to do this, so I knew this was pretty intense. We had some food and I chat and I bid him farewell.

My notes say this was one of the most hardcore days of walking I have ever experienced! I know it was muddy and my shoes didn’t really have much grip and the mud was terrible and it was a hilly so I guess that’s what was going on. It took 9 hours to do 16km – which would normally take me about 3-4 hours so it must have been boners!

In between the 3 big forests the route is a mixed bag, going through little towns and involves a lot of road walking which I find dangerous and really don’t enjoy. Te Aroroa isn’t like the UK or USA trails which are mainly off-road and seems to have been stitched-together from a number of local trails which means you often have a long stretch to get the next section – on roads and through farmland. with dogs and cattle which I don’t like. But the scenery is fabulous and reminds me of mid-Wales and I keep thinking why have I travelled halfway across the world when I have all this on my doorstep? So I endeavour to do more stuff back in the UK on my return.

Day 12 – Omahuta to Puketi

Another crazy day of weather, drizzle in the morning and I was heading for a hostel/campsite in the evening abut 30km away. Lots of scrambling through mud and up hills. I also crossed my first swing bridge on the trail, a crazy, wobbly contraption with broken floorboards! As I’ve said earlier – the Kiwis have little notion of the Health and Safety measures we have in the UK!

There’s along walk along a river which you can either take the trail or walk through the river and I take the trail to start with, but it’s so muddy and on a sideways slope that’s almost impossible to traverse so end up walking through the river for a few miles – once your feet are wet it doesn’t really matter if they remain soaked and as I’ve said before – my feet are pretty nasty and hardened from years of ultra-running and hiking!

Towards the end of the day I got really cold and finally found the hostel/campsite but it looked like it was closed so set up my tent in a field and put on all my clothes and got into my sleeping bag and tried to to get warm. I can deal with the heat – no problem, but the cold really affects me, there’s no chance I’m heading off to either of the poles on an expedition! I’d happily have quit that night, but had no mobile coverage so just had to suck it up and get through it…

Day 13 – Puketi to Keri Keri

A short day into Keri Keri I wake up in good spirits knowing I’ll be seeing my cousin and her hubby and have some decent food and a bed for the night. The walk is fairly uninspiring and increasingly urban into Keri Keri but I get there early afternoon and meet the family in a park, apologising for the way I look and smell – it’s been at least a week since I had a shower and I’ve sweated and walked through 3 rain forests so am in a bit of a state! We go back to their place which is a very cool boat-shaped house and I wash everything I own and then we eat and drink, catching-up on stuff.

Day 14 – Rest Day in Keri Keri

I decide to stay another day in Keri Keri with family, so we pop into town and I buy a little USB charger for my phone/Garmin watch. We meet some of my cousin’s friends who are amused by my plans to walk Te Aroroa. The evening is spent watching movies and drinking and eating – but I know I have to move on again tomorrow as this easy life is hard to break out of!

Next – The East Coast

A blistering; hot campsite

Welcome to the jungle
One of the forests
River walk
Te Arora signs in the forest
Coffe break along the river
Roosster that woke me up at dawn
Coffee stop in a shelter
Morepork – naked after the birds that go “More-Pork”
Looks just like Wales1
Beer stop – obligatory choice!
More scenic hills, reminding me of Wales

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Te Araroa Part 1 – Getting to the start and 90 Mile Beach

Days 1 to 3 – Cardiff to Auckland

Te Aroroa is New Zealand’s long distance trail and runs 2500km from the tip of the North Island all the way way down to the end of the South Island. It traverses beaches, lush rain forests, the big cities and the mountainous terrain on the South Island. Jez Bragg, who I’d met on a Fellsman race had set a speed record on it a few years earlier and documented it on video – it looked amazing so this was on my bucket list and I had to go and do it.

NZ is literally on the the other side of the world, and probably as far away from Cardiff that I could possibly go without heading into Antarctica, it was a 39-hour journey from home to Auckland via bus, plane and train with a 6-hour-stopover in Shanghai in China halfway through. When I got to Shanghai I found some melatonin from a pharmacy, (you can’t buy this in the UK) as I find it helps with jetlag and have a few beers before boarding the second flight to Auckland. It’s all getting a bit dull though, and I’m bored of travelling by now.

New Zealand has VERY strict immigration laws to stop incoming contamination, they are an isolated island and have unique flora and fauna so scan and clean everything.

My tent and shoes have to go off for decontamination as they’re a bit dirty from previous adventures, and I have to discard all the fresh food I have with me. But it’s all OK and the airport staff are cool. I then find the skybus and head into Auckland where I have a bed booked in the YHA for the night.

Day 4 – Auckland

The YHA is decent and after a much-needed shower I head back in Auckland and find some fuel for my Jetboil stove and a NZ sim card for my phone. Auckland feels just like any big UK city, just with Kiwi accents! It’s another night at the YHA to recover from jetlag before heading north.

Day 5 – Auckland to Kaitaia

A little bit anxious in the morning, but got on with it and it was a 2-bus ride up to Kaitaia in the North Island for the night. There were some obvious hikers on the bus and the driver tells me that he picks up loads of Te Araroa hikers every day. I do my final shopping trip of food for the first stage and settle in for a quiet night at a B&B for the night.

Day 6 – Katitaia to Twilight Camp

Had a good night’s sleep and had a great breakfast at the B&B and a good chat with the owners. Then caught the bus up to the Cape Reinga and lighthouse at “the end of the world”, the southernmost tip in NZ which is a Maori religious place. On the bus I get chatting to some Japanese tourists who can’t believe what I’m about to embark on and take pictures of me to post of their social media! I’m going viral… We drive up 90-mile beach on this bus which is like a cross-between a 4×4 and a coach with huge chunky tyres and occasionally pass hikers coming south which is how my life is going to be for the next 4 days. There’s some huge sand dunes along the way and the bus stops off to let us do some sandboarding, basically sledging down the dunes on a plastic tray! The risk of injury is big but the Kiwis are famous for their disregard for Health and Safety so I give it a go and it’s fun. I also get chatting to Andreas – a German who is doing the trail as well – we’ll see him again later!

I get to the lighthouse at “the end of world” which marks the start of Te Araroa, find

some people to take a photo of me and meet a couple of hikers who are also heading down the trail. I’m moving a lot faster than them so we don’t walk together but the first stage is down a section called 90-mile beach which paradoxically is not actually 90 miles – more like 70, but there are only a couple of places to find water and camp so I will see them again.

90-mile beach is like something out of Planet Of The Apes, completely deserted and with no sign of human life, I amuse myself by shouting “You blew it all up” and expect to find a buried Statue Of Liberty at any point but it doesn’t happen and after 12km I find Twilight camp – the first stop and setup my tent. After a while Andreas  and Johan (Germany), Raphael and Anna (Switzerland), Hart (USA) and Alessa (Canada) arrive and we spend the evening chatting, laughing and eating in a little shelter – this is what it’s all about. It’s been an awesome first day.

Day 6 – Twilight Camp to Maunganni Bluff

Not a great nights sleep with lots of strange wildlife noise outside, I set off early before the rest of the kids were awake. It was really hot according to my journal and probably quite boring on the sandy beach. The rest of the gang arrived later in the evening and we spent another night chatting.

Day 7 – Maunganni Bluff to Utrea Park

Had a good night’s sleep with the raincover off my tent just marvelling at the Milky Way – there’s no light pollution here so it’s amazing. I walked with a girl called Tania most of the way who talked about herself in the 3rd person which was quite amusing – but I went along with it. Utrea Park is a good campsite and my journal says I had a good evening

Day 8 – Utrea Park to Ahipara

The final day on 90-mile beach and I spent most of it walking with Andreas from Germany, talking about all sorts of stuff. Politics, religion and all that – I was especially interested in how the Germans are taught about World War Two, Hitler and the Nazis and fascinated to learn how they are educated about all that.

Ahipara maks the end of the desolate 90-mile beach and is a nice little town, so once there I treated myself to a huge burger and chips, found a pub and had a few beers and found a place to setup camp.

Next up – The North Island Forests

Mmmmm… chips!
They blew it all up!
Camping on the dunes
90-Mile Beach – desolate but clean

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The Wales Coast Path Part 7 – South Wales Coast

Walk the Wales Coast Path

Prologue

The final section of the Wales Coast Path is very familiar territory to me, I’ve run along these sections many times and am very familiar with this stretch. It’s a bit bland and boring at times, flat and industrial – but it has to be done. I can also pop into my house in Cardiff for a nice sleep which is cool. I meet up with an old mate near the end who is on a motorbiking road trip and finally get to the end!

Day 35 – Swansea to Merthyr Mawr

30.01Miles, 771′ Ascent, 10:59:43 Elapsed

Last night was a hotel night, so I’m clean again and smelling like a normal person having hand washed my kit. It’s a boring, road walk out of the Swansea metropolis and my feet are sore after wearing my Vibrams the previous day – while I love them, there’s no cushioning and walking 30 miles with 15kg on my back has taken it’s toll. Ibuprofen helps though.

My tan lines are ridiculous now, especially on my legs – socks and shorts! I’m a bit embarrassed about it so endeavour to try and even it out when I stop every now and again!

I get a text from an old mate who is planning to go on a motorbike road trip up in Wales and suggests we meet-up, I find a campsite near the end of the WCP, book a couple of pitches and let him know – something to look forward to and motivate me on this section.

Port Talbot is interesting and looks like something out of Blade Runner.

Merthyr Mawr is famous for having the biggest sand dunes in the world, and I’ve done a few races around here where you have to run up and down the dunes. I found a little secluded spot with an existing fire pit, set up camp and had a great night.

Day 36 – Merthyr Maw to Barry

28.76 Miles, 2051′ Ascent, 10:53:15 Elapsed

Very sticky and sweaty today as I got up – I hate the feeling of being like this, it really affects my sleep but today I was determined to get cleaned up so it wasn’t going to last, the end was near and I thought I’d have access to showers for the rest of the trip.

I’m too far from home to make in to Cardiff, so I decide to head to Barry(bados) and then catch the train to the’diff, and come back tomorrow.

It’s familiar territory and while quite scenic, I’ve seen it all before so I get to Barry, pop into the Wetherspoons for a burger meal deal then catch the train back to Cardiff and head home. There’s a mountain of post so I spend the evening sorting through all that and washing all my kit.

Day 37 – Barry to Cardiff

19.16 Miles, 906′ Ascent, 6:52:30 Elapsed

Refreshed after a night at home, I head to the train station and go back to Barry where I finished the previous day – these are the rules, no skipping stages! There’s two options around Barry Island and I decide to go for the longer option as I’ve never done it and, it was worth it. There’s some lovely scenic spots along the Vale Coast – but I’ve seen them many times.

I get to Cardiff Bay and divert the 2-miles back home and spend the evening doing my “admin” – washing stuff and cleaning myself up. I try watching a film but can’t concentrate so order a huge Domino pizza in spend the evening listening to music instead.

Day 38 – Cardiff to Newport

18.82 Miles, 364′ Ascent, 5:38:34 Elapsed

Another familiar day, but I was meeting up with an old mate in the evening so headed off from my house, back to Cardiff Bay and the WCP. It’s a bit of an uninspiring walk to Newport to be honest, very flat and pretty dull.

I get to Newport at around 3pm and find a ‘spoons, have a burger and beer then catch a bus to the campsite I’ve booked a few miles away, shower and setup camp.

Dave arrives a couple of hours later on his bike, we chat for a while over a couple of cans before heading into the local town for a few drinks. It’s a great night in a typical Welsh valleys pub and we get back in the dark at closing time.

Day 39 – Newport to Chepstow

31.85 Miles, 758′ Ascent, 10:03:27 Elapsed

I’m really hungover today after the night before, so not feeling the love for this but – it’s the final day and it just has to be done so. I pack up, have breakfast, bid farewell to Dave and get the bus back to Newport to restart where I left off the previous day.

Once again, it’s an uninspiring walk to Chepstow, there’s a couple of highlights and eventually the trail lifted my spirits and my hangover cleared up. I decided to book a hotel in Chepstow for the night as something to look forward to.

The last 10km seemed to go on forever as I could see Chepstow, but eventually I got there and found the end of trail marker, so lay down on it for a while!

Then, I found the hotel, had a few beers and passed out. Just relieved to have finished… While I’ve loved the WCP – the final few days were a bit uninspiring

Epilogue

I’d thought about doing Offa’s Dyke after the WCP but, after finishing I’d had enough and was physically and emotionally drained. It took me a few months to recover from the stress of walking a marathon every day for 39 days.

That being said, it was one of the best adventures I’ve ever had and I would recommend it to anyone, you don’t have to do it in one go like I did, but the WCP is amazing, especially Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion on the west coast.

I might even do it again in the opposite direction at some point.

 

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The Wales Coast Path Part 6 – Carmarthen Bay and Gower

Walk the Wales Coast Path

Prologue

Having now finished the epic Pembrokeshire Coast Path it was time to start heading east towards home. I know this section quite well having run around The Gower a few times and love nothing more than catching the train to Swansea and running back along the coast path. OK, it’s not as spectacular as Pembrokeshire, but it’s great scenery, there’s loads of places to resupply and the locals are friendly. North and far-west Wales can sometimes be a bit unresponsive to the English, though I don’t have a problem with this it can make communication a bit difficult at times.

Day 30 – Amroth to St. Clears

21.90 Miles, 2520′ Ascent, 10:45:14 Elapsed

It was another wild camp near Amroth, and I have a night of strange dreams. I’m feeling sticky and salty though after a few days without clean clothes and a shower. God knows how people must think I look/smell so I try to keep some social distancing when walking past, (a useful skill in these COV19 days!) At some point I decide to write a poem which goes like this:

Slugs and snails and long distance trails

“I wander slowly around this land following the Coast Path Trail. My progress slow but relentless – much like a slug or snail. I leave no trace upon the land, it cares not for me at this time just my footprints like those left by others. The slugs and snails leave trails of slime and come and visit my tent at night, exploring the fabric and climbing high. They can’t get in so I only watch the slow-moving silhouettes with a sigh. I wonder if the slugs are just homeless snails, or is it the other way around? Do slugs have mansions somewhere deep underground?

So, that was a bit strange! But killed a bit of time and I stopped off for the obligatory coffee and food resupply along the way to Pendine Sands – famous for being a testing area for speed records in the UK. It’s a long, boring sandy walk along the beach though. Something that will become a feature of the rest of the journey.

I pass a girl who stops me and says her friend is “relieving herself” a couple of yards down the trail so we chat and they are doing the WCP in sections over the summer! She says that I am their hero and so when her friend comes back we have a chat about the WCP and it’s great fun. They’re going in the opposite direction so I won’t see them again but it was nice. I also met another chap coming into Pendine and had a chat with him – people are just interested when they see someone on the trail!

At some point I wrote another poem.

I Snail

As I wander along the Wales Coast Trail, the more I become just like a snail. All I have carried upon my back, my shell, my trusty old backpack. Inside it contained everything I own, my clothes, my food, my tent, my home. I’ve come to love it’s weighty hug, without it I’d just be a slug.

I get to Saint Clears and resupply, then find a place to eat – another kids playground, how the police haven’t been called as I look like a bearded hobo, drinking cider and eating noodles in a playground I’ll never know – but I get away with it. After which I headed out of St. Clears after popping into a pub for a cheeky pint and a place to camp for the night.

Day 31 – St. Clears to Ferryside

30.34 Miles, 3251′ Ascent, 11:19:00 Elapsed

It was cold last night so I made a note to grab my sleeping bag liner when I pass Cardiff in a few days. My sleeping bag is rated to about 5C and when I did the Arizona Trail nearly killed me as the temperatures dropped to about -10C in the desert at night! Since then I’ve always been paranoid about the temperature but thought that – as this was the hottest summer in ages I’d be OK.

I’d had really bad diarrhoea a few days before, I think from drinking some dirty water and had a few bad nights but things were getting better now thanks to Imodium.

It was a frustrating and wet walk through farmyards and fields at the start to Carmarthen so I decide to download “Sapiens” on audiobook to help my mood.  In Carmarthen I find a Morrisons and buy more food – a huge salad.

The last few hours were a slog through mud and rain, again through farmyards and I talked to some locals along the way but it wasn’t fun. In Ferryside I went to a pub, had a couple of pints and found a spot to camp a short walk out of town. It had been a really tough day, but now it was over and I was feeling good again.

Day 32 – Ferryside to Gowerton

29.13 Miles, 1033′ Ascent, 10:10:42 Elapsed

Not many notes from today, I stopped in Kilgetty for the obligatory coffee and sandwich and there was lots of road walking.I switched into my Vibram Fivefingers just to mix things up a bit and as it was all easy flat stuff, I didn’t need the grip of my Inov-8 shoes which had been my trusty companion so far.

At Bury Port I stopped for a burger and chips at a takeaway van and chatted to the owner while he cooked up the feast. And yes, it was awesome! Then, it was off to Gowerton – and I found a cool little camping spot in a forest for the night.

Day 33 – Gowerton to Rhosilli

27.18 Miles, 1362′ Ascent, 11:47:46 Elapsed

I didn’t sleep well and was packed-up and on on the trail at 5am, I know this section really well and it has some spectacular scenery. I’m starting to think about what I’ll do when this is over? All the stuff I need to do around the house, people I need to see and reconnect with and maybe even get a job – shocker!

The walk to Rhosilli is a bit uninspiring for the first 10-miles or-so, but then you hit the South Coast and it’s just spectacular. A lot of beach walking, but there’s huge cliffs to your left. I get to Rhosilli, a very familiar place for me and drop into the pub for a couple of beers and a burger before heading back out and finding another awesome camping spot up on the cliffs overlooking the sea

Day 34 – Rhosilli to Swansea

30.98 Miles, 3153′ Ascent, 12:09:51 Elapsed

Woke up feeling motivated and today was again very familiar territory, I’d ordered an inflatable pillow from Amazon which was waiting in an Amazon locker for me in Swansea so was looking forward to picking that up. I’d also booked a hotel for the night as it had been a while since I’d had one and I really needed to clean myself and my kit up.

There are massive slugs all over my tent in the morning – I’ve never seen such huge ones! My niece says that slugs are going to take over the world and, at the moment I tend to agree – they are taking over my world!

As usual, I have a bit of meltdown in the afternoon in Oxwich, but a coffee and some food sorts me out and eventually I get to Mumbles and then onto Swansea, go to the supermarket for food and beer. Then, after a long bath and refuelling session hit the sack in a nice, warm bed

Next up – South Wales Coast

 

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The Wales Coast Path Part 5 – Pembrokeshire

 Prologue

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a National Trail, in fact the first National Trail in Wales and opened in 1970 and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the world. National Geographic rated it as the second greatest walking routes in the world! I’ve done a bit of running around here, but when I run I’m more focused on the running so was really looking forward to experiencing Pembrokeshire at a more sedate pace and – it didn’t disappoint.

Before I start, I’ve had a couple of questions asking how I remember all this – well, for every adventure I do I buy a nice Moleskine notebook and try to write every day, documenting my adventures! As my blog evidences, I love to write!

Books

Day 22 – Newport to Penrhyn

18.73 Miles, 2726′ Ascent, 9:57:38 Elapsed

Another stormy night so everything is soaked when I get up but it’s a good night’s sleep, my notes say I woke up worried that a tree would fall on me as the weather was so bad but it looks like I survived..

I start thinking about the end of this trail, and if I should continue up the 160-mile trail on Offa’s Dyke to complete the loop, finishing where I started – but that’s still a long way off. I could also come back down the Cambrian Way which goes over the mountainous terrain in mid-Wales! There’s a lot of stuff on my bucket list, including going back to Arizona for some unfinished business there, plus the Jordan Trail which looks amazing and takes in Petra – the fantastic place featured in Indiana Jones, one I really need to tick off soon.

I pass through Fishguard and pass through a caravan park so grab a cheeky shower in the facilities which perks me up a bit and wash my cloths in the launderette. In Fishguard I pick up some more food and a couple of beers and sit in a playgound having a picnic and a couple of beers – wrong? Probably – but I don’t get arrested and carry on for a while.

I normally wear knee-length board shorts when hiking, but it’s so hot that I change into my 5″ running shorts to try and cool down and sort out my tan lines. My legs look crazy, dark brown up to the knee and white above!

Not much else, I resupply at a Tesco and it’s wild camping just outside Goodwich.

Day 23 – Penrhyn to Saint Davids

32.95 Miles, 5378′ Ascent, 11:43:35 Elapsed

The field I camped in was a farmers field and cows came and hassled me during the night, just curious but it was a bit strange having my tent assaulted by the bovines!

It was going to be a long day today to Saint David’s – the smallest city in the UK so I was up early, I’m low on food so need to resupply soon. The morning was OK and I felt strong but dipped in the afternoon and was feeling very fatigued and tired so I put on some podcasts to distract me. I don’t normally listen to music/podcasts when running or hiking as I like to enjoy the silence and natural sounds, but sometimes it helps.

As it’s the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, there’s more people now on the trail and I keep meeting people coming in the opposite direction. So, it’s nice to chat as we pass and everyone is amazed by how far I’ve come so far – they’re just doing 160 miles, I’ve already done over 400 miles!

It’s another wild camp tonight just outside St. Davids

Day 24 – Saint Davids to Little Haven

28.61 Miles, 4147′ Ascent, 11:14:55 Elapsed

I didn’t sleep very well and as my journal says “got my sorry ass back on the WCP” One of my pet hates are slugs and they seem to love my tent. Every morning I wake up and see little black tubes on the liner, it makes my skin crawl! However today was a no-slug day, hoorah!

I stop for a coffee at 10:00 and start getting annoyed by the number of tourists out on the PCP, but that’s just the way it goes. After being on my own for so long, suddenly having so many people around you is an emotional shock.

I get to Broad Haven and pop into a pub for a quick beer and meet another hiker who is going north – obvious with his Tilley hat and backpack – snap! After which I pickup some supplies in town, write some postcards to my family and carry on.

]I find a great little camping spot on the cliffs with a bench, my second favourite campsite of the adventure.

Day 25 – Little Haven to Monk Haven

27.78 Miles, 3058′ Ascent, 10:23:50 Elapsed

It was another grim morning, wet and windy so a soggy pack-up and start to the day. The weather starts improving though as the morning progresses and by 11am it’s starting to brighten up as I go through Martin’s Haven.I stop for a coffee and switch-out some gear as I don’t really need my waterproofs and long-sleeved thermals now.

I’m now in a “flow state”, very focused and just living in the moment. This is what it’s all about!

Going round St Anne’s Head was awesome, fantastic scenery and I chatted to an old man on the trail about the WCP and PCP which was a nice distraction. Then it was a short diversion to Marloes to find a shop but, when I got there it was closed so I diverted 3 miles to Dale to find an alternative.

By this time I was pretty knackered and eventually decided to stop at a lovely little spot  in some woods and pitched-up. Once I’d had some food though I was feeling pretty good and went to bed.

Day 26 – Monk Haven to Pembroke

29.40 Miles, 2959′ Ascent, 9:37:10 Elapsedhere’s 

I slept well in the forest, having taken the raincover off my tent, so could see the stars and Milky Way outside.There’s lots of road walking today an estuary crossing that you can only do at low tide.

It’s a bit of a mixed day, I miss the low tide crossing at Sandy Haven so have to detour 4 miles to get around the water. As always, I never resist the chance to eat so pass a Teso and have 2 Meal Deals for dinner!

The walking is mixed, some very dangerous road walking which I’m amazed is part of a National Trail and the traffic noise puts me into a foul mood. I have a B&B for the night so clean myself up and that’s it for the day at a place called Oriellon Field Centre, a place used by scouts/guides/brownies etc for adventure holidays.

Day 27 – Pembroke rest day

0 Miles, 0′ Ascent, 0 Elapsed

Had a very rough night, feeling and being sick. I knew there wasn’t going to be any walking today so checked-in for another night at Oriellon. I spent the day just recovering and emailing some old chums

Day 28 – Pembroke to Bosherton

31.75 Miles, 3104′ Ascent, 10:45:52 Elapsed

I’m feeling better in the morning so, after another excellent full breakfast head back to the WCP. However, once I start walking I still feel weak so have to slow my pace a bit – but pick-up soon once the breakfast calories and coffee work into my system.

I found a Spar at one point and scoffed 2 pork pies and a pack of Viscount mint biscuits – retro!

Not many other notes from today, just reflection on the trip so far. I found a wild camping spot again and that was it for the day.

Day 29 – Bosherton to Amroth

25.38 Miles, 4150′ Ascent, 10:30:22 Elapsed

A good night’s sleep but I keep waking up with strange dreams. My appetite is returning with a vengeance after the sickness a couple of days ago so I eat a double portion of oats for breakfast.

No other notes from today, but it looks like I was wild camping after finishing the PCP.

Next up – The Carmathen Bay & Gower

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The Wales Coast Path Part 4 – Snowdonia and Ceredigion Coast

Walk the Wales Coast Path

Prologue

This stage takes me down the west coast of Wales, and somewhere I’ve never really explored. It’s one of my favourite stages and I have some incredible camping spots! There’s drama and exhaustion, but that’s all part of the deal on these hikes!

Day 15 – Portmerion to Barmouth

31.87 Miles, 1207′ Ascent, 11:48:36 Elapsed

I’m getting more comfortable every day with wild camping, when you start it’s a bit anxiety-inducing setting-up camp in a random field, but after a few nights you realise nobody is going to kill you! And – let’s face it, would you hassle a man in a tent who you don’t know? Here in Cardiff we have homeless people who live in tents on the high street so a hiker in a field shouldn’t be a problem.

I pass Harlech and realise I’ve done this before on an ultramarathon called “Run to the castle” which was 40 miles down the coast so it brings back some memories of my ultrarunning days. I don’t really run much these days as I’m getting old and just can’t do the extreme stuff without hurting myself – that’s why I hike, it’s easier on my body and I can sustain multiple consecutive days.

Then it was onto Shell Island which is a mecca for holidaymakers so I  walked through a huge camp site and snuck into the shower block to clean myself up as it had been a while since I had a shower. I then headed off to the bar for a swift pint and sat outside. I was wearing my Dragon’s Back shirt and heard a couple of chaps sitting opposite talking about the race so I turned around and said hello – we have some mutual friends, small world!

After that, I pick up a couple of nightcap beers from thee bar and head back onto the coast path. A chap at the bar compliments me on the Dragon’s Back as he’s done some ultras – including The Thames Trot and Country to Capital which I’ve also done… The running community is really cool like that and it lifts my spirits

I walk over the huge aquaduct/bridge in Barmouth and find a wild camping spot for the night, drink the beers and pass out again.

Day 16 – Barmouth to Cefn Crib

27.02 Miles, 3389′ Ascent, 9:26:13 Elapsed

My notes say this was a “pretty solid day” and I had a campsite booked in the evening for £10, so I planned to get there, have a shower and wash everything I own!

My body is finally adapting to this and I’m starting to feel fit again, I’ve definitely lost a lot of weight – but that’s not a bad thing to be honest. I came into this quite unfit and carrying a bit of excess lard so I’m quite happy. But, when you’re burning 5000 calories a day it’s tough to eat enough – especially when you have to carry all your food on your back!

I pop to a local pub, recommended by the owner of the campsite for a couple of pints and think about life before passing out.

Day 17 – Cefn Crib to Borth

22.43 Miles, 3327′ Ascent, 7:28:22 Elapsed

No notes from today so I have no idea what happened! It can’t have been anything interesting. At some point I dropped my phone and smashed the screen – D’Oh!

Day 18 -Aberystwyth Rest Day

0 Miles, 0′ Ascent, 0 Elapsed

Aberystwyth is a short bus ride from Borth so I decide to catch it and treat myself to a B&B for the night but, when I wake up I’m so tired and sore that I decide to have a rest day so go down to have breakfast and ask if I can stay another night. It’s all OK so I settle in for a rest day.

After a huge traditional fry-up breakfast and a bit of of food-coma lie down I head into town and find a new phone to replace the one I smashed yesterday. I also buy a huge pizza from Dominos and head back to the hotel to watch some TV, called my sister, had a few beers and slept. It was the right decision after 17 days on the trail

Day 19 – Borth to Llanon

22.56 Miles, 3297′ Ascent, 8:18:42 Elapsed

I woke up refreshed and clean, caught the bus back to Borth and started back down the trail. Those are the rules of thru-hiking, you have to do the whole thing. I could have restarted in Aberystwyth, but then I’d have jumped a section and I’d always regret that!

Tonight I find the best camping spot I have ever encountered! It’s right on the coast and has a fire pit, You can see the curvature of the earth from here – it’s amazing, I’d liken it to Finisterre at the end of the Camino de Santiago which is one of my fondest memories. I have a couple of cans from a nearby town so spend the night watching the sun disappear over the sea and warm myself by the fire

Day 20 – Llanon to Mwnt

29.27 Miles, 5561′ Ascent,11:35:43 Elapsed

It had been a stormy night with the wind and rain battering my tent,  but I have a great little tent and it resisted the onslaught. I had breakfast and then cleaned-up the area as I’m I huge believer in “Leave No Trace” and there was a bit of trash around. I also wrote a message on a rock and left it by the campfire, hopefully to inspire the next hiker/walker/kids that came here.

It’s windy and wet today, so a bit miserable but I’m in good spirits after last night. I stop and grab some supplies and a baguette in Newquay and finally decide to stop and pitch-up in a cornfield just outside of Mwnt. Noodles and meatballs for supper before bedtime.

Day 21 – Mwnt to Newport

25.57 Miles, 5824′ Ascent,9:43:212 Elapsed

It was another night of crazy weather, rain-storms and very windy but the cornfield and my tent seemed to protect me well enough. I caught up with some people via SMS, packed-up and hit the trail again. The weather had now cleared-up so things weren’t too bad outside!

The scenery starts to become more impressive as I approach Pembrokeshire, it’s been a bit bland so far, but Pembrokeshire is rated as one of the worlds most scenic places, and I’m nearly there!

Cardigan is wet, wild and windy – but it has shops, so I fing a Greggs and scoff a baguette and sausage roll, washed down with a can of Red Bull for good measure. Refuelled, it’s back on the WCP.

The afternoon is a hardcore walk on perilous cliffs in gale-force winds but with very dramatic scenery almost blowing me off my feet. Eventually I find a camping spot in an overgrown field and pitch-up.

Next up – The Pembrokeshire Coast Path

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The Wales Coast Path Part 3 – The Llyn Peninusla

Walk the Wales Coast Path

Prologue

In my childhood, we used to holiday on the Llyn Peninsula in Criccieth, so this was going to be a highlight of my trip. Butlins in Pwthelli, slot machines and penny falls, Space Invaders at the iconic Morannedd cafe were all great things to look out for.

Day 10 – Bangor to Caernarfon

15.92 Miles, 1052′ Ascent, 5:02:23 Elapsed

A short and easy day, which you need every now and-again on these big adventures.  Last night I treated myself to a hotel and had a long chat with my sister in the evening which lifted my spirits a bit. Somewhere along the way I’d lost my Tilley hat which I love. When I did the Camino, one of my hiking partners had one and told me the story about them…

Apparently, they are so durable that – an African explorer had one swiped and eaten by an elephant, but after a day it re-appeared from the other side and after a quick clean, as good as new! I love this and it’s my signature story that I tell everyone… Hopefully there’s no hat-hungry elephants on this trail but you never know? Here’s a photo of the infamous hat out on the trail!

At some point during the day, I’d taken it off and lost/dropped it and was absolutely gutted. It’s not the £100 cost, but it’s one of those emotional things and a lucky charm for me.

At some point I had a text message from the boys I’d met in Anglesey saying they’d found my hat on the trail! I’d written my name on the inside just in case, and I guess it’s pretty distinctive. I was so happy… They were just about to finish the Anglesey Coast Path so I met them on the Menai Bridge and reclaimed the hat, bought them a beer at a local pub and headed back to the Travelodge, faith in humanity restored!

This is why I hike, I had the same experience in Arizona when I lost my puffa jacket and two girls I’d met found it and sorted me out, I still keep in contact with them now.

Day 11 – Caernarfon to Nefyn

29.31 Miles, 2746′ Ascent, 10:03:27 Elapsed

I had a good nights sleep at the Travelodge and left smelling like a normal person instead of the thru-hiker, tramp smell. It was raining and a quite uninspiring start to the day and, once again I wasn’t very inspired. It was a long road walk to start and cold and wet – so contrasting to the last week. I don’t mind the rain, as Wainright famously said:

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”

I don’t really have any notes from today – but I think it was pretty boring coming out of the metropolis and cities. I found a take-away in Nefyn and had fish and chips for supper, then continued up the Coast Path for a couple of miles before finding a secluded spot and set up camp for the night.

Day 12 – Nefyn to Aberdaron

26.31 Miles, 3714′ Ascent, 10:51:56 Elapsed

Not many notes from today, think I spent most of the day listening to Joe Rogan podcasts while on the trail.

Day 13 – Aberdaron to Warren

21.87 Miles, 2201 Ascent, 8:31:21 Elapsed

No notes from today either! I remember grabbing a few beers in Abersoch on the beach and sleeping on the cliffs just above the beach.

Day 14 – Warren to Portmerion

28.80 Miles, 567′ Ascent, 11:20:33 Elapsed

This stage take me through my childhood, we used to holiday in Criccieth and I spent all my pocket money on the slot machines, penny falls and video games in the arcades. I walk past Butlins in Pwthelli which is nostalgic, and have and ice cream on the prom before heading towards Criccieth.

As a kid, we used to go to this place every year – so it’s a nostalgic overload! I’m sad the corner shop on Marine Terrace has now been converted into a house so carry on past the castle and though to the iconic Morannedd cafe to see if they still have the old video games I used to play 30 years ago. As I get closer, it’s obvious that’s had a face lift and then, I find it’s been converted into a swanky restaurant! NO!

The Morannedd building

So I think about going in for a burger, but refuse to pay £15 so sit outside on a bench and have some super-noodles and a coffee. I guess stuff changes, life moves on but it’s sad. I’ll get over it, it’s just disappointing.

I carry on, heading across Black Rock Sands – another one of our family hotspots, and where some of my of old school friends and I had a raucous holiday back in our teens. Then it’s on to Porthmadog and to pick up some supplies. It’s raining cats and dogs, so shortly after leaving the town I find a bird-watching shelter and spend an hour there, drying out my clothes and having a couple of cans of cider. Eventually the rain eases off and I pack-up and hit the trail again. I’m on my way to Portmerion – a strange place, famous for being home to “The Prisoner”, so I amuse myself saying “I am number 6” as a mantra on my way there.

It’s getting late, so I find the first place I can camp discretely, pitch up and pass out.

Next up – The Snowdonia and Ceredigion Coast

 

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The Wales Coast Path Part 2 – Anglesey

Walk the Wales Coast Path

Prologue

The Anglesey Coast Path is around 140-miles and has been on my bucket-list for many years. I’ve only been to Anglesey once when I was working for Welsh Water. It’s a unique place like any small island community is, so I was really looking forward to this.

​_Anglesey Coast Path (including map, GPS files and statistics)

Day 4 – (Part 2) Bangor to Penmon

12.42 Miles, 832′ Ascent, 4:01:30 Elapsed

It’s around 14:00 as I cross the Menai Bridge in Bangor and head towards Anglesey, this is where the adventure really starts – away from the tourist mecca of North Wales and I’m really looking forward to it. Anglesey is a relatively small island, but it will take me a week to walk around it.

It’s an emotional roller-coaster at the moment, and difficult to find anywhere to sleep tonight. Wild camping isn’t officially allowed in Wales, so you have to be discreet and set-up late, leave early and leave no trace. There’s a beautiful spot near a place called Puffin Island, but loads of tourists, so I carry on and eventually find a nice, hidden spot to pitch-up.

Day 5 – Penom to Amwlch

26.57 Miles, 2946′ Ascent,11:02:31 Elapsed

Had a good nights sleep, another hot day – not many notes from today and it was probably a pretty boring walk – sometimes you have days like this, it can’t always be adventure and extreme!

It was so hot and there are no water sources on this stretch, I’m so dehydrated it’s really beginning to hurt. Eventually I find an freshwater inlet and get out my water filter and drink as much as I can, fill up my water bottles and start feeling better.

It’s a wild camp tonight, I’m exhausted from the heat.

Day 6 – Amlwlch to Penryhn Bay

29.53 Miles, 3809′ Ascent,11:55:54 Elapsed

I found a Co-Op in the little town of Amlwch the morning and re-supplied with food, and water I was also really dehydrated after walking more than a marathon the previous day  on one of the hottest ever days in the UK. Not many notes from today, and the West coast of Anglesey is not that inspiring anyway

Day 7 – Penryhn Bay to Treaddur Bay

25.69 Miles, 2037′ Ascent, 11:57:21 Elapsed

It was a good start to the day, walking to Penhros Country Park which was a great change to all the road and coastal walking. I had a coffee along the way and was looking forward to breakfast at a local cafe but it wasn’t to be as it was closed.

Later in the afternoon I stopped at a caravan park for a swift pint and, as I was wearing my Dragon’s Back 2015 t-shirt, overheard a couple of chaps talking about the race. So, I turned around and said hello and it turned out we have some mutual friends! Small world… So we had a few beers, laughed and told stories of adventures – good times!

I meet a couple of lads who are doing the 140-mile Anglesey Coast Path. I saw them a day ago as I was setting up camp, but today – they walk past as I’m having a coffee and say hello. They’re from Aberdovey and do a long hike every year so are fascinated by my adventures. I let them go on ahead, but we agree to meet up for a drink at the next town.

I head off after re-supplying at a Co-Op with a few beers for good measure and return to the Coast Path. I find a nice, secluded spot to pitch-up and enjoy the sunset and then spot the two boys who also have a few drinks with them, We spend the night drinking, watching the sunset and laughing – one of the highlights of my adventure!

Day 8 -Treaddur Bay to Newbourough Forest

29.71 Miles, 1664′ Ascent, 11:32:46 Moving Time

My notes say that I felt yesterday was awesome, but I’m feeling low in the morning but pick-up after an hour-or-so of walking. This is pretty normal for me, and one of the reasons I do these strange activities!

I’m still adapting to trail life, my back hurts and I have to take ibuprofen for the pain, also very tired. I try to stay in the moment and not think about the end which seems like a long way off. My notes say that I no longer want a hotel, proper bed, shower or clean clothes!

It was very hot again, so finding and carrying water was a challenge but I have a water filter so can use any freshwater source. After my experience on The Arizona Trail and having drunk some of the nastiest water you can imagine I’m prepared!

Coming around the top of Anglesey is a revelation. The boring road and beach walks move into a forest, and I love forests – especially pine forests. They’re also very easy to wild camp in so I find a nice spot and spend the night under the stars on a lovely soft bed of pine needles.

Day 9 -Newborough Forest to Bangor

22.91 Miles, 1198′ Ascent, 7:52:36 Moving Time

Yesterday was great, the forest is an amazing place to wake-up in, fragrant and teeming with wildlife and birdsong. Today I will finish the Anglesey section, head back to Bangor and then head south on the Wales Coast Path. It’s a mixture of emotions as I know there’s still a long way to go and I’ve enjoyed Anglesey.

But, once I’m out of Newbourogh Forest the trail becomes very dull so, when I cross the Menai Straight again I’m actually quite glad that it’s over! I decide to treat myself to a hotel for the night as I haven’t had a shower or washed anything for a week. This is the way of life on the trail!

Next up – The Llyn Peninsular

 

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The Wales Coast Path Part 1 – North Wales Coast

Prologue

Back in 2012, the Wales Coast Path opened – which is a continuous trail around the coastline around Wales and officially 870 miles. Ever since I’d heard about it – it was on my bucket list. I live in Cardiff, South Wales and love nothing more than the sea so this was going to have to be done!

From the official website (link)

Walk the Wales Coast Path

I’d been contracting for a while but was now free and visiting my sister in Epsom so, while a bit bored a light bulb came on. I decided to go back to Cardiff, pack my rucksack and head to the start of the trail in Chester.

I normally write my blogs soon after finishing while memories are fresh, so these blog posts may vary in detail. I also didn’t really take any photos on this trip – having come off social media a few years ago. And, hey – it’s the Coast Path, most of it looks the same and when you’ve seen one cliff-top, sandy beach and promenade – you’ve seen them all.

What is the Wales Coast Path? - Wales Coast Path

Day 1 – Chester to Baglitt

19.68 Miles, 1074′ Ascent, 6:01:30 Moving Time

I leave my hotel in Chester and hit the trail, it’s a boring canal walk to the coast – about 20 miles. I stop off for some chips in Baglitt but there’s nothing special here. My pack feels heavy and I’m just getting used to to the hiking again. It’s a hotel tonight as I’m not ready to start camping just yet.

Day 2 – Baglitt to Abergele

27.92 Miles, 1280′ Ascent, 9:02:27 Moving Time

Another relatively easy day of walking, aside from walking into a relentless westerly wind which – when I finally hit the coast sandblasts me for what seems like hours. North Wales is a mecca for holiday makers, especially in what would become one of the hottest summers on record. It was was well over 30C and I was drinking gallons of water and sweating like an innocent man on death row! However, I’m more motivated and optimistic and a few coffees and a bit of food lift my spirits and I continue on to find a campsite for the evening.

Day 3 – Abergele to Llanfarfechan

33.43 Miles, 2008′ Ascent, 10:08:02 Moving Time

It had been my first night in the tent so I didn’t sleep well and was tired when I woke up. But this is how life is on the trail, so I was up at 05:00 and back on the road by 06:30. It was really hot, one of the hottest days ever recorded in the UK so I was sweating and having to drink loads again.

My grandparents are buried nearby, so I make a diversion and go and pay my respects. I clean the gravestone and leave 4 wild daises, (one for each of our family) plus a memento from me. Then I go to McDonalds and order the biggest, nastiest burger they have and wolf it down outside so not to offend the locals by the smell of a thru-hiker.

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Then I walk through Llandundo which is packed with tourists and as I walk along the promenade someone shouts “Hola Perigrino” – literally Hello Pilgrim! I have a Camino de Santiago patch sown onto my pack, and I guess I’m pretty recognisable as a hiker with my hat and pack!

The shouter, (I forget his name) has a little hut and rents deckchairs to holidaymakers and was/is/has doing the Camino de Santiago in a few weeks. We rested and chatted for a good couple of hours, talking about the Camino which was one of the defining moments of my life. I’ve spoken to many people about The Camino who are nervous about it, but it’s one of those things you just have to “buy the ticket, take the ride”. He was great though, and I really enjoyed the conversation.

After that there’s a big climb over the Great Orme which had a diversion for some reason. It was the hottest day of the year and water was in short supply but I got through it. My journal just talks about the heat so it must  have been bad!

I found a campsite for the night at a place called Platt’s Farm, so got there – cleaned myself up and went to bed. It had been a tough day.

Day 4 (Part 1) – Llanfarfechan to Bangor

15.6 Miles, 125′ Ascent, 4:51:24 Moving Time

I enjoy the night at Platt’s Farm and sleep well though wake up sore and tired from the previous days walking and just getting used to this new life. I’m clean, my electronics are all charged-up and I’m getting ready for the assault on Anglesey which has it’s own official coastal path which is also classified as a National Trail. It’s been a pretty boring walk so far, through crowds of sunburnt tourists, (mainly from Liverpool) but things should start to calm down now I’m moving away from the golden sandy beaches and I’m looking forward to Anglesey.

My feet are very sore, still adapting to the stress of walking 20+ miles a day and carrying 15kg on my back every day, but after a while the pain goes away. I set off from the campsite at Platt’s Farm which is a friendly, but strange campsite. There’s lots of homeless people who are housed here in tents so it’s an eclectic place, but everyone is friendly and I have a chat to a family who are cooking-up bacon outside on the way. They offer me a bacon sandwich – yes please!

One of the saving graces of the internet is that you can order stuff to be delivered to any location from eBay/Amazon etc. So I decide that my shoes have had enough and order a new pair to be delivered to a Post Office a hundred miles away or so. I didn’t use this strategy much throughout the trip, but when you need something specific – it’s a life saver and I will definitely exploit it on my next adventure.

I decide to start becoming more mindful, and instead of thinking of how far it is to the end – just being in the moment and taking it “One Day At A Time”, call it mindfulness, meditation, being in the moment or whatever – and it helps.

I get to Bangor and need some gas for my Jetboil stove, so find an outdoors store – but they don’t have any so have to walk a couple of miles out of town to a shopping complex and find some – fab, this means I can now have coffee, porridge and noodles – my staples when hiking. While I’m there I stock-up on the afore-mentioned supplies, ready for my assault on Anglesey.

Once done, it’s time to cross the Menai Bridge and walk around Anglesey which we’ll pick up in Part 2

To Be Continued

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