Sunday, 27 March 2016

Escaping Gogonia Before the Arrival of Storm Katie

It seems like an awfully long time since we hauled back from Exmoor last October, not that the time in between has been without little breaks.  We've been away on short breaks to Chester, London and the Midlands, but while a Travelodge serves a purpose they get nowhere close to being away in our caravan.

Easter is early this year, very early and our destination has changed regularly over the long and dark nights since Xmas.  The original plan was to head to The Lake District, but having booked a site and then done some follow up research, it appeared that the said site had poor to signal, no wifi nor did it have a mobile phone signal.  Added to that was that it hadn't stopped raining since October and the area was hit by flooding once again, I was rapidly going off the idea.

We liked our brief stint in North Yorkshire a few years back, so this was to designation number 2, on the moors just outside Whitby. All was settled until a few nights ago when Roids' team progressed to the next round of the cup.  I knew our jaunt to Heartbeat country was doomed when we learnt that the next round was to be played on Good Friday, when we were set to be pitched up some 330 miles away.

Some rapid finger swiping was required, and a new plan hatched.  We are to spend 4 nights in the Peak District before breaking camp and hauling back down through Wales to pitch up at St Davids in Pembrokshire.

That didn't really go smoothly either, with it being Easter pitches are at a premium so I reserved a pitch at the first site that had vacancies pop north.Later checking out the reviews it was apparent that the site booked was lacking somewhat in the ability to connect with the outside world, so more rapid finger swiping was required to find a decent alternative.

All was well until Sunday night when I started having doubts about towing 230 miles each way for just 3 days, so a final plan was hatched.

Monday 21 March

We are woken by bright sunshine streaming through the blinds and looking outside reveals clear blue skies.  Herself pops over to see Creaky and Grumbles while I inch the van out and hitch up ready for the off.  We're on the road before 9am and the roads are surprisingly quiet for a Monday morning.

We lose the sun behind a blanket of low fog just outside Carmarthen and give Roids a virtual wave in his student digs as we skirt the town Making decent headway is never easy in this part of the world especially if you're towing and get stuck behind a coach and HGV, but at least is gives you more time to appreciate the scenery.

We plough on through Lampeter, Aberystwyth and Machynllell (noting the distinct lack of unaccompanied children in the town) before following signs for a woodland picnic area to stop off and have a stretch. There were some rather wierd wood carvings on display too, Any ideas as to what it's supposed to be?

We're pulling in through the Caravan Club's Coed Y Llwyn site gates at just after 12 and the warden points us in the direction of a huge pitch down the end of a cul de sac that's unlikely to have any more occupants this week

Pitching up was far from easy, whilst the gravel on top was nice and soft, lurking just 3 inches below the surface was bedrock.  I bent half a dozen rock pegs and smashed my fingers 3 times trying to peg out.  Add to this that I was starting to get really hungry and my temper started to fray The dogs were straining on their peg outs trying to get back into the safety of Vera's boot and Herself had just gone very quiet, as she knows that when I'm in that frame of mind silence is the safest option.

When done we take the dogs over to the dog walk for a stretch before quizzing the dizzy female warden about where we could get a meal at this time of day (2.30pm). She was less than helpful so after 10 mins we set off in the general direction of Porthmadog.  We pass a fine establishment that we used 11 years ago when we were last up here before stopping off at a camping place to pick up anew shower mat.  Cruising the street was a fruitless experience as everywhere was either closed or not doing food until after 5pm.

One change since my last blog is that I've been diagnose T2 diabetic, and should really eat food regularly, I've not eaten yet today and things are getting a little fraught.  We give up on Porthmadog and made tracks for the hotel we'd bypassed earlier.  I went in to enquirer if they were going food.  The Gog lass behind the bar say that they were, I turn on my heels to go and retrieve Herself from the comfort of Vera and the lass then adds that they stopped serving 10 mins ago!

We should really have called it a day there and then, but I'm now on a mission and am scaring Herself.  Apparently I turn into this person that she doesn't like very much when I'm hungry.  With blood sugars plummeting we make for the lake at Trawsfynnydd which the Internet informs me has a fantastic cafe.  Pulling into a parking space in Gwyndaff Evans stylee not all the chippings had hit the floor before we are out of the car and making our way to the front door.

They stopped serving food at 3pm also!

Herself is now getting worried as anglers are diving for cover as I doughnut Vera out of the car park and onto the North Wales A and B roads like I'm on some sort of Tarmac Rally!  We need a tourist trap, and we need one fast.  Hurtling towards Betws Y Coed we stopped in vain at numerous establishments along the way, some closed totally and others not serving until 6.30pm.

Once the red mist has settled some time later I did feel sorry for some wet looking manager at a hotel on a back road.  I'd stormed through the front door and asked "Are you doing food?" with a reply of "No sorry, not until ....." for me to interrupt with a "What good is that to me?" as I exited the establishment.

We coast into Betws y Coed and everyone is in walking boots with a rucksack on their back.  I spy loads of hikers at outside the Royal Oak and some of them are eating.  We park up, order food at the bar and take a window seat.  Just as our food arrives and I'm about to take my first anch out of my burger, Herself chirps up "Is that a pay and display machine there?"

Leaving my food to get cold, it's a race between me and the goon with the wheel clamp.  I won, but what sort of git puts a pay and display machine in a pub car park?

We ate our food, which was average at best, and all is now well with the world.  We take a quick look around Cotswold Outdoors, sucking in large quantities of air through our teeth at the prices, before leaving and heading back to site.

Early night tonight, Nos Da.

Tuesday 22 March

It's dry when we wake and take the dogs down to the dog walk for them to carry out some necessary functions, before we return to the van for a light breakfast.

We plan to do some walking today, and with full rucksacks loaded into Vera we head in the direction of the mountains.  Cruising the roads we spot a lovely path that follows the railway and Afon Glasyn.  Parking up in Beddgelert's free car park I shoulder my daysack and we lead the dogs.  We cross the footbridge so are walking on the opposite bank to that which has Gelert's grave.  The path starts off with a good surface and the going is good,  Soon though the concrete gives way to hardcore and after a while that gives way to uneven flags.

Herself is starting to thank her lucky stars that she put on her old walking boots.  I get into trouble for waving rather too enthusiastically at the steam train as we make our way southwards towards Aberglasyn.

Things start to get a little tricky though.  The flagstone path soon gives way to steps.  These are no ordinary steps as the rise is a good 400mm and are not doing Herself's knackered knees any good.  Cerys is also starting to give me dirty looks.

The path soon turns into a clamber over rocks, with some sections too narrow to pass without hanging onto steel handholds drilled into the rock face.

We make it to Aberglasyn and perch on a rock to eat our picnic.  We contemplate walking back along the road briefly, but witness one near miss, which was enough to put us off.

Herself doses up on Ibuprofen before bracing herself for the return 2 mile slog back to Beddgelert.

In all it was a 4 mile walk, out and back, and I'd estimate that 1 1/2 of that was a clamber over rocks.  Before returning to the car we take an outside table at the Saracen's Head for a well earned pint with a view of the surrounding mountains.

We detour to Porthmadog and pay a visit to the Gelert outdoor store, where I buy myself a pair of lined walking trousers.

Back on site we chill for the evening before having another early night.  Nos Da.

Wednesday 23 March

The plan was to get up early today as I'd been informed that today was market day in Pwlleli.  the internet bills it as the biggest market in Wales.

The early start didn't happen though.  Herself wakes me at 10am, having slept the clock around.  scrambled eggs and toasted muffins are presented to me before we freshen up and pile into Vera, heading in the general direction of Llyn.

Pwllheli did not give the best of first impressions, and I can tell that Herself has written the place off before we've parked up.  We find a spot to park and I amble up to the machine.  I'm stumped though, I mean this is a BIG market and do I pay for 1, 2 or 3 hours?  In the end I feed enough coins into the slot for 2 hours and we eagerly set off in the direction of the biggest market in Wales.

We round the corner by Lidl and both groan with a collective sigh of dismay.  Is this it?  It had taken me longer to fish the loose change out of my pocket in the car park than is would take us to wander around this shopping Oasis!

All was not totally lost though as we treated ourselves to half a cow's arse for tea and Herself bagged a new big fleecy blanket for sitting outside if we ever get a summer again.  The dogs hadn't had time to mist up the windows by the time we returned are are somewhat perplexed, expecting us to retrieve something and head off back out.

We couldn't wait to leave Pwllheli, but the shithole has one last trick up it's sleeve to keep us there longer.  The one way system!  Round and round we went before being spat out onto the A499 in the general direction of Abersoch.

We're on the lookout now for somewhere to walk with the dogs. Traffic is moving swiftly and out of the corner of my eye I catch the sign to the beach hiding behind the bushes.  Upsetting a lorry driver I slam on and test Vera's traction to the full veering sharply to the left, making the turn ....just!

The narrow lane took us to a National Trust car park .. free for members .. we are not though, but I'm delighted to see the wooden cabin locked and unoccupied, not a yellow vest in sight.  I'm almost skipping n my seat when Herself nudges me and points to the pay and display machine!

With the dogs on leads we descend the steps onto a narrow lane that leads to the fantastic open beach at Llanbedrog.  Once unclipped both Tali and Gwawr run their legs off, making the most of the open space and shallow pools left behind by the low tide.  It really is quite a scenic setting.

We're making our way towards the low tide line when Herself asks me what the pipeline to our right would be carrying.  My straightforward answer of shit was not the one she was expecting and the dogs are quickly called back for us to change tack.  We hit the low tide line and head east along the length of the beach towards the headland before making our way back up to the dunes and heading back to the slipway.

At the head of the slipway is a nice cafe with a viewing terrace overlooking the beach.  We take a table and share a bacon baguette and chips, washed down with a large German beer each.  Bliss.

Time to hit the road again towards the tip of Llyn to take a look at Abersoch.  The place strikes us as a little up itself so we didn't stop.  Instead turning back and heading to the north coast of Llyn.

The scenery is spectacular, mountains to our left and the sea to our right.  We don't travel as far as Caernarfon, but make tracks for home, skirting Snowdonia.

Back at the van I settle down in the awning for a while, catching up on facebook until herself has finished cremating the steaks we bought earlier.

Another full on day today.  Nos Da

Thursday 24 March

It hammered down overnight, and is still decidedly moist when we eventually open the blinds.

I know the saying goes that there's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, but I'm in no hurry to get out there in this today.  Our Derek is promising that it's in for the day, so much of it will be spent in the confines of Vera.  The maps are dug out and a plan is hatched along with a little help from my mate Google.

We head south towards Bala, and as we approach the town I note that Vera's tank is getting a bit low, which is no good for what I have planned.  I pull into a fuel station on the outskirts of the town and am horrified to note that the robbing Gog git is charging 8p more a litre than Tesco in Porthmadog.  I put in the bare minimum!

Whilst paying I take the opportunity to quiz the Gog about my intentions for the day.  he was very helpful actually. getting the maps out and everything for me.  But his Gog accent was that thick i couldn't understand a word he was saying.

For those of you who have never heard a Gog accent, let me enlighten you.  Imagine someone talking to you with a very high pitched nasal whine.  Now also imagine that when that person also has a mouthful of Mars Bar. Are you following me?

We spin out of the forecourt and take the minor roads over Conllwyd Isaf and up onto the Bwlch y Groes.  This mountain pass is the highest mountain pass in Wales and I'm looking forward to the drive.  herself is also comfortable as the increasingly sheer drops are on my side of Vera as we climb.  We pull into the car park at the high point and wrap up against the elements.  Signs warn us that we are in sheep country and that we are legally obliged to keep our dogs on a lead.  I look around and the weather is that bad that all the sheep are hiding somewhere from the weather.

We climb up onto the ridge and hunker down against the wind.  Herself gets 20m before telling me I can go forth and multiply, she is retreating to Vera.  I make a show of wanting to carry on, but to be honest the rain was like chippings hitting my face and I could take no more so followed her back with my tail between my legs.

Back in the comfort of Vera I turned on the heated seats and sat on my hands for 5 mins to get some feeling back.  We take a left and follow the pass towards Lake Vyrnwy stopping every now and then to gasp at the scenery.

Once at the lake we embark on an anticlockwise loop, stopping off to take a look at some of the biggest picnic tables I've ever seen.

We then turn off the B4393 at Rhiwargor and follow the mountain pass towards Bala.  The scenery is again breathtaking, and the weather even opened up briefly to enjoy some time in the wilderness with the dogs, without the need to wear a coat.

We got to Bala, were not too impressed with it so drove straight through it heading back towards site.

We have a job to do first though, you see our fan heater is caput, and is no longer pumping out any heat whatsoever, but is doing an excellent job of circulating the freezing cold air.  It's cats and dogs as we pull into Dolgellau, but take a look around before diving into a hardware store starightout of the 1970s.  They have a fan heater though, and at £20 represents good value.

@DerekTheWeather is promising a good day tomorrow and after today we want to make the most of it.  An early night is called for.  Nos Da.

Friday 25 March

Good Friday, and the sun is shining as I peel myself from the sheets at 7am.  I take the dogs for a walk while Herself gets our packed lunch ready.  We throw some breakfast down our necks before heading off out and making tracks North.  Gigs on and music blasting we've not a car in the world and are crossing the Britannia Bridge onto Ynys Mon by 10:30am.

We were waved straight through border control without having to show our passports and both agreed that we'd stop at the next village we came to for a look around.  You are left in no doubt whatsoever as to where you are in the world as you enter llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogeryllllgogogoch, as there are signs everywhere, and I mean everywhere.  They really do like to make a big thing of it.

We're cruising down the main street, it's bright and sunny and not a puddle in sight.  I'm intrigued by what seems to be a stream flowing down from a car park onto the road.  It's not rained for hours, so where can all this fluid be coming from.

My questions are answered as soon as we pull left into the station car park.  Not only do they have llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogeryllllgogogoch running the length of the platform, but also an English phonetic version running below to encourage our Anglo Saxon neighbours to try and pronounce it.  the sign has been there for years but no doubt is covered by CCTV these days, with the local gathering round at parties to watch replays of our Anglo Saxon brethren launching globules of phlegm at each other trying to get their tongues around it.

As we park up Vera I see a group of them at the source of the phlegm river giving it a good go.  We wade towards the craft shop to pick up some shit to take back to the olds.

Our plans are to do the island in an anticlockwise route so head towards Beumaris first, the place is heaving and they want £5 to park up.  Not too bad if you're stopping all day, but too much for just a quick nose.We follow the Beumaris Rd as it hogs the shores of the Menai Strait, pausing to take in the views of the Menai Bridge and Ynys Gorad Goch.  This island is accessed only by boat and has a smoke house on it to treat fish that are trapped by walls as the ide recedes.

We continue on to llangoed, where park up, shoulder our rucksacks and set off on a long walk.  herself had looked at the map on the board while I got the dogs out of the boot, we're about 1/4 mile down the track of what is promised to be a 4 1/2 mile circular walk when I ask her where the path leads. "I don't know, I thought you would look at the map after me, so didn't take much notice."

The path was muddy, very muddy as it wound it's way over the marshes towards the coast.  We stumble across what I can only describe as heaven on earth.  We found a deserted beach on the Menai strait with stunning views over the water of Snowdon.  We pinch ourselves before perching on some rocks to enjoy an early picnic lunch in silence.  Some moments are just special.

We prize ourselves away from our beach to continue on our circular walk with the uphill return getting the blood pumping.  The dogs get thrown in the river to clean off before being allowed back in Vera to continue our anti clockwise loop.

We follow the roads north cruising through a few packed resorts as we travelled.  The scenery is a little  more bleak on the north coast and we stop off at Church Bay for a bit of a blow.  it's rather bracing down on the beach.

A few beers wash down a turkey baguette and chips outside the cafe that's doing a roaring trade ensure that energy levels are replenished before setting off to make our way down the west coast.  We call at Rhosneigir and Aberfraw which are both busy before stopping on the A4080 just south to walk over the burrows towards the coast.

There are rabbits everywhere and Tali is going bonkers, even trying to give chase to a few!

Before too long our circuit of Ynys Mon is complete and we're making out way back over the bridge onto the mainland.

It was whirlwind tour, and we probably didn't do it justice in a day, but we loved the place and will be back.

On site I just about make it past tea time before I fall asleep.  It's been  along day.  Nos da

Saturday 26 March

@DerekTheWeather is spreading his doom and gloom again, well it is a bank holiday weekend!  The wind picked up overnight and Herself didn't rest very well.  However when I woke at 7am is was still dry, though not expected to stay that way for long.

Rather that worry about the awning all day I decided to take it down a day early and pack it away dry and in one piece before Storm Katie arrives in full force.

We're still eating breakfast as the heaven open, and boy did it come down.  We head towards Caernarfon with the intention of doing a bit of shopping.  We find some space remarkably easily in the multi story car park, feed some coins into the machine and head off out into the monsoon to do some retail therapy.

Now I know it was peeing down and we didn't see the place in its best light, but the over riding impression is that Caernarfon is a shithole.  we didn't stop long.

We make our way to Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon and stop in the car park so the dogs can have a stretch.  The weather has really closed in and the mountain is is invisible.

We tale refuge in as tea shop where I am mugged for two cakes and a pot of tea.  Having also spent far too much in the gift shop we hit the road again and make our way over the Llanberis Pass.  Even in this weather it is breathtaking.  The skies are still emptying at an alarming rate and the surface water run off is alarming.  I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Down the other side we follow the road as it winds its way to Beddgelert and remark about how foolish some are making their way up Snowdon in this weather!  through the village we park up adjacent to the swollen river, put on our coats and take a walk next to the torrent.

We collect a Chinese takeaway en route back to site and batten down the hatches for the night.

Sunday 27 March

The weather didn't let up much overnight, and I see that the awning two pitches up has not fared very well.  Al the pegs have ripped out and the owner has resorted to reversing his car onto the mud skirt to hold it down.

We are all packed and hitched up by 10am to start our long journey south.  Apart from the lashing rain and howling wind the journey was uneventful, and we were home in 3 1/2 hours, incident free.

Oh, we never made it to West wales as on Wednesday we received the news that Roids' game was cancelled, so in another twist we changed our plans to stay in Gogonia for a few more nights and escape before Storm Katie hits proper on Monday morning.

Until next time.  Da Bo!