Waylaid and Weighed Down

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post since Wednesday morning when I knew I would have to write it. Which ultimately has made it even more difficult to do.  Unfortunately I’ve come down with a rather large ill. It came upon me on Thursday and I attempted to battle on. I made it through the bank holiday weekend with the the procurement of a variety of tablets and potions by my mother and some how fought on till Tuesday.

Tuesday was my ultimate breaking point. I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other despite my internal agony, inability to think straight and rising fever. I struggled to maintain a pace of 2km an and spent most of the day in tears and utter anguish. It was when I realised that I was barely making 1km an hour something had to give. I phoned for my rescue amidst desperate sobs barely able to speak. Somehow I dragged myself to Pwll Deri YHA were a lovely german couple let me in fed me a cup of tea and I promptly fell asleep on a table. 

After a series of doctors appointments and test, one where they stole my blood. Less than happy about that I’ve been told I can’t walk until Monday at the earliest. At the moment I still find myself incredibly fatigued. A simple walk to the Drs wipes me out for hours and I cant seem to battle this bug. Hopefully by Monday I’ll be fighting fit and back to action. 

But for my walk this means some seriously alterations in plans. I’m certain now I wont reach the end of the path before the end of my unpaid leave. This means that I will have to come back to finish and I’m bloody well damned to do so. Even if it takes every spare day I have between now and Christmas. The upside to this is that I can take away some of the pressure to complete massive days and I can walk as far as I feel able. 

As I’m sure you can imagine this is a massive disappoint to me. But, I will still do what I set out to achieve. Just in a slightly different way. But for now looking after myself has to be a priority.  

Meirionnydd and Ceridigion a Whistle Stop Tour

In what I frequently fondly refer to Schrodinger’s walk as I’m both perpetually busy but also somewhat doing nothing. Through my time in sections 4 and 5 I found myself all together either too busy or too exhausted to post an update. So you’ll have to excuse this retrospective view and my somewhat hazy recollection. 

I stormed my way through Meirionnydd and Ceridigion. These short sections helped me to forge my way down the coast in a week. The path is is direct and there less headlands and bays than other sections. Not a satisfying dent in the mileage but a satisfying dent in the map.

The other bonus of this section is that Meirionnydd is home. With this in mind I knew I friends houses to look forward to and the great delight of a night in my own bed and an opportunity to catch up with friends. Nothing quite spurs your on like the knowledge of home (and a G&T). 

The path through Meirionnydd is less than arduous and took what felt like next to no time to complete, starting in Penrhyndeudraeth and finishing in Borth. Encompassing Portmeirion, Shell Island, the Dyfi Estuary and a nudist beach along the way. 

Ceridigion was an entirely different battle. So as it turns out signposting for the path in Ceridigion is less than brilliant here I spent a good amount of time looking at the map and being all together confuse. Ceridigion has it’s own coast path and uses way markers and signage for that with only a smattering of reference to the WCP. This is particularly interesting when what appears to be the path and sign leads you to part way up a rather large cliff which you and your rather large rucksack then proceed to scale mostly on your hands and knees deeply aware of the fact that if anything you’re holding onto breaks you’re probably going in the sea. As you can tell, my mission was a success and I managed to avoid falling into the sea. 

The coast path in Ceridigion passes through a number of sleepy coastal villages many of which I’m sure are lovely spots to stop if you have the time. One I did stop in was Llangranog the halfway point of the path. I’d resolved that from my ridiculous budget I deserved a treat so flopped out of the wind into a cafe in hope of a cup of tea. Well I got rather a lot more than I had hoped for there. A couple of ladies were enjoying there cake recognised me from seeing me walking earlier. I told them about my challenge and was duly reward with the most amazing slice of carrot cake and a cup of tea. Budget in tact and belly extremely satisfied an excellent way to mark halfway. 

One place I was taken with on my journey through Ceridigion was Aberporth a beautiful and friendly little village. Here has definitely made the list of places I want to revisit and the sightings of cetaceans in the area definitely helped that.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. 
– Maya Angelou

 

Sunshine strolls on the Llyn Peninsula

I’m currently sat in the sunshine about to indulge in a classic Saturday morning breakfast, bacon. But yesterday things didn’t seem quite so rosy.

After a long hard day of pounding the tarmac with Amy in moderately warm weather I was ready for a day of coastal bliss. Which naturally the path did not deliver.

Friday was a big day, one I was attempting to make even longer to make it the lifeboat station in Morfa Nefyn. But more on that later.

I started my day with a 15km trudge on amazon road. Tarmac taunting me with every step. Never again will I complain about having to drive down a bumpy grassy lane. Now I live for a grass lane. I popped into a beautiful church in Clynnog Fawr and in true Penfold style I walked straight into the middle of a communion service. I’d intended to go and have a poke after seeing a building so beautiful. But instead settled on listening to part of the surface.

Then returning to the pounding of pavements I set off onwards towards Trefor. An old university haunt. Picnics were had here. I’d dived the pier. Here is where I was very much interested in an Ex. Here is also where I’d found at another partner had cheated on me. Something about this history and connection to Trefor both comforted and unsettled me. I felt my resolve dissolve around me. My little walking world didn’t seem to fit any more. It was lunch time. I hadn’t walked half way. My bag was the heaviest it’s ever been and I had a couple of mountains to climb and everything just slumped.

After a bit of a pep talk I carried on and climbed my mountains in the blistering heat.

I reached Nant Gwyrthen and refilled my water and enjoyed the most spectacular views. But every step felt like a difficulty. After chatting all day a phone call from Callum led to a good cry and a bit more positivity. As soon as we hung up I got a lovely message from a lady called Sue. She had a bed for me for the night and a BBQ! I cried again. This time happy tears. I was so thankful for the help in my hour of need. It was the boost I needed.

Not long later I met with a couple who were walking the entire coast of the uk in sections. They’d made their way anti-clockwise from Kent! We walked all the way to Nefyn and chatted about Outward Bound. He was an alumni from the 60’s desperate to know about OB today. I told a story about Amy meeting up with a skills for life student on our walk accidentally the day before and he decided my name was Amy.

Soon I reached Nefyn. All was to be well and night of luxury and prosecco followed!

Adventure does not come to those who wait.

Today’s blog comes from the luxury of a rest day. After yesterday’s success and milestone of completing Anglesey, and with it my 10th consecutive day of walking since my last rest day today’s rest is well earned and perhaps a little overdue.

At this point I have walked 341km. At some points I painstakingly trudge through willing my feet to take one step after the other. But largely for Anglesey I enjoyed fantastic scenery, interesting walking and at some points fantastic company. A stark distance from the “North Wales” section of the path. Although the path took a turn for the slow taking 10 days to circumnavigate Anglesey opposer to the 9 originally planned that extra day was definitely worth it. That extra day was the time to meet the fantastic lifeboat crews around the island, the time to see a wonderful podiatrist at Moelfre Podiatry (whom I couldn’t recommend more, I know have fully tape free almost pain free feet!) and the time to have a wonderful lazy morning in bed on Sunday. Lazy Sunday mornings come highly recommended in particular.

I have managed to stay in all manner of bizzare and unusual places: an artists caravan; a cliff top bivvy; and a rather smelly bird hide topping the list. I couldn’t be more grateful to the friends and strangers alike that have shown me great kindness with beds in so many homes and so much food to keep me going.

With 341km behind me it’s time too look forward to the Llŷn Peninsula. A 10 day section that will most likely be my most remote section of the path. Here I am least likely to be joined by my friends and it looks unlikely that I’ll be sleeping anywhere other than my tarp for my duration of this section. But I’m looking forward to the relative remoteness of the Llŷn and the new challenges that will bring.

So to finish a few life lessons from the path:

  • Do not hear powdered milk in a jetboil. It will explode. Repeating a second time will confirm this.
  • If the sun is shining it is wise to remove the wrist straps from your walking poles. Otherwise you will have ridiculous hand tan lines.
  • Don’t leave a compeed on your little toe for a week and a bit. It will make you toe start to die. This is less than ideal.
  • A mug shot is not a meal no matter how much you try to kid yourself it is.
  • If you wish to loose half a stone and gain a tan walk from Chester to Bangor and then round Anglesey.
  • Don’t kick the pole in your tarp. You will get a tarp in your face at 3am. It isn’t pleasant.
  • Don’t forget to check for ticks. Enough said. It was bloody humongous.

Though she be but little she is fierce

-Shakespeare

Sunshine, sand dunes and South Stack

I’ve reached the end of the my second week on the path and my eighth day on Anglesey. This past fortnight has been a complete whirlwind of emotions. From having a completely miserable time during my first week, suffering with my feet in the pouring rain whilst pounding the never ending stretches of tarmac to laughing and smiling in the sun on the sand this week on Anglesey.

Throughout my first week there were so many points where I was ready to give up. To give in and skulk back home with my tail between my legs. I’m so glad I didn’t. This last week especially on Anglesey has been brilliant. My feet are much better things are starting to work themselves out and I’m finding covering 20km upwards in a day easier and easier. Definitely not easy yet but certainly more than manageable. I’ve seen some beautiful stretches of coastline wonderful and varied. I’ve seen masses of seabird and a few cheeky seals. And I’ve met so many wonderful kind people whilst walking the path. It’s astounding how many people have donated money as I’ve walked; fed me cake and biscuits and generally been interested in what I’m up to. The kindness of those near to me and complete strangers means I’ve only had one night alone in my bivvy though a few more in my sleeping bag and I’ve rarely been without food.

The people who’ve walked with me on the path have been the most valuable. Putting the world to rights with Paul, listening to incredible tales of climbing days gone by with Pete and laughing and smiling till I could laugh no more with Callum. These people have lifted my spirit and given me a fresh resolve to carry on. Knowing I soon have people to walk with makes getting up each day a little easier.

I’m still worried and nervous about what the future on the path may hold but everyday I get more and more offers of help and support. I’m anxious about lonely life on the isolated Llyn Peninsula but certain it will all work out ok in the end. But for now here’s to sunshine, sand dunes and South Stack.

Everybody cries

Today it finally happened. I’d avoided it with great resolve. In fact I was rather pleased with my self. I’d been confronted by a mob of teenagers. Followed by strange men. Been rained on constantly. Been in constant pain. But today despite the sunshine and day rest I cried.

I didn’t want to cry. I’d been avoiding for this last week. Adamant that I was stronger than this. Adamant that for once I wasn’t going to be that person. Turns out I am that person.

If you know me well you’d know I hate confrontation, I can’t take criticism (I’m my own worst enemy on this one) and I cry all the time.

If you don’t know me well. Then I’ve been told I come across as rude, abrupt, stuck up, stand offish. The list goes on and I’m sure you get the idea. Something I’m working on though if you tell me this I’ll probably cry.

Today I was the person that cried. Walking along a beach. And then sitting on a beach. And then walking along a beach again. I had been so sure I wasn’t going to cry. Made sure I didn’t so many times. Stiff upper lip and get on with it stuff because crying doesn’t solve anything. Crying doesn’t help you walk that last 10km. You just get wet and snotty.

So I sat on my bag on the beach and I had a cry. And do you know what I didn’t feel any better. Not an ounce. I just looked ridiculous. My foot still really hurt and I still had 10km to walk. So I got up and I walked again. Every single step was agony. But here I am sat at Penmon point. I’ve made dinner and I’ve got a cup of tea. Now all I need is to walk a bit further to find somewhere to camp. Which I’m sure will also be agony.

The problem now is when is too much pain too much. I’m starting to get a bit concerned that A) my feet are more tape than feet and B) every step is excruciating pain. It’s pretty early on in the game to be in this much pain. I was told the first 5-10 days are the worst but I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean this bad. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…

Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it was this hard.

Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it was this hard. – Coldplay

This is a lyric that has been floating around my head with great indignation for the past three days. The most tumultuous three days in which I have considered at least 784 different outcome of this crazy stupid adventure. Here is an update from day one.

Day one was harder than I ever could have imagined or expected. After the realisation I’d booked the wrong train to Chester and that I wouldn’t start walking till 11:30 I whizzes through the welsh countryside passing snow on the ground a most unwelcome sight. Once finally completing my maiden voyage I arrived to rain and tarmac. Tarmac from this point onwards has become my mortal enemy. Funnily enough after 26 km and rain all day I was an emotional wreck and my feet were broken. If you were wondering you, probably aren’t. Don’t bother with the first day of the costal path. Chester to Fflint is a post industrial graveyard populated by teenagers who will intimidatingly surround you and ask for directions to Everest. The river Dee is straight flat and uninteresting. The highlight of my day was the Dee tidal bore, which I saw before I’d even left England. Fortunately when I failed miserably to find a spot to camp whilst being followed by the local youths. A bed was arranged in Ffynnongroew and I was officially saved. Main success of the day? I didn’t cry. I have no idea how, I wanted to a lot.

At a point of almost sacking it all in and going home I realised I couldn’t afford to live if I returned to normal life and that if this was as bad as it got I could probably manage a little bit longer. A pep talk from a few important people and I set to bed with a 5:15 alarm and a plan.

Fear and (self) Loathing

When Hunter S Thompson penned Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas its safe to say that he didn’t expect a girl about to set out on a rather long walk to find solace in a title or a quote. But here I am and here it is.

“Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing” – Hunter S. Thompson

This is probably not the most likely writing of someone who is about to embark on a journey or a grand adventure. Perhaps one should be quoting Muir, Scott or Hahn speaking of wonder and excitement. But today I quote a book based on chaos and turmoil. Apt I think for how I am feeling.  I am fearful and I am aware of my self-loathing. Not quite as prolific as Thompson’s title.  But it is my truth and this truth is part of my journey. And quite frankly this adventure already has my blood racing and I’m not there yet. 

As I contemplate the start of that next great adventure I become more aware that the challenge probably isn’t the fact that I’ve 870 miles to walk but more that I’ve got to motivate myself to get up everyday on my own and do it. No steam other than my own. No motivator other than myself and this is terrifying. It is not only the fear of failure that terrifies me so but the fact that I will have to spend 60 hideously long days launching one foot in front of the other in my own company. 

My own company. This is what I am dreading, as a hopeless extrovert I crave the attention from those around me and draw my strength from the praise and reward given by others. Something I’m not going to have for those tortuous days as I wander round wales by myself. Instead at the age of 27 I am going to have to learn to like myself. Presently this seems like the most gargantuan task I’m going to undertake. 

I am ever more aware of the flaws I posses. When I looked in the mirror this evening all I saw were my flaws. When I analyse my day I pick apart the mistakes I’ve made. When I think of the decision I’ve made I never feel good enough. Right now I’m not feeling ready for this adventure, not good enough nor brave enough. Though I’m not sure I’ve ever felt good enough for anything.  I’m not sure I’m ready to be stuck in the company of myself inside my own head picking apart my own psyche. But one thing is for certain it’s definitely going to be good for me. 

Recently I’ve begun to learn that it’s ok to make mistakes and that I can except my own. I can’t control every aspect of my life. And actual I’m an pretty alright human. But, always there is the niggling doubt that the world is judging me and I’m just not good enough. Except this time it isn’t and I am. And as long as I keep telling myself that I’m fairly sure it might just come true. As I embark on this journey the time to reflect and the time to learn who I really am and what I really want from this existence is going to be the most valuable part of the whole saga. The walk may be the challenge but it won’t be my only journey. 

So there it is I am just a girl. A small cog in this intricate mechanism of our world. Terrified and loathing but looking for change. 

Looking Forwards One Step at a Time

A while back I decided that I wanted to conquer 30 personal challenges before I turned 30. Some of them are books I’ve always wanted to read climbs I’ve always wanted to climb and places I’ve always wanted to visit. But the most out there and I’m still not entirely sure why I want to do it is to walk the Wales Coast Path. I could have chosen a much bigger grander adventure. Climb lots of mountains in the alps. Battle my way through a jungle. Climb something terrifyingly hard. One day those will be my adventures and I can’t wait to push myself to do the things I can only dream of. But for me this time it has to be Wales. Although I’m not Welsh, Wales is my home. I feel I belong to Wales and it is a part of me. To see every inch of it’s coastline, its beauty and splendour will be nothing short of magical. As they say in Wales for me my sense of hiraeth to Wales is what ties me to this land and puts wales in my heart. 

Now on paper thats fairly simple. It takes around 60 days and 870 miles. Thats a few weeks every now and then, the odd weekend here and there. Stay in some nice B&Bs, go camping. All rather leisurely. Except for some unholy reason I’ve decided thats not how I want to walk the coast path. I knew as soon as I decided to do this walk I wanted it to happen in two ways.

1. Solo, an adventure by myself.
I want to learn to be happy in my own company, have confidence in my own abilities and to do something for me that makes me proud of me, regardless of other peoples opinions of me. You see my entire career I’ve been made to feel as if I’m not good enough. Not fit enough, not strong enough, not brave enough. And almost always these feeling overcome me and I’m not brave enough and well I give up before I even try or even worse I lose complete faith in my abilities. On an almost daily basis I doubt my passions, my dreams and my goals. So solo. The only influence I can have on me is me. No-one else’s doubt or judgements. So i figure if I can do this. Have the resilience, determination and strength to walk around Wales. Well you can do anything after that. 

 

2. All in one go.
A Roald Dahl quote inspired me on this one. You see what’s the point in doing something if you don’t commit to it fully and completely. If you don’t complete immerse yourself in it you won’t reap that experience for it’s full potential. Walking the path in bits and pieces would be an amazing achievement. 870 miles is 870 miles regardless but, for me this has to be all in one. To push myself further than I’ve pushed myself before. Under my own steam and own determination. Because after all a week of walking isn’t really that hard. 

Once I’d decided on these two factors the rest grew somewhat organically. Walking round the coast of wales by yourself is no mean feat. The more I shared my plans and ideas the more I realised that this could be something outside myself. I have the luxury to take two months off work to go for a walk. Safe in the knowledge that when I’m done I’ll have family, friends and a home to return to. So with that in mind I have decided to fundraise for two charities Shelter and the RNLI. Shelter is a charity I feel passionately about. That in our modern society no-one should live in poverty. So I decided that whilst walking I could challenge myself just a little bit more. Because as if the walk wasn’t enough. So for the duration of my adventure I’ll be living in a bivvy bag and off £1  a  day. So thats 59 nights in what can only be described as a waterproof sock. Eating what I can only assume is going to be a whole bunch of cous-cous. Now I may be glutton for punishment but I’m not totally crazy, I will definitely be  accepting offers of help if I come across them. Be that a warm dinner, a bed for the night or just someone to walk and talk to. (Mum expect some distressed  phone calls about the state of my feet/body/hunger/hair). But every single mile will be walked by my feet. 

So thats it, thats the plan. There isn’t much to it really. One foot in front of the other. Try not to fall over too much and don’t be too much of a wuss. Be brave, be strong, be passionate. Because after all you can do anything if you put your mind to it. 

Find out more about the Wales Coast Path HERE.