Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pembrookeshire Walk

I arrived at Newgale midday ready to walk 50 miles up the famous Pembrookeshire Coast Walk, a 186 mile walk along the wild Welsh east coast from Cardigan to near Tenbigh. My pack had been packed and repacked several times with the goal of lowering my carry weight. This was critical due to the weight of my camera equipment and I wanted success not crushing defeat.

After being dropped off by my cousin I looked at the trail climbing dramatically from the beach. I immediately started to question the fun of this venture but doggedly started on my way. Fortunately, being a photographer, I had the advantage of stopping every few feet to shoot a photo of the unfolding drama below. In reality I needed to catch my breath. I finally made it over the first hill only to find a long walk back to a beach level and then another climb, even steeper. This became the rhythm of the day till I arrived at the port village of Solva, a picturesque collection of buildings and pubs at the head of the bay. I gratefully quaffed 2 pints of reverend James Real Ale and devoured a plate of prawns. Refreshed I headed out for the next leg to Caerfi Bay which I arrived at, exhausted and sweaty, early in the evening. I was lucky to find a campsite, and luckier still that it was located next to a pub- the Welsh are so civilized!

Next step in the program was to set up my newly purchased ultra light, ultra modern tent. Being a reasonably bright man who always refers to instructions I learned that the first step in setting up this tent was to set it up at home first to get familiar with the process. Obviously I did not due this and paid the price in time and comments from passing campers (on their way to the pub of course). A typical comment I heard was "you shoulda set it oop at ome afore ya tried to do it ere yu know!" After an hour, Success. In my opinion it would have helped if the instructions were a little more clear but what the heck. The good news is that I made it to the pub with time for a meal.

Caerfi Bay is only a mile into St Davids City, the smallest city in Britain and home to the magnificent St Davids Cathedral named for the patron saint of Wales. Arriving in town I decided to spend the day to take in the sights and do a bunch of photos. The real reason was aching muscles and feet from the previous day. I found a B&B for the night figuring one night in a tent was already suffering enough and it was time for some well deserved pampering. I soon found the best cappuccino in all of Wales and I was happy. I explored St Davids cathedral and walked the town taking lots of photos. Also found the Farmers Arms, the city's most popular watering hole. Life was now complete. I then walked a couple of miles out to St Justinians on the coast where I took a jet boat ride around Ramsey Island, a bird sanctuary. Saw amazing landscapes, some of the highest sea cliffs in all of Britain and deep sea caves going deep into the cliff walls. Returned at dusk for a long walk back into town and my soft bed.

The next day I explored and photographed the empty town in the early morning before a full English breakfast at the B&B. The breakfast room was full of grey haired couples who all seemed to know each other. It turns out that the men were all members of the famous Welsh Men's Choir in town for their annual performance in the cathedral famous for it's acoustics. They gave me a cd as I could not make the performance as they reminisced of their past visits to Victoria. I left, full and replenished and walked back to St Justinians to rejoin the coast walk. Five minutes up the first hill something made a funny twang in my right calf and I was soon hobbling along the rail with a badly pulled muscle. I crippled my way into the next campsite at Whitesands Beach and set up my tent there. I spent the day walking the damage out and limped back into St Davids for a revitalizing cappuccino and dinner. I also got lucky and got to hear the Welsh Men's Choir doing their rehearsal and now appreciate the famed accoustics of the cathedral. Then another walk, slowly back to Whitesands.
Day 3 I left the camp set up at Whitesands and walked slowly back along the coast between Whitesands and Caerfi Bay arriving in St Davids exhausted and hurting badly. Reverend James generously provided some excellent medicine and I walked back in the dark to Whitesands.
Day 4 I again left the tent set up and walked the wildest part of the coast from Whitesands to Trevine stopping only in at Porthgain Harbour to meet my old friend R James. This was an 11 mile hike up and down some of the most rugged hills. My arrival in Trevine was heralded by rain and major exhaustion. Every muscle ached and getting up from the pub table was equivalent to raising the dead. I now what it will feel like when I am 100 years old. Fortunately there was a bus back to the campsite and an oncoming gale that had emptied the site of all my neighbours apart from a very drunk group of youths who generously sang me to sleep.
I woke up on my final day to grey skies and slugs in my tent. Four buses and 8 hours later I completed the last 100 miles of my adventure back to Ammanford and the welcoming soft bed of my cousin's house.