Thursday, April 14, 2016

The start of the Pembrookeshire Coastal Path

Our first up close look at the beginning of our the Whitesands Beach and Bay.

The path marker as we left on the trail...

The Coastal Path is a Natural Treasure in Wales.  It is about 186 miles long and very rustic.  Very few services are available along the way - very different from the Camino where we had services every few kilometers.  Makes it challenging to find food.  We had all of our accommodations booked before we came so that is a big help.  Now it is just keeping up with the changes in food availability each day.

We made it as far as Abereiddi today.  The path is narrow, rocky, and muddy.  The progress is a lot slower than on the Camino.  For most it takes 7 hours to make 9-10 miles...according to hostel hosts.

The sun was shineing and the skies were blue as we started.  It was about 50 degrees which is nice for hiking.  We were excited, ready to start...looking forward to the challenge!

Around every bend was a new view.  Amazing!

Most of the rock in this section is slate.

This path is nice and wide, away from the cliffs.  Many times the path is at the edge of a cliff.  If you stumbled and tumbled and your backpack carried you very far, you could plunge over the side.  There are constant reminders to be careful!

That is Ramsey Island off in the distance.  You can take a boat ride around the island or visit the island to hike around.  Wildlife abounds.  Birders love it.

We made a side trip to St Davids Head - a destination for many day trips.  It was very pretty overlooking the bay, the island and the lighthouse off in the distance.

The weather was nice, we were excited and ready for our first day of hiking.

This is gorse...a flowery, thorny shrub in abundance along the path.

Many farms are along the path on our right.  We are seeing lots of sheep and some horses.
There are many old stone fences to keep them contained.

Here's Clark!  Setting the pace...

We go through many of these gates used to contain the animals and keep the, safe.

Beautiful vistas around every turn.

See how far you would fall if you aren't cafeful!

I stayed back at a safe distance.  

This little yellow arrow brought back memories of the Camino where the path was often marked by a yellow arrow.  The Coastal Path isn't marked quite as well, but so far we have only gotten lost one time - and we found our way back without too much back tracking.

See how close you are to the edge???

Not a fun way to die!

Lots of spring flowers in bloom along the path - many much like plants in the States.

Beautiful blue water - sometimes green water, sometimes muddy murky water.

Markers to cities off the path - most not real convenient or without services.  It's tricky!

By about 1:00 the clouds started rolling in.  It turned dark...and started to rain and hail (very small pea size).  Not fun to get soaking wet.  We did have rain gear but it's still not much fun.  Clark was feeling tired and his legs were really tired and hurting.  Carrying the backpack was a bit of a stretch.

Then our new French friend, Andy, happened along.  He offered to accompany Clark down to the next town.  He was an angel, carrying Clark's pack and encouraging him along the way.

This is a guest house that has been in Andy's in laws family for generations.  His wife has been going there all her life.  Now lot hers can enjoys it as his mother in law rents it out.  

Andy took all of us into a little town nearby to have a very late lunch/early supper.  It was very fun and refreshing after a trying afternoon.

Here,s the owner of The Sloop enjoying the company and serving the beer!

After lunch, Andy took us to the hostel where we planned to spend the night.  What a godsend he was to be so kind and helpful.  He was an interesting guy to talk with and we all enjoyed his company and hospitality - above and beyond!

We stayed at the Old School Hostel in another small town. It is on a property that also has a church and an apartment for the pastor, which the hosts use as their home now.  The church only hosts services four times a year.  Pretty sad.

These are some amazing handmade chairs in the dining room of the hostel - replicas of some old chairs in a castle (not remembering where).

At the end of the first day - already my shoes are broken in and quite dirty!
We all slept well again and were ready for another day on the Path!

The Adventure Begins

April 2016
Welcome to my blog as we go to Wales and England for some great hiking.  Keep in mind that I blog for you AND for me - so I can remember what we experienced each day.  Just flip through if it is toooo much detail for you!

Leaving from Goerkes Corner in Brookfield on a Coach to Chicago O'Hare for a direct flight to Dublin.
We flew AER Lingus for the first time and would recommend it.  The personnel were very kind and helpful in every way.  The food was fresh and tasty.  We left Chicago on time and arrived on time as well.  I watched three movies (Joy, The Secret Life of Bees, and Crazy, Stupid, Love) --- and we were there.  3700 miles in 7 hours,

Unfortunately our smaller comuter plane into Cardiff was delayed 2 1/2 hours due to heavy fog.  We were given a coupon for snacks at the little store in the terminal which was nice.  We had a hot breakfast on the plane just before landing.

These two pictures were over Dublin as we flew out.

From the air we could see the coast of Wales.  These were taken of the southern portion of the Pembrookeshire Coastal Path.  We are hiking the northern end of the path, but it was still cool to see it.
We will walk 8 to 12 miles a day.  As the crow flies, it is probably only 3 to 4 miles.  It's a lot of twists and turns along the coastline and a lot of up and down on the cliffs.

These are shots of the Cardiff area as we were going in to the airport.

We knew we were not going to make our planned train and bus connections.  The down side of that was, we didn't  have much time to spend in St. Davids, a quaint little historic tourist town.

We caught a taxi from the airport and got to the train station about 50 minutes early.  Andy and Clark sat on benches at the train stop and rested.  Me?  I went exploring.  Does that surprise anyone?!?  Haverfordwest, I discovered, was a pretty little town with a long back to the 1400s.


An historic old bridge

Old churches

Hotels and even an old Barclays Bank

I walked up this old street to get back to the train station.  A man stopped  me and commented he appreciated that I would take pictures of their old buildings.  He felt most people don't enjoy them much anymore.

Loved seeing these old phone booths - with no phones inside anymore.  They are probably too heavy to carry away!

The town was called Bon-y-mean in the principle county of Swansea.

The gal at the gate was very accommodating and helpful...she let me leave to sightsee after we found out we would wait for the train.  We enjoyed many friendly, helpful people in these first two days!

On the train...the trains were quite and smooth.  We enjoyed little towns, herds of sheep, old churches and castles, green fields, rivers, the coastline with sailboats and lighthouses...
It was a two hour ride up to Haverfordwest where we could catch a bus to St Davids.  The train west pretty fast so I didn't catch many good pictures...only as we were slowing down before a stop.

We walked from the train station to the bus station and caught the bus within minutes.  Two nice ladies helped us and even told us about the senior discount.  All students and seniors who live in Wales and England can take any train or bus anywhere for free!  I'm guessing there are other countries as well.

Two different people gave us poor directions to the Glendower Guest House so it took a bit to find it.  We got settled in to our room and checked the schedule for church services at the beautiful St David's Cathedral just blocks from the guest use.  Even song at 6:00...

We walked down the hill to the Church...

And were amazed at the incredible beauty of the church, inside and out...

The evensong was wonderful...readings, choir, prayers...we sang one song as a congregation - and it was one of Andy's favorites.  Immortal Invisible God Only Wise.  All in all it was a great start to the hike. St. David's was a popular pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages 

As we headed to back up the hill we saw some activity in the bell tower building...and ended up staying for a few minutes to see a demonstration of the ringing of the bells.  As it turns out, it is quite an art form and takes some muscle!

Our next stop was at The Bishops for supper...a recommended pub on the city square.
We all slept well that night after 18-20 hours in transit.