At one with Nature

So, as promised, last weekend we went camping again to Shell Island, this time for a longer period covering the Thursday to the Monday, a nice five days, if you include the arriving and leaving parts as days; I do, so deal with it.

A few things before I do a day by day recall of events: This time we were a lot more prepared, so there were less problems! The porta-loos evidently are not cleaned daily when it isn’t a bank holiday, so when we arrived they were disgusting. The only clean one was the one that had been horizontal on arrival so couldn’t have been used much. Again, I know they want to keep things as they they were when today’s punters were kids, but there will be a time when those people will stop coming through old age, and their 21st century kids won’t want to come back to a place where having a shower means a long walk and then waiting in a queue to use cold showers unchanged since the 1980s!

Weather wise, the first 24 hours were a rainy windy mess as forecast, but the rest of our time there it was blistering hot through the days, with evidence of the odd shower in the early morning.

Right, so, into the DIARY OF EVENTS:

THURSDAY

This time the plan was different, whereas last time I had to drive almost the full width of Wales three times in a day to retrieve Nick and Ash from work, this time, Ash was to come with, and Nick to follow on Friday evening on the fabled X94, fabled because it is rumoured to be worse than travelling on the back of a donkey driven cart through the mountains of Afghanistan; except worse because you’re surrounded by country bumpkins, you know, the Hills Have Eyes kind. Few people have survived it’s arduous journey to tell the tale, mostly ending up in local butchers shops or kept in people’s cellars, but, I digress.

The day began with Rain; lots of it. I picked up Mark and Ash, and we sped over to Llangollen in driving rain. It continued as we packed Verity’s car with more stuff. Only then were we off for Shell Island, this time the trip was rather uneventful, with no stories of pissing on the side of the road or leaving people behind at traffic. The weather improved somewhat and while blustery and overcast when we arrived at Shell Island at around 11:00, there was no rain, and the grass was dry too. It was like it hadn’t rained all day. We noticed our “spot” had people close by, so at first thought we may need to go elsewhere, but we muscled our way in anyway. By around quarter to one, the first tent was up. By now the clouds were moving on and clear blue sky could be seen over Cardigan Bay, as can be seen in the above left image. Also, I say first tent, because this time we had three. Mark had picked up two new tents since the last time, and both were excellent.

One, a Royal Bordeaux 4 DL, was to only have one bedroom fitted to allow for more space for a kitchen/storage area – this was to be the main tent. It differs a lot from the previous tent because the fibreglass poles (the kind that skewer innocent thumbs) have been totally done away with, and replace with rigid steel poles. This adds a lot of stiffness to the tent, and helps it fare against the wind much better. Not only this, but the groundsheet is zipped in, so few creepy crawlies can get in. The other big tent, a Gelert Marion Vayo 6, was to be a sleeping area for Nick and Ash in separate rooms. It was unique as it employs the steel poles of the first tent, and over the top, the fibreglass pole type. This was also very rigid, although I don’t think we properly pulled the legs away enough because the front was too slack. Finally, my Gelert Beyond Orion 3 was my tent. I spent £130 on this tent so want my moneys worth from it!

Thinking back, it does not feel like two hours putting up the Royal Bordeaux, but according to my cameras timestamps, it was. During erection of the tents there were only two main problems; one was when a rigid pole (the first one as well) bent right over, but it also bent right back, and when the flysheet under the second was pegged down instead of the tent itself, putting a strain on the material and ripping the flysheet from the tent along the front, but there was nothing major, and everything else was shipshape. At this point we wanted to start putting items into the Royal Bordeax. Most important was the tea making facilities, so the folding table, gas hob and water was set up so brews could be made. This was paramount to further success.

Ash was also notably anxious about getting his tent up (almost as if we weren’t going to!), so before we could rest for a bit, we were putting up the Mayon Vario. It was easy to put up, but the groundsheet was the old type (just lay it down on the ground), and let all manner of everything in, including water. We then put the old carpet from the previous tent in it and it was fine! While we did this, verity inflated the inflatable sofas and they went in the first tent. By now the sun was blazing, and temperatures were up, so we shed the coats we had been wearing. A new cupboard was put together for food as well. However, this is what we needed. I also needed supplies, having completely forgotten toiletries and folding chairs in a moment of complete stupidity I can only refer to as leaving everything until the last minute. So, after weighing the options of going to Barmouth where there is only a Somerfield, or Porthmadog, a little further away but to the North because of it’s Tesco and Gelert shop (and that I was more familiar with the town), we headed out North. Verity drove, though I suppose it could barely be that, amongst being thrown around corners and her complaining about how far Porthmadog was and that there was a toll and also not remembering the way back, so much so that we drove through old Harlech and almost missed the turning to Shell Island!

Once at Tesco, we bought all the food and drink we needed, as well as myself getting new toiletries! Once we had done this, we went to the Gelert shop where I bought a new folding chair, so I was also set for the weekend. When we (luckily) got back to Shell Island alive, we visited the camp shop and bought wood for the fire and also ice for the cool-boxes. Once back, we put my tent up. This is the Orion 3, and is pretty simple because it has the aluminium poles that bend into shape once all the corners are in the eyelets.

At this point, we realised we had no guy lines for Mark’s windbreak as they were all in mine, so we had to make do without windbreaks. Instead, the next we would go to one of the bargain holiday shops in Barmouth and buy two of the largest to create a private compound.

For dinner we set up the cooker in the Gelert Marion Vayo and had dinner in there, just some basic sausage baps. We brought a lot of aluminium foil this time to avoid any fat dripping issues. After this I walked down to the beach and walked over the extremely rocky area to the sea, as the area of the beach we were near was very rocky!

That night we couldn’t light the fire as it was too windy without any breaks, and the rain was back, and kept on and off, so it was decided to wait until the next day. Instead we drank some beers and chatted until the early hours when we all went to sleep.

FRIDAY

I woke at around 10:15am on Friday, to the sound of rain battering my tent. As usual it was deflecting the wind with little movement, so I decided to lie there until around 11 just listening to the rain while being warm. After a while I decided to move. I decided to bust out the poncho I had bought in Mexico to stop myself getting wet, but when I went outside in it, the rain was going away and it was just windy so I just looked like a huge blustery red tool. I quickly took it off. I then realised that nobody was actually at camp except Ash who was still sleeping. After looking bewildered by my missing persons case for a while and looking in ridiculous places like the annex and behind the tent, Verity and Mark turned up in Verity’s car, which despite being a two ton Honda Jazz I didn’t notice missing. However I totally played it cool and nobody noticed I had been behind the tent looking for them. They’d been driving around the site looking around, and I jumped in and assisted in this urgent task.

The site was a lot bigger than I thought, stretching right down into the area alongside the runway of the old RAF Llanbedr site, and into the dunes to the South, which were a lot more extensive that I originally thought; still not a patch on the dunes of Maspalomas. After a brief tour we had a quick mosey onto the beach, it was a sunny spell so we deemed it safe, the clouds were casting shadows onto the sea so it was in varying different colours, and then in the distance there was the darker colour where the seabed drops down. It was quite a lovely image.

Unfortunately this didn’t last long, by 1pm rain was hammering us and we were in the Gelert Marion Vayo waiting for food, as we’d put the cooker in there until we could put it under the extension for the main tent, but we didn’t want to put that up yet because we had no windbreaks and it was also raining.

By the time we had eaten the food, the rain had stopped so we decided to go to Barmouth to get windbreaks. Not the new-fangled ones susceptible to wind, but the old beach kind, wooden poles you hammer in. So after Ash demolished these with his mighty new hammer, of which he insisted on using for every one. He then developed a blister on his hand from this and complained about it for the rest of the day.

We had also erected the extension by this point taking the tent to a further length. The cooker was put under this and so was the seating. With the windbreakers this was now a complete compound.

By this time we had learned Nick would be coming by car courtesy of his Dad; and he’d be bringing more chairs, sparing him the fate of so many X94 passengers. He arrived after he’d finished work, sometime between 7—8pm.

This time we had the fire going to its full extent. Unfortunately Ash, being from a.. ahem.. *underappreciated* part of town, used his entire 20 odd years of fire-starting experience to light the fire. This experience consists of as much newspaper as possible combined with a deodorant spray and a lighter. Of course, once the paper was alight, with the breeze, there was ash (the horrible dirty kind (….err, just not the guy, ok?)) all over the tents. After a frantic wipe down the wood itself had caught and we were fine.

Now that the group was complete (including our fire) we got to drinking as with the night before and went to sleep in the early hours.

Rain struck during the night, making me believe the next day would also be wet and cold. This was fine because I had packed for that weather, being forecast as it was and everything.

SATURDAY

How wrong was I? I was forced to get up at 10am because the heat was too much to bear. I got out and there was not a cloud in the sky. This also meant I was completely incorrectly dressed for the warm. Some old corduroys and a black t-shirt. Warmth city. At least I always keep a pair of sunglasses in my car so I won’t get a killer headache from squinting all day.

So, we went to the beach. We would have walked but we had so much crap we drove to the beach with it all in my boot. Once there we were free to drink beers and cider from the coolbox. We took a kite with us but it simply was not windy enough and myself and Ash just made a spectacle of ourselves.

At this point Ash decided he would have Duck’s feet made from sand. So after half an hour of carefully moulding them around him, they were complete. Of course, by this time we were becoming sunburnt and realised we should probably have applied suncream. So we quickly did, but it may have been too late.

Arms, and face burned, we went back to the tent and had another relatively peaceful evening with the fire. This day was also Nick’s only full day with us. So with him leaving the next to go back to work on Monday.

Strangely, the moment the sun went down, it was absolutely freezing. Despite this we carried on again into the early hours and slept well.

SUNDAY

Waking on Sunday was similar to the previous day, in that it was boiling, so I had to get out of bed earlier that I would want. The plan was the beach today, except we had a choice of Barmouth or Black Rock near Porthmadog. Verity needed shorts as did I so we went to Porthmadog to see if the Gelert shop sold any. When we got there however we deduced we didn’t have the time to go as we needed food too for a BBQ, and Nick’s dad had already set off for Shell Island to pick up Nick. Also at this time, my parents had driven to Llanbedr right outside the campsite.

Once we had driven back with new food in tow, Nick packed up his things and his Dad arrive to say goodbye, but not before the top group photo was taken.

Once we had gone, it was decided we’d climb into the sand-dunes, find the tallest closest one, and sit there for a while. So this we did, again it was very hot and we probably burnt further, but this was not a problem. I think I had more of a tan than I’d had from Mexico!

Once we were done, we walked (or ran foolishly) down the sand dunes to the beach, walked along it and then up to the tent.

Then we started on the BBQ. We had this behind the tent, overlooking the sea and it turned out to be the best BBQ ever! We’d only used disposable ones, but all was fine.

In fact, it might have been too fine. We bought too much it seems! Given than Verity can only eat slightly more than a hamster before exploding like a pigeon fed rice, us three lads could only manage half the food we’d bought before surrendering. Not only this but the disposable BBQ was getting cold. We also noted the warden patrolling, so quickly moved everything back onto the camping side of the “no camping” boundary just in case.

What follows is the funniest thing I’ve seen ever. I went down to the sea to take some images as the light was failing. A while later, Mark, Ash and Verity joined us. The plan was to walk out across the rocks to the sea itself to celebrate Mark’s birthday. We made it out there fine, a few slips with the odd foot going into a pool of water between rocks. However on the way back, Ash fell face first into a large pool of water which was perfectly sized for him! He was soaked from head to toe. At first, I asked if he was ok. Once he said “yeah”, I burst into laughter.

Yes, all his clothes were soaked. It was magnificent, and a large source of enjoyment for the rest of us into the evening!

 

MONDAY

So, quitting time, we had to pack up and leave. This time it was worse because there were three tents, there was a lot more stuff including the windbreaks and extension, and we’d also had a better time so it was more painful to leave!

We began anyway. I wiped down my cooker properly this time; it still had grease on from last time.

Once done we went to the pub as usual and had a departing pint of beer.

Then we set off for Caernarfon via Rhyd Ddu, followed by Betws-y-Coed via Llanberis, just for the scenery. At Pen-y-Pass we pulled over for some sightseeing, and to take some images.

We were to visit Swallow Falls on the way back, however I was not certain where it was and it seems we passed by, so continued on home instead. None of us had the change for the turnstile anyway, if I remember correctly.

We all arrived back just as the light was dimming. The weekend was a good one. The next camping trip will be late August, down in Cornwall. I’ll post a blog after that too!

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