Time for another big update of stuff that has happened! It’s been like six months so is probably required.
In March I made the trip to Cardiff to see the Grand Slam win against France. Granted I went to see Wales play France, but they won!
We started off later than usual so there was a bit of a kerfuffle with parking, but in the end it was fine and we made it to the game! There were lots of mistakes on both sides, but Wales pulled ahead to win the game, and the Grand Slam!
In April we went on the first camping of the year. This time it was just me, Mark and Ash! Also on arrival, it seems Shell Island have realised their portaloos are not sufficient, and are slowly upgrading them to semi-portaloos (think toilets in a portcabin).
On reflection, maybe it was too early in the year. We braved some wind, rain and also temperatures of –3 on the first night and we were surrounded by snow capped mountains, which actually made a nice backdrop. A trip to Tesco was needed to get our all important food (Ash is quite the chef), but ended up spending WAY too much! We also visited the Gelert shop in Porthmadog; which was definitely required to pickup some better equipment to better protect us against the cold! We spent the first night watching The Inbetweeners movie on an iPad, and were quite immersed so didn’t feel the cold until it was done! When it was, damn was it cold! As I said, it reached -3°C over the course of the evening, and even in our sleeping bags we felt the cold!
The next day, we headed to Barmouth, to walk around and take in the sights. Last time we wanted to do this, but it began to rain and we did not want that!
That night was spent in the warmth of the small Pub that Shell Island had! We spend a load of time near the fire here but then moved back to the tent so that Ash could prepare his legendary fajitas!
After we were fed we got the fire roaring as we do, and as the night was warmer than the prior anyway we were quite fine!
Unfortunately the Monday had been forecast to be windy and wet, so rather than have a big wet tent, we decided to evacuate a day earlier. We left and returned via The Berwyn Arms, a pub at Glyndyfrdwy! Never have I seen a friendlier place.
All in all it was a good experience! Never been camping in minus temperatures before…
Not even four weeks later off we were again to Shell Island! This time with two newbies; Dave and Sian, and Mark as a fellow usual!
The journey there was the usual but with a twist – WALKIE FUCKIN’ TALKIES! Oh yes. this shit just. got. real. We mostly used this for upcoming directions, or when to stop for fuel, or one time when we went past Harlech castle and I described how it was built by Edward I in 1283 to control the Welsh as part of an iron ring of castles. But that was just one time. The rest of the first day was used doing the usual – erecting the tents, going to P-Mad to visit the Tesco and get food. Again we got loads of stuff and spent more than we wanted by quite a bit.. yet this time we had few meals? wtf, I wonder if it was mostly snacks (hint: it was).
As a result of our lack of food, we decided to descend on Shell Island’s cafeteria. It’s a bit.. retro (think a 60’s school canteen) but the food was fine. While here we sat right next to the tourist information leaflets so we perused them and decided to visit some! We’d not done anything like this before while camping in Shell Island (we did it in Cornwall but we had a week there and there wasn’t much on the campsite). So we decided on the Ffestiniog Railway and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns.
So, the next day we got up with the intention of visiting the Ffestiniog Railway. We travelled to Porthmadog to catch a train. We originally thought of returning half way, but instead in the end did the whole trip. This left us in Blaenau Ffestiniog for a couple of hours for food. I’ve described Blaenau before on this blog; precisely:
“…It’s a great journey, the only problem being you have to spend time in Blaenau Ffestiniog for a few hours to make a day out of it and the only problem with that is that you have to spend time in Blaenau Ffestiniog. The only two things to alleviate this issue is to do one of two things; Go under Blaenau Ffestiniog in the Llechwedd slate caverns, or get away from Blaenau Ffestiniog on the Ffestiniog railway. The latter made more sense, as it takes you away from that forsaken place.”
“It was raining, the sky is grey, the enormous slate tips are grey, the buildings are grey, their slate roofs are grey, the tarmac roads are grey, the pavements are grey, and the only green areas are tiny gardens, and council run playing fields. Lovely.”
As can be seen, not a fan of Blaenau Ffestiniog. To make matters worse this time, the whole high street was closed. On a Saturday, and there was a big construction project to rejuvenate the place. Not going to work guys.. not without mass planting around the place! Trees would make the place friendlier I say. Digressing here though.
We found a cafe that I still think is a bit thin (never trust a thin building people), and had dinner there. Not much in the way of hot food but I think I had some sort of food with chips. Not really sure. We then caught the train to return to Porthmadog; the return journey was made better as we were in a corridor carriage allowing the nice man to sell us alcohol.
When we returned to Porthmadog we decided to return to the campsite. So we did. It was still light, so rather than lighting a fire we decided it would be a better idea to explore the sand dunes again (again for us I guess, it would be the first time for Dave and Sian!).
This was of course, after our return to the car to even get there. I was going on about how I once saw a Seal in the water there when I saw some splashing. So like a great big fool I start pointing and shouting “look a seal!” when it was just a bird. Even the passing crazy man said it was not a seal. I think. He could have been proclaiming evil or the apocalypse.
So when we got back we did what we did the previous July; which is to climb the highest sand dune we can find and get to the top. Turns out it is still the same dune! Not sure how long it takes for a sand dune to change in this country.
Anyway, once we were done messing around in the dunes we returned to the tent for a while, not having food though we ate some bacon and sausages on bread!
We did however, get the fire going and chilled around it until the flames died down. Dave’s burning methods are a lot more refined than Ash’s!
So. The next day we went to the caverns. There are two tours; we did both. One thing I noticed immediately upon entering the complex is that it is a lot like Shell Island: it has barely changed since it opened. Aged speakers that you can’t really hear and dummies that look older than anyone alive. The place could do with a re-doing!
The first tour involves getting onto a really small train that then drives you inside This one is fully guided – our guide seemed a bit new; but I definitely thought having a “real” guide worked!
The second tour involves being lowered 45° into a deep mine 200ft below. This one is self guided. I think either timers or motion sensors activate automatic voiceovers and lighting for characters that are lit – not animatronic, this is a wet mine after all, just stationary dummies. This is not so good. If it had a live tour guide like the other, it would probably be a lot more engaging.
The tours required the use of hard hats through both – it was a mine after all.
One of the awe inspiring things is the size of some of the chambers – the largest are called Cathedrals, no doubt because of their size – but there were lift five levels above you and six below, of similar size. Those mountains are so hollow now a major earthquake could probably cause major subsidence!
That evening included a return to the beach and dunes. This time we mostly stuck to the beach itself. It was sunny and lots were milling around. This was our final night here so we were to enjoy it. The next day was to bring rain but this time we weren’t leaving, and would persevere!
Once back at the tent Dave and Sian insisted on making the next round of Bacon and Sausage as Mark and myself had done so the previous evening. They did a damn good job!
The next day we rushed and rushed to pack everything up in a gap in the rain. However the rain never came back, and the sun broke through. Worse still, upon trying to leave the tide was in; we were going nowhere! We went to the harbour and played some games over the walkie talkies. Most fun.
Afterward we returned, no detours. It was a good weekend.
May – SNOWDON
Nontheless, despite a late arrival we made it up in record time! 2 hours and 40 minutes, in comparison to the 4 hours plus it took the first time. Granted, the first time we enjoyed 20 minute breaks and the weather was inclement. Really inclement. However we made it at quite the pace this time and even though it almost killed me I am glad of the feat!
Though once we neared the top, as usual the clouds came in. This was after we had suffered minor sunburn of course and also after we’d lugged coats and such to the top!
The way down wasn’t any easier, as lactic acid buildup had of course meant aching legs! Glad I could still drive, but not glad that there was also now a huge nail in my tyre, we limped into Wetherspoons Caernarfon for food.