Only 1 day removed from hiking, it already feels like the distant past. I had hiked at least 5 miles, usually 10-15, every day for the past 2 months and now it is over. I have no regrets that we did not reach the true southern terminus of the trail. Our friend Gareth who finish the trail a month ago confirmed that we had made the right choice skipping that section as it is all Industry and road walking.
The day to day life of long distance hiking becomes a life style. Tearing down a tent every morning, having to think about where you will be getting water, and re supplying at convenience stores with 5 pounds of cookies are all things that were daily events that I will no longer worry about. As I write this it is starting to rain, a feint sense of concern started to come over me before I realized that rain doesn’t affect me any more. Yesterday a 1 hour rain shower would have made me miserable and ruined the day, now I casually watch it from a sofa.
As I ramble on I realize that I have no real conclusion or takeaway from the experience. The world of the thru hiker is nott one I was unfamiliar with and I can’t imagine I will be separated from it forever, but I guess I am suprised how quickly I have acclimated to regular society and how foreign my hiking experience already feels.
The rest of my trip will consist of hostel hopping and bus rides across europe. This will be great, but I am a thru hiker at heart and am definitely sad to see this portion of the trip reach its completion. Also, I will probably be making less frequent posts for the rest of the trip as a list of what museums I visited is much less interesting than Welsh weather and how many cows attacked me. Tomorrow we leave for london, so this is goodbye to Wales and hopefully hello to better water pressure.
Our 2 month streak of illegal camping in a foreign country without anyone saying a word to us was broken on our very last day. In true Welsh fashion it was an old man walking his dog who politely informed us that we should get moving before the Forest Service finds us. So not really a problem.
We promptly packed up anyway and within a couple of hours we arrived at Port Talbot. It was a decent sized town, and with time to kill before the train arrived, we went to the mall to get some real clothes. I bought a completely new outfit including shoes. With this purchase compete my reintegration from hiker trash to normal society was complete and Phase 2 of this trip had began. No longer will I walk into a pub sporting short shorts and a solid color t-shirt that permanently reeks of hiker stench. The downside to this though is that 95% of the contents of my backpack are completely worthless. I will have to investigate the cost of sending my backpacking gear home.
After the shopping was done, we caught our train to Cardiff and checked into our hostel that would be home for the next 3 days. I took a shower and put on my new outfit which immediately prompted a histarical laugh from seth. He had never seen me in real clothing.
With only 10 miles to get to Port Talbot today was a lazy day. A Google search for Pizza nearby yielded results that revealed the location of a domino’s, so a unanimous vote resulted in the purchase of 2 large pepperoni pizzas. We enjoyed our feast at the beach before heading out of town late in the afternoon.
After hiking 6 or 7 miles and taking a brief pitstop at McDonald’s it was getting dark and we were having trouble finding a campsite. After losing the trail a few times, we picked it back up on a forest road and decided it was the best campsite we would find.
So we set up our tents as far from the edge of the road as we could without falling into the neighboring ravine and fell asleep for the last time along the Wales Coast Path.
Yesterday’s marathon took its toll. The 18 miles between where I woke up and town were painful. I trudged along all morning and afternoon before reaching town late in the afternoon. I found wifi and received a message from seth telling me what hotel they were at. I found seth out front and he gave me a big hug. 2 days apart was too long for both of us.
I limped upstairs in complete pain through my whole body and layed in bed the rest of the night. Seth brought me back some food and we discussed our plans for the next few days. After looking at the trail on Google maps we realized that the trail was through cities and industry the rest of the way. Almost 800 miles in and running out of time, we decided we would hike to Port Talbot over the next 2 days and finish our hike there by taking the train to Cardiff to celebrate completing our version of the Wales Coast Path.
My first marathon day! In the hiker world, this is any day on which total distance hiked exceeds 26.1 miles. The length of a marathon. With 45 miles left to get to swansea ( the next major city after carmarthen) and only 2 days until my next fantasy football draft, I decided that I would do a bulk of the miles today and get into town early in the afternoon the following day.
Seth and Casey were not interested in this plan at all, so last night we looked at the map to find a meeting point. Then I remembered that it would be Sunday and buses basically don’t exist on Sundays. So I suggested that we split up for 2 days and meet in swansea. This would be much easier than negotiating busses between tiny towns on a sunday. With our plans in place i set off early in the morning planning to camp by myself for the first time this trip.
The day started out easy, but eventually the miles started to take there toll. My feet started to hurt only about 10 miles in and my food supply was running low. I had no snacks for the day and only 2 packages of Ramen noodles. On top of this I was low on water. While I cooked my lunch I looked at the map and realized that all of the towns coming up were entirely to small to have food service. I was starting to think the next 24 hours were going to suck… a lot.
After about 20 miles I reached a long beach that was quite busy with people. I also notice that at the end of the beach was a small town next to a popular geographic feature “Worms head”, a small island that can be reached by foot during low tide. I got my hopes up and was not let down. You can always count on the Welsh to build a pub and an ice cream shop anywhere there might be visitors.
I refueled on a low quality overpriced meal at of of the several small establishments that were clustered just outside of the park boundary and took off with my newly aquired high morale. I just ignored the fact that eating did not make my feet feel better.
As the sun started to set I worried that I was not going to make it past Port Eynon. I had just past a sign that said I was 3 miles from town. I did some quick math in my head and decided that if it was before 7:30 I would push past town. If it was later, I would camp at the next suitable site. I looked at my clock not sure which result I was favoring.. it said 7:23. So I put on Blink- 182 ‘ s greatest hits and took off.
I made it past town and found a perfect campsite overlooking a rocky beach with about 20 more minutes of daylight to go. I pitched my tent and finally sat down to give my legs some much needed recovery time. One last thing: I will call this my thought of the day. Are there deer in the U.K.?
With only a handful of days left before we leave Wales and over 200 miles of trail left, the as are starting to get pretty long. Too long for Seth and Casey. I decided to do a 22 mile day, and they decided to walk to the next town and catch a train to where I was headed for the day.
So I broke camp and set off solo down the trail early in the morning. The weather started off kind of shaky, and I was worried about hiking 22 miles if it was going to rain all day. Fortunately, after a short shower the sky cleared up and stayed that way the rest of they day.
As the shower ended, I approached a town from the beach that I had been hiking on for the last 6 miles. As the town got closer I realized that a channel separated me from town. I had no idea how to get across and as the tide was now coming in, the problem was only getting worse. I walked inland along the channel for about a mile before I realized that it simply wasn’t going to end. So I hiked up my shorts and waded through knee deep water to the bike path on the other side.
After that the trail was a breeze. I started moving pretty quickly and only stopped a few times. Once to talk to the man pictured below. I saw him walking up to the path getting ready to strap in to his contraption, so I asked him how far he was going. He told me that he would be hiking 2000 miles around britain, skipping only the northern coast of Scotland as it will be to cold by the time he gets there. I wished him luck and went on my way.
In the late afternoon I reached town and immediately started looking for wifi. Upon finding I received a message from seth informing me that they were waiting for a train and would be there in an hour. I beat them! I got some indian food before heading to the train station to meet them. They arrived shortly and we hiked to the edge of town and set up camp.
After a late night last night our group started off pretty slow and pretty late. We dragged our feet out of town at about 1:00, but despite the late start were able to knockout about 13.5 miles before reaching a small town at about 6:30. We ate some Chinese food and left town to find a campsite. After another close encounter with my newly aquired bovine enemies, we found a nice clearing to set up our tents for the night.