Food & Fuel My latest fruit fuelled adventure was cycling all the way around Lake Como in Italy. Just over 100 miles in two days. This is the furthest I’ve cycled. 10 years ago I cycled a…
You can read about the previous activity of surfing in Llangennith here.
Back at the van Wigs has arranged the kit so it’s stable. I dry off, get changed and we head off to Brechfa to meet the boys who are out for the healthy part of Boaty’s stag do.
Picnicking and eating out in the countryside is one of my all time favourite things! It reminds me of happy adventures growing up in the Peak District and family holidays in the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District. I make healthy salad bowl lunches for us to eat on the picnic table which fills both my belly and soul with satisfaction.
The stag is late, but that’s his style so no-one is unduly surprised. I get my camera and tootle off up the hill to find the walking trail. At the starting post I have an option of red, blue or yellow. Naturally I go for the red but it’s not that steep or difficult, especially as I was pausing to take photos.
The scenery of rivers and moss laden trees inspires me with ideas of magic and fantasy fiction – as a dreamer it’s the type of writing I love the most. The damp forest smells are wholesome and fresh with the scent of soil and ferns. When we reconvene at the van Wigs is splattered with mud! I boil myself a hot cup of Rooibos while he gets into his civvies before driving us to St Davids.
Camping & Cooking
The evening is upon us. We pitch up in a delightful campsite with only 4 or 5 caravans and go up to the top field where there’s just one other van (and a crowd of rasping crows being fed by their parents who luckily simmer down by bed time)! Looking across the lush green grass out to sea from our pitch brings a sense of expanse and freedom and I feel my lungs filling with life and rejuvenation. It’s dinner time and I make a Thai Yellow curry to fuel us up for the next day. I love the cosy sound of bubbling pots.
Pembrokeshire Coastal Path
The next evening is perfect for a walk to ease off our legs after a tough session of land kiteboarding. Wandering out of the campsite we’re greeted with glorious views of St Bride’s bay just around the corner. The Caerfai Organic shop is on the way so we pick up some eggs as Wigs wants to keep up his protein whilst being so active. Vivd colours of wild flowers spring out of the grass that the cows are happily munching away on and the deep aquamarine sea sprays onto the cliffs. I take a few minutes to sit on a bench to enjoy the scenery and then head back to our home on wheels for a nap, just long enough to charge up for getting food in St Davids.
Land Kiteboarding & Cycling
I’ll tell you about my experience of Cycling to Norton from Newgale and Land Kiteboarding on the beach in my next post.
It’s touch and go all week as to whether we leave on Thursday night or Friday. I get the call from Wigs after lunch. He’s got enough energy to drive tonight rather than waiting ’til Friday but I’ll need to load up the van – something he normally does.
On the Road
I think it through logically, pile everything we need into the hallway and like a game of Tetris, work out how to fit it together in a confined space which is now also our home for the weekend. We’re stocked with food and kit and it’s a clear drive to the coast, arriving at Hill End 15 minutes before the 9pm closing time. We park up, level off with the chocks, pop up the roof and lay our heads down.
In the morning we’re blessed with sunshine and views of the rugged landscape. Wigs gets our surf gear out of the van while I make breakfast. It hasn’t been that warm this year so I put my full winter get-up on and use super soft, cold water wax on my board for grip.
Surfing at Llangennith
It’s not too windy, but the waves are choppy, close together and lacking power. Trying to paddle out feels like a treadmill of white water torture going nowhere fast. Patience is the key. I try to punch through, get pushed back, watch the waves and wait, figuring out the puzzle. It’s a solid beach break without any peaks but I manage to find a rip where there’s a dip. I take a few deep breaths to power up and then in the blink of an eye there it is – like a miracle, the sea goes flat but I don’t know for how long. I windmill my arms not allowing myself to stop for a rest. Stopping at the wrong place could put me right in the dumping ground of the bigger waves and they’re about 6-7 feet today. It’s still flat and I reach a lineup of 4 of surfers but I need to get further. They’re waiting to catch waves at their power point. I need to get out back so I can rest my jellied arms. It’s a meditative experience, relaxing my body, letting the blood come back into my muscles, scanning the horizon and focussing on the water.
After a while I’m ready to catch a few and see one rolling in with a decent height and shape. I spin my board on it’s tail to face the shore and dig my arms into the water to build momentum. It’s right behind me and I paddle faster and harder. I feel myself rise up about to be pushed forward but the wave passes underneath me and off into the distance like a bus that didn’t stop to pick me up. I roar like a peeved lion cub and have to go through this many more times before admitting that today I’m going to have to catch them closer the shore just before they break.
After a session time of 30 minutes I get one and it’s a beauty! Looking straight down from the top, its a big drop to the bottom, so I angle my board for a more gradual descent, spring to my feet and stay crouched until I find my balance. I can feel the wave trying to get out from underneath me, so I push my weight down hard on my front foot to keep ahead of it. I build up enough speed to start carving up and down the face for a lovely long ride with a reward that delivers an adrenalin shot, joy and peace all at the same time. Of all the things I’ve tried, this actually makes me feel high, like I’ve lifted into another dimension, flying weightlessly through the air.
It’s time to get off but I’m enjoying it too much and keep going even after the wave has broken. That was a mistake but I don’t know if I’ll catch another one so I get as much out of it as I can. Now that I’m tired, it’s almost impossible to get back out, but then the sea goes flat a second time and I manage to drag myself and my board to catch a second wave which is just as good as the first. The effort of getting that ride finishes me off. I keep going all the way into the shallows, lay back down on my board and cruise right in to the sand. 2 waves in 1 hour is a low count, but they sure were invigorating.
I smile all the way back to the van and a couple of old ladies greet me on the boardwalk, “Is it fresh out there?”
“Oooh yes!” I reply.
Walking in Brechfa
I’ll tell you about the amazing scenery along the hiking and mountain bike trails in Brechfa in my next post.
The next day involved more activity and unexpected thrills that had me buzzing for hours.
Today all the rain clouds have blown away and bright sun pours through the blinds waking us up. Downstairs the table is heaped with breakfast fuel for a 20 mile cycle with Wigs and his dad. My belly seems to have used up all the food in it overnight and feels empty. I guzzle the carbs in front of me and put my gear on (including two pairs of padded cycling shorts as an anti-pain experiment). The route takes us through picturesque streets to a disused railway track and the River Dee.
I’m in a playful mood and practise hopping my front tyre on and off bumps which nearly ends in disaster when I land my wheel in a bank of nettles. I have a good wobble before recovering back onto the cycle path, laughing loudly at myself. I then give no handed cycling a go. At first just a few seconds followed by intermittent attempts at a few more. Then I straighten my back, sit up tall and suddenly after over 30 years of looking enviously at cyclists looking so free, not holding on… out of nowhere, it clicks! For over a minute I stay no handed and even go round a corner whilst doing it. It’s an amazing feeling – the same one I had as a kid learning to cycle when my Dad finally let go of the seat and I stayed up right, carrying on with glee like I’d just discovered anti-gravity. I can’t stop smiling.
We wind our way through the streets back to the house, have lunch and grab our skate gear to meet up with Rob (Wigs’ skate friend from school). After some super laid back conversation and manic attention from his dogs Paddy and Bella we head to a nearby skate park where Wigs and Rob look completely at home and relaxed, gracefully floating around the ramp on tiny wheels like they’re on magic carpets, pulling tricks, flipping boards under their feet and nodding heads to west coast hip hop. I desperately try to capture moments with my camera realising that sports photography is a painful and blurry world of many missed moments by the lens.
Then Wigs shouts “Come on!” and it’s my turn.
He’s been promising to teach me how to pump a skate board for as long as we’ve been together and today is the day. On with the pads and helmet! I hold on to his arms place my feet over the trucks and he draws me one way across the flat of the ramp and back again so I get used to it. Next I try a few pushes and make it a foot up one side of the ramp before rolling back and slowing to a stop. I go again. Each time I get a bit further and I’m told to think of myself as a pendulum, pushing energy through the board by quickly crouching at the bottom of the ramp, unweighting and straightening my legs on the way up and squatting back down at the top to generate momentum on the descent. I bob up and down like a crazed meerkat and build up speed quickly, gradually reducing my grip on Wigs who’s sprinting furiously forwards and backwards as my human hand rail. I can feel how sensitive the board is to balance changes and there’s no water to land in if I get it wrong (unlike surfing), just solid concrete. It’s nerve wracking and adrenalin surges into my stomach.
On my last run, my muscles are tired but I want to make it great. I pump the board hard and almost get to the top of the ramp and then out of the blue Wigs lets go… I want to yell “Aaaargghh!!” But I stay focussed and think about remaining balanced and am amazed that the wheels keep rolling, I don’t fall off and I manage to pump a few more times left and right before stopping . I’m thrilled, ecstatic! Wigs is delighted at how far I got on my first try on a skate ramp, remarking on how it took them many more attempts. He adds, “I don’t think we would’ve got away with holding on to each other though.” I chuckle heartily at the thought of adolescent boys holding hands whilst learning to skateboard (it would be the opposite of Tony Hawk cool). But I’m not them I’m me! I’m 40 and I just learned to pump a 5ft skate ramp.
Wigs’ folks were keen to see us and join in the birthday celebrations. It was also his sister’s birthday, so we all got together for the weekend.
I’m up at 6am brimming with childish joy imagining the cute furry animals and bright feathers of birds. I prepare healthy and wholesome lunches so we don’t have to eat pizza and marshmallows when we’re there. We set off early at 7:45 and arrive before it opens. The zoo’s focus is entirely on wild life conservation and working with different countries to prevent the extinction of endangered species due to hunting and habitat destruction. The enclosures are large and open and straight away I notice they’ve invested in the animals’ habitats even more than before.
The new butterfly house is a fairy tale of fluttering wings. In the aviary, my eyes fill up with the spectacular colours of exotic birds and walking around the park my heart is warmed by the loving nature of the animals towards one another. When we come by the jaguar area we stop in awe. For four years we’ve looked for them but they never showed. Today both the jaguar and panther were right in front of us. It was like finding out that Elvis is alive after all!
By 4pm I’m hungry and my heels are hurting. We have just enough time to drive our van to the restaurant where we’re meeting the family. I duck down into the back, whip off my rain coat, jumper and leggings, put three layers of thermals on so I can wear a playsuit, splodge some eyeshadow on with my fingers and pencil some eye liner on so I don’t look like a wild wanderer!
I can feel the warmth of the restaurant as soon as the door opens and I scurry inside to a large glass of dry rose and hugs all round. The plates of food can’t some soon enough and once it’s infront of me I shovel the contents into my mouth, feeling my energy gradually returning. When we get to Wig’s folks house, I’m furnished with a cup of soothing rooibos tea and beautifully wrapped gifts, like treasures from Aladdin’s cave. A cosy blanket and a chat takes me to 9pm and my eyelids are drooping. I heave myself up the stairs and drift away as soon as I lay down, feeling protected and cared for.
Read about the final day of my celebrations in Final Weekend, Sunday.
This was turning out to be a series of delights that really made my heart sing, spending time with my best friend Wigs.
Monday & Tuesday
On Monday I’m really pleased to see Wigs when he gets back from work. He has a few urgent tasks to complete which he promises will be done by 7:30pm (and they are). Then we walk hand in hand to our local Thai restaurant for their vegan night and have a delicious meal with bubbly conversation that makes me smile.
On Tuesday the actual day of my birthday, I’m given instructions to open the big cardboard box that has been waiting patiently in the hallway for the last few days. It turns out to be exactly what I wanted and I also get a flyboarding session to be enjoyed later on!
Wigs leaves work a little early and the weather is spectacular. He wants to know what I’d like to do for the afternoon and evening. I say that I’d be ecstatic if we went for a long walk to the city centre park taking photos along the way. He suggests alternatives, like another motorbike ride instead. Walking doesn’t make sense to him – it’s slow and there’s no adrenalin. But I love it like a puppy would, taking in colours, sights, smells, touching leaves and flowers as I go. I jump up and down on the spot with hopeful eyes. He wants to make my birthday special and agrees to go walking and even finds an extra long adventurous route so we can enjoy the park and woods all the more.
We stroll out of the park, stop for a glass of wine in a beer garden and at the end of the day pass by our favourite curry house for dinner before we make it home, kick the shoes off our tired feet and sleep soundly ready for a new day.
Final Weekend, Saturday
Read about the last weekend of celebrations starting with Final Weekend, Saturday.
(If you missed Saturday, you can read it here)
After such an amazing day on Saturday, what could I do on Sunday? It was a bit overcast in the morning, so maybe some indoor activities?
I gear up excitedly for climbing. I cut my nails back just short of my skin – no talons on these grippers! It’s cold, I put my woolly hat and jumper on and jog on the spot.
The instructors give us a warm welcome and we limber up on a 4+, a couple of 5’s and 5+’s. Then we get bolder and go for a 6a. We’re out of practice and it feels tough. I get stuck half way. I have to heave my foot up so my knee is up around my ear and stand up on it with nothing else to grab onto until I’m upright. My body is trembling. With all my weight over my big toe, I roar like Wolverine and use every muscle in my leg to push up and grab a hold above my head. I grin and Wigs shouts “Well done Babe!”.
One more 6a to finish. Wigs picks a wall that’s leaning back into the room. Ouch! It’s going to be a full body work out. He works his way up, decoding the route, taking breaks on the way. Then it’s my turn. After seeing how hard it was I’m not planning on hanging around. The holds give me enough grip to swing from left to right like a chimpanzee so I keep swinging and lunging and don’t stop ’til I get to the top. I feel exhilarated and we have a good belly laugh at my monkey style.
We drive to the pool for another swim, only to be turned away – it’s closed for the Swimathon event – darn it! Back home, I make a Mango, Kale, Banana and Cinnamon smoothie to keep us going. We watch the end of ‘Rover’ and my body starts to shut down making me cold and sleepy. I don’t want to cut my birthday weekend short, so I have a 45 minute nap to recharge. I wake up flustered and my head is spinning but I’m determined to fit a bit more in, so I glug a pint of cold water and jump into my motorbiking kit.
I put fresh air in my tyres, rev the dust of the engine and boom I’m ready to rock! Wigs explains the route and I set off as lead. It’s pure bliss from the moment I take the first right hander. The bike tips in and floats around like I’ve never been out the saddle. I remind myself to keep my hips and shoulders relaxed, dropping my shoulder into the turns and the ride just flows. We get to the country lanes and only one or two cars are around. I blast past them so I can take the straights and bends as fast as I like. The wind rushes through my helmet with the smell of freshly cut grass. I lean into corners and accelerate through, feeling free like an eagle soaring above the hedgerows. We stop at some lights and Wigs pulls up next to me and asks if I want to carry on or head back. I’m about to scrunch my face up to show he must be insane – head back? Then I remember that he’s not a mind reader, even though according to Rom’ Com’s he’s meant to be. So I smile like a cheshire cat and shout through my helmet “CARRY ON!”
It’s 6pm and there’s only 45 minutes before “John Wick” starts. We wrench our gear off, throw pasta into pans, hurl water over it, dive into the shower, change clothes yet again, cram food into our mouths and drive like Furious 7 to Cineworld, making it just in time for the start.
Afterwards I’m completely and utterly shattered and also thoroughly contented and fulfilled. It was my favourite kind of weekend and what’s more it was my 40th birthday weekend. When can I do it again?
Monday & Tuesday
Read how the celebrations continued on Monday & Tuesday