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We walk along the road back to Llandovery and out the other side. Soon after a mini bus stops and a man asks us where we are going. He says would we like a ride to Rhandirmwyn. I am not such a purist that I will refuse a lift along a main road. He has done a bit of back packing in his time and we discuss the television programme tracking Janet Street Porter on the Cambrian Way. He remarks that she had a holiday in the middle of it. He says that we donít need to go to the village and that he will drop us off where the path starts. We explain that we need to go to the shop. He repliess that is no problem, he will stop at the shop and then take us on to the path. He drops me off and I enter the shop. I try to work out what I need. I havenít prepared as I thought I would have the whole walk to Rhandirmwyn to sort out a shopping list in my mind. I hadnít counted on getting here so quickly! Anyone who hasn't back-packed will not realise the significance of this but, if you end up on the hills, miles away from civilisation and you've forgotten to buy tea bags it is a very serious matter. I buy cheese, a small loaf and cigarette papers. Just then, the ďmini busĒ man comes into the shop for a paper and says, ďYou'll be needing two meals, weíve just worked it out.Ē
We get back into the bus and he drops us off by the river. He lives just opposite and introduces us to his wife. He says, if I were you I would brew up over there. It is a local beauty spot. Well weíve certainly made up some time today. Iím sure we can spare some of it for a brew up.
We have a cheese sandwich and a cup of tea. I feel a bit uneasy. I didnít want to miss any of the path, just the main road. I check the guide book. We are way past where I wanted to be and we have by-passed the Towy Bridge. This is a check point.I say to Charl that I will have to go back. I canít miss a check point. It will make the rest of the walk null and void. He looks at me as if I am crazy but I insist. He has already missed one check point by not going to the summit of Lord Herefordís Knob so probably thinks this one is just as insignificant but he can see I am not going to budge so back we go. It is a gorgeous morning and I would love to walk on but know I would regret it. As we trudge back down the hill, I feel a little stupid but I feel I would be cheating if I didn't.
brew up timeWe are walking past the ďmini busĒ manís house when a voice calls from behind the hedge, ďHave you seen two backpackers on your way?Ē I say, ďIt is us!Ē and explain about the checkpoint. He comes out from behind the hedge. ďThatís okĒ, he says, ďLeave your sacks here, Iíll take you down so you can touch it and bring you back againĒ. I consider this for a moment. I was not happy about taking a lift in the first place but as it was just up the main road, I conceded. I thank him very much but say we will walk down and camp by the bridge and start afresh tomorrow. He looks at me, sees I am determined and says, ďHop in the bus, Iíll take you down.Ē He takes us down to the Towy Bridge and we say goodbye and thank him again.
The camp site is very basic with a loo and cold water tap in a sink, covered in lichen, in the garden of a house across the road. There is a pub on one side of the bridge, which is just as well as I didnít realise we are so low on pasta but, if we eat in the pub, we will have enough pasta for tomorrow.
We put up the tent and go for a pint. It is very strange, like walking into someoneís living room. There is a bar at one end and a baby in a carrier and a toddler watching ďTotís TVĒ at the other end. There are toys everywhere along with dummies, bottles and all the paraphernalia that goes with a young family. Apparently, Mum has gone out and the Dad, behind the bar, is baby-sitting. We sit outside and are followed by the toddler who keeps us amused. She is about three, very canny with a good vocabulary. Her real aim seems to be to cadge as many crisps as she can. Her name is Bethan
We return for a meal that night. Mum has returned. It seems she has been catering for a sheep round up. Everyone is in the bar, baby, toddler, Mumís sister and the dog. I feel I am intruding in a family evening but Dad cooks us a great meal and the dog snuggles up to Charl like a long lost friend.
It only takes around ten minutes to walk back to the place where we were dropped off yesterday. On the way, we meet the man in the mini bus again. He is off to pick up children for the school run and he stops to wish us well and we thank him again.
We stop by another bridge over the Towy for a smoke break. The sun is still shining although heavy cloud has been forecast today. We walk up the road, which is no more than a track really, until it comes to a dead end and continue on a grassy track up the narrow steep sided Doethie valley. Sometimes we walk beside the river and sometimes above. It is desolate. We have the whole valley to ourselves.
We stop half way up the valley for brunch. We sit in the sunshine with our legs dangling over the ledge. It is so calm and serene it is hard to get going again. We have a little trouble navigating our way out of the valley but finally find the correct path.
From here, we follow two girls up a steep rise. I plod onwards and upwards and make slow progress. When we reach the top I am surprised when the girls, who are resting on the top, say that we got there quickly! They continue and after a short break at the top, we follow. We suddenly notice they are walking back towards us. Oh no, we have made the fatal error. Never follow the one in front blindly. We find the correct path and as they are walking roughly in the same direction as us, we carry on together.
Apparently, the women used to do a lot of walking together but, inevitably, both children and careers intervened. This trip was by way of an experiment. Three days hosteling to see if they can still do it. They are making for the Tyncornel Youth Hostel and we are making for the chapel at Soar Y Mynydd. They should have turned right and we should have turned left but while we were busy talking we had all headed straight up the middle. We arrive at a track that goes both ways anyway, so it was a good compromise. We say our goodbyes at the parting of the ways.
We reach the Chapel and have a look inside. It is in an idyllic situation by a stream which has to be crossed to go into the chapel. We are surprised to find a loo attached, with loo roll too. What a luxury. I put some coins into the collection box in the chapel and we sit outside and have tea and biscuits. The wind has come up a little and we find a sheltered spot for the stove in an outhouse.
From the chapel we continue up a lonely lane toward the Nant Y Maen junction. We pass a lake where we intended to wild camp but as we are making good progress today decide to walk on a bit further.
We stop for a break on the road and spot a red kite. We watch it for at least twenty minutes. We only stopped for a smoke break but donít want to leave when the kite is so close. Finally, we have to get going and leave it behind.
We reach the Nant Y Maen junction and in the middle of nowhere it seems is a telephone and a post box. It must be one of the remotest telephone boxes in Wales. I want to ring someone but it is 5.00 pm and everyone will be at work. I do put my postcards in the box, though.
We continue on a path by a farm. The ground is getting progressively boggier. We are looking out for a camping spot. According to the map, we should come across a stream soon. The stream is fast running and there is some flat ground behind. While putting up the tent, I knock my arm. It feels bruised. Now, how did I do that? Oh no, itís another horse fly bite! Iím pleased I still have some anti-histamine tablets left.
While we are having dinner, I notice a red ant in the tent. Then another, and another. They are really big ones. Charl sends them all to their maker. We canít see any ants coming in and there are none outside so we presume we brought them with us, either from Towy Bridge or from along the Doethie valley when we stopped for lunch.
I donít unzip my sleeping bag until I am ready to dive in just in case there are more ants about. Iíve enough bites to worry about without red ants too. As it is, when I lay down, I am too sleepy to be the least concerned.
We wake to grey skies with heavy clouds skudding across the sky. I forgot to take an anti-histamine tablet last night distracted by the ant incident and this morning drink my tea before remembering. Rather than boil more water, I will wait until we have our first brew on the walk.
A few blue bits appear in the sky as we set off, over boggy ground and a very vague path. We keep checking the map and then Garn Gron comes into view with itís trig point just visible. We must be on the right path. It is all still very vague but we keep the trig point in sight.
The bits of blue in the sky gave us false hope and it is now cold and blustery. Charl asks if I really want to go up there. I reply that of course I do, itís a check point. We arrive at the summit. Itís pretty crowded up here; a circular shelter, two cairns and a trig point. We sit on the leeward side of the shelter. The wind is biting. I redo my laces, blow my nose, re-arrange my top which somehow on the ascent has travelled up my back, change the camera battery and gaze at the sky hoping it will brighten before I take photographs. The views would be great - if only I could see them. I give up and take a photograph anyway. When we leave the shelter of the cairn the wind really bites.
From the bottom of Garn Gron there are two alternatives to reach Pontrydfendigaid. We cannot seem to negotiate either one. The paths are undefined on the ground and it is very boggy underfoot, even in this dry year. After several attempts, each ending in impassable squelch, we keep to the high ground and make for the B4348.
After reaching the road, we look back the way we have come and it looks very innocuous. No-one would believe the amount of time and frustration it had taken us to walk a few miles
We arrive in Pontrydfendigaid and call in at the post office. It is like walking back into the past with wooden shelves stacked from floor to ceiling. We stock up and continue down the road to the camp site behind the pub.
We put up the tent, have a cup of tea and Viennese whirls just purchased and I finally take my anti-histamine tablet. The bite is not so bad as the previous ones but is starting to swell. My legs and ankles are aching, the result of walking through rough ground from tussock to tussock. I lay down and listen to Tim Henmanís quarter final at Wimbledon. He loses. Ah well, letís have another cup of tea.
I unpack my rucksack and find a red ant in one of the pots. We must have brought him with us. Charl squashes him. I suppose it is a kindness really. I was inclined to set him free but he is two days away from home. He would have to find another colony and they would probably cast him out, anyway.
Somebody is strimming on the site the whole afternoon. There is no hot water for pans in the shower block, no towels, paper towels or dryer and there is only one unisex loo and shower. I'm obviously feeling grumpy. It's Tim Henman's fault. I should be grateful there's a loo at all.
We have to walk along the road to Strata Florida and I am almost asleep on my feet. We see another red kite. This wakes me up somewhat and we remark on how it is now not so exciting as the first time we spotted one. They seem to be two a penny round here. We reach the Abbey and have a quick look round the ruins.
From Strata Florida we pick up the ďTeifi Pools WalkĒ which is on tarmac as far as Tyín y Cwm Farm. While we are walking along a car pulls up. It is the two women we met on our way to the chapel at Soar y Mynydd! They are going to walk around the Teifi Pools before going home this afternoon.
We leave the tarmac and are now on a great path through a very attractive valley. I am now wide awake. I think it is tarmac that makes me feel lethargic. We come to a stream, Nant Egnant, with fast running water and stop for a tea and welsh cakes
We reach tarmac once again. It is a very lonely road but I would think it a lot busier when the sun is shining as the scenery is very attractive and accessible around the lakes
From here we have to strike out across open moorland. There is no defined route so Charl goes for a reconnoitre. I take photographs while he is away but know with this cloud cover and bad light, they will hardly do the place justice.We head off in what we hope to be the direction of the Claerddu bothy. We are walking for some time and are begin to believe we have missed it when we spot a chimney pot. Gradually the whole house comes into view. It is a little difficult to get down to as it his hidden in a little cleft.
We have visited some bothies in our time but the Claerddu Bothy must be the most well equipped ever. As we open the door, the first thing we notice is a brand new set of pans. The cupboards are full of crockery. There is a stock of food including ÖÖcoffee! There is a clothes airer, a gas cooker, a gas fire and lights!
We light a wood fire. No point in using gas that is not needed. As it gets dark we also light one of the gas lights. To our horror, it explodes and shattered glass scatters everywhere. I clear it up. I am not sure what to do with the glass. We canít carry it safely but I donít want to leave it in the bothy. I decide the best thing is to leave it where it can be seen but out of the reach of children.
We have our meal and are joined by a mouse who runs out from under the table. This is always a little off putting. I am not a great lover of mice but it is to be expected in a bothy. We clean up the pans, tie up the rubbish and take everything upstairs with us away from rodents. Upstairs there are sleeping mats and a duvet! We take advantage of extra sleeping mats but use our sleeping bags.
Once the thought of mice is out of my mind, I sleep very well.