Winding down

With 17 days to go until I fly out to Tanzania, there are a lot of things to do. I still have to train but having down the long walks, these will be shorter but more frequent tramps through the countryside. And Rufus has agreed to accompany me, which will be a great incentive and pleasant company.

This morning, I got the last of my dollars and had a nice chat with the young lady at the travel agent. She was fascinated by the up coming trek (she wasn’t trying to sell me anything I didn’t want, and the questions and her reactions seemed genuine). And somewhere between then and when I found myself on Cefn Cul with Rufus, it all became a step more real.

The walk today was partly to check out my knee after yesterday’s testing route. And it was fine. As we walked in the wind and occasional sunshine, I was trying to think about everything I need to do before I set off on the 15th. I got the point where there were so many things (charge batteries, replace head torch batteries, redirect mail, online check-in etc) that I realised I need to make a list. I did this for my first trek, too, and stuck it on the fridge door. It even included ‘switch off lights’ as a last act before leaving the house.

The ground was soaking wet. It wasn’t so much mud as saturated ground. The water was running off in new rivulets  and where the going was flat, it sat in clear pools. Most of the time I had no choice but to walk in the water. The end of the ridge came suddenly – with a fence. Although the whole ridge is access land, I didn’t climb it as the sun was going down and I wanted to get back before we got a drenching from the clouds that were forming ahead of us. So we turned around and splashed our way back.

I left the path we followed to drop down to the road a little earlier and that was a big mistake. Off the path, the ground was uneven and full of holes and little channels where water had dug away at the earth. It made the walking much harder and I was staring at the ground the whole time. And I still managed to twist my left ankle and then turn my right one. I was fortunate not to injure either ankle but it’s a risk of continuing to train. I have no choice but I must be more careful.

Rufus doesn’t seem to have any problem with ruts and dips. He trots, dashes, walks and jumps along without a care. As we were crossing through a patch of high grass, he was bounding with leaps as sure footed as any mountain goat. He despatched the inevitable stile with ease, too.

I’m waiting to see what the weather forecast is for tomorrow before deciding on our day’s activity. The one thing I know is that there will be no lie-in. Rufus will see to that!

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600 hours

600 hours to go to my trek. 25 sleeps!

It was important to get a walk in today, regardless of the weather. Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad and equally fortunately, Rufus was keen to come along .

Keen to come along? I was warm and cosy in my home, hangin’ with me bro’s in front of the fire. There was the delicious smell of home made soup in the kitchen and I was fairly confident that with a little application of puppy dog eyes, I’d get some. Then he turned up and one slip, just one wag of the tail, sealed my fate. Before I knew it I was in the back of the car listening to the wind howling outside.

We drove to the foot of Moel Feity. The plan was to go straight to the top and then drop down to the river, climb back to the top again and head back to the car. Plenty of ascent in a compact walk so that if the predicted storms did turn up, we wouldn’t be far from the car.

He pretty much dragged me out of the car. I would have been happy to wait in the relative warmth for him to come back, but oh no! I had to go. Once I was out and braced for the cold, it wasn’t too bad. There were plenty of things to investigate and, of course, I had to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn’t wander off.

We spiralled our way up the side of the mountain. By the time we got to the top, the wind was blowing. All around, the tops of the higher hills were shrouded in mist and the drizzly rain there threatened to drop down and envelope us, too. It was dark as well. We’d started out later today, so it was getting nearer to sunset than we’re normally used to.

When I faced into the wind, my ears flapped backwards and made me look slick and streamlined.

We meandered around the top of the hill for a bit, seeking the highest points, before we made our way down to the river. Once there, I threw stones for Rufus and he carefully retrieved each one from the water. We were sheltered from the wind in the little river cutting but eventually we had to leave. The wind had picked up quite a bit and as we climbed back up the side of Moel Feity, it was blowing from just behind. It helped push me up but before long the direction changed again and it was trying to blow me off course. It made the going harder.

Don’t listen to him – he’s trying to make it sound hard. I ran up the hill, jogged back down, ran around him several times, headed off to a particularly interesting scent and back again while he was huffing and puffing his way up.

At the top, we turned to face the wind again, and headed across the featureless moorland before dropping back down towards the car. On the way, I passed a strange looking ring of stones, low in the grass. It looked like a hollowed out barrow; it was too small to be a sheep fold or a permanent shelter. At the southern end was a larger upright stone. It didn’t look ancient so I’m guessing it was a small temporary shelter of some kind.

It was just a bunch of stones. No big deal.

At the car, we were both still feeling energetic, so we drove a little way down the road and stopped so that we could climb up to the standing stone above the road. It’s a short but steep climb and I wanted to get some more ascent in today in case tomorrow proves to be too stormy. Rufus cleared the stile with a little help from me and we started off up the hill.

A little help from him? Unasked for, I must say! The balancing act on the top of the stile was just that! An act! And a good one!

We reached the standing stone in no time despite deep, boggy mud underfoot. Still feeling good, we set off to climb to the top of the hill. The wind was now almost as strong as it had been last week and it was getting harder and harder to battle against it. Great training!

I was as slick in the wind as ever.

At the top, visibility wasn’t good but I could just make out Crai reservoir in the distance. Down below, beyond the standing stone, was my car. It was quicker going down and after negotiating the stile…

…in some style, I should add! Style… ha ha!…

… we got back to the car still dry. I dropped Rufus off just as the proper rain started.

It was great to get back to me homies who were keeping my bed nice and warm.

This was the route we did today.

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