North To South Wales In The Pissing Rain

I rank taking a tent down in the rain as one of the most miserable things you can do that don’t involve running out of tea. I woke up a few times in the night and heard the rain belting down on the tent which meant my brain demanded I had to lie awake for half an hour and study the material above me for leaks, and it was still pissing down rain when we poked our heads out in the morning, the river had risen a good metre up the bank and was now touching the tyre which hung from a rope from a tree.

If the river had risen any more overnight we’d have woken up in quite the puddle.

We were both tired and irritable and we really should have packed more shit away the previous night. Tarrant took everything apart and I packed the car up and, in between snapping at each other, I stormed off at least once which isn’t easy or in the slightest bit dramatic when the ground is sodden and your feet are wet, but eventually we sat in the car, the windows steamed up and the heater on full. The river had risen another few inches in the time it had taken us to pack away. Wales. It’s all like, oh you have plans do you? Fancied going on a scenic train ride did you? How about I put all the scenic shit behind a massive fucking cloud bank, hey? Should have gone to Lanzarote.

Fortunately we had a back up plan should our train ride intentions be scuppered by the weather. When we started out we thought this holiday was going to be ultra healthy. We were only going to have just one beer each of an evening, we weren’t going to over-eat, there was going to be so much hiking that our Fitbits would run out of display space logging all of our steps and they’d have to invent brand new Fitbit Epics just to accommodate us, and we would be weight loss, salad munching champions of the world. The reality, as it turned out was wetter and was about to involve a lot more beer.

Well fine, then. We’ll just drink beer.

We discovered that Wales has a metric fuck tonne of micro breweries. Seriously, there are a shit load of them. Using a Wales Online article as a guide we plotted a route down to our next campsite in Pembrokeshire. We decided that if we could visit the brewery then we would. If not then a shop or a tap house owned by the brewery would suffice, and if that failed then any local produce shop in the brewery’s home down would do the job. Once the windows had unsteamed and we’d muttered grudging apologies at each other for our respective tempers, we made our way 10 minutes up the road to Porthmadog, home of Bragady Mŵs Piws, or Purple Moose brewery, which has a shop in town.

Now, I’m new to the world of ales. I used to describe the taste as something akin to armpit but as I’ve tried more and more ales I’ve think I’ve basically beaten my taste buds into submission. I’m probably not going to order one down my local, I still prefer carbonated piss water to a real beer, but if I’m somewhere different I’m all up for trying the local brew. Tarrant does like an ale though, she likes the proper bitter ones whereas I’m more into the entry level pales which she describes as tasting like flowers. The hoppy ones. Really hoppy. Hoppier than a rabbit on crack. But Purple Moose went one better with a beer that’d been aged for three months in an Islay whisky cask thus combining two of Tarrant’s favourite things to abuse her liver with.

It’s fucking brutal! I sniffed it, recoiled in horror, had a sip anyway then wondered if I was still ok to drive, like, ever again. We grabbed a couple of beers each then headed onward to Dolgellau, home of Cwrw Cader, or Cader Ales, kinda hoping to get a look at the brewery. Nope, no such luck, the unit was locked up tight, but Dolgellau is quite nice and we’d gotten there for a little gap in the drizzle so we took a little wander around and ended up in a pub called The Unicorn which had Cader beers on tap and in bottles. Perfect. The bar staff let us try a bit of each one before I settled on a bottle of Aur Cader, Cader Gold to take away and Tarrant grabbed a Cwrw Coch, Red Bandit.

This car we’d rented then. On account of the fact we couldn’t locate anything resembling an auto tune on the radio and there was no way to connect our phones we decided to buy some CDs because at least a CD player was one thing it had. 2005 called, it wants its car stereo back. We took a little stroll around the village and checked out a couple of charity shops where we found an actual, real life Westlife CD! Yessss! Tarrant was mildly mortified. 2011 called, it wants its taste in music back. Music choices like this are one of the reasons I’m banned from YouTube at other people’s houses. We returned to the car where I jubilantly inserted the disc for a bit of Irish boyband car karaoke.

Remember these? I forgot how few songs you got on each one. We would be listening to many things on repeat.

Next stop was Llanidloes, home of the Waen Brewery. We couldn’t find any information on brewery visits so we headed straight for The Old Mill which is the tap house. They didn’t have any bottles for sale though so we settled for a cheeky half each and a sandwich, then headed off to find a local produce shop they told us about which sold the bottles. That was easily located and we purchased the required beer before having a look around for more charity shops so we could add to our shit CD collection. We ended up in a dusty little place staffed by an elderly lady with an accent that could have been as eastern European as it could have been Welsh. Fucked if I know how we got onto the topic of tea tree oil and its benefits but as I reluctantly engaged in polite conversation with said elderly lady, Tarrant casually flicked through CDs.
“You know what else it’s good for,” she advised me, “I don’t have it but it’s also good for vaginal infections.”

Wait… what?? I think at this point I opened and closed my mouth like a confused goldfish, completely unsure what to say, looking over at Tarrant for any manner of help. By now she was furiously rifling through CDs as if it was the most important task in the world and she couldn’t possibly be distracted from it whilst trying to stifle laughter. Yeah, thanks Tarrant! I settled for a vague nod and an “oh, I didn’t know that” as if vaginal infections were common discussions had with perfect strangers where I was from. We made our purchases and headed back to the car as Tarrant cracked up laughing and I tried to work out what the actual fuck just happened.

The Devil’s Bridge. Well, the bottom one of the three is anyway.

We’d planned a non-beer stop into our route before we’d even decided to make our livers pay for the obscene weather and it wasn’t too far from Llanidloes so we carried on towards it. It’s the Devil’s Bridge and Devil’s Falls, and once we got there and parked up we learned that we could either pay less at a turnstile and just have a look at the bridge, or pay a bit more to a bloke in a hut and see the bridge and walk a loop around the falls. We opted for the latter despite the drizzle starting up again. Devil’s Bridge, it turns out, is actually three bridges. The first one was built somewhere in the 11th century by, as legend has it, the devil himself.

It’s all well and good getting down the fuckers but unless you’re intending to take up residence at the bottom you’ve still got to get back up again.

Apparently a woman’s cow had somenhow wandered across the river and she couldn’t get it back, though I’ve no idea how a cow would have gotten across any manner of river unless it was a magical flying cow. Anyway, the devil rocked up and was all like, yeah, I can totes build you a bridge to get your cow back, but I want the first living thing that crosses it. The woman agreed even though it meant she’d have to spend eternity in the pits of hell though let’s face it, the weather would probably be better in Hell than Wales. The next day she showed up with her dog and sure enough the devil had built a fine bridge for her to walk over and get her cow back but instead of setting foot on the bridge she threw a loaf of bread over it which her dog chased, thus becoming the first living thing to cross the bridge. So the devil was a mite pissed off at that, and as he literally had no use for a dog he vanished, never to be seen in Wales again because he was pretty fucking embarrassed at being outwitted by a little old lady given that he was an all powerful entity and she couldn’t even get her cow back across a river. The second stone bridge was built in 1753 to accommodate horse drawn carriages as the first bridge was only made for humans and, apparently, their cows and dogs. Eventually a stronger bridge was needed so in 1901 the iron bridge in use today was built over the top of both of them.

We wandered around the loop checking out the waterfalls whilst getting slowly wetter and wetter in the rain before we eventually emerged onto the road and made it back to the car. We’d had a couple more breweries earmarked between here and Tir Bach Farm but it was getting to the point where we kinda just wanted to get there, get pitched and try and get what passes for dry in this part of the world. We drove into Pembrokeshire and as we neared the region we basically drive into cloud. Visibility was two tenths of fuck all. I slowed to a crawl in the wet and fog, trying to follow a hand drawn map which actually turned out to be quite good, and eventually we rolled into Tir Back Farm, seriously questioning our life choices.

Well this weather can just fuck the fuck off now.

We got the tent up, tried keep the soaking outer sheet from touching the inner tent with the cunning use of cardboard, then we discovered that I’d really not thought about shit properly when I’d loaded the car and I’d put the wet fly sheet on top of everything. Well I guess the duvet was only a little bit wet. We got everything in place then sat in the car, engine running, heater blasting, and Googled package deals to Lanzarote. The weather said there’d be rain, rain and more rain, and it’s just fucking miserable isn’t it? It’s not so bad if you have an actual room to go back to to get warm and dry, but when you’re camping and everything is wet and will remain wet until it stops raining for a respectable length of time it’s just no manner of fun. We seriously discussed leaving first thing, returning the car and flying somewhere hot last minute before eventually deciding to just go to bed and sleep on it. The forecast may have been bleak but as we’d already discovered, the forecast could be a bastard liar.

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Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llanycefn, Wales
Stayed at: Tir Bach Farm Campsite, Llanycefn, Pembrokeshire

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