Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Day three. Abbeycwmhir to Llanidloes. 15.25 miles.

I probably ate my all time healthiest breakfast this morning. Slice of melon, bowl of fresh grapefruit and other fruit, muesli with Greek yoghurt. I don't know what came over me but it was delicious, and I almost felt that I'd let myself down when I followed it with scrambled eggs on toast.

I always start the day by looking at the map and deciding what sort of day to expect, effortwise. Today looked much easier than the previous two so I set off at a leisurely pace, but then things got complicated. You see, until now it had been tee shirt and shorts all the way, but after half an hour it started to drizzle. This coincided with one of two big ascents today, so as soon as I got my waterproofs on I was boiling. Then the sun came out but it was still raining so I began to steam. Then the flies found me. For half an hour I struggled with the wet or dry, cool or hot conundrum (no choice with the flies), choosing the latter in each case. Then the rain disappeared and I had to take the waterproofs off and immediately put sun tan lotion on. Oh what strange weather we have.

It was very warm and sunny from then on, and I could concentrate on other things, such as the next four very boring miles through coniferous forest, along a road then through more forest. The Forestry Commission had tried to be very clever by planting a row of silver birches next to the path to hide the endless pines and spruces, but you can't keep a good Christmas tree down and they were beating the birches into submission. As there was 4 miles of this nonsense I accelerated to 4mph to get through it, and in, um, er......... ah, an hour I was out the other side. The other advantage of walking fast is that the flies find it harder to keep up.

Once out of the forest I stopped for lunch to watch four trial bikers on the hillside above me trying to get up an extremely steep slope. Three of them could do it but the fourth couldn't, so they helped him by firstly laughing at him, secondly shouting at him to get a move on, then finally riding off and leaving him there. I was tempted to offer him some of my cheese sandwich, but didn't. In the end he pushed/carried his bike to the top but the others were long gone.

The afternoon was much more successful than the morning. The scenery was much better than expected and the walking was more challenging, including by far the steepest ascent of the three days. Here is a typical mid-Wales scene, with a cow.

I also had a couple of wildlife experiences. The first was when a long rodenty thing ran to within 6 feet of me before spotting me and scarpering. I guess it was a polecat. Just a few minutes later I was convinced I could see a red kite. I was looking into the sun and couldn't tell for sure, but I could hear it clearly making a sort of descending 'peeoo' sound, so I did what I'm sure all good ornithologists do and used the iPhone 'Chirp' app to listen to the calls of the buzzard and red kite (no, come back). It was a buzzard.

Animals I have spotted so far:
Red kites - 0
Buzzards - 42
Polecats - 1
Cattle - 786
Sheep - 863,429 (could have been more but I fell asleep at this point, boom boom!)

Nobody around here speaks Welsh. I am in the red lion in Llanidloes and two locals were at the bar trying to think of all the Welsh words they know. They got stuck at about eight, so changed the subject to the great Wolves team of the 60s. They're easy to hear because the pub is otherwise empty, but at least they aren't staring at me. Llanidloes is a small, attractive market town with possibly more pubs than people, so the red lion should think itself lucky. I'm drinking Timmy Taylor's Landlord and Rev James, both very good. Earlier I had a rack of ribs with potato wedges. Meal rating 4/10. Three points deducted because I didn't feel like ribs once they arrived, and the other three because the wedges were chips, not wedges.

The hotel (oh yes indeed, I'm social climbing tonight) is once again extremely nice. It's run by two very friendly gentlemen. I wonder where their wives are? On an overnight shopping trip I expect.

Anyway, the highlight of today was eventually seeing two red kites flying just above me at the end of the walk. I sat on a bench just outside town to watch them. An old bloke appeared and sat down to watch them with me. "Aren't they incredible?" I said. "Pain in the arse", he said. I presumed he was talking about the kites.

-- Posted from my iPhone

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