My training’s complete.
The 21st dawned a sunny day. With my sister’s car and decidingly little information, I was off to Wales. The Blorenge was going to be good…
Upon getting to Abergavenny, I needed lunch. In a hurry, I grabbed a bag of crisps. Much to my disappointment, the bag contained salt and vinegar popcorn. It turned out to be a day of alternating good and bad luck!
Cutting to the chase, I hiked up to launch, took off, climbed out, went over the back and landed 18km to the west. I kind of knew where I was. The next bus wasn’t for an hour, so I started walking and hitching back where I’d come from. A car travelling in the opposite direction pulled over and offered me a ride. They turned out to be pilots heading somewhere I’d never heard of. Not to worry… they assured me they would get me back to Abergavenny that evening.
We’re now on top of another site and my bearings start to return. I launch first and immediately get a climb to base. One of the other two pilots is hot on my heels. The other is not so fortunate and ends up back at the car. Off we head… Not long after, Joe shouts across to me that Ian was following in the car. I relax in the knowledge that I made the right decision and I wouldn’t be stranded in the Welsh wilderness.
23km down the track, we get stuck on a ridge. In my mind, it was the Welsh version of Laragne. By 6pm, the day was slowing down and I was lost. We slid off the end of the ridge to a small village. Setting up to land I was intrigued by giant model dinosaurs beneath me. Across the road was a manor like castle, a perfect place for a beer whilst we waiting for our pick up. A perfect day.
Not quite. Our driver lost us, turned around and was gone.
Whilst drinking beer, we established the last bus had gone, my face is sufficiently unattractive to the Welsh that our chances of hitching were zero, the castle was haunted by an Opera singer and children with tuberculosis and the rate for an ensuite room was £150 per night.
The bus stop was looking like a good option to shelter from the forecast rain if our latest plan failed. We knew we could get a taxi to the nearest town for £50. Our plan was to offer that for their cheapest twin room. Little did they know that we wouldn’t order a taxi, as there was no way to get home from that town either. We called their bluff and it worked. What’s more, they threw in breakfast.
Speeding the story up… dinner was ridiculously large, the beer was extremely tasty, we couldn’t find any ghosts, they gave us some more beer for free, we lit a fire, told stories, went to bed at 2am, had our breakfast, checked out the dinosaurs, caught the bus at 10am and got back to the car at 1pm. Just in time for chips, mushy peas and gravy in the drizzle.
Certainly wasn’t the trip I was expecting when I set off. But the randomness and spontaneity was perfect training for Europe. I’m now ready…