It was certainly four seasons in one day today, actually make that four seasons in an hour…er, five minutes…umm, no four seasons in…well anyway, it was changeable! The sky was being a contrary little madam and throwing all manner of mood swings at us over the course of the day.
When we left this morning and headed along the narrow country roads through the Pembrokeshire National Park, we saw evidence of the wild weather we’d been experiencing over the last few days. We passed a series of signs warning of flooding, which in fact we continued to see in various places all day, there were trees down and branches and leaves and all manner of tree parts scattered on and beside the roads. We saw quite a few council trucks out and about starting on the clean up. They’ve copped it worse than us further north, in some of the places in Cumbria that we travelled through a few months ago, so even though we’ve had it wild where we are, we haven’t had it as bad as those further north who have had the severe weather and flooding. Our destination today was north though, so we were waiting to see if the weather was going to have calmed down a bit for our travels. It had continued to blow and pour rain all night and this morning it was still blowing, but the rain had eased and it wasn’t too cold, so we were optimistic for what they day may bring.
The national park was soon behind us and we found ourselves coastal again. The ocean spread out below us, creating a windswept, white capped, flowing carpet for the hills and mountains towering above.
We passed through the little town of Aberaeron and what a gorgeous little town it was. It sat beside the sea and all the houses were a different colour. It was so charming and looked like it was straight from a fairy tale or chocolate box, with rows of pretty coloured houses. Just as we were slowly making our way around the streets…down came the rain…big fat cold rain…dumping down like a waterfall in a bad mood. It didn’t detract from the lovely surroundings though, which remained picture perfect.
The coast stayed beside us and it was a glorious view. We passed through more little towns and it seemed the further north we travelled, the more Welsh language we saw. So far, the signs we’ve been seeing have been predominantly in English, with a Welsh translation. As we made our way north, the English became less and less and some signs were now only in Welsh. It was lovely to see the language strong and proud all around us, in the small villages and towns.
The waves and seaside became a rear view and we were now amongst the rugged landscape of the Snowdonia National Park. Mountains, hills and a vast expanse of forest and patchwork hillsides became the vista all around us. It was spectacular. In fact, the scenery was so grand and so beautiful, that it made the day quite frustrating and disappointing…because we were in the van. Here was this glorious landscape and we were just hurtling past, unable to really take it in. The bikes have certainly spoiled us, as far as transport for touring goes. On the bikes, we see everything, we can take in our surroundings and truly experience them, with all of our senses. We can take photos and stop and just soak up the scenes before us. What can we do in a speeding vehicle? See things speed past and not much else. It was a reminder of the benefits of “slow travel” and the bonus experiences that particular form of touring gives us, and a reminder of what can’t be experienced from a car. It made me really miss our bikes again and wish we were back on them, riding the roads and hills and countryside, rather than stuck in a van. Oh well, it can’t be helped, but it was a tad frustrating today.
On we hurtled and the grey sky gave us a few little open patches, that teased us with the possibility of “brightening”! Just when we were lulled into a fall sense of optimism though, the rain came down again…pouring. Then, the rain became less plinky plonk and more splat. We had sleet! That rain was cold and there was something icy in it, because it was splatting sleet splodges on the windscreen as the fickle weather continued. Eventually the sleet gave up and just turned back to rain, which also exhausted itself after a while and we actually saw blue sky! Blue sky and some SUNSHINE! That ol’ sky was sure making the clouds work overtime, with its changing moods.
We drove into a forest, which had facilities for cycling and running. It looked to be a terrific set up, with trails and a bike shop and running shop too. I really liked the sign that showed all the different running trails, especially the “Shoe Test Route”. It seemed the running store didn’t mind people taking a pair of shoes out for a test run on the muddy trails and to return them if they hadn’t given the runner a comfortable ride. That’s service!
After taking in the beautiful scenery in wind, rain, sleet and sun, now we had…hail! Yep, it hailed! It came down in icy little pebbles that bounced off the windscreen and shouted to us that there was ice up there in those clouds! We were having everything but snow today!
“STOP!” I called. This was my frequent outburst during today’s travels. Speeding along in the van makes it really hard to take photos and whenever I’d see something I wanted to capture, I would shout for Steve to “STOP!” and if he couldn’t, he’d slow down and I’d stick my head out the window and snap a photo, while looking like a shaggy dog hanging out of the car window, hair flying all around and I probably also had a dog-like flapping top lip and waving ears, with the wind rush and g-forces acting on my head, which was barrelling along at 60 m.p.h! If Steve could stop, I’d leap from the car, all but commando roll into position, dodging rain drops and hail stones, brace my feet against the wild mountain winds, take the shot and then do a Superman leap back into the van, before speeding off again. It was full-blown, paparazzi style, shoot and run, landscape photography!
Despite the frustrations of being confined to a speeding motorised form of transport and pining for the little bike, it was a great day, with more beautiful scenery and lovely little towns. It’s rained every day we’ve been in Wales, but today gave us a change to that routine and threw in some sun, sleet and hail too, just to extend the menu a little. It’s all been terrific though and the moody weather just gives us some extra spectacular light and scenes and a ghostly grey sky, that makes everything look that little more haunting and magical. Another special day amongst the coast and country of wonderful Wales.
I’m going to end with another pub sign, because this one just has to be shown straight away. Today we saw the pub sign to beat all pub signs!