Distance: 16 miles
Weather: Morning laughably wet with rain, sleet and hail. Afternoon dry with some sun
Red kites seen: 0 (they've been plentiful for the last few days. Must have passed out of the area covered by the feeding stations)
It was a chilly night, featuring an almighty downpour at about 1am. I may not have noticed it, except (with impecable timing) I'd just come in from using the en-suite and thus we were both awake when it hit. Mick was back in the land of nod and I was just dropping off when someone flashed a bright light through my closed eyelids. I looked around wondering whether it was lightning, or whether there really was someone with a torch wandering around Pumlumon in the early hours. When the thunder rumbled my mind turned to the wisdom of us camping so high, but counting the gap between the next few flashes and bangs, it was a long way away and going away from us. I went back to sleep.
Alas, this morning the delaying tactics didn't help us get a dry and sunny start to the day. As we set out we were still in very dense cloud and it had just started raining. For the next two hours it rained, sleeted and hailed constantly and heavily, and we saw nothing. In fact, it was thoroughly horrible weather to be on a hill. That meant that the straightforward navigation that I remembered from last time we walked this exact route over Pumlumon (December 2007, in pretty bad weather also, except for better visibility on that occasion), turned out not to be so simple today.
Even so, when the rain was reduced to regular showers after three-and-a-bit hours of walking, and we sat down in a dry spell for a combined second breakfast and elevenses, it was pleasing to see that we had covered 6.5 miles already. That must have been thanks to the blistering pace set by Mick in between the navigation faffs. He did have a point in his pace - at least it was keeping us reasonably warm.
With the cloud base having risen, along with us having descended, the views opened up before us, and they weren't too shoddy. I don't know how I managed to live in this area so long without noticing how empty it is. Maybe it's because those were the years during which I dropped walking as a pastime, and thus only saw the area from a car window.
A bit of distance was knocked off at Esgair Geulan forest, as we shunned the meandering forest tracks in favour of just marching straight up a sheep field. The short side of a right angle triangle, rather than the two long sides. We then added that distance back on later in the day when we missed a turn (don't think we saw a single way mark today, other than finger posts where we crossed a road). When I realised what we'd done and worked out where we'd gone wrong, it turned out to be at the exact point when I said "We're not going in the right direction; we need to be careful not to wander off down this track" (pointing to the map). We then managed to convince ourselves that the track swang back right and we didn't check again for a while. It was only when I next checked the compass and couldn't find any way to convince myself that south was a useful direction when we should be heading north, that we realised our error. A descent down a ridiculously steep hillside soon had us right.
A passage through another forest got us to where we intended to camp, and a suitable spot was sighted from a distance. The problem was the amount of descent required to get water, and from a distance the stream looked more like a bog than a stream. So, we considered the map, we considered tomorrow's monster day and decided to continue and hope that something would turn up in a couple of miles time.
By virtue of failing to get my phone out for a photo at any point during the day, tonight's photo is of our pitch again. As you'll see, it's not the most attractive, being right beside a forest track, and we've not even got the benefit of the views, thanks to the wind direction. I was always expecting this to be the most difficult/least attractive camp of the trip though, and it certainly could be worse.
As we sit here waiting for our tea to rehydrate, we see that the sky is almost clear now* (another cold night then!), and can't help but notice that it's remarkably warmer than last night. Is that a sign of improvement in the weather or the fact that we're not up high tonight?
(Conrad - I can't really claim that we're walking the Cambrian Way as I've made quite a few variations - mainly lopping off the meandering bits. But, we are following the general gist of the route and it is a good one.
Bob - I was only thinking this morning as I lay in my sleeping bag that I might just post route maps when we get home (maybe without including the bits where we went slightly awry!)
Alan - thank you for the forecast. Sounds like a reversal of the trend of the last few days which has been wet mornings and dry afternoons. Have to make an earlier start tomorrow to make the most of the drier morning!
*Post-blog note: I spoke too soon about the clear skies. Tea has just been eaten with the sound of light rain gently pattering on the fly sheet. Hey ho - at least we're not out in it.)