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Llandegla to Bodfari

Thursday, August 23, 2012

These blog entries detail the adventures, perils, and inclement weather that befell Deborah, our Director of Marketing here at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, and her husband Martin along Offa’s Dyke, a 182-mile long trek along the border of England and Wales. For the full introduction and to start at the beginning to read the stories in order, see the June 28th, 2010 blog entry.

Llandegla to Bodfari

Dear Readers

This proved to be our worst day yet. Overnight the weather dramatically worsened. Fortunately, the ghosts did not bother us since we don't speak Welsh. We couldn't understand them and they, being Welsh, refused to understand us and so we went back to sleep. After a substantial breakfast that Katie put together, we had to walk back to Llandegla since Tom the taxi driver could not be found. By this time, the wind and rain combined to completely drench us, but we were nonetheless able to struggle into town to replenish our lunch supplies. We met Norma at the store who suggested that we spend the day by the fire at the Hall. How prescient were her words!  She then asked if we were carrying garlic. We said no. Actually, when we were in Hay, we tried to buy garlic for cooking but none was to be found. We just assumed that the Welsh didn’t carry it in the stores. Norma burst our preconceptions. It turned out that the Welsh carry garlic on their person as a preventative. She had two cloves extra in her pocket and gave them to us. We thought this a bit strange.

Preparing for walking in the storm, we bundled up as best we could. We turned my plastic garbage bag into a rain skirt for Martin, I, once again, dressed in all my wool layers, and set out into the howling storm after Norma warned us again, "Always know where the nearest running water is and beware the wind."

This was not the most auspicious start to the day. We found the path and started up the fields to the first hill ridge. I noticed that my feet were wet, the first time that this occurred on the trip. I looked down and realized that the rain was blowing into my boots. A bit later, I noticed that I could feel water squishing around. Then later that my boots were filling up with water and my toes were covered. We saw another couple that we had met two days earlier and asked them how they were faring. They were considering options, including dropping down from the hilltops and walking around on the road. We did not then realize that there was more than one reason to do that and how close the road to Ruthin was.

We trudged onward. I, in a cheery tone, asked Martin if he thought we could make it.  Surprisingly, he said, "Perhaps. It is too early to tell.” My ankles were covered in water by this time. We made it down the hill, sliding through the mud and started up the next ridge.  "Martin, do you hear that howling?” I asked. He thought it was just the wind, but I wasn't so sure.  It seemed strange that the wind and rain were so hostile.  Perhaps that Welsh ghost last night was threatening us. It was hard to tell since he had such a thick accent and my Welsh is shaky in the best of conditions. The howling continued. The wind was lifting me up slightly when I took steps up to the ridge. I felt as if something was pulling me up.  I was actually getting frightened.  Dealing with attack sheep and handling cross bows were second nature to me, as easy as stile hopping, but I felt that this situation was different. Finally Martin said that this was dangerous. We caught up to the next couple and told them that we were turning back. They told us that when we turned around to not look back since there was something odd about the wind and asked if we had garlic. It was getting wet but we did have it.

We then fought the wind going back, making it up and down the ridges, and finally getting down to the flooded fields. I kept seeing things out of the corner of my eye but I was more concerning about Martin who started shivering at our tea stop. We ate 5 protein bars in the lee of the trees and decided we needed to find a warm pub back in Llandegla.  We kept slogging back, slipping and sliding through the mud, keeping our garlic tightly at hand. At long last, we saw the village church. I noticed that there was a sign "refreshments," but we wanted the warmth of a pub. On the way through the village, we ran into another set of hikers who told us that the pub was closed. I suggested the church. By now, we noticed that the village was ominously devoid of people and that the howling was worse. "Quick!,” I yelled, “to the church!” I ran ahead of Martin to open the door and pulled him in, slamming it closed on some pretty solid looking wind. By now, my hands were so cold that I couldn't get the packet of our dry clothes open and so the lady hiker had to help.  "What was that out there?” I asked. I don't want to know, she said. After about six cups of hot tea with sugar, and some dry clothes, we recovered and contemplated what to do. Our English cell didn't work but the iPhone came to the rescue and we called Hughie at Glyn Clywd Isa. He picked us up in the driving wind and rain and said that the flooded roads and fields were problems all over Wales. We arrived wet and still shivering to their lovely 200+ year old home. They had an Aga, a stove that is always on, so it kept the flagstone floor in their kitchen warm as we took off sodden boots and socks. We unpacked. Everything was wet except the clothes in REI compression sacks. Passports in ziplocks, money in ziplocks, camera, guidebook, food, tea (just kidding, we drank it all earlier.). We dried it all in front of the Aga, our new friend. Soon, we were ensconced in front of an oak log fire with tea and scones. I could write poems in homage to Welsh scones, by the way. Slightly hard on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, sweet only with raisins, moistened with jam and clotted cream. Yum.

I took a long hot bath at their insistence. Linda and Hughie thought I still looked cold and other storm refugees were expected.  When they turned up, we found that they had been in front of us on the trail by only a couple of hundred feet. They went on to a road into Ruthin, sought refuge in a coffee shop, took a bus to Denbeigh, used a laundromat to dry their clothes and walked to the b and b. Very resourceful, I thought.

So we now knew from personal experience why it is hard to find garlic in Wales (used to repel werewolves in the wind), we found storms worse than Alaska, and we were left in a quandary regarding completing our hike. Should we reschedule the rest of the trip or go on to finish the last day? Would the barometer turn from foul to fair on the morrow?

Finally, Hughie had us read a published tale of their property on the sightings of the "grim eleves" and photographic evidence of unexplained activity of the grim elf sighting. Oh well, that is another tale. We are warm and dry and safe, tucking into a dinner of lasagna, garlic bread, spinach salad and cobbler with custard sauce.

Deborah Hansen