The road that led us to Wales…

As usual, an approaching long weekend gave us a reason to anxiously keep looking at the weather and hikeability of areas not too far away. In our priority list the Swiss Alps were keeping a high position, but as the day of departure approached the weather was looking increasingly bad.

Eventually the only option was to leave for the always so sunny Wales!

We had been changing long looks with the Snowdonia National Park and this seemed as the perfect opportunity to explore its hills. I was still a little bit bitter, since I have been really anxious to go to the Alps, but then again, lemons become lemonade, or how do we say it.

On a Wednesday we had our boat ticket on hand and passports in tow and our house on wheels attached to the car as we headed for work for the day. Turned out, that was more or less everything useful we had packed. Slowly it all became to sink in. We had our shower, but no towels. Yay. We had our camping chairs, but no fire bucket. Yay, again. We had sunny weather coming up, but no sunscreen. Yay, I always wanted to look like 50 when I turn 30.

More importantly, we had forgotten the licence plate of the trailer. Not exactly a good thing when crossing a border. So Waffle ended up running around like a headless chicken to get a new plate made. In the meanwhile I was hunting down some duct tape, to attache the plate with, since we didn’t pack any screws.

Waffle also had found out, that the lock on the door of our trailer did not really hold. So our trailer door was casually flapping away as it was pulled around the highways. The duct tape came in handy here too.

After a vigorous day of working and running around we were finally on the road to Calais, France. On the same road there were approximately 2,73 million other people trying to spot a piece of coast to sit on. That all resulted into us being stuck in a jam for an extra two hours, missing 2 boat connections and arriving to Dover closer to midnight than anybody would have wished for.

Snowdonia, UK

On the A5 towards the hills!

Snowdonia, A5, Wales

Caravan, Road trip, Wales

Our road train!

As we rolled out of the boat, I propped myself into an upright position against the window in the desperate attempt to stay awake and keep Waffle company. Absolute failure that was, as I was soon slipping into the abyss of drooly, snorety car-sleep. Soon Waffle shook my grumpy ass awake, since he was falling asleep as well. We needed to stop and move ourselves to the sleeping room. We used some rope to make sure nobody could get in to our trailer while we snored, and crawled under the covers, to get an hour or two of shuteye.

The morning came all too soon, but the prospect of having some mountains to climb turned into motivation to get up and going. I don’t know how Waffle did it. I would have not been in any shape for driving with my crisscrossed eyes. But soon we entered the National Park and gasped at the sight of the first hills plummeting into valleys and rising up again to plateaus. I felt my hiking nerves tingle, deary me had I missed that feeling!

We parked our road train right underneath the peak of Tryfan. The first mountain we were planning on climbing that day. First, we tried to sleep a bit longer though, since the climb up would be scrambling, and somehow I think, a well rested brain is crucial for survival in such activities.

I’ll leave you here for now. More about the wonders of the hills, and whether or not we had luck with the weather,  in the next post!

Sneak a peek to our photos here!

 

 

 

 

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Azores – The Wonder That Is Flores

You were abruptly left here the last time: Azores – The take Off 

We had made our way through the center of the island inside a thick cloud, being able to see only the first few meters of road ahead of us. So the dropping cliffs down to the coast came as a huge surprise as we finally reached them. Not to mention the almost ridiculous amount on waterfalls.

With our mouths open we drove down to the shore and found the town of Fajã Grande, which had a camping ground, free to use. The town also happened to be the westernmost village in Europe. It was a small, sleepy looking town, locked between the green slopes and waterfalls and the raging Atlantic, home to around 300 people and quite some cows.

We pitched our camp into a corner of a stone fence, to be safe from the sea winds and rain. Right on our doorstep there was the Atlantic, the coast displaying the frozen lava flows as rugged black rocks. The waves hitting the rocks were causing a constant mist of salty water flying around the whole town, we got slowly soaked as we stood there staring at the vastness of the ocean. We finished off the evening at the bar of the camping, enjoying some port wine and and local enthusiasm. It is not a common thing to have foreign tourists camping out there in the mid winter, so we did pull some attention.

The next morning we woke up with drizzle. That green blob of and island seemed to gather all the moist from the sea and mold it into clouds over the highlands, from where it drizzled down on everything. The day we spent by strolling around, looking at the views that were not covered by clouds. We found some waterfalls and a beautiful lake in the hillside, in the middle of a jungle in total peace and quiet. It was a bit of a lazy day of sightseeing, which was good, since both of us had a flu looming just around the corner.

Back at the campsite, there was a surprise waiting for us. Apparently all the attention of last evening wasn’t just because we were tourists camping out in winter. It was also because I was Finnish. As we arrived to the bar, some familiar sounding babbling from among all the Portuguese floated to my ears. There were other Finns there, at the furthest edge of Europe! Apparently there are a couple of Finns living there in Fajã Grande and they had gotten the notice of us camping almost instantly, and came to take a look if the rumor had any base in reality.

After some chitting and chatting we were invited for a dinner the home of one of these Finns. We learned that one of them had been living voluntarily outside of the safety net of the society in Fajã Grande in a hobbit hole for 12 years already and his friend had moved just a couple of years back. Inspiring stories we heard from them and enjoyed a very delicious meal too!

The camping at Fajã Grande became our home for the holiday. From there on out we did small excursion and hiked some distances when the weather allowed and nobody was dying out of fever. The island’s shores are littered with beautiful villages, connected by picturesque fishermen’s trails. Along those trails you can easily walk the complete length of the western coast. The eastern side is a little less hikable, but there are loops there too.

I loved the contrast between the paradise-like coastal areas and the rough and rugged highlands with the volcanic cones and lakes, often wrapped in clouds. You could almost think you are on another island altogether. On the coast the weather is relatively gentle, and sunny days are plentiful, as on the middle of the island the clouds hang low, leaving the visibility down to few meters and the air cool. No surprise that all the villages are right at the shore and the highlands are inhabited mainly by cows.

We bumped into the Finns still a few times, visited the hobbit hole and shared some wine, food and stories with them, learning loads about the island and how life there was. Turns out, quite some people have left their ordinary lives and settled on the island, to slow down in life. We had quite some inspiring conversations. (Also found out that it actually is real, French people like Aki Kaurismäki movies!)

When it finally was time to leave, we both were reluctant to see the island disappear behind us. We were rolling the idea in our mind of beginning a new life on one of these islands, like so many had done before us. Maybe still, one day?

We still had a day on Pico ahead of us. I’ll let you into that on the next post, hold on to your seats, the pretty things are not over!

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Israel and “The getting out of there!”

1st part of our Israel trip is here!

The second to last day of our mini holiday in Israel was upon us. We shoved a makeshift breakfast to our faces (no stores were open, thanks to sabbath) and headed once again to the desert.

Before taking on the cruel winter sun of the desert, we headed to the Dead Sea. Some googling had shown us the free to enter beaches at this famous salt puddle. We were all looking forward to the experience of floating, so it did not take long until we were carefully crawling over the merciless, rasping surface of the dry salt with our bare feet.

And then we floated. The buoyancy of the salty water was surprising. A human just sticks to the surface like a cork. We bounced and floated for some time, until we had to get going towards the hike of the day.

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Our hiking guide was recommending a long walk through the desert plains and canyons and climbing a small peak to reach a panoramic view over the Ramon crater, following partially the Israel National Trail.

So we headed to Mitzpe Ramon, bounced off the main road to a dusty sand track in the desert and arrived to the starting point. The hike started from the campsite of Be’erot and continued into the crater, following mainly the dry bed of the river Ardon.

It was an easy walk, following the sand roads they organize jeep safaris on. So it started all off as a bit of a boring thing, we are used to more rugged terrain, but the views surrounding us were submerging our minds nicely. Soon we entered a canyon and got to walk surrounded by beautiful stone walls and enjoy the gentle shadows.

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A horse shoe loop later the canyon widened out and we met the car tracks again. The crawled through the branching and opening river bed. At the same time the sand turned from yellow to red and we were constantly followed by flocks of quails and some other very pretty birds.

Finally we got to the promised climb. A short jump it was really, but offered a superb view over the desert under the magic of sunset. There we started to feel the chill rolling in too. The thin desert air doesn’t stay warm for long, once the radiation heat is gone. That was a sign to start making our way back to the car. So we went, looking back from time to time, to enjoy the changing colors in the sandy hills as the shadows grew longer.

Just as the darkness was making its way in, we reached the car and drove off. The last night we would sleep in a traditional tent type of a thing in a small town of Be’er Ora, which was only a short drive away from Eilat, handy for returning the car in the morning and getting to the airport. Little did we know, our hosts at the tent and calm sleep of the night would be just a distant memory come lunch the next day.

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The misery started with the returning of the car. We found nowhere to park, the car rental officer saw it fit to bark about such stupidity to Waffle. We were shooed off to find our bus, which was surrounded by anxious passengers who had been promised the bus transfer an hour ago. The buses, however, only leave after being packed full, never mind the timetable. Which, luckily for us, the bus was packed quickly and we got on our way.

The bus driver was doing a long detour via the Jordanian border, which we found a little odd, since the the route via the Egyptian side would have been 20 km shorter. As we stepped out of the bus, we got the answer for the odd choice of route.  We heard gun fire, and big explosions from that side. Which was unnerving, given the fact that we had no idea, whether it was a real situation or just an exercise.

With the soothing sounds of occasional explosions and machine gun series we packed ourselves to the terminal building with all the rest of the passengers. We were ordered in queues. That is where the staff apparently drained all their power of organizing.

We were lucky to be there early enough, since despite the queues, there was no guarantee you got picked for the security scrutiny in the order of flight schedules. The picking was completely random, and if you dared to ask anything, you got somebody shouting at you. Some people evidently missed their flights.

We stood there in the queue for over 2 hours before being picked, interrogated and walked through the security checks, shoving and shouting. For some reason Waffle’s colleague got picked for extra check and we lost him from our sight for almost an hour. We had to board the plane without knowing where he was.

Turned out, the airport staff was not handling the communication towards the crew of the plane too well either. The crew had no clue how many passengers they still needed to wait for. Every now and then a person or two were released and found the plane, eventually the colleague appeared too and we could relax. We were all going home!

It was a bit of a sour taste that the last days experiences left behind. Which is a pity, since the country is beautiful, food there is nice, and we would certainly like to explore the country by camping and heading more to the wild. But it might take some time before we venture that way again.

Ovda airport, Israel