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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Visiting Home – The part of the Baltic road trip

The last week of work before the summer vacation was going fast. I was shipped off to Luxembourg for meetings and Waffle had stress for transferring his knowledge to the people who would be replacing him for the coming 17 days. As Friday came, it did not feel much like a start of a holiday, the stress was still lingering around.

The fact, that my dad was signing off the purchase of the cottage while we were driving towards the airport, was not feeling very real yet. Did we really do this? Buy a cottage, on a whim? Really?

Yes, that is more or less exactly what we had done and now we were on our way to get the first look of the place as our own property! First we would have to make the journey. The tickets had been booked before we even had a clue we would be property owners, so the route was not the fastest nor the most direct. The flight would take us to Riga, Latvia, where there would be a car waiting for us. That car would then take us through to Estonia and Tallinn, where a ferry would get us safely across the Finnish bay and Helsinki. That would be on Sunday, keeping us on the road in the Baltics for two nights.

We flew to Riga and took off to the Latvian countryside. We silently thanked the EU for ditching the roaming costs of data usage and went hunting for the green blobs in Google maps. One of those blobs, the Gauja National Park, was more or less on our route, and turned out, there was a free camping ground in there as well.

A stretch of a good hour of countryside roads followed. I am more and more convinced, that Latvia is a country worth visiting. The nature is unspoiled and clean, the people friendly and helpful, bit distant in a Slavic way, the country has also a remarkable coast, you would not want to miss!

Eventually we entered the national park. The forests there are beautiful and fresh, dotted with small farming communities and their fields. It all felt strangely Finnish. I think I like Latvia.

Our camping ground was better than expected. There was plenty of smooth grass to go around at the side of a river. There was an outhouse and some open huts and fireplaces available, more than you would expect for literally no money.  Plenty of hungry, biting midges too…

 

 

 

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In the morning we moved on pretty quickly, nothing much to do in a wet forest, you know. The boat would leave only on the following morning, so we were in no hurry.  We selected a route that took us to the small roads and tiny villages. We did some shopping too, finding some Latvian beers and foods and the first things for the cottage, since in Latvia, many things are cheaper than in Finland.

As Estonia was getting closer, we entered the endless pine forests of the coastal side of the Baltics. My my, they are so pretty; the contrasts between the green mosses and the orange pines towering above them. Add some bits of purples and yellows from the flowers. There you do not miss home.

An icy wind was blowing over the land from the Baltic sea and we were rather happy to crash at a hostel for the night. We spent the evening exploring the newly acquired Latvian beers (excellent) and trying to get warm water from a shower. The peaceful evening was interrupted by a group of deaf people, trying to find the person responsible for the accommodation. They thought it were us, which was highly unlikely. So we called the owner, who refused to understand, that it is would be fairly difficult to talk to these people via phone. After a lot of texting, calling and gesturing the group had to get onto the road, to find another place to stay. Apparently they had arrived too late, and were not the problem of our host.

 

 

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Sunday came and we needed to be on the road early to catch the first ferry of the day. Finally we were on the last stretch to Finland and to our new holiday home. We didn’t even think about stopping at Helsinki now, we turned the car to north and drove.

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Road Trip 2015 – Part One

The holiday season was here again. With Waffle we had a generous 10 days of free time to spend. You probably guessed already, that it was not wasted on the sofa at home. No no. Our car was fully loaded on the morning of Christmas Eve as we drove to work. Around lunch we broke free, our car turned towards south for the next 920 kilometers. Our first stop would be Ardèche, and the house of Waffles parents.

We arrived late that evening and were greeted by a very happy dog and parents, accompanied by a hearty meal. Not much more was needed after such a long day. We gave up and fell into bed happy and eagerly waiting for a few days of hiking the  gorges of Ardèche.

The hunting of boar was still going on. The sounds of hunting dogs, running boars and an occasional gun shot gives a hike a special atmosphere. You hope you wont be mistaken to a boar and get shot, you hope no boar will run over you and so forth. In those forests there definitely is a lot of boar to hunt. At places the whole bed of the forest is completely turned over by them!

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We had some walks alongside the gorge. The sides of the canyon are filled with wild caves. Sometimes rather big ones, that you can easily walk into, as long as you have a light with you. We explored those, I mainly focused on avoiding the massive spiders. Down by the river we found an old ruin. Suspected to have been built by the Templiers back in the 1300th century. The last day also Hatchi, the dog, got his share of hiking. He was not completely amused by the idea of being carried over the slippery chalk stones…

 

 

After three days we left Ardèche, moving further to the south on the shores of the Mediterranean, first visiting the medieval city of Carcassonne. The weather there was still perfect for camping outside. That makes me slightly scared of the global warming, it is getting more and more visible…. Our spot for that night was close to La Franqui, a very nice buggy beach at a lagoon. From there, we had an easy drive to the starting point of the Pyrenees and the Pic du Canigou.

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Our walk for the next day left from the village of Vernet-Les-Bains. We were aiming for a total climb of close to 800 meters, ending up to the height of 1500 meters. That was a beautiful climb, on a small trail, winding through the hill side towards the massif of Canigou. It was beautiful to see how the nature changes with the rising height. We walked from an oak forest, to pines and spruces, all the way up to low shrubs growing on the top.

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Pic du Canigou was dominating the east side of our views, when we started our descent. The trail passed some ruins and we were wondering who on earth would have wanted to build a village in a place like that. Soon we found out, that they were actually the remaining structures of guerrilla fighters lodgings during the WWII.

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Massif du Canigou

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After getting down from the mountain we headed to search for the wild hot springs, we had heard rumors of. The Pyrenees seem to have quite some volcanic grounds producing small and smelly hot springs. We got to one of them, pouring out water as hot as 60 degrees. It had collected quite some skinny dippers into its pools.

For the night we drove back to the coast. Forecast promised a bit too chilly night for camping in the mountains. At the Mediterranean it was still toasty and the next day looked sunny. Setting the camp in the evening gave time to develop some ideas. That moment led into a decision to go visit Barcelona for the new year. Since we were not that far away anyways. You cannot believe how difficult it is to find a hotel from there, at a reasonable price, two days prior to New Year. But we managed!

We changed the mountains to a coastal walk, a nice loop around a peninsula next to Port-Vendres. A few kilometers walking by the clear blue sea and through the vineyards, with the sun on our backs. That was a nicely relaxing after the climbing the day before.

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We found a camping spot too, alongside the walking route, and started searching for a hike for the third day of that region. We were dreaming of higher snow covered tops for that hike. We managed to find a nice loop going by a few small lakes and climbing well over the height of 2000 meters starting close to Mont-Louis.

We arrived there the next morning. The parking lot was full of people, going on snow shoe safaris. That made us a little bit skeptical on how peaceful could our hike turn out to be. We started to collect some weird looks, while we prepared our hiking breakfast, and a hungry dog, trying to dive in too.

Eventually it seemed, that most of the people were headed to different trails, and after half a kilometer, we were in solitude, on a snow covered and slippery trail, going through a forest. After a mild climb we arrived at a small lake, partly frosty, partly frozen solid. It felt like home, in Finland, when the first cold nights come and the days are still clear. I found myself missing my ice skates. The place was so lovely that we are planning to return to there, in summer with a tent.

 

Trail went on, and brought us soon to another lake with magnificent mountain surroundings, and one of the more popular GR routes, being GR10, going to Compostela. We headed off to higher grounds again. Passed a large damned lake and climbed up to the  next ridge. For such a snowy day, so high up, it was very warm. We were both sweating like pigs wile climbing higher. It must have been up to 15 degrees in the sun.

The snowy trail was slippery but very very beautiful and it took us deep into nature and such peaceful places. Finding so much pure white snow made me really happy! Snow is, after all, something you need to make it feel like real Christmas!

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Before going to our hotel, we had some more hot springs to visit. We had an excellent tactic to arrive there after sunset, we were hoping, that most other visitors would be gone by then. The plan was a success. Almost nobody there and in the cover of darkness, we dared to skinny dip into the hottest of the rotten egg flavored pools. Timing was perfect; just when we were leaving, a bunch of Germans arrived.

After many days of hiking, a short dip in a hot pool is surprisingly relaxing. We fell quickly asleep at our hotel. Tomorrow would bring Catalan Spain, more Pyrenees and Barcelona with New Years festivities!

I am afraid this became a two piece story again. Stay tuned for the next part! With Barcelona, more mountains, volcanoes and such things!