I've just returned from a wonderful weekend in Wales. I was invited to tag along on a camping/surfing adventure, and with only a few weekends left on this wonderful continent, jumped at the chance (if you read Friday's post, you'll realize, 'jumped at the chance' is a little generous, there was some hesitation.... I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I was capable of camping at a whim).
We rented a van that resembled a HandyDART (BC reference) with the hopes of leaving London at 6pm...sharp. To make a long story short, the rental company (that shall remain nameless) was less than professional. The people who had the van before us returned it late, the rental company avoided our calls and the van was delivered four and a half hours late. We had a long drive ahead of us. We knew the campsite closed (strictly) at midnight, but we didn't want this little mishap to ruin a weekend we were all excited about. So off we went. With two responsible drivers, the rest of us were able to enjoy ourselves in the back, and we arrived in Wales in what seemed like no time.
In actuality, 'no time' was 3:30am. As you can probably imagine, with ten people there were quite a few 'pee breaks' as well as an incident with the starter. At one point the Van died at an intersection in a very small town in Wales. The boys had to jump start it (Jamaican bobsled style). Success.
....until we arrived at the campsite and they wouldn't let us in.
It was driving rain.
They sent us back up the hill to a side road and told us to sleep in the van.
Ten of us sleeping upright in the van.
With the wind blowing rain sideways, we sat in the van giggling at the predicament we found ourselves in. Finally the rain let up (slightly) and our brave men jumped out and quickly set up three tents. We had five tents with us but opted to get cozy in order to get ourselves into our sleeping bags a little quicker.
We set up our tents in the dark alongside a dirt road. When we awoke we found ourselves surrounded by sheep, with rolling green hills and a view for miles (for anyone who has been on a Cape Cod camping adventure with me, this may sound familiar- wildlife sanctuary anyone?).
Things were looking up. After sleeping from 4:30am until 9am, down to the campsite we went to try our luck....again.
By 11am (after eating Breakfast Baps at the campsite restaurant) they were able to squeeze us in.
I should explain now, this wasn't really about the camping. We weren't in the wilderness, just in a large field. The appeal was really the proximity to one of the most breathtaking beaches I have ever seen, and one of the top ten surf spots in the United Kingdom. It was really my type of camping. There were hot showers (and surfers), dish washing facilities (and surfers), and even a restaurant which served up a hot breakfast (alongside surfers). We were surrounded by (surfers) the Welsh countryside on one side and sand dunes on the other. It was a five minute walk through the dunes to (cough...the surfers) Llangennith Beach.
My tent away from home.
You could tell this was a special spot for many. We were told people arrive and set up shop, sometimes staying for a month at a time. Most of the tents resembled aeroplane hangers. We're talking communes of tents with multiple rooms, and full tables set up inside. In some instances there were tents connected to Vans, and the owners didn't even have to go outside to get from one to the next.
Let's take a closer look at our spot...
And now a look at our neighbour's campsite.....
Folks- that is how it's done. Cool right?
Ok, let's compare...
Next time I'll have bunting that matches my van curtains, a wind screen, and a flag...I promise.
After our Breakfast, we spent most of Saturday at the beach. It was a gorgeous day. Those who wanted to surf did, and those who didn't, caught up on their celebrity gossip on the sandbar. Life was good.
Renting some extra boards.
Men and surf boards....sigh.
A quick surf lesson a la Crosby.
We soon found out there was a rather large influx of Jellyfish...not ideal.
After the beach we headed back to the campsite for some much needed R&R.
Post-nap, we grabbed the necessary provisions and headed through the dunes to have our dinner on the beach.
Did I say headed? Sorry, I meant 'Prancersised'...
Looking back at the campsite from the sand dunes.
Take a look at this beach. There is definitely something about white sand and beach grass that speaks to me...
Man strong. Man make fire.
We cooked burgers and sausages, and made countless S'mores.
Shortly after running out of provisions (read: beer), and just as some of us (read: me) began to fade, the weather took a turn for the worse. We were hit by rain so hard, it soaked us in seconds. We quickly grabbed up everything we could and made our way back to camp. Soaked through, we took off our sandy gear and crawled into bed. That night it rained, and it rained, and it rained. The next morning it continued to rain. Buckets upon buckets. We laughed in our tents trying to communicate with everyone about what the game plan might be. It was decided we would throw on clothes (our rain gear wet from the night before) and make a run for the restaurant to hopefully ride out the storm. It was only after emerging from our tents that we saw the damage the storm had taken on our campsite. COMPLETE Armageddon. Our gazebo had pooled with so much water it broke, chairs were everywhere. Clothing and towels were a sopping sandy mess. We had cardboard boxes full of beer cans that now resembled paper mache. It was a complete disaster. I'm sure our neighbours had a good laugh at what they saw, perhaps judging us on our amateur camping skills.
You could say our camp resembled how our heads felt. Off to the restaurant for a fry-up. As we ate, it continued to pour. Hours later the rain let up and we seized the opportunity to dismantle camp. At that point, as it still wasn't raining, we made the decision to attempt a hike along the crest of the hillside towards the neighbouring village. We made our way (most of us in flip flops as our proper footwear was either soaked through or buried within our bags) up to the crest and through the hills. From the hillside you could see for miles, looking down on sandy beaches as far as the eye could see. We walked by wild Welsh ponies, and a World War II radar station. Shortly after reaching the peak of the hill, the clouds opened and we were once again hit by heavy rain. Soaked though....again (you could ring out my shorts) we trudged along to the pub. Most of us continued on our way through the rain and fog, and thankfully two of the guys decided to brave the elements and run back to get the Van so that after warming up in the pub we could put on dry clothes and head for London.
We spent our last couple of hours eating British comfort (pub) food, drinking beer (and hot tea), and warming our bodies.
We arrived back in London a soggy mess, but with smiles on our faces. While the Welsh air didn't quite blow the stink off of us (it would take more than that), we enjoyed every second of our weekend. The weather only added to our adventure, and after a rocky start, even torrential rain couldn't dampen our spirits.
If you are living in the UK and haven't made it towards Llangennith Beach, I can't recommend it enough. The link to our glampsite is HERE.
*If surfing is your thing, there's a couple that rent surf boards (and offer lessons) out of their van (see above picture). You can find them most days at the end of the parking lot.
Some recently added goodies from the camping weekend:
Girls behaving badly. Granny, close your eyes. Actually, you've watched my brothers doing Keg Stands, nevermind.