Wind and rain reduced my motivation to shoot that much material, but at least I got something done, that is nice to remember afterwards.
Hope you guys like it, and have a merry Xmas everyone!
Wind and rain reduced my motivation to shoot that much material, but at least I got something done, that is nice to remember afterwards.
Hope you guys like it, and have a merry Xmas everyone!
DAY 7, NEWGALE to WHITESANDS BAY
Distance: 31 km
Time on trail: 6:30 – 17:30
Whitesands Beach campsite 7£
After a rough and restless night the morning revealed itself serene and sunny. Lazy wawes hit the shore, for the wind had withdrawn somewhere behind the horizon. But I knew it would come back. According to the forecast, it’ll rain 20mm the next day!
But I enjoyed the fine morning, and the 71 steps that lead from Newgale up to Cwm Maer. For three hours I walked up and down, at the top of steep cliffs, yellow gorse groving all over, before reaching the pretty village of Solva.
On my way to St. David I encountered several groups doing “coasteering”, traversing sea cliffs by scrambling and climbing. It looked crazy to hover above sharp rocks and whirling waves.
From Caerfai Bay I headed inland to St.David – the smallest city in Britain. After 30 minutes I reached the lively yard of the cathedral. I felt tired and had considered long if making this side trip, but inside the cathedral I kned I had made the right choice.
The last 14km were splendid walking. The landscape felt more isolated than before but the long beach of Whitesands Bay was full of surfers.
The surfers disappeared with the last light and dark and ominous clouds covered the sky. It was cold and the only café was closed at five. Wind got stronger, almost stormy. The camping site felt exposed but I had no idea what was about to come…
DAY 8, WHITESANDS BAY to TREFIN
Distance: 18 km
Time on trail: 8:00 – 14:30
Prendergast Caravan park 5£
Heavy rain and wind shaked the tent during the small hours. I felt increasingly unease, until after six the wind was so strong that it severely questioned the tent’s ability to hold on. I looked outside and saw how a big camping tent had flown over a white van. At the same time the vertical pole at the end of my feet was airborne! I burst into action. Without any hesitation, I did an emergency exit, and in less than a minute all my gear was out and the tent down. I moved to the nearby toilet block to pack my stuff better, feeling quite dismal. Fortunately, nothing had got broken, unlike the tent of the man in the white van. Poor man had been camping for two months before this happened.
After recovering in the toilet block, I left the exposed beach and headed towards the towering Carn Penberry. Fortunately, in few hours the weather changed and walking felt enjoyable again.
At Porthgain I stopped for a lunch in the famous Sloop Inn. After a hard morning I felt like I deserved it.
And in one hour and half I was already at the Trefin campsite. I was the only one camping, of course. Later I headed to the locan inn to watch Champions League football.
DAY 9, TREFIN to FISHGUARD+
Distance: 35 km
Time on trail: 6:00 – 17:00
Fishguard Bay Caravan and Camping park 15£
After leaving the sheltered campsite behind, the reality hit against my face and hard. When I reached the sea side cliff tops next to the village, a mixture of raging wind, rain and even a hail storm stroke me in a horizontal plane. The wind was so hard, that walking to the opposite direction would have been impossible.
For 4 hours I fought in the wind. Even if it blew mainly from behind and side, it came in strong gusts that really shook my balance. After reaching the Strumble Head lighthouse, the trail turned east and wasn’t so exposed any longer. The waves calmed down and dark clouds disappeared.
At the sheltered beach of Portsychan Bay I stopped for a lunch and shared the moment with a curious seal, who swam several times nearby to greet me. During the three hour stretch to Fishguard I saw at least five times seals in different spots and had a rare chat with another Coast Path walker!
I felt exhausted at the rainy Fishguard but the campsite was still 3km further along the coast.
But what a campsite it is! Pricey but definitely worth it. I enjoyed the top-notch facilities and views over the sea. Unfortunately no other campers were around so I crawled early to bed. The next day would be the ultimate ending for the journey; instead of two shorter days, I’ll push until the very end and leave only few kilometers for the the travel day.
DAY 10, FISHGUARD+ to ALLT-Y-COED
Distance: 36,5 km
Time on trail: 6:00 – 17:00
Allt-Y-Coed Farm 5£
A beautiful morning was inspiring and with full of energy, I headed onwards.
I had dried my shoes and socks well during the night – but for nothing! The trail was so narrow that all the moist grass around made my feet wet again in no time. And the whole tour around Dinas Island was absolutely full of sheep and cow waste. But I saw porpoises. Near Needle Rock, which was full of sea birds, two porpoises swam along the bay, their dark backs glimmering in the morning sun.
Despite the nice sight, my mood went worse as it began to really hurt my feet. My body was sensing how the end was drawing near and it wanted to give up already. I expected to have a long break at Newport before starting the last official section, but it was cold and rainy again. I ate quickly and kept going, grim look on my face.
There are more than 500 gates along the Coast Path, and now only 36 was left. The end was close!
But the last 20km were supposed to be the toughest on the whole trail. It was the most beautiful section too and fortunately I left the rain behind. At Witch’s Cauldron I kept a longer break, and even if at first it felt like doing more harm for my tired legs and hurting feet, they warmed up one last time.
The last few hours went in a flow, not really feeling any pain but the sweet taste of a victory. I climbed the flanks of Foel Hendre like in my best days in the Alps. It was easy to smile at Cemaes Head, near the Allt-y-Coed campsite.
DAY 11, ALLT-Y-COED to CARDIGAN
Distance: 8,5 km
Time on trail: 8:00 – 9:40
On the last day I walked to the official end of the trail and then to Cardigan. As soon as I boarded a bus to Carmarthen, it began to rain, and in Carmarthen it was pouring with water. I waited long hours before my train towards London Gatwick arrived.
I had high hopes for this hike and in some way I felt a bit disappointed in the end. The weather wasn’t the best, of course not the worst either, but compared to the sunny and warm spell just before my trip, I couldn’t help but to feel slightly unfortunate. The constant wind really got on my nerves and made the evenings very chilly. The other minus factor was the total absence of fellow long-distance hikers and the feeling of belonging to the community of hikers. It was perhaps too early of the season or bad timings, but I was the only hiker camping in all of the campsites! The trail felt also few days too long. I think it would work best as a hike that could be done in a week.
But nevertheless it’s a beautiful trail with plenty to see. And if you’re interested in birds and wildlife, you’ll get even more out of it. Just remember to bring small binoculars!
DAY 4, ANGLE to SANDY HAVEN
Distance: 45 km
Time on trail: 5:45 – 18:45
Sandy Haven camping 6£
I slept restlessly, listening the low humming of the distant oil refinery. It remainded me of the coming 45 kilometers. I knew my legs could make it if just having the right attitude – you’ll set out to do something and that’s it! To help to achieve this goal, I split the day in three parts: first 4h30 minutes to the Pembroke Castle, then 4h30 minutes to Milford Haven and at last 6,5km to the final campsite.
The oil refinery loomed in the distant shore like a grotesque temple, representing everything industrial. I walked closer while the morning progressed.
I reached the Pembroke Castle on time and sat down for a lunch break. After the castle, the trail headed into woodland where I got lost for some 20 minutes, and soon after got almost run over by few nervous cows. Only ninja jumps and quick feet saved me. The lost time and extra difficulties annoyed me like hell, like the day wouldn’t already be hard enough?
At the end of the bay the trail changed to road walking, and the day began to feel heavy. I passed by more and more industrial constructions, but in some way it was also interesting. Ugly but interesting. Short breaks followed one after another. It rained time to times and I had to walk the whole day in wet socks.
I don’t remember much from the last kilometres but at some point I started to believe that I was going to make it. I think I almost flew the last part but reaching the campsite was a huge disappointment. It was kind of closed and for a while, I couldn’t see anyone. Finally I saw some movement in one of the holiday homes and went to ask what should I do. The man was a friend of the owner or something, and had the key to the shower block. He asked me a fee and promised to deliver it to the owner. After few hours I dropped dead, while wind got stronger and stronger outside, playing with my lonely tent.
DAY 5, SANDY HAVEN to MARTIN’S HAVEN
Distance: 20 km
Time on trail: 7:00 – 14:00
West Hook Farm campsite 7£
Right next to the Sandy Haven campsite are series of stepping stones that can be crossed only at the right time of the day. That day the high tide was at 6:05 am and the low tide 6h10 minutes later. The stones are visible the earliest two hours before the low tide so I could safely cross the water from 10:15 am. That was definitely too much waiting for my taste, as I was already up at six o’clock. The wind and rain were hammering my tent and I wanted anxiously to get moving.
I took the 1h2o minutes detour along narrow country lanes. Mist hid everything and whenever the biting wind couldn’t reach me, I sweat like a pig. Taking the detour felt stupid and exhausting but fortunately I was able to cross easily the next stepping stones at The Gann.
Near Dale the weather got seriously worse. Strong eastern wind swept over the exposed peninsula and it was pouring with water. I had to stop for a hot tea and chocolate cake. At the same time, a cross country marathon and even an ultra marathon was taking place outside. Insane!
Apart from my severely leaking boots, my rain gear kept me dry enough, and for a while, it was nice to cheer up the muddy runners. But in that weather I decided to make the short cut through the Dale peninsula and get to West Hook as soon as possible.
This time the campsite was open, and there were even some other campers. But unfortunately still no sign of any other hikers. And as the two girls of my age, camping next to my tent, were not interested at all in my stories, fun of the whole trip was sliding further and further. The campsite was at a beautiful spot but the mist covered any views to the open sea. Darkness fell early and in my low spirits I could only hope for a drier weather again.
DAY 6, MARTIN’S HAVEN to NEWGALE
Distance: 31,5 km
Time on trail: 7:45 – 16:15
Newgale camping 7£
At seven in the morning it had not been raining for a while and I started to walk. The visibility was close to non-existent.
At St.Brides Ann my hike almost came to its sudden, cruel end. I met a Dutch photographer and biologist, who was studying small living creatures among the rocks and puddles of the beach. As soon as I was at the distance to say hi, I fell on my back without any chance to react. It was a stupid mistake and a combination of sloppiness, muddy boots, slimy and extremely slippery rocks. I was very lucky not hurting myself any worse, even the camera I was holding in my hand got only a small scratch. What a way to introduce myself to the Dutch!
The trail continued muddy and slippery because of the yesterday’s race, and it was painfully difficult to walk. Fortunately, some sun greeted me at Little Haven, but at Broad Haven it rained again.
I ate a cold lunch of yoghurt and bread, wearing wet socks a third day in a row and feeling slightly miserable in the cold wind. After Nolton I finally met some other hikers when I saw two British guys walking the same Coast Path but to the opposite direction. “What a lovely holiday weather!” they shouted and pushed bravely against the wind, like typical young British men centuries ago when exploring the distant lands and farthest corners of the empire.
Newgale had a big, open campsite without any other protection than a rocky seawall. My tent was swaying in the wind worse than ever. It was cold and rainy, and the only hospital place to be was the local inn.
To be continue…
The extreme western point of Wales is not so well known as the more popular long distance trails in UK. However, the 300 km long Pembrokeshire Coast Path should offer a magnificient experience along sandy beaches and windswept cliff tops. After my previous, hard mountain trek in the French Alps, I felt it was again a turn of a coastal walk. To Wales then!
After an exhausting travel, with many different trains from London Gatwick, I finally reached the village of Kilgetty, near the starting line of the trail. The day had been sunny and promising so far but when I got off from the train, it started to pour water. It poured like giving a last warning or a reminder if I really wanted to do this. I could still turn back. After making the last groceries, a beautiful rainbow led me towards the campsite at Stepaside, some 30 minutes away.
DAY 1, STEPASIDE to MANORBIER BAY (28th of April)
Distance: 33 km
Time on trail: 6:30 – 18:00
Kelpie campsite (5£ as it was officially closed)
In the morning, the tent was covered with rime but I had felt warm during the night. Birds were signing loud while walking the last few kilometers to Amroth and the seaside. The Atlantic Ocean was waiting, glimmering gloriously in the morning sun.
Low tide at Saundersfoot.
While approaching the walled seaside town of Tenby and its colourful houses, westerly wind got suddenly stronger. But soon I was inside the town walls, walking along the main street. The local outdoor store had only large gas cartridges but fortunately I found a medium size from a Morris&Brothers hardware store. As always, it was a huge relief to find the gas. After a 45min lunch break I began a long stretch along the beach towards Penally and the first MoD firing range. In the freezing wind, I couldn’t help but to wonder, how the locals were wearing so few clothes?
A red flag in the mast meant that the army was firing in the area and I should use an inland detour.
Lydstep had a big caravan park but no one was around at the Happy Acre campsite. I decided to keep going, and soon after, I found nice grassy patches at the clifftops. For an hour, I was trying to make up my mind whether to wild camp or push until Manorbier. My feet felt good, so finally I started to move again and walked the last 6,5 km.
The Kelpey campsite was closed due to an installation of a new toilet block. I cursed my bad luck. The owner, who was a nice lady, didn’t want me to stay at first, but in the end she couldn’t refuse the easy buck. I might have looked quite tired too… I stayed near the fence, out of sight, boiled pasta and observed a curious Red Robin flying around. The dark clouds promised rain for the night and I hoped, that by morning it would be clear again.
DAY 2, MANORBIER BAY to BOSHERSTON
Distance: 18 km
Time on trail: 7:00 – 14:00
It rained hard during the night but the morning was full of positive feeling, the air was filled with the sound of waves hitting the Manorbier Bay.
Until Broad Haven I climbed up and down the seaside cliffs and passed by beautiful sandy beaches, Barafundle Bay being the most stunning. The sun was shining but westerly wind made me feel chilly, as soon as I stopped walking.
The MoD range of Castlemartin was also closed, so I turned inlands and to the lily ponds of Bosherston. The ponds were quite disappointing as I didn’t see birds at all, and the hard midday sun made heavily wooded slopes and the lakes look dull and uninvited. Soon after, I reached the village and found an empty campsite. It felt way too early to finish the day, but as the next day I couldn’t reach any further than Angle, I decided to stay. The village didn’t offer much to see, and as no other walkers were anywhere, the rest of the evening felt long and lonely.
DAY 3, BOSHERSTON to ANGLE
Distance: 25 km
Time on trail: 6:40 – 14:30
Castle Farm campsite 5£
Another fine morning. I walked through fields to the army barracks of Castlemartin and an observation area, from where one could see the military training. Unfortunately, nothing was going on at that early, so after a breakfast break, I tackled a long stretch of road walk to reach the sea again at Freshwater West.
Many ups and downs followed before I reached the Angle Peninsula and the Thorne Island, that rose from the sea like the fortress of Alcatraz. It felt strange to see the northern shore where the trail would eventually go – after walking first some 50 km around the bay of Pembroke!
Angle is a bit more lively village with a nice campsite. But still, unfortunately, I was the only hiker. The next day would be all urban and industrial with oil refineries, liquid natural gas terminals and city of Pembroke waiting. My plan was to pass by it all at once. A hard 45 km walk all the way until Sandy Haven, far from the other side of the peninsula. To succeed in that, I needed some refreshments:
To be continued…
One day, while checking day trip destinations within a biking distance from my home, I came across with a name Meiko. I’ve had heard about the lake before, but the name still carried a veil of a mystery. A closer research revealed a perfect day trip destination; protected forests and rocky cliffs around a serene lake, that looked more typical to a Finnish lake district than being so far in the south. More about Meiko here (in Finnish).
I decided to go the next possible day that would feel even remotely summerish. (When the rest of Europe has enjoyed or suffered from hot weather, it has been more cold and rainy here in the north than usual)
The day came early July, and I hit the road eagerly. I hadn’t been in an adventure for a long time.
After 20km of easy biking in a nice summer sunshine, I arrived to the Meiko area, northwest from Kirkkonummi center. I left my bike at the parking lot near the waterworks building and walked directly to the lakeside. The very moment I reached the shore, I saw a family of black-throated loons nearby. After watching for a while what they were up to, I started walking around the lake counter-clockwise.
(map from http://www.retkikartta.fi)
Time to times the trail headed deeper into a dense forest, but never very far. In the midst of the woods I had a staring competion with a hyper active squirrel, which I won easily. But other than that, the forest around the lake was quiet. The birds seemed to have a midday break and mosquitos had fortunately something else to do. I met only few other walkers.
After couple of hours of slow walking, I reached the western shore where a curious common sandpiper joined me. It kept me company for a long while and flew always in front of me to a next lakeside rock. I hope I wasn’t distracting its nest somewhere nearby.
After Duvarviken bay the trail climbed steeply up to the Meikobergen. From the southern cliffs opened up a great view over the serene Meiko lake and its most precious sight ; the nest of an osprey.
I sat down for a while, just staring the nest at the top of a tall pine on a small island. I was fortunate to see both of the ospreys circling majestically around. Black-throated loons were calling each other around the lake – a typical soundscape of a Finnish lake. The only distraction were few groups of sunbathers and their loud laughing coming from the rocks at the eastern end of the lake. Otherwise it felt like a real wilderness. I decided that Meiko deserves another visit one day.
This day walk was also the first walk with my new hiking shoes – Lowa Ferrox GTX Mid. I was tempted to purchase another pair of Lowa Zephyrs as in the end I was very satisfied with their performance, but then decided to try something new. Lowa defines Ferrox as a speed hiking shoe. They are slightly lighter than the Zephyrs, weighing 860 grams and having more flexible outer sole.
My feet got very sweaty when biking to Meiko and I got already bit worried, but while walking they cooled down to normal. The first impression of the shoes was good, but I’ll have to wait and see how they feel when walking a longer day with a proper backpack.
The coast of Wales is now conquered, through rain, hail and stormy winds, from Amroth to Cardigan. But fortunately I had sunny days too and the coast showed its better side. Plenty of quiet trail to walk, birds to observe and I got to see even seals and porpoises!
I walked the 300km path basically in ten days (some days shorter, some maybe too hard) and camped every night at campsites.
As usual, the rest of the story, photos and video will follow later on, or much later. I’ll try to do my best!
Wales it is then! I’m super excited as it has been too long since my last real hike and UK in spring is a great destination. Feeling also a bit nervous as I booked this trip with very short preparation time; only one week to get everything ready and sorted out. I have done sports but not much walking exercises lately so I can only hope my body still remembers how to carry a backpack! Another thing that worries me is the weather in Wales. Prior to my hike Pembroke has enjoyed two weeks of warm and sunny weather. Does it mean that when I get there, it’ll be time for stormy fronts to arrive from the Atlantic, bringing rain after rain?
I won’t buy any maps so having only this guidebook. Navigation should not be any big issue; just keeping the sea on the left hand side! Besides the national trails are usually well marked in UK. My flights are to London, and then with a combination of trains and buses to Wales and back.
Btw, does anyone know if one can get a resealable (Coleman for example) gas canister somewhere around Kilgetty and Amroth?
Trail: Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Length: 300 km (11 walking days)
Location: Amroth to Cardigan, Wales, UK
Time: Spring 2015
Everything ready to be packed! I’ll be resupplying along the way and eating few times in a pub, but I like to have some portions already with me as well. And nothing beats the finnish chokolate! Btw, the weather forecast doesn’t look that sunny anymore as expected:)
I was able to avoid all the commitments for the Easter holidays and even got my brother’s car for loan; a perfect opportunity to visit some of the national parks here in southern Finland.
I left Sunday morning at ten when it was raining slush, but closer to Kurjenrahka NP the day began to clear. I left my car around twelve to the Kurjenrahka visitor center and headed south towards Töykkälä. The car park was half full and few other walkers left at the same time, but the overall feeling was quite peaceful.
Soon the Töykkälä trail departed from the main path and its condition got much worse. The duckboards were in bad shape and often under water. My boots are leaking nowadays but fortunately I didn’t wet my feet that badly. I kept my first break at the Koivusaari bird watching tower hoping to see something.
At first the mire looked dead; I could hear or see nothing moving. But after a while three black and white birds with big wings were bursting into the air flying around and diving fearlessly. I later learned they were Northern Lapwings (töyhtöhyyppä) but at that moment it bothered me a lot not being able to identify them as they were too far for my tiny binoculars.
I finally reached the Töykkälä shelter but the kilometers seemed to go slowly. Maybe it was because of the condition of the trail, maybe my lack of walking lately. I saw few people but the trail was mostly silent. At Töykkälä I needed to decide if hiking still the southern loop of Vajosuo or making a direct shortcut to the northwest. It looked like I was running out of time so when reaching the dirt road south of Töykkälä I headed towards Asonlammi.
After one hour and half I was back in the forest. I passed by some clearings and then a campfire place and rocky slopes of Takaniitunvuori. After that the trail descended into the Pukkipalo old-growth forest, where the forest had stayed as pristine as the nature had wanted. The green color of the moss and pine needles was deep and full of secrets. Chaffinches were singing but I could not spot anything else.
I reached the quiet Lakjärvi shelter a bit before 6 pm. I sat down and felt slightly anxious. For a while I thought walking the 7 km back to the car park and driving home and have a sauna. Tall pines stood still and the evening sun shone brightly between them. Slowly I began to feel peace of mind and decided to make a fire.
Not much later a middle-aged man came with his daughter and a cute little dog. As I was already placed myself comfortably they went to the second shelter. After chatting for a while all of us started cooking. I boiled some noodles with my burner and kept a small fire just for the joy of having it.
When the darkness began to lurk behind the corner and I was about to make myself ready for the night, two young couples arrived with big backpacks. I offered to move to the third, tiny two man shelter, and let them have the biggest one. It was good that I had kept the fire going. I let the guys to prepare their dinner and moved my stuff away. After reading for a while I closed the headlamp and the darkness of the night swallowed my small shelter. From further I could still hear low noise of a cracking firewood and people chatting around it.
It got -2 degrees during the night and I stayed just at the edge of feeling comfortably warm. I had my Halti summer sleeping bag over the RAB one and few layers of clothes. The wooden platform felt hard under my back.
In the morning I packed quickly and left at the first light, around 6:30. There was no movement in the other shelters yet. The ground was frosty but walking felt good, although a bit tiring.
After 3,5 km I reached the Savojärvi lake and saw a group of swans floating silently in front of the morning sun. After few photos I left Rantapiha behind and walked in the complite solitude the last 3 km along more duckboards back to the Kurjenpesä car park. I had had only a banana for a breakfast and for a second I got terrified of how little food I had taken with me. But then I remembered the choko muesli package that I had left in the car. Such a joy was the reunion with it.
I drove one hour and half to the Torronsuo National Park as I had not been either there before. After a couple of hour tour along the edges of this marshland, I headed back home. Torronsuo was busy of people, but for my disappointment I didn’t see much birdlife. Overall good overnight trip!
Here’s official info about Kurjenrahka NP.
Finally I can proudly present my first book, Yksin halki Alppien, although I’m of course nervous to hear how people like it. Anyway, this long but very rewarding project is now done! I hope the people who read it would feel the greatness of the magnificient hiking trail called GR5. The book tells the tale how my one month solo hike through the French Alps went in the summer 2013.
Helpointa ja edullisinta on suunnata verkkokirjakauppaan ja tilata painettu kirja sieltä:
How to order:
At the moment, the best way to order the printed book is from an online bookstore:
Also, as I have some copies myself you could ask it directly from me. Just send an email to a.rantsu at hotmail.com with your details. The price is 11,90 EUR (including shipping inside Finland). I’ll update this availability list, also when the e-book is out.
Includes: Detailed and lively written travel story of my GR5 hike, artistic black&white photographs, a map and statistics sheet in color. Remember, it’s not a guidebook.
English translation is under work, but I can’t give yet any estimate.
I hope you’ll enjoy and please feel free to give feedback to a.rantsu at hotmail.com. Big thanks to everyone who has helped and supported along the way!
Total cost of the project ~ 190 EUR
As lot of people have asked me about camping and possible spots along the GR5, I wanted to publish a camping guide, which should answer to most of the typical questions. It’s complitely FREE, so just download it from the link below. I only hope that you could answer the simple poll if the guide was useful or not in your opinion.
Includes: General information about camping on GR5, a list of refuges, campsites and possible wild camping spots along the GR5 Alpine variant, all marked on the map.
ARantanen_GR5_Camping_GUIDE_FINAL (PDF, ~6.7MB)