Off to Wales

Paddington station greeted me with chaos and stressed out families. It was 10.30 on a Monday morning, so the commuter rush had finished but in its place remained those traveling, but not starting their relaxation until after their awaited train journeys – and not a minute sooner it seemed. Dogs walked through the station loyally by their owners’ side, something I’d grown accustomed to seeing; dogs in shops, on public transport and even inside restaurants and pubs. Something Australia should get on board with I say.

I’d packed my small backpack with what I thought I’d need for the week ahead and left the rest at Emily’s. I knew I’d be hiking with it all on my back so I tried my best to bring only the essentials. Unfortunately, I failed quite masterfully and my shoulders would pay the price. Given I discovered this the first evening I arrived, you can trust I was a bit annoyed with myself. But, no pain, no gain right? I may as well make the mental and physical task of the hike that much harder for myself, just to get my money’s worth.

The train dropped me off in Tenby, a beautiful seaside town with colourful houses, narrow streets, and an abundance of friendly people. Aside from those that lived there, most travelers were seemingly from the UK and generally at least twice my age. Apparently Pembrokeshire is not on the standard gap year itinerary.

I admired the Welsh language, seeing it written on all the signage, but didn’t dare try to pronounce any of the words. None of them look at all intuitive, with far too many consonants to know what to do with. I didn’t get to hear anyone speak it either, but discovered some intense accents that I struggled to understand.

Before departing Tenby I did an 8km out and back hike to Monkstone Point, following some of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path that I would become all too familiar with in the coming days. My hiking boots were up to the task but my feet were not, and my shoulders struggled under the weight of the extra crap I thought I would need but undoubtedly would not. With a few steep stair climbs and some uneven terrain, it was safe to say that I wasn’t doing amazingly well at it, so was interested to see how I would handle the longer walks I had planned. Thankfully the running I had done in Australia did seem to do something for my leg strength and cardio endurance, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Following on from Tenby I caught the train to Pembroke, a town in Pembrokeshire that I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as I did Tenby, prompting me to spend a little more time relaxing rather than exploring. I’m confident this was probably a good thing anyway, considering the days ahead. I stayed in a room above a pub, a seemingly common thing for the area I discovered, not a bad idea might I add.

With less than 24 hours in Pembroke done and dusted, I caught a couple buses to get me to Broad Haven. The smell of freshly cut grass – and cow shit – filled the bus as we traveled down the road big enough for one car but somehow with a line dividing it into two lanes. With the driver going at a speed I didn’t deem safe, considering the narrow road and the fact that you couldn’t see if/when a car was coming, I wondered whether I’d even make it to Broad Haven. Maybe I would get out of this walk after all.

But alas, I made it. And Broad Haven turned out to be a beautiful little seaside town, but far less buzzing than Tenby. The quiet was well needed and beautiful, time slowed down and the waves brought a sense of peace over everyone. After a lunch watching the sea, I made my way to the youth hostel as one of very few guests and set myself up for the evening, ready to get walking the next day.