Arrival and day 1.
The plan had been for a group of Blue Tits to swim Bala and have a bit of a jolly after Ali's channel swim. Sadly her injured shoulder not only prevented her from attempting the channel but also put paid to any long distance swim plans.
The group of 10 or so became 3. Min, Kaz and I decided to bring forward our October jaunt and do it in Bala.
Min found us a camp site. We had been warned that there would be 66 druids staying there and did we mind. Min decided we would not and booked us in. The campsite has the advantage of a water side location which makes swimming easy. It was also about 17 miles from Dogellau. We planned to cycle there.
Kaz and I set off around 10am. It is the first time that we have travelled with the two road bikes on the back of my vehicle. It took us 8 goes to get the positioning right and then a mile down the road we had to stop to readjust again as inexplicably the boot open warning sign had come on.
We eventually left Woolwich (where we had stopped for further bike faff) around 1045.
And joy of joy the roads were clear. We went on the M6 toll. Although it takes you slightly past where we needed to be, the double back takes less time than fighting with the throngs through Birmingham. At £5.50 it is expensive but well worth it not to be stuck in stationary traffic for hours.
We arrived at the camp site just before 4pm. Well it would be fair to say we arrived at a camp site at just before 4pm. There was no record of our booking under the names, Emma, Kaz, Sarah, Tilston, Bunce or Dodsworth. The receptionist showed me that her book had no bookings what so ever for a tent and two cars for that night.
Back down the lane we went where the Sat Nav had suggested we should go anyway.
We eventually arrived at camp. We went in to pay and ummed and ahed about using the pop up. I was convinced that we would be to cramped. But as the receptionist worked out the cost at over £50 a night (not sure how many friends she thought we had but there was an imaginary 4th person with us for most of the weekend as it happened!)
Kaz and I pitched the tent and sorted out the bedrooms. It was obvious that we would all fit in so we decided not to bother with the pop up and go with it. Min arrived just after 6pm just as we had finished. She had been working (to be fair) but I could not help but noticing that last time we had pitched the tent just as Min arrived!
We trucked into town and bought some provisions hoping Bob (the fridge would be cold). Alas he appeared to be broken. The light was fading so we could not sort him in the dark. We decided to have a look at him properly in the morning.
Bob was the first malfunction of the weekend. Several things broke down or behaved erratically during the 3 days we were there.
Chicken surprise for tea with pasta that Min had made. There truly was a surprise. Normally the surprise is the added tin of sweetcorn. Min had sourced the chicken supreme from another outfit and they surprised us with the addition of potato. It is very nice and washed down with cider it hit the spot. This is not a dish we would have had if Ali had been there. She thinks chicken and pasta is wrong.
The next morning we all slept in til around 8.30am. Regular campers will know that this is incredibly late for camping. We surprised our selves. We had all slept well. I had been assaulted in the night. Min had thrown Augustus at me as she said I was snoring. Apparently I had woken up briefly said "am I snoring, sorry" then dropped back off into a peaceful snore free slumber. The irony as I had wanted to take the pop up as I believed Min snored (she did once in Roth!) and I wanted to ensure a good nights sleep for myself.
Sorting Bob was the first activity of the day. A 3 way fridge we plugged him into the car and he was immediately cold. It would seem that the problem was with the electric lead not Bob himself. With Bob incapacitated for the weekend we were going to have to rely on the cold weather to keep our milk cool. And the Strongbow!
The next activity was swimming in Bala. Cossie on and with Flo for support (my swim safety device) I went into the water. It felt cold. Much colder than Leybourne or the sea. I thought about 13-14 degrees. Leybourne has been over 20 up until recently and the sea reached 17. But refreshing and once I was in it was superb. At the point at which we were at, Bala is shallow for about 10 feet then there is a bank and it becomes very deep indeed. So deep that you can see the line from the edge. When swimming there is ground then black. It is eerie.
Given the lateness of the hour and because we wanted to do cycling activity too I only swam for short while. I had a shower (far too hot for me. I had to dance in it to avoid the water) Kaz did not think they were hot enough and Min thought they were ok. Just like the 3 bears and the porridge!
After the shower and a bite to eat we did bike faff. This involves fiddling with tyres and generally getting ready to go cycling. When I was doing Ironman distance races I had a Msc in Bike Faffology. Min had the PHD. We had fine tuned our faffing and could pump up tyres and go. Not so this time. It seemed that we had regressed to our former cycling faffolgy selves.
We eventually left the campsite. The plan was to come out of the campsite turn right and cycle around Bala. And this is what we did. 3 miles of country lanes led to a village and then onto the A road back to Bala. I took myself off on the A road. Long and clear it was a great opportunity to give the carbon a run for its money. I had a great time. I waited for Kaz and Min to catch up and then we pooled into Bala for a nosey around.
If you want anything unusual Bala will sell it. The shops are an eclectic mix of every thing. We did buy fuses (just in case it was a fuse issue for Bob – it wasn't). We then went to a cafe for a bite to eat. We had cycled 12 miles at that point. I knew because my speedo was working. But after the cafe stop it inexplicably stopped working. I have no idea why. It had just and new batteries, magnet and sensor. Strange. it did not work for the rest of the trip.
The food in the cafe was great and we sat for while. The temperature was dropping so we headed back to the campsite. We also wanted to wrap up warm and experimented with different buff configurations, settling on balaclava as the warmest. It would have to be a bala clava given where we were staying!
In the evening we decided to go for a walk along the shore to look at the lake. The real reason was to go and see if we could see what the Druids were doing. There was a cauldron on the lake side with a stick with some writing on. A man appeared and he was chatting to someone. I said I would go and find out what was what. It was like getting blood from a stone. We were able to establish that they were there for the equinox and were celebrating the goddess of Bala. But he was cagey and reluctant to tell us too much. A younger woman appeared, staked her claim on her man by taking his arm and proceeded to tell us they were not an inclusive multi faith sect but rather an exclusive group. (I am not sure what threat the three of us posed to anyone, but she may have seen our inner beauty!)
The trees were spooky. All roots at the bottom and really old. It would seem that the lake floods and takes away the top soil. The area is a site of scientific interest. It seemed fitting somehow that the Wiccans were camped at this spot.
On balance we thought them an unfriendly lot. And this proved to be so as our friendly overtures when washing up or in the toilet block were ignored for the whole weekend. The other campers however were as friendly as you would expect fellow campers to be.
We surmised they were not Druids following a google look up. They appeared to be a group of Wiccans who were celebrating the equinox. Each to their own I am all for that. But they were not even civil in the end and we wondered how they would get on in daily life.
A dinner of hot dogs and pasta followed this excursion. A camping favourite. And strong bow. We were finding that opening one can and sharing then repeat meant that we did not drink all that much. We managed about 3 cans between us that night but it felt like more.
We sat up till at least 10.30pm that night. It is the carbon monoxide poisoning that does it you know. (really the fresh air of course) We had 212 lights between us as Kaz had brought some fairly lights. It was pleasing to sit with just those on and they looked really pretty from outside.
The camp site was filling up by now. Lots of wilder camping and fires. It is an excellent site although in the height of summer it would probably feel over crowded. It was not too crowded however this weekend. Even the 66 "druids" did not crowd us out. Although they had been placed in an field on their own.
The night was a bit chilly just for sitting and we were glad of the electric fan heater. We sat with the door open but the fly net down and decided it was just like having a flat screen TV. Only more entertaining.