Chasing the Dragon

Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 May 2017 – Anglesey, Wales.

Way back in June 2012, I finished my travels in SE Asia and arrived in the UK to support my Kiwi friend Malcolm Law as he, along with Englishman, Tom, set a record time in completing the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path. I wrote a bit about it here.

Since 2012 Malcolm has also completed an epic run in New Zealand, and is now on a third massive adventure. “Chasing the Dragon”, running the 1400 km Wales Coast Path AND the 285 km Offas Dyke Walkway back to back; almost circumnavigating Wales. Mal is doing this epic feat with Welsh Kiwi, James. They aim to complete this madness in 26 days’, knocking 13 days off the fastest known time; raising funds and awareness for the MIND charity in the UK and the Mental Health Foundation in NZ. The guys started when I was in Spain and this was the first weekend I had free since we got back. Naturally they were about as far from London as it was possible to be and still be in Wales. Right up in Anglesey in the north west. I was looking forward to the drive.

I left when I woke up, I have been really tired the past couple of weeks and wanted to wake naturally rather than setting an alarm for silly o’clock. It is a long drive; and it took a long time, six and half hours to Menai Bridge. I had arranged to contact the team when I arrived in Anglesey, but couldn’t get hold of anyone. I carried on driving around the coast to see if I could spot them anywhere and could not find runners, nor get hold of anyone on the phone. I eventually found a car park where I  had mobile reception and data and finally got some clues as to where they were, but more importantly where they would definitely be at 7:30 PM, in a couple of hours time.

On Wednesday when I decided to do this trip I checked for accommodation around Menai Bridge and seeing as there was so many rooms going free I did not bother to book anything, thinking I would sort out when I arrived. A bit of mistake…. When I looked on the internet in the car park, there appeared to be none left, anywhere in northern Wales apparently. I had a rather miserable phone conversation with El, thinking I was going to be driving back to London tonight, but gem that she is; she found me a room in a pub in Menai Bridge. A bedroom in a hotel above, not a room in the pub. Whew.

With my evening secured I headed off to LLanddona Beach to await Mal and James. I got there pretty early, so took a stroll up the very deserted and very wind blown beach. I liked it. Sand under the feet, the smell of the sea and the bloody cold wind.

Mal’s wife Sally, arrived at the carpark around 7:30; it was great to catch up with some news on the run so far and about friends at home. I popped back down to the beach just before Mal and James arrived and it was great to see Mal looking strong and well.

Mal and James had been running / walking for over 12 hours, so it was a quick catch up before they were whipped off by Sal to their accommodation in Bangor and I was off to my pub room in Menai Bridge.

I was staying in the Bulkeley Arms, a popular pub – seemingly with rugby players. I dumped my bag into my very small room and headed out for some food. The Bulkeley does not do food on a Saturday night so I found another pub that did, cannot remember it’s name, but I can say the food was really good and I liked the vibe as well, I stayed for a couple of pints. It seemed rude not too. Heading back to my room, I found that it is directly above the PA in the bar below and I reckon the music was louder up here than it was down there. To their credit they did say the music would be off at 12:00 and by 12:05 it was dead quiet. I still had a lousy sleep…

I was up early, breakfast was not being served until 9:30, way too late for me, I was out by 7:00. First stop was a quick photo of the hotel, even though i had a lousy sleep I quite liked the Bulkeley and I quite liked Menai Bridge, and I hadn’t even been for a walk around yet.

Next stop was a quick photo of the Auckland Arms, just because. Auckland. My home town.

When I drove down into the town of Menai Bridge yesterday afternoon I was stunned by the view, the grade 1 listed bridge finished in 1826 is a beautiful thing. I didn’t think I had the time yesterday to stop and take photos so I was quite keen for a drive / walk around this morning.

It is a lovely bridge!

I did not find anywhere open early for breakfast so I headed out of Menai Bridge along the lovely coast road to the next town Beaumaris. I stopped for a bottle of water and to fill the car at a gas station and was told about a diner in town that would be open for breakfast. It wasn’t, but the convenience store next door was; and they sold coffee and bacon rolls. Perfecto!

I took a walk around Beaumaris and liked it even more than Menai Bridge, a very attractive, (read tourist filled) town, with stunning views over mainland north Wales and the foothills of Snowdonia National Park.

Beaumaris also had a castle. I think I could move here ! I didn’t have time to explore it, plus nothing is open at 8:30 on a Sunday, but Anglesey and north Wales is somewhere I am definitely coming back to.

I took a punt on where I would find Mal and James at around 9:00 am, and headed further along the coast to Penmon.

I drove up to the ancient abbey and was just starting to have a look around when they popped out from the far side of the abbey.

I drove back down to Penmon Beach, quickly put my running shoes on, and soon enough they appeared around another bend in the road.

There was a very strong head wind along this stretch and it was not exactly warm either, but I had a very enjoyable 45 minute walk/slow jog with Mal and James, it was good to catch up and show a little bit of support for their amazing efforts. If had more time, I would have really enjoyed spending a few days with them on this journey, in this beautiful part of Britain.

However I had to drive back to London, it was a friend’s birthday this afternoon and I had 5 to 6 hours drive ahead of me. I left the boys to run into the distance and walked back to the car.

I caught up with them briefly again as they entered Menai Bridge and had a quick refuel stop, and then it was back to London for me.

I chose to drive home the slower route via the A5 and through Snowdonia, the traffic was frustrating at times, but it is a beautiful drive, though I only stopped once to take this photo. I will be back here too! Wow!

Soon enough I was back in England (I know, taking photos while driving is bad), and eventually back on dual carriage ways and manage to make some good time back home.

I loved north Wales, I will be back up there too. Beautiful part of the country and a really friendly vibe too.

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About wheresphil

Originally from Auckland, New Zealand, now living in London.
This entry was posted in Blog, Britain, Wales and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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