The blog / The journey

A map! Give us a map!

May I apologise for the woeful lack of visual aid on this travel blog? It’s rubbish, unforgivable, and entirely Google’s fault, and maybe partly Apple’s. Any time I have a spare bit of phone battery, decent enough internet connection, and a couple of brain cells that haven’t withered in the heat and blown off across the sand, I have turned to this problem, and have been thwarted. Google maps like this one just refuse to be edited on the iPad. Things came to a head this afternoon when, to a piped soundtrack of fiddle music that became increasingly frantic as things went wrong, I finally threw in the towel. The iPad’s spinning icon spun impotently, the fiddler sawed away, the coffee charged through my veins – if I was Chico I would have expressed my frustration by braying loudly enough to make two nearby babies cry, chomped something, and taken off down a steep hill with my rain jacket flapping behind me like a wizard’s cape. (Yes, that happened last night as we descended Llandudno’s Great Orme, a 207m-high headland which means sea serpent in Old Norse. Thankfully I calmed the beast just before we passed the well-patronised King’s Head, sparing me a replay of this debacle. Oh, and just guess what he chomped…)

A pretty basic map attempt

A pretty basic map attempt – blue is done, white to come

So, I gave up and instead have gone all old school and drawn a rough line on a map to show you how things are going. Here it is, with little tent-shaped scribbles for the overnights. Based on the Wales Coastal Path distance charts (a vague equivalent since we’re only on the coastal path when it’s donkey-accessible), we have done something like 360 miles. It is important (for me, mostly) to concentrate on that number rather than the frankly vast tracts of land that I have hastily drawn with the white dotted line, denoting the way yet to tread. Let’s not think about that.

Meanwhile this weather is glorious and Chico doesn’t seem to mind it. He is well refreshed and energetic after his break, and after a few days of getting used to each other again we are pals (or as much as we can hope for, considering that he must see me as the irritating woman who makes him carry stuff up hills every day, and I can’t help seeing him as the creature who bites me, treads on my toes and fairly often farts when I’m toiling along just behind him).

After the significant wriggles of the Lleyn Peninsula and the deceptively gigantic isle of Anglesey, plus a three-day detour to Snowdon, it feels great to be striding out, away from this sticky northwestern corner, making a line on a map. The thrumming provincial market towns, one-horse villages where the single shop is closed for lunch, and brilliant vehement Welshness of the route so far are behind us for now. In Llandudno there’s a multicultural rainbow lying out on the beach, heaps of Orthodox Jews, lots of retirees from Cheshire and Liverpool, and – somewhat shockingly – the spectacle of God Save the Queen being played by the brass band on the prom, to a reverential audience, all incanting the words along under their septuagenarian breaths, standing straight and proud by their deckchairs as the giant red sun sank behind the Orme without cooling a degree.

The sparky little donkey and I pass on through. During his fortnight off he lost a lot more of his winter coat, and got sort of sun-bleached – his coat is short and neat, and he’s the colour of driftwood. Here is a little clip of him walking along. Nothing unusual, just walkin’.



Epilogue vignette

I’m trying to finish this blog to get out of this Victorian hotel lobby and back to the tent, and I’ll leave this despatch with the following exchange which just happened. I am surrounded by four old dears, Scottish so perhaps not ones who stood for the brass band, having their after-dinner tea. Bill, stick-thin and with a centre-parting so sharp it can only have been made with a metal comb, said:

“If you’ve got a pen and piece of paper I’ll tell you a story. In Ireland we were in a very posh hotel and at breakfast – I don’t usually have a full breakfast, but sometimes I do in the holidays you see…”

I drifted off and re-tuned in at:

“No knife with the side plate! You had to make sure to keep the one from the breakfast plate!”

I must have looked a little vague about this punch line, because one of the women (who I also learned had a mother from Belfast called Hannah and a grandfather who built the Titanic) helped out:

“Do you see? There was no extra knife for the toast and jam! You had to keep your breakfast knife when they took the plate!”

They all looked at me expectantly as I faltered and failed to hit the right note of indignation. I didn’t mention that in my hip pocket is a penknife that in the last 48 hours has been used to make sandwiches, pick stones out of Chico’s hooves, stir packet carbonara, cut thistles out from under the tent, burst Rhys’s blisters, cut my fingernails, and slice Jamaican Ginger Cake for breakfast, the only remaining food on board apart from a can of laverbread that Rhys bought and I don’t know what to do with.

If anyone knows either how to make Google maps work on an iPad, or what to do with tinned laverbread, please let me know in the comments.


Tags: , , ,


  1. What in the hell have you stacked on top of that donkey?? Looks like greenery of some sort. A houseplant to make the tent more homey? A portable salad bar?

    He’s a cutie and I’m really enjoying your journey, wishing I was tromping along side because I know a bit about donkeys and would really enjoy it. Happy trails!

  2. mix the laverbread with oatmeal,let the oatmeal soak up the moisture for an hour, make 2″pancakes and fry in oil.Don’t forget to give chico a taste of the seaside. soon you will be turning south, inland. Will you call him a border donkey?

  3. Awe – yes! He’ll be a border donkey, I’m looking forward to it. The day after tomorrow we’ll turn our back on the sea for several hundred miles!
    Leslie – a portable salad bar is exactly right. We were heading for some dunes to camp in, so I picked a little extra of everything he was eating on the way to supplement his overnight marram grass diet. In the end we found a perfect thistle patch anyway, so he was happy.

  4. No knife on the sideplate, eek, that’s err umm dreadful………………..I

  5. Donkeys eat thistles? That’s worth knowing :)
    I’m enjoying catching up with this adventure of yours. Your writing makes it fun to enjoy the trip vicariously.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *