The blog / The journey

The end is nigh, but not very

Yet another first of the month – that makes four. For some reason my mum says ‘white rabbits, white rabbits’ rather than ‘a pinch and a punch’, but my long-eared creature of choice is still this funny old donkey, cruising about alongside my tent, pretending not to be interested in me.

Habits are changing. I’m choosing indoors when I get the chance – I’m writing this blog from the campsite utility block, which has a little more atmosphere than the village pub on a Tuesday night (in defence of the pub it is quite a nice utility block). Chico’s fur (hair? Hide? Pelt? Coat?) has begun thickening up for winter, and he seems almost grateful – at least unusually cooperative – when I put his rain mac on him, on a drizzly night. But it’s been a mild September, and I’m very glad for that. I’ve still not worn all my clothes in my sleeping bag, used my tiny hot water bottle, or been rained on while setting up and striking the same camp. I have sent my bikini home, but still have the suncream on board, and used it twice last week.

Done on the left, still to do on the right

We’ve passed Carmarthen, which is the closest point to Aberystwyth until we emerge on the home straights of Cardigan Bay. First we’re heading off around the great nest of silty estuaries, rocky peninsulas and merciless headlands that lie coiled in wait in Pembrokeshire. It’s a formidable maze to leave till last, and I have only a very vague idea of it, as has been the case all along this journey. It’s a horsey part of the world (joint first place with Anglesey for per-capita horse ownership in the UK, apparently), so I have high hopes for good bridleways, but the coastal path itself is an old, established one, which means stiles.

It could be the musing mood that comes with a change of month, or just that the first of October coincided with a day off, but I worked out where we were on each of the other firsts, and then how many miles lay between the markers – according to the Wales Coastal Path distance charts, which are of course just a rough approximation for us. But everyone likes a good stat, so here are the figures:

June: 184 miles

July: 211 miles

August: 170 miles

September: 211 miles

Left to go: um… Let’s not look that one straight in the eye, eh? Why break the habit of a journey?

Rhys was with us for most of July and September, suggesting we go quicker with him than without, although that also might have something to do with the speedy, flat cycleways of the north and south coasts, or that we camp wild more with Rhys than without, which means we can keep walking until we drop into a hedge.

There’s a long, long way still to go – the change to feeling homeward bound comes from something other than actual proximity. Hope? Or that in still failing to live in the moment I’m finding myself spending walking hours thinking about the exciting things of the future like evening classes in Welsh, watching films, wearing different clothes, doing something about the bank balance, building a shed for Chico, learning about wintertime animal husbandry and the price of hay. I woke up the other day with a feeling of surprisingly intense joy at the idea of one day wearing earrings again.

‘Enough about earrings, how’s that old donkey’ you ask? Well, he’s just a brilliant, hairy star. A terrifying gate-towing incident made me realise just how phenomenally strong he is, and I feel humbled that he lets me lead him at all, ever, anywhere. He still follows me faithfully, off the rope, and the feeling I get on seeing him labouring along behind me, ears up, head bobbing, great unreadable eyes trained on me, unquestioningly believing in my map reading skills, well… It feels a bit like love. Or gratitude. Or at least cooperation.

Hazel, kind owner of the field that Chico stayed in before we left, asked mum if she should get a shed built ready for Chico’s winter lodgings. They both knew that day would come before Chico even left the field in May – it’s only me who persists in thinking that this coastline and this summer is actually never going to end; that there is no ‘after’. I may be thinking about earrings, but sheds is a step too real. The idea of stopping walking scares me as much as the idea of walking through snowdrifts – probably just testimony to a mild September. First frost will no doubt prick me into action like a icy goad.

One thing worries me. Whether I embrace it or not, I am being pulled forward towards home now, no longer pushed out into the world. When (still I feel I should say ‘if’) we get there, if the post-adventure crash comes, at least it will come with warm slippers and lots of tea. Perhaps I will even find some wisdom in completing the circle – knowing Aberystwyth as if for the first time… But what really worries me is this: what if Chico is really disappointed? It would be quite valid. All that way to get back to the same field? What the hell?

Maybe I should pull myself together, look the future in the eye and call Hazel – this shed is going to need to be really, really good.


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  1. I love Chico. What a trooper. I’m following earnestly to the end.

  2. I really enjoyed reading that…thank you. I live in Pembrokeshire between Newgale & Solva at Penycwm. I hope I get to see you both. If there’s anything I can do email me and if I can help I will :)
    Love Sue x

  3. Sandra DeSimone says:

    Hannah, I have enjoyed reading about you, Chico and this fantastic journey you have shared. Thank you!

  4. following you on your trip has created 2 thing for me: the pleasure to read you and a warm attachment to Chico. to the point that I thought lately that I did not want yo to reach your end point! what am I going to do after? no more reading? no more news of your adventures and of Chico! I could not handle that thought so I pushed it away. So I am expecting a nice future project involving you, Chico and us as readers…

  5. I feel the same as Carine – I’m really going to miss your blog posts and FB updates! If you need a place to stay when you’re in the Fishguard area, we have a stable and lots of grazing for Chico and a spare bedroom for you. You’d be most welcome!

  6. Good thing I am going to the opticians on Saturday… I was trying to work out why they were ‘silly’ estuaries! Keep plodding on you two – love the map by the way. Kay x

  7. just met you and Chico on a steep hill outside Llanybri near llansteffan.What a great pair you are and what a great adventure.Its a joy that such a journey can be made in this fast moving world and that youve taken the time out to do it.

  8. Tim and I offer overnight accommodation for you and Chico near Tresaith. You can do shed, field, indoors or whatever and we would quite like to walk a little way with you as well. For instance we could walk along a good path from here towards Llangranog, taking in the Cartws Cafe on the way.

    If it’s possible to have some notice, we could try a little fundraiser for donkeys if you like, but no pressure. It would be great to link up though!


  9. Nancy in Iowa says:

    Chico is so handsome – and how far he’s come from the beginning of the journey! I would say you two have really bonded, and I’m sure you’ll find some adventures to enjoy with him in the future. Stay warm!

  10. Sounds like a great adventure, to which I’m a latecomer! Are you going/have you gone through St Clears? Would love to see you!

  11. We are guessing that we are not on your route, but should you stray this way, you and chico are welcome. Good luck on the rest of your journey. Heather, Simon, and Luke.

  12. Go Hannah, Go Chico ..Go Hannah, Go Chico! I’m a latecomer too! Just found out today from a Penarth Times journalsit ..have you heard about the lady walking round Wales with a donkey! Blimey ..this is outstanding. Just read week three and now this loads to catch up on. After can Chico live with me in my back garden where he can rest and eat loads of dandies?

  13. Nancy in USA says:

    Hannah – I’ve been following your journey with Chico and the elements and have such admiration for you! Unplugging from this crazy world is a hoped for dream of my own. Keep on inspiring us dreamers!

    Thank you,

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