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Back to the Brecon Beacons

Saturday, August 10, 2013 @ 08:00 pm from Wales Wales
Day 45

Today I went back to the Brecon Beacons to hike some more. The weather was calling for nice temperatures and no rain which made me even more eager to go. I was debating getting on the 8:20am bus but decided to sleep in a bit and instead get on the same 10:20am bus as yesterday. That decision had the potential of coming back to haunt me as the day went on. The plan was to hike from Storey Arms all the way to Brecon. It's a 10 mile hike and I had 4 hours to do it. The last bus to Cardiff leaves Brecon at 4:00pm sharp.

Apparently there was some kind of festival up in Brecon so the bus was absolutely packed. We were running a little late as it was and they kept trying to cram more and more people on. Finally we made it to Storey Arms and I had to push my way from the back of the bus up to the front to get off.

Already running a little late, I ate a quick apple and set off. I made really good time up to Corn Du where I stopped for lunch and to enjoy the nice view. I worked up quite a sweat power hiking up to the top so I had to put my jacket on to keep myself warm.

Hiking to Pen Y Fan was easy and then I set off for Cribyn peak. The ascents up to these peaks is really steep but I made pretty good time. I was at the top of Cribyn by 1:45 so I sat there and enjoyed the views until 2. Cell reception was spotty so I hiked down toward Fan y Big and checked the map when I was in a saddle between the two peaks. It was 2:15 by now and Google was telling me it would be a 2 hour hike to the bus station. Hmm, I was cutting it close.

There wasn't time to summit Fan y Big so I started walking back toward town. The trail was easy to follow and I passed by a lot of sheep grazing on the intense green grass. I finally made it off of the trail and got a little confused. The trail split up into a mountain biking only path and a walkers only path. I started down the walkers path and it was overrun with thorny vines and other plants that were intent on tugging at my clothes and headphones.

Eventually I had enough of the trail when it started cutting to the east (the opposite direction I had to go). I sprinted back about a half mile to where I crossed a road and started following that instead. By now it was a little after 3:00 and I still had 4 miles to cover. Not looking good.

I took out my headphones, turned off my ipod, attached the chest and waist straps and started running at a pretty hefty pace for about a half hour. After dodging a few cars on some extremely narrow roads I finally made it to Brecon. I still had about 20 minutes before the bus came so I slowed to a walk and made my way to the bus stop.

I was completely drenched in sweat, my pants were covered in leaf stains from running back up the walkers path and my sides were cramped up a bit but I made it.... only to encounter a huge line of people from the Brecon festival trying to also catch the last bus to Cardiff.

Fortunately we were all able to cram on and the journey home began. It was nice to sit down for a bit after the unplanned sprint after several hours of rather intense hiking. I got back to the hostel, showered and then devoured some of the sundried tomato/mozzarella tortellini that I also had last night.

It's Saturday night and everyone's getting dressed up and ready to party. All I can think about is how comfortable the (rather uncomfortable) hostel bed is going to feel tonight.

Here's a link to today's hike: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3060357
Teaser photo
Steep ascent to Corn Du
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Pen Y Fan
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Me with Pen Y Fan and Corn Du in the background
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Hiking towards Brecon

Hiking the Brecon Beacons

Thursday, August 8, 2013 @ 07:40 pm from Wales Wales
Day 43

Today was another one of those awesome days that makes me thankful I'm able to be on this trip. Brecon Beacons National Park is a giant park in South Wales home to several tall peaks. I originally wanted to find a hostel up here and hike around but due to unavailability with them, I was forced to stay down in Cardiff instead.

That wasn't really an issue though. After doing some research I found out there are buses that run fairly regularly up to the park from Cardiff. In case anyone finds this blog post on the internet or has this question, in order to get to Brecon from Cardiff, you need the T4 bus from Cardiff Central Bus Station. This runs Monday - Saturday at 2 hour intervals. You can get the Explorer ticket for 7.30 pounds which lets you hop on and off the bus system all day. If you're traveling on Sunday, you need the B1 bus.

After looking at several of the trails, I picked Storey Arms as my starting and ending point. The T4 bus makes stops here and it's a great trailhead for Corn Du and Pen y Fen (the highest peak in the park at 886 meters).

I made the mistake of reading the wrong bus schedule (I was reading the Sunday schedule) and missed the first T4 bus. I had to sit around and wait until 10:20 to catch the next T4. This got me up to Storey Arms just before noon.

The hike starts off at a pretty standard incline which brings you up to a really nice viewing area of Corn Du and the surrounding area. You then descend down to a stream before making a really good climb up to the peak. The last 400 meters are extremely steep (or you can take the easy way via a side trail that goes around the back).

When I got to the top, dark clouds were rolling in and I was convinced I was going to get rained on. Rather than sit around there and get wet I set off to Pen y Fan. That peak isn't too far away and has some great views. While I was there I had some lunch and admired the scenery.

Amazingly, the dark clouds blew by and I was left with some really nice blue skies. It was only about 1:00 by now and I didn't have to be back to the trailhead until 4:22 for the last bus back to Cardiff. There were some other trails I saw that went in roughly the right direction I needed to go (aka: not the opposite direction) so I set off for them.

The weather continued to improve and the views were absolutely amazing. I hiked until 2 when I decided to turn around. On the way back I passed pretty close to Corn Du summit so I went up there again to relax in the comfort of the views since the first time I was escaping the rain.

I hiked around aimlessly a little more just to kill some time then went back down to the trailhead. The bus was a little late but I made it back to Cardiff around 6pm. I had some curry chips (french fries covered in curry) on the way back to the hostel where I showered and did some ghetto laundry.

I really needed today to recharge me. Hiking around Cardiff has been nice but getting out and seeing some amazing views was a much welcome change.

Tomorrow I'll probably make a working day here at the hostel. There are a few lingering emails I need to clear up and I also need to research were I'm heading next. On Saturday I'm going to go back up to the Beacons if the weather is nice and try to find some more places to hike around.
Teaser photo
View from Pen y Fan
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Beautiful Ridgeline
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Corn Du - Brecon Beacons National Park
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View from Corn Du

Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.


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