Microadventure #2: Solar Eclipse

There were 4 in the bed, and the little one said "roll over, roll over!"

Microadventure #2 comes after #1, so really I shouldn’t still be scared of doing it. But last night, despite doing my first microadventure solo, I was getting those twists in my stomach telling me I’m nervous, with my brain unable to logically tell itself there’s no reason to be worried.

I had two options on where to go for the evening before the solar eclipse. I could either head up to a hill north of Cardiff where I knew you could get a view over the city, or I could drive further up to the Brecon Beacons to meet others who were camping out there.

The idea of going local appealed to me more as I’d made it one of my new year goals to explore my local area more, but nobody else I knew was free to join me. It’d have to be solo, or drive further afield for company. At lunchtime I’d decided to go alone and local, but later in the afternoon the nerves of going solo came back. I’d posted my proposed plans on the Cardiff Microadventures Facebook page in the hopes of some company, but everyone was either working in the evening or would have to be in work before the eclipse.

Either way I was still umm-ing and err-ing about even going, despite knowing I’d be fine either way. But why?? I’ve done this before! I just had to get up off the sofa, pack a bag and GO! By the time dinner was ready at 6.30pm, I was only half packed and still undecided on where to go. I enjoyed a lovely meal with the family as if it was another normal night, and decided on going up to the beacons as I wouldn’t have to find a location to camp, just meet some friends and already have company. So after food I went back to my room to finish packing.

COMMENCE MAYHEM!

When I checked my facebook after dinner, it turned out Anna could come to the Cardiff one after all. We excitedly exchanged messages confirming we could both definitely do it, and so we set a time and meeting place for me to pick her up. Yet in the 30 minutes I had to finish packing and get there, that’s when everything decided to start happening.

I had a call with intermittent signal from the friend in the beacons, my mum was leaving for the night and I had a text from a Couchsurfing friend which would lead me to rush around the place like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

He was asking if I was all set up for the eclipse, so I quickly replied I wasn’t out yet and, was he not tempted to join us, even though I knew the answer would be no. Next thing I know he’s ringing me saying he wants to come.

“I’ve got a sleeping bag, is that all I need?”
“It’s a good start. Got a roll mat?”
“No, what’s that?”
“You can have my spare. Got a bivvy bag?”
“A what?!”
“Eeeerrrrr I’ve got a survival bag somewhere, that’ll do. Bring snacks and warm clothes.”

I was NEARLY finished packing but now had to grab some extras. Back up to the attic, I grabbed my spare roll mat and rucksack, but no sign of the infamous bright orange survival bag. Stuffed most of my things in a small bag, the sleeping bag would have to attach later. With my bag mostly packed, I took everything downstairs and chucked it all in the back of the car. A few last minute things from the downstairs cupboard and I’d be off. Found the survival bag, grabbed a map of Cardiff and rushed out the door.

Finally I was leaving the house, like a mad hatter flailing around the place with half packed kit. What a great first impression I was making for Anna as I picked her up, this crazy lady that she’s agreed to spent the night on a hill with! She was a lot more organised but still just as excited as me, so we drove round to pick up the final one of our trio. We knocked on Robert’s door and when he opened it, Anna and Robert recognised each other. Turns out they’d met a few months ago at a Couchsurfing meeting. He’s got everything he needs along with enough snacks to feed an army. Turns out we might need it as Julian, a fellow microadventurer from the Cardiff group, at that moment messaged to say he will be coming and can meet us there later on. This had gone from a reluctant solo adventure to a full on microadventure party!

Now that we had most of the group, we jumped in the car and got the map out to see where we actually had to go. Okay there’s the sea below the land… why is the writing upside down? Maybe Cardiff is the other side. Nope. The sea is definitely south of Cardiff, but this sea is definitely NORTH of the countryside surrounding…oh… Cardigan. D’OH! In the mad panic I’d picked up the wrong map. Cardiff, Cardigan… easy mistake, right?! With crazy adventure adrenaline running through me I just drove off in the general direction of where I thought we were going and we tried to use the sat nav to help us get there.

In the cupboard, it looked like Cardiff!
In the cupboard, it looked like Cardiff!

We found what we thought was a road to lead us on to the ridge way but it was blocked by a gate further down. This ended up with us going a crazy way through Caerphilly to get to a road where we could leave the car. Eventually we found somewhere on the lane to leave the car that wasn’t blocking a gate. We’re here! Sort of…

We’re finally on a hill!

Everything was finally packed up, my sleeping bag tied on with bungees, so the three of us began walking up the steep road. We climbed till we came up on a ridge way path, climbed over the stile and started to set off.

Some lights flashing behind tell us someone is coming out of their house. Uh oh. Other people, worst nightmare! He was asking if we were camping here, and with our massive bags, we couldn’t exactly say no! The farmer was polite about it all, but saying did we not know you’re not allowed to camp on private land… How to explain we’re not exactly pitching a tent but we are just sleeping outside?! He let us off this once so long as we cleaned up after ourselves and were gone by morning. A big thank you to the farmer, and we were on our way. After finding old bottles and cans in the morning, we could see why he wasn’t too happy about seeing young people coming up here in the dark to camp.

We walked along the track for a bit, not completely sure where we were going, or how we were going to meet up with our final adventurer. All part of the fun! One noticeable thing when walking along the ridge way was the light pollution from nearby towns. We could see Caerphilly to our right and a faint orange glow to our left, almost as if sunrise was about to start. But I knew that it was actually Cardiff, which was confirmed when we started hunting for a suitable place to kip.

We found somewhere we thought might be appropriate but weren’t sure whether to be in the trees or in the open. The trees looked muddy and hilly, and definitely no space for 4 people. But the open ground was also quite hilly. After scouring the land a bit with torches we decided to wait for Julian as he’d been to this location before. He turned up around ten minutes later on a bike having cycled all the way up! He showed us the spot he went to, a bit exposed but it looked good enough, and we could see over Cardiff.

It was a bit odd meeting someone for the first time in the dark on a hill, but we all got on well quickly and started setting up our beds. Some were more experienced at sleeping out than others. Robert didn’t really know what kit to use, I had too much kit (didn’t need that cooker as we didn’t cook anything!), Julian seemed to have got it right, and Anna had learnt from her previous trip. Her first microadventure was a true “Let’s just do it!” affair where she ended up using pizza boxes and plastic bags to sleep on.

Amser gwely, nos da!
Amser gwely, nos da!

So there were all were set up ready for bed, yet even though it was 11pm I felt like a child again giggling at the silliness of what we were doing and where we were sleeping. “We’re all mad here!”. You could see all the the lights of Cardiff and hear the faint dull noise of motorway traffic, and behind you was the sight of Caerphilly. Lying in my sleeping bag I gazed up at the stars. After a bit of chit chat we all cosied in to our beds and went to sleep.

I didn’t sleep perfectly but I did wake up in the morning feeling refreshed as the breeze swept across my face and the sunshine was surrounding us. We all woke up within about ten minutes of each other and so we finally saw each other properly for the first time, in daylight, bedhead and all! We lay there for a while enjoying the view and the fresh air.

Sleepyheads!
Julian and Anna snoozing in the sun
Rise and shine!
View in the morning

Julian had to get up as he was off to work, and the only reason the rest of us followed suit was because some cows had come round the corner but stopped in their tracks once they’d seen our beds were in their way. Why they couldn’t go round the other way we don’t know. Clearly this was where they’d planned on coming for the eclipse too, so we packed away our beds and moved up on to the tiny hill top. As we packed things away the cows slowly inched forward, anticipating our departure. As we waited on the highest point for the eclipse, the cows made their way slowly to where we’d been, sitting down nearby and grazing. One even took a seat right where we’d been sleeping all night!

Beautiful morning, now let's move out of the way!
Beautiful morning, now let’s move out of the way!

As the morning went on more people came to the top of the ridge way ready to watch the eclipse. We even spotted a group of people on another far away vantage point. We were joined by a guy with his small son, who thought that maybe we knew what we were doing as we had some gear and big bags. Turns out he was more prepared with his paper, pampers box cardboard with a hole in, and a camera with gorilla pod. We were all-the-gear-and-no-idea with an old Christmas card I’d picked up off the windowsill in my mad rush.

Faraway figures watching the eclipse
Faraway figures watching the eclipse

Disappointingly, as nice as it was to wake up over Cardiff, the view wasn’t spectacular as there was a grey hazy mist hanging around the city. We were also expecting it to get a lot darker when the sun was at its most covered point, but I think a cloud could’ve done a better job. As we didn’t have the proper equipment to actually watch the sun, we made do with my Christmas-card-turned-eclipse-watching-device (two pieces of card, small hole in one, back to the sun and align so you see the shadow of the eclipse).

You can see the tiny silhouette in the bottom left.
You can see the tiny silhouette in the bottom left.

After it had gotten a tiny bit darker from the eclipse around 9.30am we finished packing up our things and started to head back to the car as the other two still had work to get to in the afternoon. During our microadventure, other humans and animals were both encountered but the obstacle was passed and we survived. Good to know the world doesn’t end when something you don’t want to happen actually does happen. Live and learn!


IMG_0357

Although the eclipse wasn’t spectacular, the whole adventure was great. The mad rush of the night before awoke my child-like spirit of adventure, where planning and preparation was thrown out the window and the unknown was an exciting concept. We then woke up in beautiful surroundings, it wasn’t at all windy and we spent a lovely morning in good company enjoying the outdoors.

More adventures:
Microadventure #1: Snow Brecon Beacons
Microadventure #3: A Sandy Mess

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