The road gradually narrowed the further I drove. What began as a tarmacked lane had now turned into a dusty, pothole-ridden farm track with little room for error on either side, especially in the van. There was no ‘No Entry’ sign to be seen, so onward we pushed. Crawling up the hill past dilapidated farm buildings I was sure that the van wouldn’t make it. A high pitched whir came from the turbo which was now in over-drive, sucking in as much air as possible to continue the forward trajectory.
“Where am I going to park?” I thought out loud. With no room to turn round and no clue what lay ahead, it would be a long way to reverse. Looking at the map I knew we were headed in the general direction but couldn’t be sure.
After the previous night’s failed attempt, I was hell-bent on finding the perfect pitch to spend the night before the sun dipped below the hills. But time was running out. The tight roads and
traffic sheep on the road had slowed progress considerably. Not knowing where we were going to pitch up, or even how to get there for that matter was making things worse.
Finally, as we drove over the crest of the hill, a layby came into view. The evening sun shone through the windscreen, casting a kaleidoscope of colours onto the dashboard and I saw Em’s face light up with excitement. I quickly parked on the verge and jumped out of the van like an excitable spaniel. Our bags were ready and waiting with everything we would need for a wild night out; tent, sleeping kit, food, water, beer. With time of the essence and a couple of kilometres of uphill walking to tackle, I fumbled at the laces on my boots, anxious to set off.
The warmth from the late summer sun was beating down on us as we began walking. Sweat dripped from my brow into my eyes and I could see that Em was positively glowing. It’s not too much further I muttered, reassuring myself as much as Em. And then, just as I thought we had left it too late again, the lake appeared over the hill. It’s dark waters glistening like diamonds in the last of the day’s sun. I quickly surveyed the land, searching for flat ground with a vantage point over the lake and with views to both the east and west to enjoy the sunset and sunrise the following morning. We trekked the final hundred metres uphill to a relatively flat plateau and dumped our packs onto the long grass.
The sun was beginning to dip below the hills to the west, casting long shadows and rich, warm tones over the land. I hurriedly unpacked my bag and began setting the tent up as quickly as possible. Fortunately, it was only five minutes before I had the tent up and was sat on the grass enjoying the crepuscular light. Having never been to the Brecon Beacons before, let alone camped here, I enjoyed soaking it all in before inevitable darkness fell.
“Some people like fancy hotels and room service. Me on the other hand, I prefer simple living and spending time outdoors.
As the sky changed to a thousand shades of dusty orange and pink, the chill of the evening wind signalled that it was time to layer up. I had been putting it off, trying to save my warmer layers for the dead of the night when the temperature would surely plummet. We sat in the door of the tent to shelter from the wind which had now picked up and boiled water for our evening meal of super noodles. The wind whirled around the tent, whistling as it went. But in our little cocoon on the hillside, we were warm and content. Some people like fancy hotels and room service. Me on the other hand, I prefer simple living and spending time outdoors.
After devouring a warming bowl noodles, we lay in silence listening to the howling wind outside. You feel a certain sense of security being under the canvas of a tent. Even though it’s only a simple shelter, it could be truly miserable outside, and yet, inside you feel safe, protected from the elements.
And then, as if by magic the wind ceased. Almost immediately there was perfect silence all around us, and the tranquillity of the Welsh hills was all around us. As I unzipped the tent, the still night sky glistened with a million stars and the moonlight cast an eerie white light over the barren landscape. An hour passed, maybe two – it’s hard to know – sat in the entrance to our tent wrapped in our sleeping bags gazing at the stars.
When the time finally came to go to sleep, I packed everything away and we backed into the tent and zipped up. The ground which I had earlier thought was flat was, in fact, a bit of a slope. On top of that, I could feel thick tussocks of grass in the small of my back, through my sleeping mat. Comfortable it was not. Despite the discomfort, I was asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow.
At 05.45 the following morning my alarm went off and I opened the tent once more to be greeted with a cool breeze and warm orange hues. Rising with the sun is one of my favourite ways to start a new day. Usually, to catch the sunrise from a beautiful viewpoint we’re running up a hill in the dead of the night. But in this instance, we were already in the hills, prepped and ready to enjoy the first rays of the sun. All we had to do was put some water on the stove and sit back in our sleeping bags and enjoy the view.
After a warming cup of coffee, we began to pack away the tent. The beauty of wild camping is that you’re not technically supposed to be there, and I didn’t want to hang around for the farmer to catch us on his land as conducted his morning checks on the herd of sheep that were grazing nearby. The unwritten rules of wild camping are ‘arrive late, leave early, leave no trace’. By 07.30 we were walking down the valley with bright yet bleary eyes to the van for another coffee before the long drive home. There’s no feeling like it; returning from a micro-adventure, a wild night out.
Want more micro-adventure inspiration? Check out our guide to climbing the North Ridge of Tryfan.