Champion Sheep Herding
Trip Start Mar 23, 2012
35Trip End Apr 22, 2012
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The trek was getting closer and the half dozen of us who were going had been getting increasingly nervous. The round robin emails had been pinging back and forth so often, my inbox looked like a chatroom. The Tibetan border is closed.... who is taking freeze dried macaroni?....who's getting the rabies jab?.....have you thought of paper knickers?...I've bought ten boxes of Imodium....do you think the porters will accept Monopoly money?....What the hell is the currency of Kyrgyzstan?....How do you spell that?....I'm not sending my passport to Borat....and my personal favourite...there will be no facilities to charge batteries while we are on the trek (you're kidding me, right? No plugs up K2?)
So, I arrived at David's to team up with the veteran trekkers and to ask a thousand questions of my own. There were only half a dozen of us to begin with and, despite the glorious weather, Annie and Sandie were staying behind to eat lots. In fact it looked as though the humans were going to be outnumbered by the dogs. I had Pal, Annmarie had the delectable Lottie and David had spaniels Hamish and Lucy. Simon had a new camera and a mildly phallic, Blackadder-esque bottle holder, which made up for his lack of dogs.
We headed off up the valley, following the stream. I can't tell you which one, as I had taken the map for the wrong half of the Brecon Beacons with me. I had my pack stuffed full of unnecessary items, as I reasoned it wouldn't hurt me to carry a full pack for a day. It wasn't arduous. David filled us in on the history behind the Hermitage which lies just up the road from his house. It seems it has housed everyone from the mistress of the owner to officers of Sandhurst to dancing Druids in the past few years. Quite why a bunch of Druids would want to come and cavort in a ruined manor house is anybody's guess. They came by mini-bus from London, which would have meant going straight past places like Stonehenge or the Rollrights. They must breed them strange in London
We kept losing Simon. Every few minutes he'd disappear, only to reappear on the other side of the hedge or stream or hill, waving his camera about. As we weaved between hawthorn trees, keeping a wary eye out for stray sheep (because of the dogs), Simon was happily snapping photos of landscapes and dogs and trees and bits of bark and anything else that stayed still long enough.
"Look! I can do continuous playback!" he declared, joyfully.
"Ooh, look! Frog-spawn!" cried David, unnecessarily enthusiastically. The stream was full of it. The little tadpoles were starting to hatch. Their tails were wriggling, despite being still coated in thick jelly. Simon took lots of photos.
"I'm going to bring the wildlife people up here to look at it" declared David, without considering they might be happy to just take his word for it. Lucy paddled her way through it, up to her neck in water and spawn. She was starting to look a little bedraggled.
Annmarie was holding up well though. She hadn't been to bed for about three days, having been on call, and I wasn't quite sure how she was managing to stay awake and be friendly and civil to people. I get really foul tempered when I'm tired and/or hungry, so I was very impressed by her ability to keep going
"Here's some more!" David pointed, "And there!". Frog-spawn spotting was clearly the sport of Kings. Simon took some photos.
After lunch at a small waterfall (we all took photos), we veered right on a sheep track, following the contours of the valley at around 500m. I had to keep Pal on a lead at this point because of the sheep on the hills. As we walked towards the sheep, they trotted away ahead of us. This would have been fine if they had then run a few metres up the hillside and waited for us to pass, but sheep are not known for their brains.
Nope, as we walked towards them, they kept on trotting merrily ahead of us on the same sheep track that we were following. As we progressed around the hillside, we gathered more and more sheep. Eventually there were several hundred woolly wanderers bouncing along in front of us. The entire valley behind us was completely empty.We were Champion Sheep Herders. We couldn't have done it if we'd tried. I'm not sure if Simon took any photos of the sheep, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Maybe it was the lack of frog-spawn spotting opportunities, but David put on a burst of speed and disappeared into the distance. It may have been something to do with the rugby. We finally caught up with him at the standing stone, where he'd fallen asleep in the sun. It was a glorious day for early March.
Back down the lane at David and Annie's house, we enjoyed scones and cream and discussed how many toilet rolls each of us should take to China. I think we decided it was personal preference in the end.