My previous Bank Holiday experience, and the Easter Weekend before it, were I think somewhat woeful. I was on my 1,000-mile cycling/camping trip and I learned, in the first day, that I had set off on the wrong day. It was Good Friday and the first leg of my trip took me from Anglesey, along the A5, to Betws-y-Coed. Being a hot weekend, likely the hottest of the year so far, tourists/walkers were out in force, parking wherever they could along that road that runs through the welsh mountains. One carpark for walkers I turned into, to refill my water bottle at the Cafe’s WC there, was heaving, vehicles coming and going, or at least attempting to since there were just too many of them for the space available. I’m glad I was only after water; the queue at the cafe was long and seemingly lined with people craving ice cream.
Once into Betws itself I had by then remembered that travelling on a holiday weekend was best to be avoided; my mum used to mention this when we were children and desiring a trip out somewhere. That was many moons ago and I had largely managed to follow that advice up until this point in time, now to discover the issue for myself, that was now likely much worse due to the vaster population.
The thought of over-population, based on what I was experiencing, plagued me/persisted throughout my entire trip. On Easter Sunday I journeyed through the Peak District; tough hills to climb on a fully loaded touring bike (and no Easter eggs to fuel me), but the scenery through here is spectacular. Of course I couldn’t be the only person out on this day to experience it, and it seemed like the rest of the world had joined me, some on bikes too, but most in cars. After what seemed like I all day of climbing hills I found myself descending rapidly between cliffs on one stretch of winding road and even though I clocked my fastest speed on my entire 1,000 mile trip here, it was limited to 40mph by the motorist who thought they would get to where they were going quicker by overtaking me. The stream of traffic clearly ahead of us forced them to immediately slow down again, leading me to apply my brakes, and a good few blasts of annoyance on my hooter aimed at their rear window; “stupid fools” I politely thought as I ended up stuck up behind them all the way to the next junction.
Climbing hills would often be made more stressful due to having a stream of traffic being held up behind me; I was surprised I didn’t have anyone get frustrated with me like one beeping van driver had on my previous tour. Another frustrating thing about too many tourists is when trying to take photographs; a way around this is to either take multiple exposures while people walk around, so you can perhaps edit them out later, alternatively you can leave them in… or do a mix of both techniques.
At the end of Day 3 of my trip I found a patch of woodland to hide myself away into and pitch my tent, but the site out on the road before everyone left for the evening was one of another car-lined road and another queue for ice creams, this time from a ice cream van which likely experienced an awesome day; I was surprised it hadn’t long-since sold out of its
drugs chilled sugar and water served in cones. Another motorist almost succeed here in overtaking me pointlessly; but was thwarted by the parked cars I was passing and the central reservation that the hadn’t observed ahead (they had to break sharply to avoid colliding with the cube of plastic, while I chuckled quietly to myself).
Much of my trip I found myself on busy roads, even though it was perhaps a normal day for Ireland. Perhaps I chose the wrong roads, preferring the more direct ones than those off the beaten track. Westport was a case in point; I liked this small town but it was busy from the very start of the day. It amused me somewhat, whilst looking out from a café over breakfast, into one of the locations ‘squares’ to observe building works being carried out and the traffic. Sadly I have no photograph to illustrate the view I witnessed but it was basically this: the building being renovated was clad in sheeting that had printed on it what the finished work would look like. This enabled the area to look attractive to visitors, and not like the building site that it was. The irony with this was the non-stop flow of traffic bumping over speed bumps; they were the ones that looked to be the ugly eye-sore. Hide the truth of a building under construction, whilst have all this harsh and obscene (to my eyes at least) metal and plastic on show.
When the next public holiday came around, I would be heading towards Dublin and home. Fortunately I got through the city to the port early on and likely avoided the heaves of traffic and tourists that would descend on it within a short while. The ferry was fully booked, for car traffic at least; multiple buses would required to take myself and “other” foot passengers to the vessel.
Once back on Anglesey, a tourist location in its own right, I found myself on some of the quietest roads I had experienced in what seemed like a long time; even if it was 7pm, it was eerily void of traffic as I completed the final leg of my trip, back to the real world.
Fortunately for my trip it wasn’t the summer holidays, had it been I’m sure my trip would have turned out quite differently with not so much freedom to travel and camp where and how I wanted. One forest was banned for such activities but it was so quiet while I was there that there was no one around to turf me away.
This weekend I am happy to be hiding myself at home, away from all that touristy hustle and bustle, away from the stark reminder that our world is over-populated. True to form, it has been cloudy with spots of rain, during the morning at least. Happy Bank Holiday!
[EDIT] I forgot to add two further points I wanted to include. Firstly the warnings we get in the news that seem to rear their heads just prior to each Bank Holiday, namely the traffic, and congestion, the delays at train stations (often seemingly to well-timed strikes or maintenance works), and airports.
There is also the effect the vast numbers of tourists have on the spots they descend, or ascend, on. Just recently the damage being caused to Mount Everest due to the number of climbers, and their litter. Some people have even died there apparently due to the overcrowding.
In some places tourists have even been banned because the locations can’t survive the onslaught.
Of course many places benefit and even thrive on the tourist industry, where I live is one such place, but it concerns me when the masses visit them to such a degree that what they go there for is lost or destroyed. My mind boggles as I search for those headlines above and I find others that promote “Places that everyone should visit” and the like. No they shouldn’t! Not everyone, you fools!