Tag Archives: wales

On turning 35 in Snowdonia National Park, Wales

I’m 35 now. To celebrate the arrival of this strangely angular number, I travelled to Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. I took my lover and my four amazing friends with me. Everything else we needed was already there.

Apparently, this location is the wettest place in the United Kingdom. Which did not throw us off our track to walk up the path to Moel Siabod. Up to a point, I mean. We had to turn around before the summit scramble because the winds were getting too stubborn. And we were getting too wet. But the mountain lake was unforgettable in its grim wavyness. And we imagined dragons looking over us. It is easy to see the legends coming to life in here.

By next day, a group of us joined our mountaineering instructor Huw Gilbert from Expeditionguide, and we drove to Ogwen Valley to do a grade 1 scramble up the Seniors Gully on Cwm Idal. Afterwards, we found a fairy glen, more amazing mountain scenery, a man-made canyon, and I ventured on a grade III scramble (the Tryfan Bach approach on Little Tryfan) in the nearby mountainhood.

It all ended in a little church in a little village. No one got married. But nearly everyone got really soaked again. This time in a hot tub. There’s nothing like a hot tub with autumn rains and mountain views, by the way. I forgot about my angular new number, and just soaked in all the rain, the mountain paths, the cliff walls, the rainbows and the wine, and the absolute bestest people to head into the unknown with. (Not all of them pictured. <3)

 

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Wye Valley Walk and the last sun of November

The walk from Chepstow to Llandogo took around 6-7 hours. It was the very beginning to the Wye Valley Walk which runs from Chepstow to Plynlimon. A beautiful 136 miles all together. We did about 22 km of it.

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Just three weeks earlier, Ashdown Forest in East Sussex had welcomed us with the last wave of autumn’s strength. The leaves were still hanging on, the ferns still looked pointy. It had been a darkening but friendly welcome. The time in Monmouthshire was completely different. We had stepped into the silent part of autumn.

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Everything around us had the feeling of having given up. (Not having been conquered; that’s the feeling you get during the third week of winter or so. Difference!) We still managed to walk in sunshine for the better part of the day, however. And no! There’s no magic to us always catching the sun, it’s just the layman’s luck. Or we actually come with a blessing from the Gods of the Woods.

The path we took mostly meandered up and down a valley bank. No grand views but loads of close meetings with gnarly trees. And a passageway through a massive boulder where at least one bat had taken up its residence. This was my first time being inside a boulder together with bats. I’m guessing there were many.

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Wales must be the gnarliest place on Earth, though. I think that part of its mythological charm might actually stem from the gnarls. But we were not in deep Wales, though. Just like the cave entries inside the valley bank that didn’t lead us very far, we kept getting hints of things to come without allowing ourselves to go and fully find out.

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For a little while we walked very close to the river. That part of the valley was covered in the prettiest trees imaginable, every branch and twig so utterly alluring that I nearly left my companions and ran off to see those things from up close. I did, however, suspect a trap and kept following our set course. This willpower is probably the only reason I got back to the the city again.

The border walking kept mentally pulling me away from the valley and more towards “the actual” Wales. I have been to Wales only twice and a certain feeling has lifted its head at both times. It’s the feeling of “if you practice feeling scared, you’ll remember your very first dream”. You know, that type of strange shit that feels too epic to be real.

You don’t need grand cities if you have nature like this. And if you have returned from the actual nature, you might find a small (and locked) village church from the far corner of a tiny cemetery. And if you are lucky, you can peek in through the keyhole and see colours you cannot name. Because you shouldn’t be seeing bright colours in a closed church that is not lit from the inside. And yet to do. And it is twilight outside. But if asked to describe the objects the colours were attached to, I’d really owe you an explanation.

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Borderlands make me restless. They are too rich in light layers of meaning. Every time you want to follow a thought deeper, you’re left with a choice to completely change your course or to give up on the thing that caught your attention. This part of the Wye Valley walk left me hungry. It left me hungry to step deeper over the border, to walk west from where I was, and from there, to go up north again. At the end of the day, it’s the north that wins in most cases.