Spending holidays is a very good subject to know a person by. This can actually tell you more about their behaviour than meeting them in their day-to-day routine. When people are off the hook, they tend to behave differently. It’s neither bad or good, they simply let their more secretive side off the leash. It ranges from simply amplifying their normal behaviour, getting even lazier to feeling a fresh breeze on what was locked down for a longer while.
The last part is the one I’m treating while on holiday. For a couple of years now, I have been rushing into the wildest areas of the United Kingdom with my bestie and her dog. I let go completely of my routine in the office and focus on how hard I can actually sweat. ‘Mild survival’ is what I call them. I can’t imagine a better description.
Snowdonia is a National Park in North Wales. It’s covered in hills, moors and countless sheep. It’s a wild place with narrow and curved roads of the best quality. Maybe it’s simply because nobody wants to use them? But when you do, you’ll discover a land full of miracles. My week doesn’t even cover the fifth of what Snowdonia has to offer but at least I got an idea what Wales is made of.
Our main goal was a hike to the ceiling of Wales – Snowdon. It’s the second-highest mountain on the British islands and a part of Three Peaks challenge. Usually, the challenge is taken in 24 hours and often for some charities. It collects the three largest mountains in the UK, one in each country – England, Scotland and Wales. For us, it’s the matter of simply placing the foot on the top of all of them, no matter the time. We climbed the highest of them, Ben Nevis in Scotland, in 2016, and this year we scored Snowdon. The last one will hopefully be the target of our next year holidays.
Snowdon has six paths to choose from depending on what you expect from the climb. We took the most popular Miner’s Track which has mediocre difficulty but plenty of picturesque views. It was a path used by the miners of slate and there’re buildings left by them on the sides of the paths. Apart from these, there’re lovely lakes all around. Then, the path connects to another one – Pyg Track that is steeper and more slippery. Well, it won’t feel like a score if it didn’t get a little hard on the way.
Frankly, the only problem was it was supposed to be a nice weather day, but sadly, it got dark one hour before we got to the summit. So when eventually we got up, there was completely nothing to see, we were wet to the bone and I was so cold, I was planning to take a train down. Then I found out the train cost 27 pounds and I skipped the idea. We got down with the easiest path out of six and it was disappointing. The views were terribly boring. Maybe it was because of the worse weather but the moors and the mountains looked like they hated the fact they were there. The train going there and back once every while was the only thing interesting.
What was “funny”, at least to my friends, was that we got down in a completely different place than we went up. And what I gotta tell you is that Wales is not really into the Internet or service at all so there was not much of twenty-first-century science to help us. We had to ask, quoting my friend here, autochthons about a way back or some sort of transport that will get us to our car 5 miles from there. After a while of confusion we ended up on the right bus and luckily there was enough Internet to find out where we actually parked. The joke’s on us.
But our adventure didn’t end up there. We had plenty of surprises on the other days. For instance, even after scoring the highest mountain in the area, we got lost on some shitty hill with thousands of paths. It was annoying because the markings were simply bad and there were not only tracks to the top of the hill but also around it, having different widths and some probably made by animals. We ended up being surrounded by ferns taller than any of us, unsure if this path will get us anywhere and trying to find one that actually looked like a proper human-made leisure road. However scary it was, we couldn’t stop laughing. The situation was somewhat ridiculous and I’m both glad and regretting that it happened. If it didn’t we could have spent our strength and energy on another interesting place in the area but then… It was a sunny day and it was a really nice hill. And eventually, all went well. Whatever else is there to complain about?
While on the complaining subject, there was only one thing I really couldn’t enjoy – Portmeirion. It’s this village created to look Italian with the pricy pottery as their export goods. I don’t know why it’s so famous and praised by so many Welshmen. It was designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis who was in love with Mediterranean architecture. If you ask me, he didn’t give his inspiration a privilege. Portmeirion is the most tawdry rubbish I’ve encountered. Maybe it used to have its charm but now it’s sad memory painted in too bright colours, begging for renovation and offering nothing. All of that for 12 pounds.
I can agree that it was an amazing setting for a TV series ‘The Prisoner’ back in the 1960s. I loved the huge chess set in the middle of the village and plenty of small details here and there such as Hercules’ sculpture or mermaids in a balcony fence. And this huge gold Buddha hidden from the world! I just wish it all was in better condition.
What I do love in my holidays is the randomness. Being a control freak and having a complete schedule for 99% of my time, I do tend to be unable to actually let go. I hate wasting time on pointless things and this is really a personality trait I’m trying to work on. But on holidays I try to go easy on myself and sometimes we do wake up at 10 and drive over an hour just to see Capybaras. The funny thing is, the place having them was simply a shop with aquarium fish where you could also go fishing with borrowed equipment. It kinda became some sort of a garden to bring more visitors into this small place in the middle of nowhere (we actually got lost while driving). But it was worth it. Come on, CAPYBARAS. They’re like Switzerland of the animal kingdom! If they weren’t enough, there were also otters and turtles and tons of koi fish. And some Dutch pancakes, too.
Even better “most pointless place” was the longest name village. The Welsh translation is “St Mary’s church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the fierce whirlpool of St Tysilio of the red cave” and the full name goes: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. I already had my fun trying to pronounce it and it’s nowhere near the actual pronunciation. But then think about it. There’s this Guinness’ record longest name village and only because of this there’re tons and tons of tourists coming. When we were there, there were like 6 coaches with people taking tons of pictures. This is how you do business.
If I am to judge Wales, it is charming. It has mountains and the sea balancing in the same landscape. Although there’re not many forests, you still can find enough trees to get lost. There’re beautiful waterfalls and lakes and the sea that goes so far inland that you actually can’t believe there’re still people that live on that timely flooded land. Oh, and don’t forget that there’re sheep everywhere. But it seems to be a constant in Great Britain after all…
All photos by me