Tag Archives: Welsh language

…to the Highest Heights

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Continued from the previous post

Our taste of Wales’ natural beauty left us wanting more, so the next morning, we were again awake early and were again blessed by the incredible generosity of Pete, who drove us this time to the foot of Mount Snowdon in Snowdonia National Park. Although we ended up on the “advanced” trail (we were only following Pete’s instructions!), the first half of the climb was relaxing, offering sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and the lakes below.

Lake

Mtn2

Sheep mtn

Then, we climbed into clouds. Suddenly, the world disappeared, covering us with mist and obscuring all but the next few feet in front of us. The path that had seemed luxuriously wide and almost painfully gentle suddenly shot straight upwards, with no markers in sight.

Josh path

Mist sheep

We climbed on for a few more meters until we realised that we were completely turned around and making up our own path in the middle of suffocating cloud cover, which did not seem like a good idea. Thankfully, voices came our way: although we couldn’t see them, we managed to talk to two other hikers, who assured us that the path was just below us.

Back on track, we continued on up, finally reaching the summit of Mount Snowdon… or at least what we could vaguely see of it! The winds at the peak were ferocious and the mist was so thick that objects even a few steps ahead of us on the trail disappeared into vague shadows. The temperature had dropped 15°C as we climbed, and every exposed hair on our body was covered with droplets of mist and ice. This is apparently not unusual for Mt. Snowdon: a local who arrived at the summit moments after us took one look at the white void and sighed. “Oh well,” she muttered to herself, “perhaps one of these days I’ll actually see the view.”

Summit

However, just a few meters down the mountain, a whole new world reappeared!

Thinking back to the original three elements that had brought us to Wales, all three proved true. The uniqueness of Welsh culture is evident not only in the raw, magnificent beauty that composes the landscape, but also in the earthy language that garnishes every interaction, from the post office to a scenic drive with a local. There is something magical about Wales, where myth and reality live side by side, where mountains disappear into the mist and ancient castles sit cooly beside play structures.

Airbnb

Cat

Sheepies

And finally, the Welsh really do scramble off cliffs. And now, so have we.

Snow. Adv.

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From the Deepest Depths…

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Coasteering?

It was a word I had never heard before March, and my first introduction to it occurred when Josh and I were looking at where in the UK outside of England we wanted to travel.

This was the introduction:
“Hey Sara, I found a website that said they do this thing called coasteering in Wales. It looks really cool.”
“Really? What is it?”
“I don’t really know. Something about scrambling off cliffs. But it looks really cool.”

This may seem like a less than thrilling recommendation to most. Bear in mind, however, that we moved to Argentina for eight months based on a website Josh had found after typing “learn about organic farming and stay for free” into Google, which ended up turning out very well (which if you’re already reading this blog, you already know! 🙂 )

So, it kept us intrigued, this cliff-scrambling thing, and when June rolled around and we still hadn’t made a decision between Scotland and Wales, we bought train tickets to Wales based on three factors:
1. They have a crazy language (see more about that here!)
2. Merlin was from there
3. Josh had read on a website that they scramble off cliffs

It was only when we were already on the train that we realised that although we had been talking and dreaming about cliff scrambles for months, we had never shared those dreams with, you know, anyone who could actually make them a reality. Thankfully, Mark from Snowdonia Adventures responded to our frantic last-minute emails, and early one morning, our amazingly gracious Airbnb host Pete drove us to Holyhead to meet up with Mark. Fitted into wetsuits, helmets, and hiking shoes, we proceeded to walk with Mark along the breezy top of cliffs that swept down to the Irish Sea. It quickly became apparent that we were about to spend the day with a Welsh version of my brother-in-law Borden.

After throwing ourselves into the sea, a shocking 14°C after the 26°C of the air, we received some brief technical pointers from Mark, things such as “Always swim feet first when approaching shore” and “If it looks green and slippery, it is.” He then showed us some different swimming techniques, such as how to swim in strong currents, how to rapidly swim backwards, and how to spin yourself in circles really fast.

“Spin! Faster! Faster!!! Really fast! Keep going!” yelled this bizarre Welsh apparition of Borden. “Isn’t that awesome?”

Josh

“I’ll add it to your tab,” he added as he floated away. “£5 for the non-pharmaceutical psychedelic experience. £10 for the very flattering pictures I’ll take. Then, we’ll go into Beaumaris and I’ll take you to my cousin’s store to buy some carpets…”

Needless to say, the cliff scrambles were not the only entertainment of the day!

“I’m not usually this surreal,” he mused as he clutched the rock face and snapped a series of ridiculous pictures.

Silly

Coasteering, in short, is mountain-climbing, but horizontally along the coast. You scramble along coastal cliffs until you reach a point where scrambling is impossible, at which point you hurl yourself (safely – don’t worry, Moms!) off the cliff and into the frothing sea below.

I could continue to type, but these will do more justice:

Scramble

Easing into it: our first little jump!
First jump

Mark

Moving on up… Many meters above sea level!!
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Observing

Underwater

There’s only one way down from here!
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With numb feet and hearts still pounding, we made our last scramble up a sheer cliff face, anchored only to a rope tied around Mark’s waist at the top, then walked back to his car. Although the expedition was technically over, he offered to drive us along the coast for some magnificent views, regaling us with tidbits of ancient and local Welsh history. After an hour, we arrived in Beaumaris, a lovely little fishing town. After instructing us on where to find the best mussels, we finally said goodbye to Mark and dashed through the pouring rain to a well-earned lunch.

Mussels

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To be continued…

Ps. You can watch Mark’s video of us coasteering here!