Forgive me Wales for thinking of you as a land of sheep and rain. You are so very much more beautiful than that. However, I had suspected this for some time and that is why we came to see you.
Often, people think of adventures as something very different from ‘normal life‘ – whatever that is. But it does not have to be so. After walking across Iceland, I came back to the UK and persuaded my dad and one of my brothers to take three days out of their schedules and come hiking with me. Where could we go? Living in Norfolk, the closest decent mountains were supposedly in Wales. So that is exactly where we went.
We arrived in Snowdonia National Park having no idea what to expect and parked the car up in a small village, planning a loose circular route using our OS map that would allow us to climb several peaks and then return to the car. We begun late in the evening and hiked until night fell, finding ourselves on the edge of a steep forest.
We found some very old ruins of houses which offered us flat land to set up our free camping spot for the night. As I now do on all good journeys, we cooked dinner on a beer can stove, the budget nomads best friend. I slung up my hammock between the trees while the other two nestled up in the tent for the night. “Don’t worry,” I told them, “We won’t be in trouble unless we get caught camping here.” No one found us and our night was peaceful.
The next morning, we begun to climb. For the most part, we were the only three people in all the world and the only locals that we came across were of the wooly, four legged variety. Our route (unfortunately) took us across long grass that hid the uneven ground and we struggled across it, turning our ankles. My hope from this hike had been to show my family why I do what I do and why I chose to live life in an unconventional way. With the difficult terrain, they were not enjoying it at this point. In all honesty, with the wet ground and turning of ankles, I was also regretting the route we plotted. As we had cited out particular peaks and entered from a certain direction, we had take the only narrow passage that was flat and walkable, so didn’t have the option to turn around.
Soon though, the flat uneven ground gave way to a steep slope and we traversed it slowly, my father constantly panicking that we would fall and break ourselves on the rocks as we tumbled, finally ending up in the lake below. Needless to say, that did not happen.
Soon after the steep traverse, we climbed to our first peak and look around us, at Snowdonia National Park.
This is where I should have a nice scenic shot of the landscape around us, but sadly my camera was shooting mostly blanks, unbeknownst to me. It is the first time I have ever shot a load of pictures, only to find that very few of them worked and I found it highly disappointing. Despite this, the memories are strong in my mind. It looked a little like this.
We descended the peak and walked on flat ground for quite some time, eventually finding a pretty lake where we made camp for the night. A few hundred metres away were signs that said NO CAMPING, hence why we are camping by a rock. Unfortunately there were no trees at this place, so I slept on the wet ground with my sleeping bag and a roll mat.
We hiked around the lake and soon begun to climb. Halfway up we found a lake for swimming and according to our map, if we kept on going there was a ridge that we could ascend. As it turns out, the ridge was more of a spine, a narrow, rocky climb.
Needless to say, my father panicked and shouted not for us to fall the whole way up. The fall was aptly named Devil’s kitchen and it truly would have been a painful (and possible fatal) fall. But you know what? He climbed it – so too did we all.
Our hearts were pumping with excitement, climbing that mountain with the rush of height and the thrill of beauty. There was nowhere else that I would rather have been. At this point, I am certain that my brother was enjoying the experience and up until the climb, my dad definitely had been too.
Upon reaching the top, we found a great plateau and sat down to let our sweat dry, admiring the view. This was one of my favourite places in all of Wales.
This peak was rocky and peaceful and the sweat we gave to climb it, only made it all the more beautiful. We descended the peak as quick as we could and joy of joys, found a small pub several kilometres away where we had a much appreciated cold drink. Then it was on to Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales.
However, the route up Snowdon is a man made path and it is full of people. It was the easiest climb of the three and maybe the least inspiring, for the clammer of people. It is even possible to get to the top on a funicular-like train. We appreciated the view, and headed downhill once more for our last night of camping before walking back to the car.
Wales is beautiful. I had underestimated it because it was always so close to home. Sometimes, we don’t need to go far to have an adventure. In fact, wherever you are in the world, I challenge you to go out and find your own little adventure close to home. You don’t need to climb mountains or camp out under the stars, just do something new and exciting.
Before we started, my brother did not want to go on this journey and my father was unsure of my lifestyle. By the end, I think they both (began to) understand and loved the experience that we had. For this, I will always be happy.
The journey was compact enough to fit into a single weekend, although we could have had a smaller experience in a single evening – work is no excuse for not having adventures. So go get out there.
A few days ago my (now eighteen year old) brother told me that this summer, he will cycle to Poland from England, a journey of over 1,000 miles. I was ever so happy to hear this and I am sure that he will have an amazing time. So get yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new today. You never know, you just might like it.