aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Unconquered Wales

Venture Crew 699 assaults the Third Peak in this third installment

After scaling Scafell Pike, we drove down to Wales, arriving in the dark. We got our walkie-talkies working again, which was important: this was our first drive in the dark, and communication between the cars was vital. We arrived in Bethesda about 11:30 p.m. and found the town still up and lively.

We moved into Yr Hen Neuadd ("the old hall"), where everything (electricity, heat, showers) required the feeding of meters with pound coins. Other than that, the accommodations were comfortable. Yr Hen Neuadd (pronounced Er Hen Ney-ath) is maintained by one of the London Scout Councils as an outpost for mountaineering training; it is otherwise available for rental by any group (especially Scouts) who want to use it. The next morning, we got up to attack Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa).

We had decided that we should get some rest. Plus, we noticed that the weather tended to clear over the course of the day in the regions we had visited so far. In America, hitting the mountain early is important; here, waiting a bit for the best weather makes sense. So we drove over to Llanberis and proceeded to enjoy ourselves.

Right beside the carpark, we found a memorial to -- of all people -- Thomas Jefferson and the other signers of the Declaration of Independence of Welsh ancestry. We went shopping a bit, winding up in a tea room/gift shop where we had an excellent lunch of traditional foods (lamb pie . . . mmmmm). It was wonderful to hear Welsh spoken; it's such a neat language.

We were hoping to hike up the mountain, then take the train down. For, you see, a train runs all the way up the mountain. It's a little, steam-driven, coal-fired train with a middle rail fitted with sprocket teeth. That's the way the engine with its one car "makes the grade" up the steep mountainside. There is also a snack bar and gift shop at the summit station. We planned on hiking UP, as I say, then riding down -- but you can only do that if seats are available; nevertheless, that was our plan. But then we found that we would have only three hours to ascend the mountain before the last train of the day headed back down. Deciding that that left us too little time to complete our task, we rode up and walked back down. And it still took us three hours to walk back down.

The train gave us a canned narration of the countryside, though, and that was cool. And the scenery atop the highest peak in Wales this beautiful, clear day was utterly gorgeous.

The next day, we headed out from Bethesda, stopping to do laundry in Llangolen, where I managed to back into a parked motorbus. I was impressed with how no-fuss British law handles auto accidents. No police statements. We exchanged info, and I had a form to hand in when I returned the car. So it didn't hold us up much, and we were on our way, with a ding in the back hatch and a fractured tail light. Grrr.

We drove over to Shrewsbury and headed south toward Gloucester. We managed to get the wrong turning to Gloucester (a byway), which cost us an hour or two, but finally made it down to Bristol, where Woodhouse Park Scout Camp was. We picked out a fine camp, played frisbee, and relaxed. Oh, yes -- and Woodhouse Park had wonderful showers, with as much hot water as you cared to use.

Next: The Land of Arthur and Alfred.

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