The dark side of Wales

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Once into our new hostel behind the Swallow Falls Hotel we set about figuring out how to celebrate in Betws town with the girls. Swallow Falls is a large beautiful waterfall nestled in a long valley of towering pine trees. The areas beauty wasn’t completely wasted on me as we headed towards town in Heathers car. However something I failed to notice was the distance between our hostel and the pub.

Once we made it to town we hobbled over to the stables pub in great pain. It was a large pub with plenty of room for Paul to get as loud and lairy as possible. Instead we opted for getting completely silly, laughing so hard we could barely breathe leaving us red in the face mouths agape with strands of saliva dangling from the roof of them. Sarah decided to buy Paul two pints of cider and then he fell asleep in Heathers lap. Laughter and drink had been a perfect cure for our agonising foot pains. However at one point we rather arrogantly decided to cancel our cab back so we could savour every last drop of the happiness we had found in the stables. The girls advised this was a wise idea. It wasn’t. The only way to wake Paul from his deep crotch slumber was by sticking my finger through his beard and teeth to tickle his tongue.

So we headed out into the Dark cold night as the staff closed up. The girls waved us off and we headed in the direction of our hostel, up the hill through the town. We were in reasonably good spirits but unable to string a sentence together right up until we reached the edge of town… We stood staring in fear and disbelief of the mistake we had made. Here in the Welsh uplands the distinction between the end of a town and forestry is never clearer than at night. There are no street lights covering any of the road beyond the town perimeters as it cuts through the forests towards Snowdon. We had no idea how far the hostel really was and we found ourselves staring into complete darkness. We instantly sobered up in a fit of fear, clutched each other and strode into the dark. We thought naively that the hostel must be quite close and we would see the outside lights soon. We were so very wrong. 20 minutes later, we were still clutching the wall on the side of the road, arms hooked for safety filling every second with pointless conversation to reassure ourselves. There was now no sign of life ahead and no light behind. We we’re completely lost in the middle of the night on a thick forest road. The adrenaline had made us forget our crippled feet so we walked faster and faster until finally we spotted a light streaming up into the clouds behind a bend in the road. We limped and ran as fast as we could until we were at the hostel entrance out of breathe and drained, Paul in a state of shock repeating the sentence “I’ve got the worst f**king friends in the world ever”.

To top the night off the hostel gave me a child duvet cover…

This morning. After that rather tiring night out with the girls we sat in a dark dark corner of the hostel dining room and ate our full Welsh breakfasts and slurped tea through beards. Yesterday I had realised that this very room was the same room I had had my lower 6th form ball in 12 years ago. In the time since I had last graced the place with my presence donning a suit way to large for me and brandishing brylcreamed hair stuck down onto my forehead, literally nothing had changed. As we sat eating breakfast a team of teenagers about to embark on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition sat for breakfast. Their rather serious teacher told them what they would be expected to do that day. Their activities involved looking at forests and wild camping ( I was only half listening). The teacher was so serious he made these things which should be exciting and fun sound sullen and boring, he said everything in a condescending authoritative way. Had he trekked for 6 days across Wales? Had he walked 19 miles into Snowdonia from the west coast of Wales? Who knows or cares, anyway he was annoying me so we left.

We only had 7 miles of hills to cover this day, nothing in comparison to the last few days. So we decided to spend more time with the girls. They wanted to mill around Betws and it’s shops so we followed. The shops sold everything from ‘traditional Welsh love spoons’ (no you can’t put one spoon inside another), the famous ‘Welsh human sized bubble generator’ and shark teeth. I befriended an Aberystwyth student doing a survey concerning plans for the river life in the uplands of Wales. Trust me, this was much more thrilling than looking through the various dragon branded tat and trinkets that for some reason fill many Welsh high street stores. I love Wales but sometimes I wish more than this could survive on it’s high streets. ANYWAY I returned to the group to find Paul outside one shop shouting ‘They just make this sh*t up to sell to stupid f**ckimg tourists”

Now Betws isn’t a big town by any means but all this hustle and bustle and business as usual was getting me down. The mountains around Betws are beautiful and I couldn’t stop looking at them. As Paul put it “it was like I had left my personality up there”. Then in one final attempt to cheer me up I was forced onto a children’s train ride. This had the opposite affect. Everyone admitted I looked like I really needed to get back into the woods. They were right. I really kept on looking up at the forest covered mountains, longing, craving to be back on the paths with my hairy friend. So Paul and I set off, the rest of the day was beatiful as expected. We ate lunch over looking the quietest lake I’ve ever been to and walked through gorgeous wood and lanes to our next campsite. We’re getting closer and even saw a sign for Abergele! Only one day left!

We also found some bagged up moss which matched Paul’s beard perfectly.

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