Towns / Cities Visited: 106
Countries Visited: 20
Steps Taken Today: 19,900
Steps Taken Around the World: 2,944,006
Today was to be a day of walking. We had originally planned to hike Mount Snowdon, but being somewhat exhausted, and considering that the hike itself was a minimum of six hours, and rather arduous in nature, we decided against it, and chose to go ahead and use the time to do some lower impact walks to see a bit more of the national park than we would have had we just spent the day heaving our way up a large hill. With our day vaguely planned, we hopped in the car and drove to a small town within the National Park, Betws-y-Coed, in order to try and find a little information to help us decide which walking trails to take. Parking, we scurried off to the information centre of this picturesque little village. After a pretty uninformative conversation with one of the employees, which basically involved them giving us no suggestions, and instead just telling us to buy a trail guide and figure it out ourselves, whilst simultaneously telling us that the majority of the trails are unmarked and hard to navigate, we came away a little downtrodden. Not to be deterred, we walked back to the car park and found that there was a visitor map of the surrounding area which pointed out a number of marked trails. Selecting a two hour circuit which began and ended only a stones throw away, we put a few more coins in the parking meter, grabbed our backpack, and headed off.
The start of the walk was slow going, steep, and mildly horrific, although it was surrounded by lush, green, vine covered forest which softened the blow. Like all good things, you have to work your arse off for them, and eventually the track levelled out and we found ourselves crossing a small wooden bridge across a babbling brook, passing through clearings filled with heather, and meandering down tracks lined with pine trees, until we emerged from the forest to an absolutely stunning view of just a few of the mountains which dot this national park. I guess the hike up the hill had finally paid off. From here the path wound back down into the trees, and we soon found ourselves beside the calm waters of a large lake, Llyn Elsi. Agreeing that this was as good a place as any to have something to eat, we found a little jumble of rocks under the trees on the shore, and ate some of our packed lunch while staring peacefully at this incredible view.
We followed the path around part of the lake, ascending a small incline to gain a breathtaking view back over the lake, before continuing on our way. The remainder of the hike led us through more picturesque forest until eventually made it back to our car. Energised we looked at the map once more and picked a couple of other trails to explore before continuing our adventure.
We had originally planned to stop briefly at Swallow Falls just outside of town, but given that it was paid parking and entrance, and considering that we were only planning on taking a short ogle, we decided to just move on to the other hike. Finding the small free car park which services the track, we bundled out and began the walk. We were excited as the walking trail boasts lakes, and as such, we set off eagerly. The sweeping road through the trees eventually cleared to rolling fields of low lying ferns and scrub, and a bit of a hike up to the viewpoint saw us looking down over the tops of the pine forest and a far off lake, out to the silhouette of mountains in the distance. We continued through an avenue of heather and wildflowers, gently swaying in the cool breeze, until we finally came to the first of the two small lakes which break up the walk. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the unseasonable warm summer the country had experienced prior to our arrival, this lake, and the one that followed, were looking a little grim; stagnant and almost boggy. In fact, they were so underwhelming that we continued onwards without even taking a photo.
Luckily for us, the walk was to improve in its second act, as we found ourselves immersed in thick forest, so moist and mossy that I can confidently say that it plays host to the largest array of wild fungi I have ever laid eyes on. There is something magical about mushrooms, no pun intended; something that conjures the image of dancing fairies, playful pixies, and mischievous elves. I spent quite a while stepping off the marked track, and snapping photo after photo of these glossy, albeit probably poisonous, colourful caps.
With another walk done, and no real motivation to add anymore hiking to our day, but still with a great desire to see more of the national park, we hopped back in the car. Despite the fact that we weren’t climbing Mount Snowdon, we figured we should still head to the viewpoint to see just why the park takes its name from it. A picturesque drive, and a couple of photo stops along the way, and we soon arrived. The viewpoint, unsurprisingly, really does have a stunning view, not only of Mount Snowdon, and its sister peaks around it; but down its slopes to the fertile valley and the shining lake cradled within it.
Inspired by the view, we decided to make our way back to our accommodation via the circuit which runs through the Pen-y-Pass. The two hour drive led us through yet more breathtaking scenery, and a few tiny towns, including one lakeside village called, Llanberis, which sports a massive rust covered sword sticking up from its shores; and by massive I mean a good 20 feet high. As we headed through the mountain pass, we stopped several times to admire the crumbling and jutting rocks which edge it. By the time we reached our accommodation once more, its fair to say that we were thoroughly gobsmacked by the sheer undeniable beauty of Wales. Tomorrow we would be visiting one last Welsh destination, before making our way back into the boundries of England, and I knew even then that I would miss this often forgotten land. This beautiful country is a shining example of ‘you’ll never know, if you never go’, and I’m so very glad we came.
As I thought about our visit to Wales thus far, in the quiet of the evening, my mind found itself pondering Australia’s history since its colonisation. As we travel the UK, it is amusing to pass through the original versions of towns and suburbs that we have at home. Places that were so loved by the British that they desired to dedicate new places on the other side of the world to them by dubbing them with identical names. Australia is so very different to the UK in so many ways, and yet occasionally we reach places and see the connection which inspired the kinship. Southern Wales does, in some places, resemble sections of the Australian state of New South Wales; and Brighton does, if you squint a little, resemble a somewhat less sandy and more gloomy version of the beachside town outside of Melbourne with which it shares a name. By the same token however, suburbs like Doncaster and Stratford, look so very unrelated to their history rich European cousins.
These names were likely given simply to remind homesick colonists of places many months away by ship; a vain attempt to comfort them when faced with the knowledge that they would likely never see these places again. When considered in this way, it is heartbreaking to think that these reminders were often as close as convicts would ever get to their homeland again; prisoners, many of whom only perpetrated minor offences and non violent crimes, who were transported here, and who never gained enough wealth when freed to return. They were fated to walk into towns which sounded like home, but stood lacking in anything or anyone they knew; a haunting alternate reality bereft of family or familiarity. This alone seems enough of a punishment without the added forced labour and harsh conditions they experienced upon their arrival, if they even survived the journey over in the first place. To those who were transported for life, and torn from their home and their families, for little more than stealing a loaf of bread to feed them, this is our pilgrimage in your honour.