Weekend in Wales

ADVENTURE! Gotta love it. Where to begin? Alright, bow about the moment I realized I procrastinated packing and was unable to send off my last blog post until after I returned from the weekend? Good place to start?

The Adventure weekend in Wales was organized by Arcadia University (where I’m studying this semester) so all of the travel plans, entrance fees, housing and food was taken care of. What’s the first thing on our itinerary? Getting there, of course. We were to meet at Paddington Station at 1pm on Friday. Thinking we had all the time in the world to get there, the my group decided that we could leave at 20 to 1 and still be fine. You would think we had better London wits by now? As we’re running to catch the train (which we ended up having to wait 8 minutes for) I frantically called the Arcadia Emergency number explaining that there were four of us, we were late to meet at 1pm but we’d definitely make it by the time the train left at 1:45.

Regardless of the hassle to get there, we made it just in time for the train and we were on our way to Wales! Exhaustion took over for the first hour as we passed small suburbs and boroughs leaving London. I awoke to a picturesque view of the countryside while the train streamed passed field upon field of vibrant green grass, old willow trees and millions of sheep, cows and horses. If anyone knows anything about me, they’ll know that I was in heaven. I absolutely love the countryside and we were in the heart of it.

With a quick layover in Cardiff (a city in Wales which I’d love to return to) we were on our way over to Swansea and then up to our final destination of Fishguard and Gwck in Pembrokeshire. Our weekend event coordinators and tour guide were there awaiting us as we unloaded our bags into two “big” vans (big for British vans – small for America). Oh, and they call them “lorries”. Lorry = truck. Don’t know if there will ever be a connection there.

The cabins which we were staying in were surprisingly cozy and, most importantly, warm. It was about 10 degrees colder in Wales than it is in the city and although I came prepared with a million layers and plenty of wool socks, it was still a bit nippy.

After filling out stomachs with plentiful vegetable lasagna, everyone had a cup of tea and went straight to bed. Our days started at 8am the next morning (which is fine for me but extremely early for others) and we wanted to be rested for our adventures! Everyone was to go coasteering and hiking while you could have a choice of your third activity, sea kayaking or surfing. Since, I kayak or canoe on a regular basis in Wisconsin and had never touched a surf board in my life, you can guess which one I chose. Surfing.

Although, my first activity was supposed to be surfing, the waves weren’t up to snuff for the adventure guides so I ended up going coasteering right off the bat. If you don’t know what coasteering is, it’s basically cliff diving with added elements of swimming and rock climbing. Now, the only other time I had been cliff diving was on Madeline Island in Lake Superior and I was excited to get my adrenaline going because I knew this water was going to be much colder than Lake Superior (although, that may be surprising for some).

We started off by getting prepped and dressed for our activities. In almost everything but hiking we were going to be wearing wetsuits. Brilliant inventions for keeping the cold out and the heat in; however, they do come with one major dysfunction – getting the bloody things on. When I signed away my life to participate in this adventure weekend, there was one section that, up until this point, had confused me. “You agree that you will be able to fit into a wetsuit.” Well, I thought, that’s insulting. No, no, no I stand corrected. This was honestly the hardest thing about the weekend. Putting on and, for that matter, taking off a wetsuit is the equivalent of trying to put on jeans when you’re still not completely dried off from your shower. Oh, and these jeans are two sizes too small. Feel my pain?

Finally, we were all suited up and off to the sea for some coasteering. We loaded up the vans and were off! Since we arrived after dark the night before, I didn’t get to experience the scenery around our cabins. It was out outstanding. Rolling hills, roads lined by thick green shrubbery (Monty Python, anyone?) and to our west were towering cliffs and robin’s egg blue water. Yep, this was heaven.

Walking down to the coast was an adventure as my water socks made my shoes too small and were increasingly depriving blood to my feet. I am generally a graceful individual, but I swear my feet found every loose or obscure rock on the pathway to the sea. I couldn’t wait to get in the water so my shoes would loosen up a bit. None of us could breathe as we trudged down to the cliffs and it wasn’t because our wetsuits and life vests were suffocating us.

I’ll attach photos but, honestly, you really had to be there to see the view. The cliffs were different shades of brown, grey, burgundy and sand and the water was a vibrant blue mixed with white foam as it crashed up against the rocks. It was a gorgeous day and you could see for miles – I could have sat there forever. I have to say, the next few hours were some of the best of my life. While some were a bit cold and not used to the wind and the chilly water, I was right at home. This girl has done three Polar Bear Plunges in her life and has countlessly jumped into frigid Lake Superior with no hesitation.

The group progressively jumped higher and higher as we got the confidence. I was always first or second to jump as my friends held back to build up their confidence. The last jump was the highest and consequently my favorite. To get to the ledge we had to scale up an almost vertical rock that got slipperier each time someone climbed up it. I leapt off with a slight push from the guide and all of my thoughts went blank. I hit the water in perfect pencil form and surfaced breathlessly in awe of what I had just done. It was honestly one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life and if time wasn’t running out I would have done it again and again.

After peeling out wetsuits off we headed back to the cabins for some hot lunch before starting our second activity. It was my group’s turn to go hiking and, with the rest of my activities being water sports, it was my chance to take pictures of the gorgeous scenery. Our 7 mile path stretched along the seaside of the Pembrokeshire National Park. It was a stunning day for a hike with only a light breeze and scarce clouds. Trolling along the cliffs we passed fields of sheep and cattle to our right with the sea on our left. We were even lucky enough to see two seals with their pup! Extremely cute.

Sunday brought a bit of rain and much colder, windier weather. Again, I was one of the few who were excited to jump into the “freezing” cold water again – it was surfing time! I have never surfed let along touch a surf board so I was a bit out of my element but the guides were amazing and showed us the tricks of the trade. At first, we learned how to catch a wave and push up on our arms – not too difficult. Once we graduated from that it was learning how to actually stand up on the board – very difficult. What was difficult about it (well, what was most difficult about it) was the strength of the waves and the wind blowing you back 10 steps when you had just waded out five. Once I caught a good wave, most of my strength was used up trying to get out deep enough that I could barely pull my knees to my chest. No matter how difficult it was, I still had a blast. I even kind of stood up one time, but it was just for a second and I wouldn’t really even call it standing up. More like crouching and then WHOOSH I toppled over into the sea.

All in all, it was one of the most amazing weekends of my life. I honestly could do that every weekend if given the chance! Maybe event coordinating at an adventure company is in my future? Who knows? If I had to choose between Wales and Scotland I would choose both. I loved them equally for different reasons and I can’t wait to see what my next trip will bring! My next trip is actually starting in a half an hour haha. I am heading to Ireland for the weekend to explore the Irish culture. I can’t wait! As usual, this post was almost two weeks delayed (my apologies) and I’ll say it again, a post from Ireland will appear in the near future. However, according to my record it may be a little later than I’d hope.

Thanks to everyone back home for being amazing and a special thanks to all who exercised their right to vote last Tuesday. I have to say, I’m extremely happy with the results. J