Canyoning; a.k.a. Gorge-Walking; a.k.a traversing down a river in a canyon, making your way by jumping, wading, swimming, floating, or whatever means possible. Canyoning in Wales: follow a footpath to a misty, pebbly river in the Brecon Beacon mountains of South Wales, throw on a wetsuit and helmet (or, rather, take about 30 minutes to try to fit into a wetsuit), fill your face with a ear-to-ear grin thinking of the thrills to come, and tiptoe to the edge of the river where you then dive into the most freezing water you've ever felt before; next, remind yourself that Rose survived the icy Atlantic even after Jack "never let go", so if she can do it so can you. This was my Saturday experience with Call of the Wild adventure tours in Wales. Canyoning consists of a number of physical activites made for fun to get you down about a 5-mile stretch of the river tucked deep in the lush, green mountains of Stouth Wales, with only rolling hills and... sheep... in sight; jumping off waterfalls, crawling under waterfalls, wading through shallow water, floating in the current through some rapids, hiking, and of course freezing your ass off and bruising up your body. But did I mention it was beautiful? The morning sun crept through the trees, peeking onto the shallow waters and illuminating the unbelievably clear, fresh water beneath us, filled with bright red sandstones. The smell was constant, of the nature of the pleasant aroma you immediately sense when you step out of the car and onto the campsite in the Rocky's or even Lake Carlblackwell - smokey, woody campfires waiting for smores to be made.
I'm not sure if I can fully describe what I did (maybe pictures uploaded later can better detail) besides traverse down a freezing river in the September sunlight of Autumn in Wales, being led by nature to discover that my body was not made for this sort of thing! At one point I was shaking so uncontrollably they took out some emergency ginger tea and an extra fleece to wear under my wetsuit (which didn't help by the way). The company along the trip was great, as a group of ten young British men came out to celebrate their "stag weekend" - better known to us as a bachelor party.
Accomadation was provided in a nearly small town of Ystradganleis - don't try to pronounce the Welsh; I can barely understand their English let alone the old, native words. Ystradganleis apparently has a whopping two bars (!) and absolutely no diversity; so when the three lovely female strangers came down for drink before heading up to bed, all heads turned - I felt like Kevin Bacon breaking into Town Hall in footloose. When "America" was given in response to the question of where we strangers came from, we were immediately the talk of the town. Free drinks and free lessons in Welsh, we were escorted by two friends: Michael and a round, jolly man simply known as "Spud". They took us to the two town pubs, showed us off to their friends, and struggled through conversations lost in translation despite our common language. Apparently the Welsh are the "southern hospitality" of the UK, willing to talk to anyone and eager to share their blues over a drink. We even got hit on by th eyoung crowd on the way out, of which I can only remember the following phrases: "You're awesome - your arms are like a bodybuilder!" and "hey girls - shagadellic!" I'm not sure what they were trying to do: impress us or get cast for a movie. All in all, it was nice to start off Wales in a small own in the mountains; now I move to Cardiff, the capital, where life is sure to move a bit differently than the life of "Spud" back in memorable Ystradganleis.