Archive for May 15th, 2009

Snowdonia and Stonehenge

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Returning to the road we continued south, arriving at Coventry around 3:00. Brian, the man who sold us the roof box, was incredibly nice, letting the box go for £3 less than the selling price and giving us a foam pad to protect our roof. We will need cross bars to affix it properly, but are making do with a very thorough tie down for the time being. Its very secure, but at high speeds the front of the box uses every tiny bit of slack left in the ropes to rise slightly off the roof. This seems to disconcert our fellow motorists and makes us a bit more tense, even though we know how firmly it is tied. We will add roof bars asap to give everyone more peace of mind.

Intending to show Matt the spectacular Snowdonian countryside we had discovered on our return to Dublin after picking up the car, we spent yet another late night getting to Wales. We parked for the night in the valley that had so awed us the first time. We intended to spend the next morning hiking the magnificent Snowdonian mountains, and head towards Stonehenge that afternoon. The first peak we scaled was so steep that we literally spent as much time resting as we did climbing. We started around 10:00, and finished around 12:15. Upon reaching the summit we decided it would be far easier and only a little slower to walk down the gentle slope on the other side instead of attempting to get back down the way we came.

On the other side we saw a tram crawling towards a mountain on our left, and noticed a lot of people hiking along a trial heading in the same direction. We soon found that everyone was climbing Mt. Snow, the highest point in the UK, not including Scotland. Dan and Matt immediately wanted to climb it as well. I was on the fence and David, probably the most sensible, wanted to head back to the car. In the end we hiked to the top of Mt. Snow. We had only eaten two fruit bars apiece the entire day, limited water supplies, little sleep and a strenuous climb already that morning; in short, it was exactly the kind of thing we had set out to do on this trip. The way was never as steep as our previous climb, but our weary legs howled for rest, and our exhausted bodies still demanded regular breaks. It was a cold day and the wind swept down the valley to our left with a ferocity that numbed our faces and literally blew us sideways as we walked. The hike became an exercise in putting one foot ahead of the other and not thinking about how the peak was still so far away in spite of the effort we had already put into reaching it. We gained the top around 3:00. The satisfaction of achieving our goal was worth it, and the view was a huge bonus. The Welsh countryside spread beneath our feet in every direction, a vast landscape of folded mountains that brushed the sky, with hidden lakes and and wondering streams in the valleys between. We could see all the way to the ocean as it curved around the Welsh coastline. It was as powerful a reminder as any we had received so far of the wonder of God’s creation, stayed in my mind as we hiked back on very empty stomaches and very tired legs. We reached the car around 6:00. Conquering two of Britain’s highest mountains in one day was a tremendously satisfying experience…once we were sitting in the car and could think about something besides lifting our leaden feet.

To reward ourselves for our accomplishments, and because we were ravenous after eating only two fruit bars in the last eight hours, we decided a cultural experience was in order. We drove east towards Stonehenge, stopping at the Bradford Arms Hotel and Restaurant for a much anticipated meal. We got two tomato peel soups, roast lamb, and spinach ziti. Both main courses came with enormous side dishes. Everything was divided into quarters and devoured. It was one of the most satisfying meals thus far on the trip. We filled up all the water bottles we had drained on our hike and, once again, set off for a long night of driving as we gunned to make Stonehenge before we stopped for the night.

I took over from Dan at 10:30 and drove until we reached Stonehenge around 2:40. As I saw the ancient stones loom out of the darkness to my right, felt an excitement unlike anything I had experienced before. It was a nearly full moon, and Stonehenge had such an air of vast mystery and age it brooded in the darkness that I couldn’t wait until the morning to get a closer look. With the Dan, Matt, and David in tow I hopped a fence (No signs prohibited it!), and made my way across the field. We hopped another barrier (This time there was a sign but it was too dark to read it), and walked close enough that the stones towered above us, when a security guard switched on his flashlight. He politely, but firmly escorted us out the way we had come.

Stonehenge was less impressive the next day, simply because the daylight robbed it of some of the mystery that had so intrigued me the night before and we never got as close on the tour as we had the night before. Even so it was probably the highlight of the trip so far. That people managed to transport such massive stones hundreds of miles, in some cases, and set them so deeply in the earth that they are still standing five thousand years later, is simply mind boggling. It is rare for so much size, age, and mystery to be found in one structure. It truly is one of the wonders of the world, and it was awe inspiring to stand in front of it. Hopefully the trip continues to get better.

Daniel S