Saturday, 27th May.
I was up early for a Saturday morning. I threw my gear together
and set off for Marble Arch. When I entered the rent-a-car office
shortly after 8:30am, my shoulders slumped and my chin dropped.
The queue snaked right back to the door, through which I had just
entered. Hmm, my plan to collect Charmari from her place at 9am
seemed to have little chance of succeeding. An hour later I had made
it through, and was battling the London traffic for the very first time!
Even I was amazed that I only got beeped once. I must confess I was
a little economical with the indicator. Once a Volvo driver, always a
Volvo driver! Where's my hat?
After collecting Charmari (What's this? I thought we were getting a
Ford Focus? I don't know what it is, but it has a CD player, woo-hoo!)
we zipped back to the Dawes Road Palace to grab my gear. We were on
our way shortly after 10:30am.
On our way where? To North Wales (I figured that since I had been to
New South Wales, South Wales wouldn't be much different, so North Wales
it would be) and Snowdonia, to be specific.
Mark had given me some basic instruction on driving on the motorways
in England, but I had no idea what the speed limit was! I just went
with the flow. After a couple of hours of driving (well, I was
driving, Charmari was navigating) we were hungry, and stopped off
at a services area.
At the services area there was a petrol station and a large one-storey
building with a couple of food joints, a games arcade, a newsagent
and public toilets.
The place was full of elderly people. I reckon you get to a certain
age and all of a sudden your bladder is synchronised with every other
old person in the country. We were served at Burger King by a bloke
with the most outrageous pair of sideburns and a face full of acne.
Bloke, well he was only a kid really. When I was that age I couldn't
grow sideburns, even if I had wanted to!
Motorways isolate you from the countryside. We travelled for miles
(they haven't gone metric yet in England) and only saw the banks of
the motorway. It wasn't until we were in Wales that we started seeing
some scenery, but it was worth the wait.
The landscape is dramatic, mountains shooting towards the sky and
plunging into the sea, and peaceful, lush green valleys with villages
nestled by the river. The narrow winding roads led us towards
The village of Betwys-y-coed is a handful of stone dice thrown down
in the folds of the valley. Three bridges straddle the river that
runs through the town, and the main road follows the river. Plantation
forests populate one side of the valley, covering up the remains of
a mining operation, and the other side is just as green.
We were wandering around the village (which was overrun by
tourists) looking for the 14th century church. We found a church
that looked bloody old, and supposed it to be the one. As we got
to the door a wiry man was closing the door. Charmari sweet talked
him into letting us have a look around, although to be honest he
didn't take a lot of convincing. Judging from the way we couldn't
shut him up he hadn't seen many people come through the doors that
day. It turned out that it wasn't the 14th century church at all,
instead it was only 150 or so years old, just looking a bit rough
on the outside. Our wiry friend was a local farmer, whose son is
in Australia at the moment.
He was then telling us about some friends
of his who are now living in Tasmania! I told him I was from Tasmania
and he was most surprised when I didn't recognise his friends' names.
They probably know me, though.
The tourists that filled the town (kettle...pot...black) all seemed
to be male! Hardly any sheilas in sight. Tres weird.
The hire car (an Avensis - no I hadn't heard of that model either)
had a sunroof. But it wasn't called a sunroof - it was called a
moonroof! We opened it up that night, but didn't see the moon.
Obviously just a clever name.