Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 6: Sut mai or Hello!

 We have been in Wales for a day now already!!! When we got here last night, our class had a discussion about our experiences in London. We talked about all the fun sight-seeing we did and how the city was sustainable. We talked about everything from the use of recycling bins to how there are barges in the river that collects trash. We were also amazed by the different building structures that London has implemented that take advantage of natural sunlight and energy efficient supplies. This was a great wrap up of our adventures and teachings in London. Our next stop was Wales! We couldn’t wait to go to bed and experience a new place in the morning.
The first morning in Wales began early, for some people, earlier than others. At precisely 1:12 a.m. I was jerked awake by a horrified bunkmate. She shot up and started screaming at me from her top bunk of the 12 bed girls bunk room. She must have had an epic nightmare because her exact words to me were “JILL I HAD A BAD DREAM AND YOU WERE TERRORIZING ME!” Here I thought I had long-lasting friendship with her. She quickly went to bed without much explanation.
The next wake-up call had all 23 of us up and ready for breakfast at 8:00 a.m. Meals at the Rhos y Gwaliau outdoor recreation center are phenomenal. The cooks are Simon, who is a native of Wales, and Sandy and Jamie who are from Scotland and England. Together these three whip up fabulous spreads. Breakfast consisted of 4 different types of cereals, fresh fruit, unique yoghurt (yogurt for Americans) and warm tea. Once our bellies were full, we were instructed to make a “take away lunch” or a “sacked lunch.” For those who do not know, a take away lunch is a carry out lunch, and a sacked lunch is an Iowan term for a bagged lunch. These terminologies were new to me! Little did we know that these roast beef, ham, or tuna sandwiches and shortbread would soon be the talk of our entire afternoon…

After meal preparation, the group met the instructors that would be leading us through the canyons. The guides were sarcastic and very relaxed about our future adventure. We did find out that one guide, Alan, was leading a group but had never gone canyoning before, but he did know Welsh and what to do with sheep…Thank God for that right?! J SO comforting. We soon squished into our way too tight wetsuits, received the rest of our “Kit” (term used for gear used by the natives) and jammed into 2 buses for a 30 minute drive through the rolling hills of Wales to the gorge. Once at our destination the 23 of us split into 2 groups to avoid traffic jams down the canyon.

Once assigned with our groups we had a short hike down to a cliff. Jamie, our cook and 19 year old “expert in training”, told me to jump off a cliff into frigid, boulder-filled waters. I stared at him and thought he was kidding. He was not.  After I watched 3 of my classmates take the leap and just miss the rocks, I mustered up the courage to approach the cliff after being told that the rocks simply look so close because the water is so clear. My face must have shown my fear because Jamie was laughing and assuring me I would be fine. I jumped, smacked the water, and bounced back to air with my life vest; I survived my first obstacle! Some of the other major obstacles were a 20 foot long downward slide with rope aid, bypassing a waterfall with a slippery steep climb/slide, various jumps, and the two most horrifying…. zip lining and sliding off a 5+ meter cliff. 
The zip lining was at the end of a long slide down a steep, water gushing rock slab. Everyone came to an abrupt halt by smashing into a rock…so thankful! Once out of the slide, we crawled up the side of the canyon and reconnected our harness to another rope. Here we met one of our instructors who attached us to a zip line over a body of water. This line was more than 40 feet high and 100 feet long. Paul, one of the guides, informed us that we must jump out far to make sure we got out beyond the waterfall. Freaked out and screaming, I took a big jump and stormed into the water…I lived! I was relieved to know I was one of the more graceful jumpers. Some of the highlights of this obstacle included one classmate coming in full speed and doing a total butt smack and instructor hitting the water and skipping across like a rock! In hindsight, this was a fun obstacle…just a little terrifying for the people who are afraid of heights!
After zip lining we devoured our sandwiches we made earlier. This was the best sandwich that anyone in our group had eaten. We were not really sure why that was either! All that we know is that it was the most satisfying after trudging through the canyon for the 2 previous hours. We cannot wait for round two of sandwiches tomorrow J J J
The last event of our adventure was the slide off a 5 meter cliff into a pool of water without any aid. I think most people were pretty nervous for this obstacle, as no one really volunteered to go first! Finally, someone decided to just go for it and the rest of the group followed. Jamie informed us that we must not try to stop ourselves or we will lose momentum and might hit a rock. Again, WHY SHOULD I DO THIS? I asked if it was mandatory and Jamie said it was the only way out…AWESOME! I approached the cliff, hugged my chest, and Jamie gave me a big push! I plunged into the water with a loud boom and surfaced soon after. Finally, I had successfully completed the canyoning adventure!!! My fellow peers had the opportunity to jump from a 6 meter into the pool again, but I volunteered to tape it!

We all made it through the adventure with only a few scrapes and bruises. The night is going to be calm, as we are all pretty tuckered out from the day. Our cooks are back to work and our bellies are excited for the lamb, sausage, and burger barbeque tonight. We are looking forward to our next adventures!

As the Welsh say “Hwyl fawr” or Goodbye!

Jill Georgen
Junior, Biology