An adventurous weekend in Wales
Last weekend I was set one of the most awesome challenges I’ve ever been set for The Travel Hack. The guys at Vauxhall sent me the new Mokka X and challenged me to see how adventurous I could be in 48 hours.
It’s times like this I really love being a blogger!
I decided to stay local for my adventure and stick to Wales. Last year was the ‘Year of Adventure’ in Wales so it seemed fitting. I headed to Snowdonia National Park which, in my opinion, is one of the best places in the world for a road trip. Those curving roads and dramatic scenery are just stunning and it’s hard to drive for more than 10 minutes without wanting to pull over and take in the views – and about a billion photos if you’re with me!
Early on Saturday morning, Sam and I dropped the boys off with their grandparents, packed up the car and set off on our adventure. Our firsts stop would be Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales at 1,085 meters.
It was pouring down with a never ending stream of lashing rain and bitter winds.
We made a brief stop at Conwy Falls in Betws-y-Coed before the weather got the better of us.
There was only one thing for it; find a cosy place to hide away and drink our own body weight in tea.
#EpicFail on the adventurous challenge front!
But it worked out well because by the time we’d had our second breakfast and second round of tea and cake the rain had passed and the adventure could begin.
As soon as we saw the first ray of sunshine we jumped back in the car and drove to Pen-y-Pass where we began our walk.
We decided to take the Pyg Track up Snowdon. It’s the shortest route to the summit of Snowdon at 5.5km and an 800m decent. It isn’t the easiest way up as it’s steep and rocky but it has some of the most incredible views. And if you’re relatively fit you can do it quite quickly too. At this point we were pretty confident in our fitness levels so we optimistically thought we’d be up and down in about 3 hours. [Insert crying while laughing emoji face! 😉 ]
We started well, keeping up a good pace while having plenty of stops for photos. Walkers who had already made it to the top and were on their way back down began passing us in the opposite direction. They looked exhausted as they puffed and panted with red faces, sweaty brows and soaking clothes.
I smiled smugly as I skipped ahead thinking how unfit these other people must be. Look at me, hopping up the mountain with all the energy in the world. I haven’t exercised for over two years – I’ve barely done a thing since I got pregnant with George – but I must just be naturally so fit. I was chatting away to Sam as he heaved along like a grizzly bear behind me (he was still recovering from Man Flu/a hangover so he was putting his lack of fitness down to that) as I optimistically estimated we’d reach the summit within an hour.
Fast forward an hour and we were still only half way there. I was rasping for air like Darth Vader and was taking any chance to stop and rest that I could.
‘Oh look, a seagull! Let’s stop and take photos.’
‘I think someone is approaching in the distance, we should stop here and let them pass. Yes, they’re about 5 minutes away but this is a really good passing place!’
In all honesty, the walk up wasn’t too bad. Those epic views really keep you motivated and the thought of standing on the summit and overlooking Wales makes you keep going.
Until you reach the cloud that is and you realise you’re not going to see a thing from the top!
There is something mystical about walking through the fog and we finally reached the summit with massive smiles on our faces. OK, we couldn’t actually see anything but that sense of achievement is amazing. And I’ve got to admit, the feeling that you won’t need to climb over another rock is pretty good too.
We had a quick rest to eat our snacks and catch our breath and just above us I spotted a guy bending down onto one knee. My initial thought was that he was going to pass out and then I realised he was proposing!
“He’s proposing!” I squealed and everyone around us turned to look and began cheering as the lucky lady said yes.
It’s been three years since I’ve climbed up Snowdon and I’d completely forgotten that the decent is probably as hard, if not harder, that the accent. I felt my knees crunch with each step as my weary legs struggled to hop from stone to stone. You don’t have the same motivation to get down as you do to get up and I really just wanted someone to pick me up and carry me down.
We took the Miners Track on the way down, a longer track but it’s flatter so it’s a bit easier on your joints (how old does that make me sound!) and it’s nice to see the different scenery to the way up. The route takes you past a couple of lakes and back to the same carpark at Pen-y-Pass.
We’d left a box of French Fancies in the car and this was honestly all I could think about with each step. I spent about half an hour focusing on which colour French Fancie I’d eat first! We finally made it to the bottom and the feeling of solid, flat tarmac beneath my feet was pure bliss.
We feasted on all the snacks we’d (stupidly!) left in the car and instantly forgot how difficult that had been.
Day 2: Zip World, Betws-y-Coed and Porthmadog
(I don’t have any photos from Zip World, it’s all video so scroll back up and watch the video if you haen’t seen it yet!)
The following day I was up at 5am for an adventure I was kind of terrified about.
I was heading to Zip World to experience Velocity, the longest zip line in Europe and the fastest zip line in the world. The world! The zip line is over an old slate mine so the scenery is dramatic and rugged and perfect for such an adventure.
I drove there with my heart thudding in my mouth as I imagined what it would feel like to soar through the air at 115mph. I was driving at 70mph and that felt fast, I couldn’t even begin to think what this would be like.
I drove along the coast to Zip World and watched the sunrise over the sea. I love this time of the morning when the sky is all pinky and soft and beautiful. It’s almost worth getting up at 5am every day for! Almost.
Using Apple CarPlay I had my phone hooked up to the car’s speakers and the very polite gentleman from Google Maps was directing me. And then he started repeating the dreaded words, ‘You have reached your destination’. I start slowing down, panicking as my eyes dart between the houses that surround me. Unless I’ve got this very wrong, I’m definitely in the middle of a housing estate and definitely not at an old slate quarry.
A quick u-turn and some more panicking as I glanced at the clock and realised I needed to be there in 10 minutes! I then spotted 3 cars in a convoy filled with young people who all looked really excited. It was 6.45am and there was only one place they could be going! I was already lost and had nothing to lose so joined their convoy and hoped for the best!
Thankfully, my risky stalking paid off and 10 minutes later we pulled into the Zip World carpark.
We were kitted up and given a safety briefing before walking up to the first zip wire. This was the biggest and scariest zip wire I had ever seen before in my life and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as I looked down the thin wire and into the distance. I was terrified and this wasn’t even the proper one! You start off by getting your confidence on a baby wire that’s just a fraction of the size of the real deal. I think this is so you don’t freak out on the big one!
This warmup zip wire session did the trick and banished any nerves or thoughts that this would be scary. It wasn’t scary at all!
OK, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling the nerves as I lay suspended in mid-air waiting to be released down the zip wire. The build up and anticipation as you’re carefully strapped to the wire as you dangle freely over the epic drop below is a little tense but you don’t have much time to think about it.
The guys double check your harness and give you a 3 second count down before they release the clasps and you’re let lose. You start off fairly slowly before the weights and momentum take control and you’re soaring through the air getting faster and faster as you approach a vertical drop that leaves you suspended over an enormous blue lake.
It was just the most incredible feeling. I felt like I was flying, but not in an out of control way, in a very safe and secure way. My cheeks filled with air and wobbled and my eyes streamed and my mind went completely blank. It was a moment of absolute pure joy!
When it was over I returned to the car like I was on springs. I was just so excited and filled with adrenaline as I relived the moment again and again in my mind.
I left ZipWorld without even knowing where I was going. I was on such a high and it was still so early. The roads were quiet, the sun was beaming, the skies were blue and I was in the mood for a long drive through the countryside. I put the windows down and turned the music up loud as I had myself a car karaoke session through Snowdonia.
I ended up in Betws-y-Coed, my favourite little village. I had a walk around, got myself some fish and chips which I ate next to the river. I soaked up the sun and left just as the village was getting busy with tourists who were lured out by the March sunshine.
I wasn’t quite ready for the adventure to end so I made my way to Porthmadog, a seaside town with a stunning beach. This isn’t exactly a sunbathing beach but it’s the kind of place you go for a brisk spring walk to blow away the winter cobwebs. And they were well and truly blown away!
Once again I was back on the road as I made the beautiful journey home.
The Vauxhall Mokka X
The Vauxhall Mokka X is a great car for a road trip. It’s lovely to drive but it’s the little features that make it so good for road tripping. There’s Apple CarPlay that allows you to easily connect your iPhone to the screen and sound system in the car so it’s really easy to get up maps and take handsfree calls. But, most importantly, it’s easy to play your road trip playlist at full volume with the windows open and the wind in your hair.
The car also has OnStar which is amazing. It gives you a WiFi hotspot for up to 7 devices, allows you to speak to an operator at the simple press of a button – great for minor emergencies like needing to know where the nearest petrol station is! It also has an SOS button which you’d hope you’d never need to use but could be a life saver for a big emergencies.
An adviser can immediately detect your location and see what parts of the car have been impacted. They can then send emergency services to your location after advising them on the information they have on the vehicle. OnStar brings with it automatic crash response and is able to contact you through your vehicle to see if you’re OK. If they receive no response, they will immediately send emergency services to your location. Pretty nifty, right!?
Massive thanks to Vauxhall for being the perfect wheels for my Snowdonia road trip! This post is sponsored by Vauxhall.