Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Taste Of Cwm

Although my travels are ostensibly over I still managed to start my exploration of my own country last weekend when I went to visit a friend in north Wales. I met Liam on the south American leg of my trip and we became good friends keeping in touch throughout the intervening years. He is about to emigrate to New Zealand in a month (to try and reverse the trend and steal one of their jobs!) and so I took advantage of his presence to carry out my first visit to Wales. It's shocking I know, having travelled around the entire world and yet I haven't yet seen all of the Home Nations.

Liam's family lives in the village of Cwm in northern Wales, set amidst rolling hills, the stereotypical fields of sheep and forests filled with pheasants who strut blithely along the country lanes awaiting their turn to be shot by rich, upper-class people with shotguns. The village makes up for its unfortunate name with spectacular views across the Clwyd valley to the rugged peaks of Snowdonia (when the cloud isn't playing silly buggers that is). Liam took Rob (another fellow traveller) and myself on a ride through a labyrinth of lanes that criss-cross the Welsh countryside through the Snowdonia national park, along gushing streams bordered by trees turning golden in their Autumn splendour. The place was also filled with weekend ramblers in their colourful anoraks and raincoats fleeing the grim northwestern cities for a bit of natural refreshment before the coming Winter makes hiking an unwelcome proposal. We weren't really equipped for walking so instead we visited several of the castles, built by the English 700 years ago when they conquered Wales, that form a defensive ring around the country and were used to quell the numerous nationalistic rebellions. In that sense Wales has the dubious distinction of being the first country to fall to the imperialistic ambitions of the English, a conquering habit that carried on until they dominated a quarter of the globe.

Saturday night was spent out on the town in Wrexham, north Wales's only urban centre of any note. It started off with a couple of hours in a pub watching England take on France in the rugby world cup (much like the Scots the Welsh will support anybody who is competing against the English). From there it was off to sample the Welsh nightlife. My first impression was that there was a cloth shortage in the area, as none of the ladies out that night seemed to have enough material to make even the miniest of skirts. I suppose it must be a cultural thing...

All in all it was lovely to catch up again after all this time and renew old ties and the short introduction has certainly whetted my appetite to discover more of Wales, preferably with a backpack and tent (and a bit of sunshine wouldn't go amiss either). On a completely different note I have made the unexpected observation that friendships made whilst travelling seem somehow more intense, and can often be stronger than everyday friendships, despite the contact being of a short duration. I wonder why that is?

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