Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Just like a mini-holiday

Like buses, weekend breaks seem to come in bunches; I don't go anywhere for months, then two weekends away come along together.

In order to mark 10 years of the Masters Degree in hydrology, the Department of Arid Zone Studies1 (with whom G is currently doing his Ph.D. on river catchments and flooding) had arranged an afternoon walk around Cwm Idwal, followed by a celebration dinner in Bangor. Guests/partners were also invited, so we both decided to go. As it's an hour and a half's drive home from Bangor, which wouldn't be much fun late at night after a convivial evening and would have meant one of us (ie me) wouldn't be able to drink with the meal, we also booked a hotel room to stay over on the Saturday night, thus turning the event into a mini-holiday.

The drummers

The view from the pier -- the Menai Sraits

There was a small addition to the day's events in the form of a visit to the pier to watch the drumming and singing in aid of Water Aid (the department's pet charity). The drumming was suitably exuberant, despite the cold rain, and the singing was melodious. I was amused to note that the choir grew as the event progressed because every so often, in between songs, the choir leader would cry, "You know this one!" and drag a few more members of the audience into the choir.

There may have been other activities yet to come; a couple of guys seemed to be practicing a juggling routine, but after a while, we decided that if we were going to do the walk, we'd better get moving. So, after arranging car shares for the ones without transport, we drove out of Bangor, through Bethesda and up the Nant Ffrancon pass to the car park at the start of the walk up Cwm Idwal, which is a lake at the foot of the mountains known as the Glyders.

The scenery up in Snowdonia proper is much more rugged than round where I live -- very spectacular, very craggy. I didn't have the big camera with me, so the snaps here were taken with the tiny l'espion camera (with crap resolution), but they give some idea of the route. To be honest, I didn't get much chance to look at the scenery because the others set such a cracking pace and the path was so rocky, that most of the time I was just looking where I was putting my feet. Hydrologists, like geologists, do a lot of field work and also seem attracted to healthy outdoor activities, so they were all pretty fit, not to mention much younger than me! But I kept up, more or less, and even managed to jump safely across the little waterfall that blocked the path at one point.

Cwm Idwal

Beginning the descent

Looking back at the rugged scenery

Once more back at lake level

After driving back to Bangor and dropping off the two people we'd given a lift to, we booked into our hotel and then showered and changed before relaxing until it was time for dinner. We found the mysterious establishment called "Oswalds" with some difficulty and a couple of detours up Bangor's back streets. It wasn't at all what we expected, being more like a gentlemen's club than a normal restaurant and having a slight air of something hanging on from a previous age. It turned out to belong to the university and it is used largely for official functions. The food was good though and the atmosphere relaxed and friendly. Despite only knowing a couple of people beforehand, I didn't feel out of place or left out of the conversation.

Today, we checked out of the hotel after breakfast and drove home the "pretty way" (as G put it) via Llanberis and the Llanberis Pass and then across to Penrhyndeudraeth and so home. It isn't really "pretty" as it's far too rugged to justify the adjective; "dramatic" would probably be better. It had rained hard in the night and there had already been heavy shower in the morning, so there were the usual impromptu waterfalls tumbling down from the crags. This might be the reason we passed a trio of wild goats on the road verge not far from Beddgelert. They are the old type of shaggy goat with long twisted horns, quite unlike the modern dairy breeds of goat, and normally live up on the heights.

And so now I need to spend the rest of the day catching up with stuff ready for work next week. Fortunately I have Monday off as I'll need that to get ready for Novacon (the SF convention organised each year by the Birmingham SF group), which is next weekend. See what I mean about weekends away coming in bunches?

1 People usually say, "The department of Arid Zone Studies?" in a disbelieving voice when we mention it as the university is in one of the wettest places in the UK.

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