Wales - 6th June 2011
An hour later and we are out on the M4 Motorway and charging along at 70 mph between trucks and buses. In due course the traffic thins, we leave the highway, enter Wales and find ourselves on tiny roads, many of which are only one car wide. Remembering to drive on the left side isn't an issue here because one has no choice but to drive down the middle. That is until one meets an oncoming vehicle. We later learnt that there are all kinds of customs, conventions and courtesies which apply in these types of situations and drivers give each other short headlight flashes to indicate who should do what. Hmm, none of this quirky stuff was in the booklet provided by our Road Association back in Australia.
The other thing which surprised us was that every second vehicle on these ultra narrow roads was giving us a quick flash of their headlights so naturally I kept my speed down to ???? so I wouldn't get nicked by the highway police who were obviously just down the road. The trouble was that in Britain the speed signs are few and far between and have their own confusing conventions not familiar to Aussies. The other thing is that we never did get to see any of those coppers all the oncoming vehicles kept warning us about. We were therefore beginning to think that the headlight flashes must have been a British way of saying "watch where you're going you stupid bugger".
We were in Britain for over a week before someone told us that flight flashing is a way of indicating to another driver "I'll pull over and give you right of way on this one lane road or bridge". Our previous lack of understanding often resulted in me courteously pulling over for the other when he wanted me to go forward. After a 20 second stationary standoff it frequently occurred that both drivers would simultaneously decide to break the stalemate and start moving again. This would cause the oncoming driver to give me another flash which I would incorrectly interpret as meaning "watch out I'm coming through". You can see what a comedy this could all become!!
We spent a few days in Llandridod Wells located in Southern Wales. Unfortunately it was cold and raining most of the time so although we could see that the surrounding countryside was probably very beautiful it nevertheless had a very gloomy look given the weather conditions we suffered during most of the time we were in that region.
In due course we drove a further 420 km up into the Snowdonia region of Northern Wales. A drive of this length may not seem daunting to most Aussie readers but we always follow obscure small roads which are known for their superior scenery and this frequently means that one averages 60 kph or less for much of the journey. It was worth it though. We drove through some really remote high hills and experienced some wonderful countryside. We were able to get some good photos, a few of which appear on this page.
Mind you, it's very hard to take impromptu photos along the many one lane rural roads in Britain. On many occasions I was forced to stop the car in the middle of the road, leap out of the car as Lynn turned on the car's hazard lights, quickly frame and shoot a photos, leap back into the car and shoot off before any other car came appeared. The same slick technique has to be applied when nature calls whilst on country roads. Of course the time taken to first frame and then shoot your shot always takes longer in this type of situation so the danger to life and limb is also correspondingly higher!!
During our time in the Snowdonia National Park region we stayed in a very bright, spacious and warmly cosy apartment attached to a private home. It was situated on a small elevated acreage surrounded by lovely lime green forest just above the Welsh town of Betws-y-Coed. It was a great choice because the owners were extremely welcoming and helpful. They even invited us to participate in some of their own social activities and we had the privilege of meeting some other nice people as a result. And the biggest bonus was that owners Geoff and Wendy are really serious gardeners so we were able to enjoy a profusion of flowering shrubs and annuals around the property, some of which we had never seen before. Furthermore, we were continuously visited by squirrels and a variety of birds so Lynn and I were very happy indeed and right in our element.
During the following few days we did some extensive touring around Snowdonia National Park, other obscure scenic roads and some formal gardens. We packed a lot into four days notwithstanding the fact that after 6 weeks of travelling Brian shows signs of wilting if he doesn't get an occasional rest day.
There are many more stories which could be written to elaborate on our experiences in Wales but forgive us if we leave them for face to face meetings in future because the pressure of updating this website whilst we are doing so much travelling at the same time is proving a big challenge for the webmaster who aint quite the guy he used to be in the energy department.