We reach Holyhead early morning. The marina has been completely destroyed in the monstruous storm Emma in March 2018 and to our surprise, the docks haven't been rebuilt. Holyhead remains the only a port of refuge in the area, meaning you can enter regardless of the tide. Amongst the remnants of broken docks are numerous mooring buoys, most of them taken. Not trusting the state of them underwater and having had a bad experience in the past, we are quite adverse to them and prefer to drop our trusted anchor.
Exhausted as you can be after a multiday passage, the morning sees us catching up on sleep. We inflate the tender but unfortunately, the outboard fails to start. Our little Yamaha 4hp has always been very reliable but this time we’ll have to row ashore. After replacing the spark plug the next day, it’s good as new! Our friend Ioan is waiting for us at the dock with our parcels and we spend a lovely evening over a meal catching up on the latest news since we last saw each other in 2010 when we used to work together on the yachts.
The following morning, Ioan picks us up with his new-gonna-be-the-most-amazing-camper-van and we set out into the welsh countryside. We cross the historic Menai Bridge (1826) linking Anglesey to the mainland and head to Snowdonia National Park. Although it may sound like some kind of winter amusement park, Eryri (in welsh) is in fact an amazing playground for the outdoor enthusiast. With 1500 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails, climbing rockwalls and rivers and lakes to kayak, there is something for everyone. Unable to find parking to hike the mountain – it seems that every welsh family is making the most of the sunshine- we drive on to the Pen-Y-Gwryd Hotel where Edmund Hillary and Tenzing stayed while training for the conquest of mount Everest. And while we sip on a cup of coffee, we find ourselves immersed in the adventure impregnated timber walls and can almost hear them talk. Right above our heads, the ceiling is covered with their signatures along with dozens of others who participated in their expeditions as well as other summiteers. In the background, we can hear the ladies speaking Welsh. We are pleaseantly surprised how alive the language is. Road signs are all bilingual and they are even starting to eliminate English. Amazing considering that Wales was always part of Britain and welsh was once upon a time forbidden to speak. Ioan’s mum only learnt English when she was 7. I do like the sound of it - until trying to pronounce the words, a very awkward feat for the untrained visitor. Basically, W is sometimes pronounced oo, u sounds like ee, F is more like v and ll sounds like you have some kind of speech impairment. Close to the Britannia bridge in Anglesey is the longest place name in Europe:
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Good luck with pronouncing that one! If you’re struggling with it, you can go with the more popular short version Llanfairpwllgwyngyll. Yeah, much easier.
We continue on through pastures filled with coloured cows. The sun is shining and blooming flowers remind us that spring is here. The lush and vibrant green trees loom over the narrow roads and soon lead us to rocky mountains permanently scarred by the Penrhyn Quarry which was once world largest slate quary. The adjacent lake is a joyful scene filled with family picnics and water activities.
We enjoy a lunch on the sunny terrace at The Height in the colorful village of Llanberis before heading back home. In Beaumaris, we watch the finish of the Menai Straight sailing Regatta, a popular event every weekend. Ioan is an avid racer and although we had the option of racing today, we opted for the sightseeing tour. After a pint with the finishers, we head to Ioan’s friends who kindly invited us to join their barbecue. Calin wowed me with his succulent chicken wings (his day to cook!) and great conversations were had around the firepit. Being isolated at sea and only having only each other for company, these social interactions come as a blissful diversion and we always rejoice at meeting new people and getting our limited but necessary dose of human contact.
We wake up to a beautiful summer morning at Ioan’s place. Lack of wind and participants prevent the regatta we were hoping to partake, so after a lovely breakfast on the waterfront, Ioan takes us to the Amlwch copper quary on Pary’s mountain, once the largest in the world and deservingly earning its name “copper kingdom”. As we meander around and through the crater created by the mining, we are mesmerized by this extraordinary lunar landscape and its unusual colour palette of warm yellows and rust.
After a filling pasta lunch back onboard, it is sadly time to say goodbye. Ioan may hopefully be joining us for part of the trip north. He has been a delightful company and would be a great addition to team Seabelle.