By Kara Andrew
Have you ever done something, then wished you had thought to put it on your bucket list, just so you could cross it off? Last week, I added and then crossed off Dublin Pub Crawl.
This weekend, I’m crossing off Welsh weekend of ultimate adventure.
When I originally signed up for the Preseli Venture Weekend, I had no idea what I was going to be signing up for. During orientation, I saw the minute-long clip of crazy kayakers and cliff jumpers, and thought to myself, “That looks like something I’d never do…let’s do it!” Best decision yet.
We left for Pembrookshire, Wales on Friday night around 7:00pm, and after 2 long train rides we arrived in a pitch-black foreign train station, only to find a creepy white van that we hoped wasn’t actually for us.
When the eight of us finally arrived at the Preseli Venture Eco-lodge, we were greeted by a friendly bartender and cheese or tuna sandwiches. We went to bed fairly soon after our arrival after finding out that we had to be down for breakfast at 8:00am on Saturday morning.
Though waking up was not easy, the lack of sleep was 100% worth it. We awoke to a hot breakfast of eggs, toast, crumpets, bacon, cereal, and fruit. We all packed on the food in order to prepare for our exciting activities. First up: kayaking!
Now, I have been kayaking once. It was in Marshfield, MA in a little 2-person kayak with my sister, and we flipped right into the freezing cold water. That was in the middle of July, so you could imagine my genuine fear of flipping into the sea on a 35 degree day. We struggled into our skin-tight wet suits in preparation for the sea tour. After piling on the layers (No cotton! Wet cotton sucks the body heat out), we were fitted into kayaks and instructed on how to paddle and how to evacuate if we flipped over. With all this talk of flipping, my nerves were growing. But Neil and John encouraged us not to be nervous and to be calm out on the water, be one with the sea. Something must have stuck, because I stayed upright the whole time, and even managed a couple of photo-ops while out on the water, thanks to my handy water-proof camera!
After a game of water-kayak-tag, involving throwing a tennis ball at our opponent’s boats in order to get used to maneuvering, we set off to explore. First stop- through a dark and quickly-flowing cave. The tide was low, and the cave was pretty narrow, so it was pretty much every man for himself (Well, women in this case. Let’s be honest, it’s a BU program) After a deep breath, and confirmation that there were not bats, I paddled off into the cave. I struggled for a little bit inside with a rock jutting out of the sea, but eventually made my way around it- success! From that point on, when we were given the option to take the rapid versus slow route, rapid was a no-brainer! Perhaps not the smartest choice, given that at one point I was completely backwards heading blindly with the foamy tide, but Neil yelled helpful tips from the side to get myself re-oriented. I thought I was going down for sure by that point. Thanks Neil!
When we finished kayaking, we headed up to the nearby WC to get changed out of our wetsuits. Major struggles, once again. And that was definitely not the end of our wetsuit adventures. We boarded up the kayaks and ventured back to the lodge for a scrumptious lunch of hearty vegetable soup and whole-wheat bread to warm us up.
On with the wetsuits once again! This time, we were instructed to only wear a bathing suit and a full body suit, along with a life-jacket (or buoyancy aid, as they called it). Remember how I mentioned I was scared on flipping into the freezing cold Welsh water? Well this time, we would be jumping into it. The group piled into the van once again and prepared for coasteering, which involves relatively intense rock climbing and jumping into the sea. It was by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done, no question. So glad I inherited the picture-taking gene from Grandma and Mom!
It was incredible. Not to mention the incredible views and thrilling climbs, it wasn’t even that cold! Those wetsuits really work,and I was worried that the cold would take away from the experience, but it just makes me seem that much cooler, right?! Our first jump was really more of a glide, as we just got used to the water and forced our way through the swelling sea. That was actually one of my favorite, yet unexplainable memories of the day: laughing as we were carried away by the water, and grasping for the strange orange seaweed that grew on the rock sides. We jumped and swam continuously as our guides searched for new and higher rocks to explore.
Again, changing out of our wetsuits was a major struggle, especially because there was no changing room this time. There we were, ten crazy Americans on the side of a windy road, butt-naked behind tiny towels, stuck with our skin-tight wetsuits on our wrists. Teamwork at it’s greatest.
Back at the lodge, we fought for first showers and headed down for dinner: chicken curry with rice and naan. YUM! Every meal was homemade and deliciously satisfying. It was nice to be in for the night, especially once the warm brownies were brought out. We ordered drinks from the bar, found the box of board games, and bonded over the day’s adventures. My personal favorite was a Bailey’s Hot Chocolate; the whipped cream was a meal in itself and the chocolatey liquid was the perfect way to warm the soul. Will, the bartender, made a bonfire. We sat outside, drank Taffy Apple Ciders and felt no shame in going to bed at 11:00.
Sunday morning, we woke up to the same delicious breakfast and headed out for a 7-mile hike along the coast of Wales. There are no words to describe this, only gorgeous views.
Even though it was raining on-and-off the entire time, the hike was unforgettable. Yeah sure, it was crazy muddy and my shoes are probably ruined for good, but the hike and the entire week was unbelievably priceless. Phrases such as “I can’t believe I’m here,” “This is unreal,” and “Wow, this is beautiful” were recycled among us students constantly because we had no new words to express the beauty.
I could probably go on for days, but this post is already way longer than it should be. If you even get the chance to go to Wales, do it. Do it 100%. It will definitely top my list of best abroad experiences, probably life experiences as well. I’m so grateful for the entire, eye-opening experience. I’ve even got a funky t-shirt to prove it.