Friday, June 27, 2014

6/16/14 Day 151 WorkAway Wales

We have spent two weeks working at Taran Eco Designs, one of the businesses in the Corris Craft Center in Wales. It is a reclaimed wood building project that utilizes drift wood, old fence posts, fallen logs and the likes to create beautiful furniture and decorative pieces through a sustainable process. The place is run by John who is very laid back and has an amazingly simple and genuine outlook on life. He provided Queen Omega his caravan for us to live in behind the shop. With no running shower we were treated to trips to the local spa for a sauna every couple of days, and one of the days we even got to go to a secluded sauna up in the woods built right on a lake. You have to bring up all of your own firewood on a bit of an upwards hike, but are rewarded with a splendor ours face melting sauna, followed closely by a dizzying dip into a lake filled cavern while your body tries desperately to figure out if you are too hot or too cold. Corris is located just a few miles from Machynlleth, and is within the boundary of Snowdonia National Park, most abundantly there are waterfalls and slate mines everywhere, along with beautiful mountains and a decent share of remote beaches. Each city seems to have an increasingly difficult to pronounce consonant stuffed name: Tywyn, Aberdovey, Dolgellau, Llanidloes, even if you can wrap your mind around how you might pronounce are surely wrong! From 10-5 the storefront is open and we are all busily cutting and sanding in the workshop with a communal breakfast and lunch, vegetarian diet and at 17:00 the doors are locked and beaches and forest paths await our exploration. On some dates we had long lunch breaks, soaking in the sunshine. One of the days John looked at us and told us to take the day off and get into the sunshine so we climbed the 10 miles away Cader Idris, a beautiful range, one of my favorite quiet treks we have done. 

The workshop kitchen
John and Senna
Some of the wood stock

Queen Omega, home

Some beautiful reclaimed chairs

Kevin working away on the pyro machine
Planter boxes we whipped up
Willow bark that we stripped creating a beautiful wood to work with, it is also used as a natural aspirin

Sleeping on the beach for a change in scenery one night

Our beautiful secluded sauna

The hike up Cader Idris 

6/14/14 Day 149 Slate Mine, Car Dump

The hills in Snowdonia are absolutely chocked full of old slate mines and quarries, left for ghost towns at the downturn of a previous decades economy. Leading to a playground of shattered slate tiles and secret dark alleyways and passages. Luckily for us we have stumbled upon the chance to go with a friend of a friend who is heading down to one of the scarcely known caves which is top to bottom filled with cars. This is a cave where wrecked cars stripped of their engines were dumped straight into the depths of this mine. 

In the UK and Ireland in order to legally drive a car it must have insurance and taxes paid up to date and it must also have MOT current to date. MOT is a roadworthiness test that must be assessed every year in the UK and cars that are over 10 years old in. Ireland; every other year for cars less than 10 years old. You have to take your car to the shop to get it tested costing around 50£, at which point they tell you all the things wrong with your car, anything from worn out break pads to broken windshields to malfunctioning seat belts. If you have too many issues, or more serious issues, you fail your test and can't get insurance or taxes until you fix the problems and have the car retested. So the upside is there are less junker cars traveling on the roads because they are not MOT acceptable, the downside is that it is a lot of money if your car is in great condition and perhaps a bit much to need to be tested every year, and what do you do with all of those uninsurable untaxable cars?!

The five of us gear up; headlamps, wellies, warm clothes and inflatable boats. Stepping into the cave brings on an immediate chill as the surface temperature drops dramatically and our wellies press in close as the pressure of the calf deep, just above freezing water attempts to submerge them. Scaling down slate walls and constantly watching in front and back for each other while also trying not to talk loudly for fear of encouraging rock fall. We make our way down and down and within 40 minutes the narrow hallways finally lead into an open room filled with water of a deep blue, silence except for the drip-drop of the water mischievously streaming from behind the delicate slate walls and only one ray of sunshine peeping in from above the huge pyramid of cars! This is the hole where sometime in the 1970's they finally ran out of room in the seemingly bottomless pit of cars and closed up the car dump cave. We pumped up our boats and carefully quietly and quickly individually paddled out to the heap of cars marveling at the sheer volume and history. With the oldest cars bracing the pyramid from the bottom of the watery depths and creating a timeline of totaled vehicles. By the time we had explored the car cave to our thorough enjoyment we were quite chilled and the burst of sunshine and heat that greeted us as we stepped out of the cave was welcome.  

Slate quarries and mines fill the landscape
And are made use of by locals for fencing
Car dumps, you name it 
Here is the cave from the top
And dropping to our descent
Down down down

And here it is from the bottom/side, with that same blue station wagon just beaming 

The water is unimaginably deep, and cold 

Old refrigerator, anyone?