Machynlleth, Aberystwth, Swansea, Cardiff, and other places with hard-to-pronounce names

I have been in Wales for a few days now. I hitch-hiked from Newquay to Cardiff because the train was quite expensive, and there isn’t a very direct bus connection. In Cardiff I spent one night in a youth hostel, and had a wonderful time hanging out with a photographer from Slovenia and some Welsh friends of hers.

The next day I was planning to leave Cardiff and catch a bus to Machynlleth, home to the Center for Alternative Technology. But first I wanted to stop by the Museum of Welsh Life, in Cardiff. I ended up spending the entire day at the museum, which is probably one of the most fascinating that I have visited. It is mostly open air, and features building and exhibits on all aspects of life in Wales. They have traditional farmhouses, bakeries, a water powered grain mill, a saw mill, a blacksmith’s shop, a castle, exhibits on Welsh agriculture, and more. There was even a fairly in-depth exhibit on the evolution of lace making throughout Welsh history. Of course, after all that I had missed the bus, and needed to stay in Cardiff another night. I stayed at a camp ground, where I had dinner with a very nice Scottish guy and his son.

The next day I set off for Machynlleth for real. But then I realized: it was Sunday. And that meant that there would only be one bus. And it would arrive in Aberystwth at 10:30 pm. Great if you’re a student coming home from a weekend partying in Cardiff. Not so great if you’re a traveller who doesn’t know the town and doesn’t have a place to stay. So I decided to hitch-hike again, though there wasn’t a very direct route.

My first lift took me to the main motorway. My second was a from a Welsh couple and their son in a caravan. They just having a day out on Sunday. When they picked me up I was not far from Cardiff, and hoping to get a ride to Swansea. I expected it would take me three or four more lifts to get to Aberystwth, which is the nearest big town to Machynlleth. The conversation went something like:

Me: So, where are you headed today?
Tommy: We’re going to the Gower.
Me: Oh, I’ve heard that’s a lovely area. I’m on my way to Aberystwth.
Tommy: Aberystwth is brilliant. I’ve not been there in years. In fact, I wouldn’t mind going there again…Iris? Do you fancy going to Aberystwth today?
Iris: Ok, sure.
Me: Cool.

So I arrived in Aberystwth in the afternoon, and had lunch at the ruins of the old castle. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in Aberystwth or continue on to Machynlleth. There was only one hostel in Aberystwth, and it was a bit expensive, so I was leaning toward heading on. I started walking out of the city center thinking that I would continue hitching, when I came upon a fellow in a wheelchair. He seemed to be having some trouble, so I asked if he needed any help. Turns out that the poor guy’s electric wheelchair had broken down, and he was just about to call for help on his mobile phone. I pushed him home (no mean feat as it was mostly up a steep hill, and I was carrying my pack), and he invited me to stay the night in a spare room. He (Hector) was a student studying international law, and lived in a flat with a couple other guys.

Last night I went out with Hector’s flatmate Sam to the university club. They had a couple bands playing, and it was great fun (or “”brilliant craic””, as the Irish say). And while there I ran into my friend Laura, who I had met three months ago at the EJC in Ireland. That was a nice surprise, as I didn’t even know that she was going to school there.

Today I continued on to Machynlleth, and I will visit the Center for Alternative Technology tomorrow.

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