If adventure activities are you thing then you really should try canyoning (river walking) whilst on holiday in South Wales. Sue Bland stayed near Pontardawe and went canyoning in an area of Brecon Beacons National Park known as ‘Waterfall Country’. These are her recollections of what proved to be a wonderful day:
“What exactly is canyoning? It sounds treacherous, or if you’re adrenalin-addicted: outrageous and exciting. It is all of the above, (although only treacherous if you can’t swim, or if there is a large spike hidden in the water, as one friend persuaded another before leaping into the dark water). The definition is white water rafting, without the raft. Or the paddles. Your body is the raft, and your hands and feet the paddles, and it is much more fun than being in a boat.
When you hear the word canyoning, you think of huge orange American gorges, stretching as high as the eye can see, whirling white rapids, and launching yourself off cliff faces into the water. In the Vale of Neath, it is not that far from the truth. It is hard to believe you are in Britain as you clamber over mossy rock faces, cling to the edge of a cliff, or leap into a smooth pools of water beneath picture postcard cascades. Waterfalls are all around you, and as you wriggle on your belly in low water rushing over rocks, look up and see the canopy of trees and the sides of the cliff valley above you. When canyoning, you will be rushed forward down mini rapids without a raft, and undertake daring jumps or dives or even somersaults into deep parts of the river. Although there is always a way down to the river other than over the edge of the cliff, and non-jumpers and vertigo sufferers can still enjoy the activity, this is an activity for aqua-adventurers, for people who love the water, and throwing themselves into it at every opportunity.
Each participant is well-kitted out. With helmets, life jackets and trainers over wetsuits and socks, shorts and jumpers. With the only flesh on show a pair of hands and a face wearing an excited expression, you are ready to go.
Our canyoning expedition was led by Call of the Wild, the adventure activity centre in Seven Sisters, near Neath, South Wales. There were three instructors to our group of 15. One instructor led the way, demonstrating the technique used to navigate each set of rapids, or small waterfall, and how and where to jump off each cliff face. Another instructor was in the middle, with the third shepherding the group’s stragglers.
If you want a laugh at your friends in wetsuits, then this is the activity for you. It is a sure fire icebreaker, seeing your companions balancing over a huge drop, deliberating whether to step over the precipice or to do the walk of shame down the cliff path. There is whooping and caterwauling by those smug early-jumping group members in the pool looking up at the line of those yet to go over the top. It can all become an elaborate game of dare – with good-natured bullying, coercion and peer pressure exerted to encourage jumpers over the edge, and to see who is the most foolhardy or courageous in your little group.
The best jumps are saved till last. There are three, each a little higher than the last, with the final jump the most impressive. For this, a run up is required for a quick fire launch into the air to clear bushes sticking out from the rocks and a tree. As you fly over a huge tree branch in mid air, wind whistling past your ears, you do wonder, will I make it to the water? Then you hear the resounding splash as you plummet into the cool water! An afternoon of amazing highs washed down with laughter. Everyone should try this activity.”
Sue Bland stayed in a self catering holiday cottage on Plas Farm near Pontardawe and chose Adventure Britain for her South Wales canyoning experience, the UK’s leading provider of canyoning.