Scrabbling Under Waterfalls
You might be wondering what the instructors at Go Ape get up to on their days off; Grocery shopping? Completing that DIY task they have been putting off for months? Or sitting by the fire relaxing reading the latest 50 shades of Grey book? Well…in true “live life adventurously” style, some of the instructors at Margam Park decided to spend their day off fighting the cold flowing welsh rivers to take up a spot of Gorge Walking!
Gorge Walking I hear you cry… how is that adventurous? You are just walking? Well, a quick introduction to the equipment needed for Gorge walking might allay those fears. A helmet, a (very) wet suit and a buoyancy aid and our very own instructor from our friends at Adventures. Aled was our Instructor and it was his job to encourage us in the art of jumping into fast flowing rivers and scrabbling under waterfalls and generally battling Mother Nature! Those instructors from Margam Park taking part were; Alan (Treasure) Edwards, Sam (Paparazzi) Phipps, Jen (Spider Monkey) Day, Rosie (If I don’t wear my glasses I won’t see how high up we are) Dyer and Richie (Face-plant) Matthews.
We turned up to Adventures at the specified time (well most of us…eh Sam!?) to be met by Aled who prompting gave us our disclaimer to sign and a choice of fashionable wet suits to choose from! Equipment chosen we all clambered into the nominated vehicle (Alan’s Car) and to the tunes of Catatonia ringing in our ears, drove to the Neath Valley and Dinas Rock! Upon reaching the car park, we discovered we shared it with several hundred school children and limited changing space, so some of us resorted to a strategically placed towel or two in the car park and we were in the wet suits (I make it sound much simpler than it was…lots of jumping around and funny faces pulled to get into them!) We were ready to go…except for Sam, who had previously instructed Gorge Walking in a former life and should have been much quicker at all the wetsuit business!
When we were all in order, we moved to our first part of the course, aptly named “the Shocker” where we were invited to stand on the edge of a bank and jump in to the river! All breath leaving your body the instant you hit the water and your hands tingling with coldness instantly I’m sure a few of us thought the pub up the road was much more appealing staff day out at that point. Sam led the way, showing us how it was done! Scrambling back to dry (damp) land Aled then produced the underside of a bridge for us to traverse, not wanting to get wet again we began the crossing only to have floods of water splashed down out backs from the river by our lovely instructor! By now there was no doubt we were going to be wet for most of the day and were starting to get used to it and relishing the next challenge!
We “walked” up the river some more, crossing currents and walking like the guy who forgot his flip flops on a stone beach! We then came to a fast flowing section where we had to swim from one side to the other (without being dragged down the river by the current) grab onto a rock and pull ourselves against the underside of the rock, and pull from there into the current up the river! Our first couple attempts were thwarted by Mother Nature…only for Miss Jennifer Day to step up! Hands like Ice axes, she gripped on to the side like the spider monkey she was and pulled herself up! Sat on the rock after the crossing, like it was the easiest thing in the world! With lots of encouragement from the team, Richie was not going to be outdone by Jen managed to pull his considerable bulk through the current and joined Jen at the top! Everyone else followed through all showing real grit and determination not to be beaten!
We progressed further to new challenges, including sitting in a Waterfall shower (no Radox available for the full effect) and a mini caving section involving snake like dexterity, hats (helmets) off to Rosie at this point who traversed the waterfall like she was climbing the stairs at her local supermarket!
The next section was by far the scariest…our first Waterfall Jump….on our hands and knees we crawled behind a waterfall onto a ledge, Aled at this point informed us that the only way was down…and we were free to descend in any manner we saw fit! Alan, was the hero of the hour, leading the way with the cry of a mad Welshman jumping into a pool of freezing water from a fair height…Richie was next, decided to take up Aled’s challenge of a front flip into the water…a stern talking to from his more sensible side was dismissed and he entered the water with as much grace as Tom Daley’s not so good cousin. Jen Day encouraged by the front flip completed one of her own followed by Rosie and Sam! Thwarted by some school children for another go we moved to our next site where on the way Alan managed to find some mystery treasure, dating back to at least the 1980s and later convinced some tourists that it was gold! We have called in the expert from Cash in the Attic, but as yet he has yet to tell us what it actually is!
Our next section involved a hike to a man-made waterfall pool, we were getting used to jumping off things now, and with Aled’s instructions of “just jump, try not to hit that bit of concrete to the right there” we were back where we belonged in icy water encouraging others (Rosie) to make the leap of faith with a promise of “I’ll catch you” (patently a lie). Once all descended we were going to try a “float” which is exactly what it says on the tin, we were going to lay on our backs and let the waterfall take us… Aled informed us that if we were underwater for more than 7 seconds he would start to panic and come and save us…so Richie went first, taking a deep breath followed the river down until he was flying through the air and then all of a sudden under water…thinking the buoyancy aid would push him to the surface he twiddled his thumbs for a bit and took in the sights (mainly green murky water) before realising that swimming to the surface might be a good option…Aled recovered from the mild heart attack as Richie had taken his full 7 second allocation to send the rest of the group on their way!
A few more front flips and jumps into the same pool later we moved on to our final jump of the day…in beautiful surroundings we were led through the forest via a rather large mud pit where our instructor nearly lost his shoe, for good, to the edge of a cliff…to be told “don’t look over the edge or you won’t do it” so a mild panic set in amongst our esteemed Go Aper’s with the question of “Really??” uttered several times in Aled’s direction…one by one we took the leap of faith, with some of us managing to utter several swear-words before hitting the water. Rosie managed to perfect the “will she, wont she” dance but jumped all the same! We had several more goes at it with Richie thinking he had nailed a place in the GB diving squad only to over rotate on a front flip and using his face as a brake into the water, improving his looks vastly!
We were done for the day! And an air of elation at what we had achieved with adrenaline warming up our extremities we drove to a nearby pub for warm drinks and a hearty meal. We highly recommend Gorge Walking and would like to thank all those at Adventures for such a thoroughly enjoyable day! And to all of you who think that us Go Ape Instructors don’t “Live Life Adventurously” we are on the look out for our next big challenge… so stay tuned!