Open Misery

Machynlleth's clock tower

Machynlleth’s clock tower

Leaving Brecon was a relief. I could only be going to better places. (Please nobody from Brecon ever read this). But there was half a day and two bus transfers before my next destination, Llanberis. Do you know what that meant? Or what I thought it meant? More quaint little towns and beautiful countryside.

Armed with the knowledge of “bws safle,” I continued on, reaching a town whose name I forget. All I do remember is hoping there would be a cafe there so I could get some coffee and being disappointed, either because it wasn’t there or I didn’t have enough time. We passed more of the same countryside until we got to Machynlleth (pronounced Mahynheth), a tiny town that the hostel worker told me was really cute. Well, it had a nice tower.

close up of the tower's base

close up of the tower’s base

I got dropped off at a bleak auto shop crowded with buses out front, which was the bus stop. The rest of the town seemed bleak, too. It was 3pm, everything was closing at 4, and my bus was coming at 4:30.

So I set out to wander Main St., where I was so surprised to spot a MOMA building. Curious, I went inside for the last half hour of its opening hours and saw an exhibit by one artist lining the two gallery walls. This was it? I thought. My heart sank. I irresistibly thought of a person who grows up in a sensory deprived environment, one and for whom a little bit is so much; even though there is so much more out there, their little bit to them is enough. I wanted to send them more art, give it more variety and shock. I had very mixed feelings, walking out. Here was this little town that looked like it had very limited access with the rest of the world, and in it is a Museum of Modern Art… and in this art museum there is an exhibit by one person.

The other store I visited was an old bookstore with mostly English and Welsh titles. As soon as I opened the heavy wooden door, a giant black Labrador ran up the stairs from the basement to sniff me and then lie down on the carpet sleepily while I sat there reading a coffee table book about medieval warfare and the store’s owner sat at his computer.

Machynlleth's church

Machynlleth’s church

Come 4, everything closed and I made my way back over to the bus stop to wait. Come 4:30, there was no bus, and it was raining. Come 4:50, there was still no bus, and it was still raining. Had I missed the bus!? Many others had passed by, but none of them had appeared to be what I needed. I asked everyone who passed by if this was the right stop for this bus, and they assured me it was.

This was an extremely miserable moment at the time, especially with the rain… but looking back on it it’s such a trifle, I can barely write about it now. It must have been the combination of constant travel, the rain, and being potentially stuck in a dead town that didn’t have any accommodation within eyeshot.

Eventually the bus did come, 20+ minutes late, and took me north. The landscape changed quite a bit as we drove through Snowdonia Park and the hills got steeper. They were still plenty of sheep, at times more, at times less.

The changing landscape

The changing landscape

Some towns we passed were extremely nice. Porthmadog, for one, looked beautiful passing through, like a really modern mountain town with a magnificent view of the water. I could imagine it being a somewhat posh destination. Caernafron was a bigger city that also looked really nice and modern, and had an amazing castle that we passed by. Conwy, I’ve read, has one of the best castles in Wales and is also a nice city, but that was a bit farther north of our destination.

Hillside ruins along the way

Hillside ruins along the way

I’d go back to north Wales along the coast and visit any or all of those three places, as well as Llanberis. There is even a deal through YHA that lets you stay the fourth night at one of their hostels free when you spend the previous three nights along the coast.

Middle of Wales, though, I wouldn’t go back.

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