An Eel Is Wrapped Around My Ankle
“The stench of the bog was horrendous, weeds become entangled around my legs, mask, and snorkel, and an eel wrapped itself around my ankle. Once I got to the 30-yard mark, which was just halfway to the finish line, my legs felt like lead in the cold water and the finish line suddenly seemed 2 miles away.” This is how one woman described her experience in the World Bog Snorkeling Championships in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales.
At the annual competition, contestants must fight their way through two lengths of a 55m (60-yd.) water-filled trench chopped out of a peat bog, wearing a snorkel and flippers. Competitors aren’t allowed to use usual swimming strokes, so must rely on flipper power. Only for orienteering purpose can they raise their head above the swampy water filled with leeches, water scorpions, and the odd fish.
Who would do this? Those looking for a rush and an unusual way to get it! People come from as far away as Hong Kong and Australia to experience this one-of-a-kind event. Past participants have included a 14-year-old girl and a woman who took part in the competition to celebrate her 70th birthday. Many years, 150 contestants or more show up at the WBC, which are held on private farmland on the outskirts of Llanwrtyd Wells. Competitors often wear the wildest costumes. Years past have seen people dressed as sumo wrestlers, men in suits with briefcases, and even a guy with an iron and board strapped to his back! The fastest in various categories and the “fancy dress” winner all get medals and cash.
If this unusual competition was truly the brainchild of two locals while they imbibed a lot of Welsh Ale, who do you think created the Bog Snorkeling Triathlon and the Mountain Bike Bog Snorkeling championships? The triathlon includes a run, a “swim” in a peat-bog trench, and a mountain bike ride. During the mountain bike bog race, competitors cycle along the bottom of a 2m-deep (6-ft.) peat bog trench using a mask and snorkel. Competitors peddle a bike with a lead-filled frame and water-filled tires. (Scuba divers are in the trench if any problems should arise with participants.)
Llanwrtyd Wells is in the Irfon Valley in the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains. This area of mid-Wales offers more than just bog-oriented entertainment and recreation. Visitors will find plenty of hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and fishing. You will need a rental car to reach and explore this area. The region is especially lovely to visit through the summer and fall, but the Bog Snorkeling events are held in July and August. Visit the website for the exact dates. —LF
Bog Snorkeling Championships (www.green-events.co.uk). Llanwrtyd Wells Tourist Center ( 01591-610666; www.llanwrtyd.com).
When to Go: Check the website for annual schedule.
Birmingham or Bristol.
$ Lasswade Country House, Station Rd. ( 44/1591-610515; www.lasswadehotel.co.uk). $$–$$$ Lake Country House, Llangammarch Wells ( 44/1591-620202; www.lakecountryhouse.co.uk).