In Wales, you can 'fly' just like Superman
EVER wondered what it is like to fly? I'm not talking about circling the air in a powered flying machine.
I mean speeding through the skies like Superman at 160kmh, 153m above the ground. With no option to stop in mid-air, nothing to hold on to and no parachutes.
This "flying" experience was the highlight of my sponsored media trip to Wales, Britain.
Lying face-down at the edge of the mountain, my harness suit was strapped to a pulley and attached to a cable. I was told that this cable stretched for 1.6km but I could not see where it ended.
Below was a pool of blue water surrounded by greenery and heaps of black and grey rocks. The early spring weather was chilly, about 5 deg C. Towards the horizon, snow-covered mountain tops blended into the clear blue sky.
Before I could fully absorb the view without being distracted by the clicking and strapping of my harness, I heard the countdown: "In three, two, one."
I zoomed across the valley head-first at a speed so fast that I felt my cheeks flap as the wind roared in my ears.
In just under a minute while soaring through the skies, Wales won my heart with its "Year of Adventure" tagline.
This thrilling experience is one of many zipline adventures in Snowdonia, a region in Wales that features the Snowdonia National Park and Snowdon Mountain.
Known as Zipworld Velocity, it is Europe's longest zipline and the world's fastest, which is why they say it is the closest you will come to flying.
A DIP INTO WATER SPORTS
While I enjoy the thrill of heights, an inability to swim and a fear of drowning have kept me away from water-based activities.
So I had my reservations when I saw kayaking, canoeing and paddle-boarding on the itinerary. Keeping my options open, I learnt that the kayak was most stable with the least chances of overturning.
I decided to give it a try upon arriving at a maze of sheltered lagoons leading to a main lake in Snowdonia.
Our multinational group of journalists put on the wetsuits provided and headed towards the water. Dan Mcgonigle, the 25-year-old instructor from outdoor adventure company Surf-Lines Adventures, got us warmed up with mini-games using just a tennis ball.
And in no time, we were all racing about in the water.
One of the first things I learnt on this adventurous holiday is that the levels of skill and endurance do not matter when it comes to having fun.
If paddling a boat is not your cup of tea, there is always the rib ride. On this, we were taken along the Menai Strait by a skilful skipper who went at high speeds and took sharp turns that made the ride thrilling yet safe.
The rib ride is not all fast and furious, though. We were even allowed to bring our phones and cameras, although occasional splashes of water were expected.
But here's a personal tip - hold on tight to your snowcaps.
There were, of course, times when the skipper would slow down, allowing us to take in the sights such as Menai Bridge. Also, along the coast, we spotted a herd of seals which stared at us as we whipped out our cameras.
BIKING UP THE SLOPES
Snowdonia's varied terrain makes it popular among mountain bikers.
We got the chance to put our balancing act and stamina to the test in Betws-y-Coed, the principal village of the national park.
Guided by a local expert, we pedalled through 4km of single-track natural trails which were one of the shortest in the area. The more challenging trails are as long as 24km.
Between uphill cycling and thrilling descents, the beautiful mountains and valleys gave us good reason to stop for a breather every now and then.
A trip would not be complete without sampling some local food. The Welsh take great pride in their local produce.
This farm-to-table process was explained to us at Bodnant Welsh Food, an agricultural estate and food centre.
The tour began with lunch at the Hayloft Restaurant, an elegant set-up with natural light bursting through its windows.
The meat served here is locally sourced by the eatery while the fish come from the coast of Wales.
All the bread and dairy products are produced in-house.
Medium-sized mains curated by chef Andrew Sheridan and his team allowed us to sample three dishes each instead of one main course.
Flavourful and fresh, everything from the meat to the ice cream tasted exceptional.
Within the estate is also a cookery school, where we were treated to a demonstration by Chef Sheridan, who drew oohs and aahs when he used nitrogen gas to make ice cream within minutes.
The end-product was rich and creamy.
No surprise, then, that it was an award-winning recipe.
After an exhilarating week, I came home with more than just travel notes. On a personal note, my first attempt at watersports will remain an unforgettable milestone.
It made me realise that an adventure is not just about heart-racing experiences but it is also about the goals we set out to achieve, no matter how small they may be.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK