Bog snorkelling in Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales is the craziest sport on earth
A trench filled with slimy water, an agonising 120-yard dash… and the endless bleating of sheep: Why bog snorkelling in the middle of Wales is the craziest sport on earth
- World Bog Snorkelling Championships are held every August, drawing competitors from all over the world
- Event is held at a peat bog at Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys, Wales, site of the biannual World Alternative Games
- Competitors are required to swim 120 yards along a narrow trench, but it's much harder than it looksÃ?Â
08:35, 16 August 2015
12:43, 16 August 2015
Standing chest deep in frigid, murky water in the middle of a pasture isnÃ¢Â?Â?t how most people would imagine their most memorable snorkelling experience.
The thought usually evokes the sensation of a gentle ocean current, images of exotic fish in crystal clear waters, and the comfort of the sunÃ¢Â?Â?s rays on oneÃ¢Â?Â?s shoulders.
Yet here I am – far from that idyllic scene Ã¢Â?Â? clad in a mask, snorkel and flippers in a 4ft deep bog that is surrounded by rolling hills, with the endless baaing of sheep echoing between my ears and the wind cutting through my wetsuit on a chilly, grey morning.
This is Llanwrtyd Wells in the heart of Wales Ã¢Â?Â? not the Caribbean or an atoll in the Seychelles Ã¢Â?Â? and IÃ¢Â?Â?m about to take on the World Alternative GamesÃ¢Â?Â? marquee event.Ã?Â
Worst fear: MailOnline Travel's Chris Kitching is forced to come up for air after taking in water in the cold, murky bog nearÃ?Â Llanwrtyd Wells
One of the worldÃ¢Â?Â?s craziest sports, bog snorkelling is as bizarre and mysterious as it sounds, and itÃ¢Â?Â?s not as easy as it looks
Every year, hundreds of swimmers flock to the small village to compete in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships
Despite stopping, Chris Kitching (left) finished with a time ofÃ?Â two minutes and 37 seconds. Pictured right is the famous bog
One of the worldÃ¢Â?Â?s craziest sports, bog snorkelling is as bizarre and mysterious as it sounds, and as I found out itÃ¢Â?Â?s not as easy as it looks.
It sounds rather simple Ã¢Â?Â? swim to a wooden post and back (60 yards in each direction) as fast as you can while spectators Ã¢Â?Â? including some who are just as crazy and are awaiting their turn Ã¢Â?Â? cheer you on.
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Perhaps foolishly, I volunteered to go first when my group arrived at the bog at a private farm on the outskirts of a village that claims to be BritainÃ¢Â?Â?s smallest town.
My heart is already pounding, my nerves are frayed and my mind is playing tricks on me after locals teased us with tales of the brown water being filled with the carcasses of farm animals, leeches and nibbling fish. A late night at the Neuadd Arms probably didn't help.
Another member of the group offers a look of complete exhaustion after finishing the incredibly difficult 120-yard swim
Competitors are required to swim to a wooden post and back in a 4ft deep trench, without using conventional swimming strokes
Locals teased the visiting swimmers with tales of the bog being filled with the carcasses of farm animals, leeches and nibbling fish
Soon, itÃ¢Â?Â?s time to leap from a jetty and take my place in the water, not knowing what to expect when my fins hit the peat bogÃ¢Â?Â?s soggy floor.
The water is so cold it sends a chill through my body. With my eyes bulging and chest heaving our race official counts down from five to signal the start of a flat-out swim I may never experience again.
From the moment I set off, IÃ¢Â?Â?m concentrating on my breathing while staring into the muddy water (there is zero visibility), and kicking my legs and Ã¢Â?Â?dog paddlingÃ¢Â?Â? my arms at a manic pace. This, it turns out, is a rookie mistake.
Finding encouragement in the spectatorsÃ¢Â?Â? muffled screams, my body feels energized as I reach the white post (there are no sheep entrails, blood-sucking leeches or carnivorous fish, it turns out).
LET THE WORLD ALTERNATIVE GAMES BEGINÃ?Â
Runners race horses (and their riders) in the annual man vs horse event; only three runners have won the race in 35 years
Bog snorkelling isnÃ¢Â?Â?t the only unusual event that takes place at the World Alternative Games. Here are some of the others:
Man vs Horse:Ã?Â An annual event since 1980, humans race horses over rough terrain (23.6 miles for the runners and 24.8 miles for the horses). Only three runners have managed to beat the horses in 35 years.Ã?Â
Real ale ramble:Ã?Â This non-competitive event takes place during the Mid Wales Beer Festival, with real ale provided at checkpoints over distances of 10, 15 and 25 miles.
Worm charming:Ã?Â Teams have 30 minutes to pluck as many worms out of the earth as they can, in a 9ft square. The record is 567.
Hide and seek:Ã?Â Two teams of seven players are pitted against each other, and must find their opponents in a 65ft x 65ft area.
Snail racing: Giant snails are encouraged to race along a short course, with bits of food luring them to the finish line.
Mountain bike bog snorkelling:Ã?Â Participants ride a bicycle in trench that is 6ft deep and 45 yards long. The bike's frame is lead weighted and it has water filled tyres, and riders wear a lead belt and weighted backpack.
World bathtubbing championships:Ã?Â In this event, competitors try to stay afloat while paddling in an old bathtub over a distance of 100 metres (328ft).
Space hopper racing:Ã?Â Children and adults go from start to finish on a large bouncy ball.Ã?Â
Finger jousting:Ã?Â Similar to arm wrestling, two players square off in an attempt to poke their opponent with their lancing (right) index finger.
Rock, paper, scissors: Children and adults go head to head in the ultimate classroom game.Ã?Â
First Great WesternÃ?Â operates daily services to Swansea and Newport, with at least one connection required with Arriva Trains Wales.
By road, Llanwrtyd Wells lies on the A483, north of Brecon Beacons National Park.Ã?Â
Chris stayed in a twin room atÃ?Â The Drovers Rest. Rooms start from Ã?Â£30 per person per night.
But as I stop, turn around and catch a glimpse of the finish line, I lose all momentum and suddenly feel drained as I set off on the final half of this crazy 120-yard dash.
Within seconds IÃ¢Â?Â?m struggling to breathe through the snorkel and it isnÃ¢Â?Â?t long before I find out what bog water tastes like (breaking news: itÃ¢Â?Â?s disgusting).
My worst fear comes true. I have to stop, surface and catch my breath before resuming my swim with aching muscles, a brain freeze from the cold, and burning lungs.
ItÃ¢Â?Â?s an embarrassing turn of events, and IÃ¢Â?Â?m left praying I wonÃ¢Â?Â?t be the only one to take a mid-bog breather.
The final 40 yards prove to be a gruelling experience.
Feeling out of breath, I veer off course towards the banks of the trench, and dark thoughts creep into my head. Should I stop again? Should I stop, period?
Somehow, I continue on. As I return to the safety of the jetty and the race official announces my time (two minutes and 37 seconds, not even close to touching Kirsty JohnsonÃ¢Â?Â?s world record of one minute and 22 seconds), the utter exhaustion is tempered by a sense of complete satisfaction for completing the task.
Gasping for air, I struggle to find the words to describe the hellish experience when a video camera is jammed in my face.
I mumble something about bog water not being good for your health, and crawl out as someone wraps a towel and heat blanket around my shoulders.
But as exhausting as it was, it was far more rewarding than any time I have snorkelled in turquoise waters.
As the minutes passed and my thoughts became as clear as the waters in far more idyllic spots, all I wanted to do was leap back in the trench and give this crazy sport another go.Ã?Â
SET IN THE HEART OF WALES, 'BRITAIN'S SMALLEST TOWN' IS ANYTHING BUT SLEEPY
Adventurous tourists flock to the Cambrian Mountains for hiking, mountain bike trails or to simply get away from it all
Bog snorkelling is the marquee event at the World Alternative Games, which draw thousands of participants and spectators to the friendly village of Llanwrtyd Wells every two years.
The World Bog Snorkelling Championships are held every August, drawing hundreds of competitors, including many in fancy dress, from around the world.
But it would not be possible without the tireless efforts of the residents, who created and nurtured the games since individual events began three decades ago. Former pub landlord Gordon Green has been credited with creating bog snorkelling and other events.
This charming little town Ã¢Â?Â? where the Ã¢Â?Â?everybody knows everybodyÃ¢Â?Â? clichÃ?Â© rings true Ã¢Â?Â? has a host of cosy inns, restaurants and pubs, but it is anything but sleepy.
While some residents were born and raised here, others have moved from all corners of the UK and embraced the townÃ¢Â?Â?s kooky side.
It was once a Victorian spa town and pony trekking centre before reinventing itself as a place where some of the craziest sports in the world are played.
But thanks to its rugged beauty, Llanwrtyd Wells and the surrounding area are a haven for hikers, cyclists and anyone who is simply looking to get away from it all.
Experienced guides with Red Kite Events offer mounting bike tours and events in the region, including a 60-kilometre (37-mile) trek through the Cambrian Mountains.
For those who prefer to take in the scenery without working up a sweat, Cambrian Safaris provides guided excursions into the mountains in a Land Rover.
Guide Richard Smith, a former mine worker, has lived in an around the area for 20 years, and can customise tours according to his guestsÃ¢Â?Â? interests, be it photography, flora and fauna, local history or breathtaking views.
- First Great Western Trains
- The Drovers Rest Restaurant, Llanwrtyd Wells, Mid Wales, Powys
- Green Events
- Red Kite Events – mountain and road bike events
- Cambrian Safaris, Guided tours Mid Wales
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We don't call it a sport, we call it commuting.
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