Friday, June 27, 2014

6/14/14 Day 149 Slate Mine, Car Dump

The hills in Snowdonia are absolutely chocked full of old slate mines and quarries, left for ghost towns at the downturn of a previous decades economy. Leading to a playground of shattered slate tiles and secret dark alleyways and passages. Luckily for us we have stumbled upon the chance to go with a friend of a friend who is heading down to one of the scarcely known caves which is top to bottom filled with cars. This is a cave where wrecked cars stripped of their engines were dumped straight into the depths of this mine. 

In the UK and Ireland in order to legally drive a car it must have insurance and taxes paid up to date and it must also have MOT current to date. MOT is a roadworthiness test that must be assessed every year in the UK and cars that are over 10 years old in. Ireland; every other year for cars less than 10 years old. You have to take your car to the shop to get it tested costing around 50£, at which point they tell you all the things wrong with your car, anything from worn out break pads to broken windshields to malfunctioning seat belts. If you have too many issues, or more serious issues, you fail your test and can't get insurance or taxes until you fix the problems and have the car retested. So the upside is there are less junker cars traveling on the roads because they are not MOT acceptable, the downside is that it is a lot of money if your car is in great condition and perhaps a bit much to need to be tested every year, and what do you do with all of those uninsurable untaxable cars?!

The five of us gear up; headlamps, wellies, warm clothes and inflatable boats. Stepping into the cave brings on an immediate chill as the surface temperature drops dramatically and our wellies press in close as the pressure of the calf deep, just above freezing water attempts to submerge them. Scaling down slate walls and constantly watching in front and back for each other while also trying not to talk loudly for fear of encouraging rock fall. We make our way down and down and within 40 minutes the narrow hallways finally lead into an open room filled with water of a deep blue, silence except for the drip-drop of the water mischievously streaming from behind the delicate slate walls and only one ray of sunshine peeping in from above the huge pyramid of cars! This is the hole where sometime in the 1970's they finally ran out of room in the seemingly bottomless pit of cars and closed up the car dump cave. We pumped up our boats and carefully quietly and quickly individually paddled out to the heap of cars marveling at the sheer volume and history. With the oldest cars bracing the pyramid from the bottom of the watery depths and creating a timeline of totaled vehicles. By the time we had explored the car cave to our thorough enjoyment we were quite chilled and the burst of sunshine and heat that greeted us as we stepped out of the cave was welcome.  

Slate quarries and mines fill the landscape
And are made use of by locals for fencing
Car dumps, you name it 
Here is the cave from the top
And dropping to our descent
Down down down

And here it is from the bottom/side, with that same blue station wagon just beaming 

The water is unimaginably deep, and cold 

Old refrigerator, anyone?

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