By Beryl Johnson
Sitting in a narrow gauge train traveling at little more than a snail’s pace between large boulders and discarded mining paraphernalia, you are transported into the dark, damp belly of a disused slate mine. The journey is bumpy, cold, and cramped. Dressed in oversized red coveralls and a hard hat, you could be forgiven for thinking you were on your way to join an underground chain gang, or that your image would be displayed on the next wanted poster.
With dripping walls, low lighting, and a chill in the air it doesn’t seem to be the ideal location for a fun-filled family day out. But this is no ordinary cave tour.
You are about to have an unusual, if not unique, experience: the exhilarating thrill of bouncing on a set of trampolines strung across vast caverns deep underground.
The caverns, dug out of the mountain around 176 years ago by Welsh slate miners, are about twice the size of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Situated in a small mining town in the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia, the Llechwedd slate mines offer a one-hour activity of bouncing below the ground accompanied by music and a colored light show.
The word trampoline is a misnomer, for they are little more than cargo nets strung in three tiers one above the other, with 10-foot-high safety nets around the perimeter. Looking down from the topmost net 100 feet above the cavern floor to the empty dark space below is terrifying and not for the faint-hearted. But if you have the slightest streak of adventure in your soul this is an opportunity not to be missed.
Alighting from the little train — originally in use when the mines were being worked — you are on the level of the middle tier. The trampoline above is accessed via a netting tunnel through which, by small footholds, rope handles, and sheer physical strength and determination, you haul yourself up to the next level. Getting down to the lower levels is far easier. You simply throw yourself into a hole and slide down a chute, the longest of which is about 60 feet.
There appears to be nothing else like this in the world. The exhilaration, the adrenaline rush, and the breathlessness you experience make you glad you took the plunge and jumped into the abyss for a truly amazing topsy-turvy subterranean adventure.
Zip World has recently renovated the trampolines in Bounce Below to make them even more bouncy, and was scheduled to reopen in June 2016. There is also an overland zip line at Blaenau Ffestiniog which is thought to be the first four-person zip line in Europe.
Zip World Caverns has also recently opened at the same location. Here you travel through centuries-old caverns along zip lines, rope bridges, and tunnels.
Bounce Below can be found at Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog, LL41 3NB, 01248 601 444. See more at: http://www.zipworld.co.uk.
Cost is £25 (about $36) per person for a one-hour session. Temperature is approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but you will warm up while bouncing. Wear comfortable shoes — the floor is uneven and you will be jumping on cargo nets.
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