The Kindness of Strangers and Horses

We all like to think the best of people, right? You know the phrase… “innocent until proven guilty”. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, many people can’t be trusted. In America, if you leave your purse behind in a bar and walk out, you’re likely to never see it again. However, if you do the same thing in a small village in Wales, it just so happens people are likely to be more honest and will turn it over to the bartender for you. Let’s rewind…

It was a gorgeous Saturday: blue skies, fluffy white clouds, no need for anything more than a light jacket. This weather is rare in the UK, a place so accustomed to going about life while it’s pouring rain. We were lucky. Around 8am, Caroline and I set off on one of our final adventures for the semester. After purchasing various pastries and coffees to fill our stomachs for a few hours, we boarded a bus to our destination.

Two hours later we were scanning the countryside, eyes wide with excitement. Horses and sheep roamed freely throughout the rolling hills and flowers bloomed with the colors of spring. Houses were few and far between, leaving the lush land nearly untouched by man. We had entered Brecon Beacons National Park. There’s something about national parks that take my breath away. Don’t get me wrong, I love the bustling excitement of the city and the buzzing scenes of town, but the areas of our world that have been specifically chosen for preservation give me an appreciation for nature that I can’t find anywhere else.

After hopping off the bus and stopping to ask for directions, Carol and I had a few hours to kill before our main adventure for the day. We wandered in and out of small shops, admiring clothing and jewelry we couldn’t afford, and decided to find a local pub for lunch. Caroline, being the sweet North Carolinian/Floridian she is, made small talk with an older man who was interested in why two young American girls were visiting the tiny village of Crickhowell. We explained that we were studying in Swansea and had ventured north for a day of horseback riding along the mountain. Time ticked by and we finished our lunch, energized and ready to hike up to the stable.

Walking quickly out of the city, I took a few snapshots. The village was so quaintly nestled in between the mountains, it looked like something from a book. We hustled along the road, knowing we had only a half an hour to hike what we were told should only be a mile.

As I went to recheck our directions, I realized I’d left my purse at the bar. With only 25 minutes until our horse trek started, we turned around and sprinted back towards town. Cars pass by and we jump and throw our thumbs in the air, hoping that the signal for hitchhiking is the same in the UK as it is in America. No one slows down, and we’re losing time. Suddenly, Carol runs by this man in his mid-forties who’s outside tending to his garden in a button up Oxford shirt and yells, “Excuse me!! I’m so sorry. But do you have a car? We really need to get back to town and then up the mountain in the next fifteen minutes.”

Side note: I do not recommend doing this in just any country. Like I said, you can’t trust everyone. Before I left, my mom reminded me that she’s seen Taken and raised me to be cautious. However, after five months of learning about the Welsh culture, we made a judgement call and it ended up being one of the best experiences. Let’s continue.

Surprisingly, this man was not put off by two out of breath Americans crazily shouting at him. He agreed to take us into town to find my purse and then up to the stable. It ended up that Neil (the gardening man), knew the owners of the bar and called to ask about my purse on the way. We arrived and the waitress handed it to me immediately. Ahhh, relief. For now. We still only had ten minutes to reach the stables.

After a few wrong turns and lots of narrow winding uphill roads, we managed to find it. The stable was perched more than 2/3 of the way up the side of the mountain, proving that it would have been a much longer walk than we originally had anticipated. We thanked Neil endlessly, offered to pay him, and thanked him more when he politely declined.

Then our riding adventure began. I was assigned a white and grey horse called “Roma Pavlova”. We bonded over our 1.5 hour ride through the country. I found he’s a lot like me: curious and impatient with a wild heart. Caroline rode “Millie Mollie”, a brown and white horse who had the cutest bond with another horse and always wanted to walk with her. The views were breathtaking, the guides were kind, and it was a relaxing afternoon in the Welsh sunshine. There was only one problem – in order to catch the bus home, we had to get back down the mountain.

   

Thankfully, a family of three from South Wales was on the horse ride with us and volunteered two of their backseat spots for us. We made it back to town with time to spare, grabbed a pint of Guinness to relax, and jumped on the bus home.

Exhausted as we were, and sore from riding, Carol and I recapped the day, laughing at our mishaps that turned into blessings. From stressing that we weren’t going to make a bus change in time to paying for sub par salads and cookies, it was a day to remember. And best of all, we got to meet a businessman from London and a family from Cardiff who both proved to us that kindness still exists and there are, in fact, some wonderful people left in the world.

That’s all for now… ✌

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