I’ve learnt my lesson. Don’t swallow. It’s advice I thought I wouldn’t have to take.
Entering the World Bog Snorkelling Championships in Wales’s smallest town of Llanwrtyd Wells was, I hoped, a once-in-a-lifetime event. Yet, here I was, back representing my country for the second consecutive year.
Why? Was it just for that terrific antioxidant mud boost to the complexion or was it the possibility of shedding a few extra kilos after swallowing minute measures of this wonderful elixir. Then again, there was the lure of the first prize: 50 pounds worth of ice cream. This creamy treat had enticed about 30 Australians to travel 12,000 miles in the hope that one may win the coveted title.
These were all such great reasons to enter. Yet, I think the real motivator for me was to swap my Blahniks for fins and my Sass and Bides for a tight-fitting wetsuit and give the Aussies some sort of chance at winning the title from the British — well, you’ve got to be in it to win it.
This place has atmosphere. One might think they were on Madison Avenue if it weren’t for the sinking bog under foot that drags you down like a ravenous crocodile. The clientele here are truly cosmopolitan — Americans, Europeans, British and Australians sporting everything from frog suits, tutus, Hawaiian shirts, and body paint. Forget the Paris catwalks, this is where fashion is truly happening. But it is the experience which will remain with you for some time later.
It is only once you have emerged from your second lap of the bog fitted with the regulation peat to the hair that you can say you’ve truly lived. Once you’ve been bog snorkelling — you can take on the world — wrestling 60-foot crocs, eating live snakes, surfing 50-foot waves; these are all nothing compared to the thrill of the bog.
The mud embraces each contestant warmly as soon as you enter the 50-metre trench. The crowd cheers you on even though they wouldn’t have a clue who you are. You gasp for air, fighting not to bring your head above bog level. (You are only allowed to lift your head up three times for directional change.) Vision is nil, even with a snorkel and a mask. There are all sorts of unidentified things which get up close and personal despite your wetsuit. You can feel them but you can’t see them, adding further to this amazing experience.
Finally, you make it to the halfway mark. It is certainly takes strength of will to return down the trench and complete the second lap of 50 metres.
You start to believe in hell. It is truly here on Earth. Then you’re back on to soggy ground. You’re alive. You’re a hero. The crowd cheers again. It’s time to celebrate. You join the throng of other bog snorkellers each with that lingering bog bouquet. It lasts for at least 48 hours. It promotes a definite camaraderie among bog snorkellers.
Coming 18th, with a time of 2 minutes and 7 seconds, was pretty amazing for me but I’m determined to win it one day. I’m lobbying for an Australian bog snorkelling championship to get in some sort of practice. I’m sure our new PM would love to recreate the dense Waen Rhydd Peat bog. Watch this space.
The 29th World Bog Snorkelling Championships was held on August 24; it’s an annual event in Llanwrtyd Wells, and this year, once again, it was part of the World Alternative Games: www.green-events.co.uk