Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Into the wild ( two get wet in Wales )

Up at 5 for the train down to Abergavenny - rude awakening. Straight off the train and into the first coffee shop. When will we learn to ask for double strong knockout coffees? Probably about after the 100th time we get a cup of vaguely coffee tasting warm milk I guess.

Then straight out of town towards the hills. It's all a bit of a blur actually. Maybe the memories got washed away! Anyway, over towards Crickhowell and onto the Taff Trail and the weather was rapidly deteriorating. Rain and wind followed us for most of the rest of the weekend. Several ups and downs later we ended up passing up on a perfectly good campsite in the shelter of the woods to push on for 30 minutes or so extra - was it worth it? I doubt it. Somewhere in there there was a descent into the woods that would have been barely rideable on an unladen bike let alone one covered in sleeping bag and tent. Fun stuff that you only come across accidentally while forging a route cross country from point to point. Stuff that you really couldn't justify going back to do but was major fun at the time. So, after a push out of the soggy valley bottom we popped the tent up for what was to be the first of 3 poor nights sleep.

Next morning we were slow to get going - it had been a cold and restless night. Once we'd regained our bearings and realised we weren't actually as lost as we though we were we found our way through the forest out onto the Sarn Helen trail and down into another valley. Climbing out towards Llandovery we looked North and were glad we'd opted out of the snowy ascent of that big snowy hill behind me in this pic...

Pushing on towards hot food through the first of the snow showers we were really looking forward to the coffee and pizza, yum. We dragged our un-enthusiastic selves out onto the road and trail mixes towards Llyn Brianne, it's quite a climb and the weather steadily got worse until we were riding through almost blizzard conditions. If you have to ride tarmac there's worse places to do it though.

The road finally turns to track and we realised just how much rain there's been in this part of Wales recently. The first ford was tackled after donning our gaiters and was quite succesful in that we only got a little seepage even though the water was fast flowing and calf deep. Our elation didn't last long as we came to the second one which was a bit faster and much deeper - once we'd plucked up our courage and plunged in we found that it was up to thigh height. Probably a bit higher for one of us...

We looked at the map and checked and double checked gps coordinates. After getting our headtorches out and tromping through the woods for and hour in the dark we finally found the bothy, whoop! Trouble was we'd stashed the bikes and still had to go back for them. Luckily it was a clear night. We had been on the go for about 12 hours by now and were quite fraught and fatigued. Just glad to get a fire going and get some hot food inside us.

The next morning we avoided an initial thorough soaking by pushing up a track and onto a fire road. Part of the Lon Las Cymru as it turned out. We weren't to get wet again til day 4. We arrived at Devil's Bridge and hit the cafe for All Day Veggie Breakfast. This was well timed as they'd only just reopened for the year a couple of days earlier. Mid afternoon we pushed on up the hill to the bothy.

Turns out to be quite a large and well maintained one - long drop toilet, quite posh! Spoilt by the people already there planing on staying a week and using it like a hostel. We made a note to seek out shelters only accessible by foot from now on.

Next morning we left in the rain and headed North towards Machynlleth passing under Plynlimon. It didn't stop raining and there was even more water under our wheels.

We got to the last water crossing of the trip and got very wet, very quickly all over again. So did the camera - I hope it's going to make a full recovery.

There were glimpses of sunshine on the way to Machynlleth but they didn't help much to dry us out. The baked potatoe and veggie burger were very welcome in the cafe. We brewed up on the station platform while waiting for the train back to normality...

If I've made it all sound a bit grim, I must admit some of it was, though it's all better than being at work. First time I'd used the Epic Designs frame bag and fuel tank and they worked really well - gas, stove, pans, tent poles and more loaded centrally on the bike. Having the bivy bags, sleeping bag and roll mat hooked onto the bars is good too. All so much easier to handle when pushing and manhandling than panniers. They really should be kept for the road.

Roll on Scotland next month...