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Archive for January, 2011

< Day 4

Thursday 1st July 2010

After I woke up, I discovered that Mark’s bike had gone, although his tent was still in place. We assumed that he had cycled to the foot of the mountain, then he was going to ascend the mountain on foot.

After breakfast as we were packing up to leave we saw Mark heading back on foot. He told us that he had made it up the mountain and had got some nice pictures. We also discovered that he had put his bike inside his tent as he thought that we would have left by the time that he returned. Phil and I were looking forward to a casual day cycling along the coast. We were still quite tired from the previous day of mountainous roads.

We set off with Phil and I heading for the coastal route and Mark heading for the more mountainous in-land route.

We headed for Barmouth on the coast. After I was cycling for a few miles, my bike seemed a little unsteady under me. When I turned the corners, I did not seem to have as much control. We were checking to see what the problem was on my bike and we found a broken spoke on the back wheel. Unfortunately, the rear cassette stopped us from being able to change the spoke ourselves, as we did not have the tools to remove a cassette. As we were a few miles from Dolgellau, we decided to press on and find a cycle shop when we got there.

We found a cycle shop and we explained what we were going touring from Cardiff to Bangor. He said the same as everyone else had “Ooh, your going over Pen-y-pass in Snowdonia?”, Pen-y-pass was once again made out to be this beast that we would have to face. I explained that I had a broken spoke and asked how much would it cost to replace it. He said that he did not carry those types of spokes. Which is good that I brought my own (Thanks Mark for the advice). I stated that I had the spoke and he just had to remove the old one and put the new one in. He said that if I took the wheel off my bike, deflated it, took the tire and inner tube off and just gave him the wheel that he would charge me £7.50. I thought it was a very good price and started to remove my wheel. I had some difficulty getting the tire off as I was using small tire levers from a emergency cycling tool kit. I decided to buy some decent tire levers from this shop, which made the job much easier. I gave him the wheel and the spokes and he took it into his shop.

As I was standing around waiting, I was looking around his shop. I saw him up some stairs tuning my wheel like a harp on his wheel truing stand. I had never seen this done before and it seemed more like an art than a science. I spoke to him afterwards and he was saying that if you strengthen a wheel manually like he had done, it is much better for touring, as you get less broken spokes. He had made my wheel into a solid touring wheel.

When he had finished, we went and got something to eat and bumped into Mark and explained what had happened. He stated that it was probably from the rough terrain a couple of days ago.

Phil and I continued to Barmouth, Mark continued in-land. When we got to Barmouth we had our first view of the Atlantic Ocean. We decided to have fish and chips at the beach. Phil opted for something else (I cannot remember what Phil ordered) from the same place and regretted it later as he did not feel well for a while afterwards.

We went up the coastal road passed Llandanwg to Harlech Castle, this is one of this things that Phil has seen on his map and was interested in visiting. Once we got to Halech, the roads turned very steep, some were up to 25%. We got to the castle and stopped, we had a look around the area and later continued.

We crossed the estuary from the Atlantic Ocean at Port Briwet, which was a old bridge going over the estuary that was path/cycle path on one side and had a big railway line at the other side. the were only separated by a little fence. Phil said that it is a shame it is an old deserted track, as his son would love a picture of a train that close up. I said that it did not look like a stable bridge and it is a good job that trains do not use the line anymore, by looking at the old rusty tracks you could imagine the weight of a train would be too much for the poor old tracks.

I offered to take some pictures of Phil next to the track as it was very unusual. Just then, I heard a slight whistling sound coming from the tracks, I looked down the track and saw a train. I told Phil that there was a train heading this way on the track. Phil thought that I was winding him up until he heard it for himself. It is strange how you can really hear the noise coming from the track itself long before you can hear the train. I took a picture just as the train was behind Phil. We were both pleased with the picture. I was proud that I could get such as it would make his son very happy.

As we were cycling we were talking a lot, we were approaching a junction where a railway crosses the road. I was trying to wind Phil up, saying that the miniature railway that he was seeing was a full size railway and the sun was getting to him. He was insisting that it was a mini-railway. With the angle this mini-railway crossed the road, the width of the gaps and the fact that I was closly scrutinising this, instead of concentrating on the road head, my front wheel turned slightly as I was crossing it, and dropped into the railway track. I carried on in the same direction without my bike heading for the ground. I started forward rolling and suddenly I was 13 again, learning how to roll in Karate lessons so that I did not hurt myself. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as I made 2 complete forward rolls.  I found myself laying on my back a few feet away from my bike. I got up and realized that I only had a few small cuts and bruises. It was then that I realized that Phil was so close to me, that when I had come off my bike, he had come of his as well. We went to assess the damage to the bikes and surprisingly my front wheel had sustained no damage. We then realized that Phil had cycled over by back wheel, bending my pannier rack in to my wheel and buckling my back wheel. This was the wheel that the man in the shop had spent about an hour strengthening.

We realized that it was unridable, Phil did the best he could to get the wheel as straight as he could. We thought about our options, we could either go a few miles out of our way to Porthmadog, where there might be a cycle shop that was still open when we got there and they might have a wheel that I could buy which would do as a temporary measure, and if they did, how much would it cost and how would I carry my broken wheel over Snowdonia and home. We loosened the brakes so that I could ride it. We spoke to some locals who said that the railway was owned by Penrurn Railways and that lots of people have accidents on cycles there. They said that an old person got taken to hospital after coming off this bike in that spot.

As it was getting late, it was raining, I had a bicycle that had a very bucked wheel, there was not good odds of finding an open cycle shop that would have a wheel that would be okay we decided to cycle a few miles North to our campsite and discuss the situation with Mark. We set off and the rain was coming down harder and harder.

By the time we got to the campsite, it was raining very hard. We met up with Mark and were talking about my wheel. The campsite owner said that someone he knows may have a wheel that we could buy, alternatively we could use his hammer and vice and try to straighten the wheel rim ourselves.

We had to put up our tents in the rain. Marks tent was up the fastest, then Phil’s and I got there after about 10 minutes. My cycling shoes where soaking and my panniers had brought a trail of water into my tent.

After putting up our tents we all decided that since we were wet already, it may  be a good idea to dry off in the pub. So we went to the local pub. We discussed my bike, Phil and Mark were trying to encourage me to continue the journey even with a disabled bike. I stated that tomorrow would be our final day and I have come this far, I do not want to turn back. But the reality of the situation is that I would have to climb up a mountain the following day. I then explained that the ascents were not concerning me anymore. I was more worried about how I would descend the mountain with disabled brakes. I remembered that the descent from the Cambrian Mountains was very steep. If this was anything like that then I would be in trouble.

When we had finished our drinks and were dry, I took the newspaper that I was reading back to the campsite. I was explaining to Phil that if you pack your shoes with newspaper over night they will dry out better. This would save blisters the next day. After a lot of heavy rain during the night, I woke up several times in the night in a very humid atmosphere. Either the tent had leaked slightly or the wetness of myself and the panners entering the tent had formed a slight puddle inside the tent. This made it difficult to sleep and had to take my asthma inhaler during the night.

Day 6 >

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< Day 3

Wednesday 30th June 2010

I woke up early feeling pretty revived after a good nights sleep, with the help of the sound of the river to relax me. I started thinking that this was the first big mountain range that would really test our resolve.

My cheap tent was enough for the conditions so far. However, it took a long time to put up and take down. I was therefore the last one to pack up in the morning. But we agreed that we would set off about 9am. Therefore, Mark and Phil would go and take some photo’s while I was finishing packing up.

We set off about 9am. We had to travel South, back down the road that we had come up on the previous day. So we went South almost back to Llanidloes. Then North on B4518. The stunning views started very soon after, but then again so did the climbs. My personal challenge was to make it to Staylittle as we could rest there for a while, before continuing to Dylife for lunch.

We started some steeper climbs around Llyn Clywedog. However, every climb showed better and better views. There were some climbs that I could not quite make. However, because I was clipped in to my pedals, I did not want to exhaust my muscles to the point where I could not unclip my feet before loosing balance and hitting the floor. The fear of this was enough for me to still have a enough energy to unclip and finish the climb on foot, pushing the bike. This may be thought as the easy option, but there is nothing easy about pushing a bike with 30kg of bags up a mountain.

I struggled up one hill after the next. I was trying to only focus on each hill and achieving that hill.  Unfortunately, I was not as fast as Mark and so Mark cycled up the hills fairly quickly and then waited for Phil and I to catch up. Although Mark and Phil had both been cycling touring before and were fitter than me on this tour, Phil took a different approach to cycle touring and he cycled with me, rather than cycling ahead. To me this felt more like a team challenge than ‘every man for himself’.

We found that these hills were very steep but fortunately they did plateau, before we had to challenge ourselves on the next hill. Following the ascent there was a long and steep descend. Phil boasted about achieving a speed of 70KPH on the descent. Mark and I had trouble believing this at first, but as Phil is no liar, and his GPS proved him to be correct, we believed him, honest!

Unfortunately, if you are going up a mountain and have a large descent, you know that you have to have climb a lot more to reach the summit. This is very depressing when you just want to get to the top.

We had a short rest at Staylittle where Mark expressed that we was unhappy with the time that we were resting and taking photographs in these glorious locations. We then pushed on to Dylife. Once we arrived at Dylife, we unpacked our things for lunch and admired the view.  Mark leapt over the barbed-wire fence and disappeared down the mountain at a running pace in a very steep location, comforting the passers by with the phrase “It’s OK, I am a member of the mountaineering club”. An old lady commented that if that was her son that she would be very concerned. He emerged about 20 minutes later with some photographs and video of a hidden mini waterfall, trying to make the frightened old lady feel better by showing them to her, saying “Now, do you understand why I did it”. The old lady looked scared and confused and was very quickly driven away by her husband.

We ate our lunch whilst watching the amazing view. From day 1 of the tour I felt terrible that Mark had wanted to cycle to our daily destination as quick as possible and that Phil and I were cycling too slowly for Mark to fully enjoy his holiday. In Dylife, Mark, Phil and I discussed the situation that had been brewing for four days. We decided that the best course of action for everyone would be for us to all go at our own pace. Mark decided to set off after lunch and we agreed to meet him at the Centre for Alternative technology where he was meeting a friend who worked there.

Phil and I stayed for a while to take in the view and take some more pictures, we set off at a leisurely pace and headed up to the summit, about 3 miles past Dylife. This climb was torturous, but when we got to the top we were awestruck at the landscape. Only a mountain in Wales but it felt like we were on top of the world. This point is marked with a post which you can see in the picture(below).

We then had a beautiful fast and long descent to Machynlleth, about 7 km. About half way down Phil’s did an emergency stop on his bike as he heard a noise coming from his pannier. As soon as his bike came to a complete and sudden halt the pannier rack came away from the upper mounting and pivoted around the axle and hit the ground behind his bike. We discovered that they two bolts that held the pannier rack to the bike had worked their way loose and fallen off. As we were in the middle of Wales and in the middle of no-where, there were no cycle shops handy. Out of the box thinking was required, we discovered that the bolts that were missing were the same size as the bolts on Phil’s 3rd water bottle holder (beneath the down tube). We replaced the bolts and we were soon on our way again. It is amazing how much you think ‘out of the box’ when you have a problem and no cycle shops for miles.

When we got to Machynlleth we found were hungry and tired. We went to the WI (Women’s Insutute) sale, where we bought tea and home make meat pies. We stocked up on supplies and set off. We had agreed to meet Mark at the Centre of Alternative Technology, as he had cycled on to meet his friend who worked there.

After a few miles we realized that our hills had not ended for the day yet. The Centre for Alternative Technology was amongst massive undulating roads. When we got to the  Centre for Alternative Technology, we looked for Mark and waited. We noticed a sign that said “No Bicycles”, we thought this was  a funny thing to find at a center for alternative technology. Whilst waiting for Mark, we were looking at the Route 8 Wales map on the wall. We then looked at our map a lot and Phil and I decided that we were exhausted from the mountains and the next day it may be nice to take the coastal road. After about 40 minutes of waiting, we thought that Mark must have made his own way to the campsite and we should press on and we would meet him there.

We set off and once again headed North passed Corris. We thought that all of the hills were behind us. We were heading for the campsite, we worked it out to be about 7 miles away. We realized that we were on a slight incline maybe 1% or 2%. We did not think anything of it. However, we were not expecting the incline in the road to carry on for miles. It zapped what strength we had left and it became a psychological battle to get to the campsite. It was only a few miles away, but the incline was torturous after miles. Phil and I had a few micro-breaks of a few minutes each. Knowing that the campsite was very close spurred us on. We eventually got to the campsite at the foot of Cadair Idris.

When we got there, we expected to find Mark but after a search around the campsite we realized that he was not there yet. Just after Phil and I had set up our tents Mark arrived. He started to set up his tent. Following this, he explained his plans to climb Cadair Idris the next morning. He invited Phil and I to go with him but we declined as we were thinking of the distance and climbs that we had to do on that holiday. Marks mountaineering experience had made him more comfortable taking that type of gamble in the middle of a holiday. We were still recovering from the massive climbs that we had endured. We explained to Mark that we had decided to take the coastal road the following day to see some different scenery and to save our climbing legs for the daunting thought of climbing Snowdonia on day 6.

We slept very well that night, passed out from the exhaustion of the day that we had just tackled.

Day 5 >

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< Day 2

Tuesday 29th June 2010

After another night of disturbed sleep thanks to the sound of the sheep. I woke up about 6am and walked around outside the tent. I realised just how nice my scenery was. At about 6:30am I realised how much I had started to miss civilisation. I switched on radio 1 on my mp3 player and listened to the news to find out what was going on in the world and had a laugh listening to the Chris Moyles Show.

The guys woke up about 6:45am and we started to cook breakfast. I had got some eggs, gammon mushrooms etc from the shop the previous day, Which I shared some them with the guys.

Following breakfast and a wash, we packed up our things and set off. We knew that this was going to be the start of the climbs and it would be tough going. Not long after we set off we were on stoney tracks. We wondered how long the rough ground would last. We started to see big off-road climbs. About an hour after setting off I was wondering whether I would be able to make it, but I continued. I started to think that maybe 30kg of stuff was too much and I should have not taken as much stuff.

I was thankful when the we had tarmac under the wheels again, but unfortunately it was not for long. Mark looked at the map and decided that he had found a shortcut. It was rougher ground with a climb but then some down hill. About 10 minutes into the short cut we realised that the ground was too rough for the bikes that we were riding. It would have ben more suitable for mountain bikes. About 20 minutes in we realised that the short cut was more of a mountain bike detour, but finally we were back on the tarmac a couple of hundred yards a head of where we were. I was very angry as it was not even lunch time and I was already tired. I would have preferred to save my energy for the climbs ahead.

It was not so long before we were wrestling with our bikes over stones and small boulders again. But this time it was the only way we could go. We went through a wooded area that was fairly straight then we started to descend. As I was struggling slowly making my way over loose stones, I saw that the other two were less cautious, I then decided to go for it, otherwise I would have been there all day. I felt like I was skimming over the stones, rather then each stone knocking me off-balance.

The decent finished with a large gauge out of the ground that ran across the whole path. I noticed that Phil had stopped to take a photo of me crossing it as he thought I may fall off at that point. Phil is a regular mountain biker and is used to that type of ground. Unfortunately, I had never cycled on anything more rough than a bridleway. As I hit the gauge, I heard a thud as my back wheel hit the edge of it. I did manage to stay on my bike in spite of Phil’s lack of confidence in my self-preservation. It did make a good picture though.

Once we passed this, the cycle route got a little better. We saw some lovely views and once we reached the river we travelled north, with the river not far away until we got to Eden Village. When we got to Eden Village I felt very ill and was thankful there was a visitors centre. Phil decided to map the area for Open Cycle Maps, but at the time he did not realise that the area had already been completely mapped.

We stopped at the Eden Village dam for lunch. I was so tired and ready to stop, as we admired the beauty of where we were. After lunch we all cycled down to the visitors centre once more to buy some water. We found out that this dam was of 20+ dams along the waterway. We stocked up on water and were on our way.

We were grateful to have no more rough track for the rest of the day. But that was not the last adventure for the day. We continued going north along the edge of the Cambrian mountains, seeing wonderful views. The climbs were not as bad as they had been, but as we were on the edge of a mountain range there were climbs but the reward for the climb was the view.

We were heading for Llanidloes as the campsite.was just past Llanidloes. When we got a few miles from Llanidloes, we found a pub and decided to stop for a break. We sat down on the picnic tables at the back of the pub. Mark got the maps out while I went to source some well deserved beer. I found that this pub served my favourite beer, which I had only had once before ‘Rev James’. I went to tell the guys about my discovery, and rave about the Mahogany coloured ale. Mark and Phil said that they would try it, so I ordered us all a pint of it. We assessed our situation, and discovered that we were only a few miles from Llanidloes on quite roads, so we decided to take it easy. After the first pint of ‘Rev James’, the guys agreed that it was a truly nice pint, and we had another. We discovered that the pub was running out of ‘Rev James’ so we had to toss a coin to decide who would have the two pints that the pub had left and who would have the ‘Guest Ale’. The rules would be that two of us would toss a coin, the person that lost would toss the coin with the third person. Unfortunately, I lost both coin tosses, which meant the guys would drink my favourite ale. The ‘Guest Ale’ was horrible. It was cloudy and very bitter, it obviously did not have enough time to settle.

After a couple of pints and a break we continued. However, there were two things that we did not realise 1. There were some big climbs ahead and 2. Beer makes your muscles very weak. Within seconds of leaving the pub I was regretting the beer. The climbs, which were nothing like the climbs earlier or the day before, felt like they were 25 degree climbs. Looking back on it, I do not think it was more than about 8 degree climb. It took us ages, we climbed and climbed and climbed. Once we reached the top we started to descend. Since we were full of beer and exhausted from the day so far, we let loose. We cycled down this steep winding road, which had large drops to the left of the road. We looked at each other and let loose and cycled down there so fast that when I turned the corners the back wheel of my bike skidded out, which added to the fun. As the other guys had all of their kit on their back wheels and I had my kit balanced at a ratio of 70:30, with most of the weight at the backed. The other guys had enough weight on their back wheel so they did not skid. I had so much fun, it was like being a child again going down a large hill on a sledge in the ice.

Following this we got to Llanidloes, We were so tired that at the shop we decided that we would all cook together. We felt that we needed to replenish our energy and build muscle for going over the Cambrian mountains the next day. So that meant that the main ingredients should be potatoes for carbs and Chicken for protein. So we bought our things and travelled the short distance to the campsite.

We had a plan that since we really needed carbs that we would all cook a pot of potatoes each. Phil’s trangia cooked them first. But it still took a lifetime for the potatoes to be cooked. When it was dark hours after we started preparing the potatoes they were cooked enough to eat.

We started eating the potatoes as they were done and just put some margarine on them. Whilst eating potatoes from my smaller billy tin. I started cooking the chopped up chicken breasts with mushroom and anything that we could buy from the shop to go with it, while the other two put more potatoes on. It was a tea that we ate as it was looked but it took so long to complete.

After eating we went to bed. We needed sleep to get over the days activities and we were aware.that the following day we would have to cycle over the Cambrian mountains. The campsite had a river nearby and the noise helped is to get to sleep really quickly.

Day 4 >

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