Summit2cycle wales

On July the 28th 2018 I left my home town of Bridgend and set out to cycle 600 miles around Wales and to climb the Welsh 3 peaks along the way;  “Pen Y fan, Cadair Idris and Snowdon”. Self supported and camping along the way I had only myself to push through the tough times. After originally planning 14 days I ended up doing it in 10 despite the bloody head wind for the majority of the trip, exhausted with red legs I finally made it back in one piece.

 

An idea of the planned route of around 600 miles.

On my way

Saturday 28th July – 11am and I had left my home and waved my beautiful wife goodbye; for the next two weeks I was on my own. Buzzing with excitement with no idea of what was ahead, I was ready for what Wales had to offer and the challenges this adventure would bring. But first off I had to stop for a quick pint 10 miles up the road in the “Star pub” with my mate Sion. He had helped me train for the last 6 months and I had dragged him around Wales with me during that time checking out the mountains and testing out gear and all that. I had put him through shit so a pint with the person who had agreed to join me on the crazy days and nights deserved a pint even though it was midday and I had 60 miles to go. This send off pint was a must. After leaving, I cruised along the south coast until I reached Cardiff where I had to have a picture of the Millennium Stadium in the back round otherwise for some reason the trip wouldn’t have been quite right, and for what reason? No other reason than that Im just weird and once the thought had  popped into my head it had to be done. Just like this challenge!

The picture I had to take with the stadium in the back.

Leaving Cardiff I followed the Taff Trail towards Brecon until all of a sudden I was faced with a Castle and of a lot of people, it turned out that it was Caerphilly Castle and there was a fair taking place. I had some where along the way taken the wrong turn and ended up 2 miles off track. I wouldn’t have known this if it wasn’t for a gentleman named Mike who noticed me not looking like any old commuter with a hundred bags hanging off his bike. He offered to show me the way back to the path so I could carry on with my journey. So carry on I did for another 30 odd miles through pouring rain, gale force winds and thunder and lightening one minute to sunshine and pure bliss the next. The Welsh weather is so unpredictable which is the reason that Michael Fish could never get it right! Anyway apart from the weather playing up and me getting lost, the chain slipping off 3 miles from base camp, jamming the back wheel for about half an hour to which I had to off load all the bags to get the wheel off while getting covered in oil, the day was a success and the reason being is I’d made it to my first stop; at the base of Pen Y Fan. I had purposely booked to camp on the grounds of a YHA because they had a shed where I could lock my bike whilst I climbed the mountain in the morning. Tent set up and bike asleep I was lucky enough that this place had the facility of beer, so of course I had to have a night cap of Brecon Brewery Ale before bed, ready for the long day ahead that I had planned. 

Wet tent ready for the well needed sleep.

Sunday 29th July – After a horrendous night of torrential rain the Coleman’s tent had not let me down and kept the rain on the outside unlike some festival tents I’ve had in the past. It was not just the night that had the bad weather, but after weeks of the best continuous sunshine we’d had in years it decided that this weekend it was not going to play ball and piss down with gale force winds. I decided not to cycle that day and just climb Pen Y fan then leave early the next day. Hiking up that day was a wet and windy experience but it was a good laugh being against the elements. After a 9 mile hike completely soaking wet and carrying shoes which some one had left on the mountain, Random!! I decided to retreat for the day and try and dry my gear before the next day. I sat for the rest of the day reading “Richard Parks Beyond the Horizon” which is an epic read about his struggle with a life changing injury and how he finds his way with adventure challenges. Legend.

A rather wet mountain hike of Pen-Y-Fan.

Monday 30th July – The morning started bright and dry which was a change, a bowl of porridge and a black coffee and I was eager to get my ass on the road again. After packing and re bagging the bike, the plan was to make up for lost time. Travelling the 30 miles to Builth Wells flew by, and before I knew it I was pulling up at a pub just south of Newtown. I had done 60 miles through some lovely country side with incredible views of the Beacons and some great wildlife. When I arrived in Newton it was only 2pm. I sat on the pub bench and ate my sandwich and strawberry welsh cakes that I had come across in Builth Wells wondering if I should go on. If I were to stay, being mid afternoon would have been dangerous because I know I would have ended up getting rat-arsed in the pub out of boredom, so I decided to go on the extra 40 miles to Llanrhaedr ym Mochnant. I’d had a good tail wind on the way so I took this as an advantage to do my first 100 mile ride. I had wanted to see the biggest waterfall in Wales, Pistyll Rhaeadr, so I decided to get as close to that as I could so I could go early the next morning. Another 30 miles later after passing Welshpool and nearly getting killed by an on coming vehicle I got lost; the sat nav told me to take a left turn but I noticed a lamppost with a ‘Do not follow sat nav’ sign, which I chose to ignore, 30 minutes and a massive hill later I was coming back out of that turn as the road turned into a bush. The only way to get to where I need to be now was to go back 30 miles or go over the border towards Oswestry England. An extra 10 miles or so was added onto the journey and by the last 5 miles I was starting to feel drained. It had turned out to be a lovely summers day and I found my self having to stop at pubs to fill my bottles because I was drinking so much, the sweat was dripping off me. 

Signs of the day.

In the last 2 to 3 miles I was happy to be getting close, as I’d been battering against the wind since turning back into Wales The end was close, then whilst changing my gears going up a hill my chain decided to slip just like before and jam the wheel. To say I was tamping wouldn’t be true, it proper pissed me off! I sat for a moment to compose myself and had to think of why I was there. It had been a long day with about 110 miles of cycling and as I sat I thought ‘you wanted this, you wanted a challenge so get on with it!’ so I got my backside up and sorted the problem, before I knew it I was on my way and rocking up into the campsite which was such a good feeling. After setting up camp I jumped to have a quick shower, I’d heard there was a pub within a five minute walk and a pint or four was well called for; also the fact that I had no signal and they had wifi meant I could inform my wife I was still alive and she didn’t need to phone the missing person helpline. A short walk later and I was at the pub, but after a brisk four pints of Brains smooth and a bowl of chips I retreated back through a dark wet field in flip flops and passed the hell out for the night, being next to the trickling river I just hoped with all the water and beer I’d had I wouldn’t piss myself in the night.

Beautiful site morning.

Tuesday 31st July – What a cracking sleep and to wake up in such beautiful surroundings I knew it was going to be a good day. I hurried to get the tent away and before I left I adjusted the back derailleur so that the slipping of the chain wouldn’t happen again, and it didn’t thank god. It was time to see the biggest waterfall in Wales, Pistyll Rhaeadr, which was 10 miles back in the other direction but that was the whole point of waking up earlier so that I wouldn’t lose too much time, my aim was to reach Rhyl by the end of the day. Riding to the waterfall seemed to go on forever but I eventually made it just as it started to hammer down with rain again, yay.  You could see the falls as you grew near and it did look pretty epic, ‘New Zealand esque’  I might say. I left the bike and it was only a 2 second walk to where the waterfall stood, I had a good look around, took some wet pictures then headed back to pick up a cornetto at the little cafe on site. Not long and I was on the road again and passing a unique sight of a little book shop on the lane; quite a cool looking shack I thought as it was rugged looking and felt like a Harry Potter type was going to pop out and offer me tea.

Pistyll Rhaead

After riding for an hour or so I was passing the pub from the previous night, ahead I could see the long road that seemed to go up and on forever, and that’s exactly what it did. By the time I’d hit the top, any liquid from the night before had long gone, half way up there was a huge buzzard just gliding about which I watched in awe for a while. My relief when the top emerged and showed a stunning open view of the Snowdonia range was amazing, it looked awesome and with the added fact that it was mostly downhill from here to Bala. From Bala to Rhyl it was just rolling hills and some beautiful countryside sights, it seemed to fly by and before I knew it I could see a mass of wind turbines out at sea. Seeing that sight was awesome because it meant I had cycled from south to north Wales. Buzzing from that fact and it being such a nice day I decided to pass on through Rhyl and head 20 miles on to Conway, it was a stunning ride along the front all the way with sea views to the right and mountains to the left. I stopped at Conway Castle to have a snap or two then carried onto a campsite in Penmaenmawr, arriving there I popped the tent in an awesome location with a view to die for. I washed all the days dirt away, I was ready to hit the sack.

Today’s sights.

Wednesday 1st August – Awaking to yet another beautiful blue sky, I composed myself and planned the days cycle: Follow the coastal path to Anglesey, cross Anglesey to Holyhead then head back to set up camp at the base of Snowdonia in the town of Llanberis. Didn’t seem like too much hardship, only 75 miles happy days. Riding to the Menai Bridge was full of gorgeous scenery but with a heavy head wind which made progress slow. First plan: to cross the iconic Menai Bridge then head to the train station of the town with the longest name in the world “llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’. It’s the one place my wife told me I had to get a picture from and the bike had to be in it for proof. 

The village with the longest name in the world.
At the train station.

 Town reached, picture taken, I headed off towards Holyhead which would be the halfway point of this journey, seldom did I know this day would take a turn and become a massive battle against the elements. Nearly 3 hours of pushing through the head wind which had grown stronger I reached Holyhead where I became lost. The bike path seemed to fizzle out and I ended up having to ask people where the end of the path was, to my surprise everyone I asked didn’t have a clue. I was expecting some monument or a plaque that welcomed every rider at the end of the path; this wasn’t the case, so I took a picture of the dock sign stating Holyhead and decided to head back. 

Drab weather at Holyhead.

 As the weather started to turn, so did the wind. I was still riding into oncoming wind and it felt so hard to pedal the bike. This part of the day was hard; pushing through unchanged scenery of farm land lanes, it felt like I was going nowhere, but the view of Snowdonia in the distance kept my spirit up even though it was approaching very slowly, I knew I would get there eventually as long as I didn’t stop for a pint. When the Menai Bridge came into sight I knew that the end of Anglesey was near, a quick snap of me with the bridge in the back round and off I went happy that Anglesey was ticked off the list, it was by far the hardest ride but the day was far from over. 

So happy to see the Menai Bridge with Snowdonia in view.

  Just getting over the Menai Bridge and plotting the route to Llanberis it started to piss down and the winds grew even stronger again, I felt like a Hobbit and the mountain was trying to keep me away. After 12 hours of solid riding with a constant battle against the wind, it was now starting to test my patience. I don’t mind the rain but the wind just slows you down to a walking pace and it’s a right pain in the arse on top of tired legs. I had to just put my head down and smash through it, I was so close to the site and the thought a cold beer was well in waiting. As I rocked up into Llanberis I was exhausted but happy that after the hardship of the day I was finally here. Before getting to camp I picked up a supply of Redstripe which I was most looking forward to, I got myself eight cans as I felt I deserved it. Setting up camp and there was a lucky break in the weather, I swiftly put up the tent as quick as I could then washed my smelly, dirty, aching body and cocooned myself to the tent where I put tunes on and got pissed. Enjoying the relaxation and resting with a few beers, thinking that my day had come to an end, I could hear a commotion around my tent. I popped outside to find a young girl who was originally hoping to stay at the YHA only to be told there was no room for her. She was trying to put up a tent that she’d never used and never set up before. It was now once again pouring with rain, blowing with gale and pitch black. Luckily for her, my tipsy self wearing shorts and sandals along with a fellow camper, helped to set her tent up. I loved the fact that her trip here was total randomness in planning, as she told us that she just wanted to climb Snowdon, out of the blue she’d decided to travel here and see what happens. True adventure travelling, you just go with the flow and take the moment for what it is. Epic.

Thursday 2nd August – Considering the over indulgence of beer I didn’t feel too bad; still needing a pick me up I popped down to Pete’s Eats for a full breakfast before tackling Snowdon. After the well needed brekkie and the biggest mug of coffee I’d ever drunk, I snooped around for some new boots as my original ones had got soaked climbing Pen y Fan. I had carried them on the back of the bike all this way trying to air dry them but with no such luck. I had been needing a new pair for some time so this was my excuse to myself. It didn’t take me long to find a pair of boots, Dolomite Tofana gtx, Italian. All I knew is they felt good and were gortex so they would keep my feet dry, SOLD. Happy with the purchase I headed back to camp to get ready for the hike. As it was still early days I thought I’d give my bike a quick lube and check over before hitting the hills, all looking good and nearly done I pulled the back wheel off to clean the cogs and as I lifted it out of the frame the axle fell out. It had snapped clean in half and there was no way of botching it back together, that would explain why the ride the day before was so hard going and I felt like burning the bike. Luckily enough whilst having brekkie I noticed a bike shop that was opposite, so I popped down with the parts and fair play to the lads in the shop they managed to fit me in and sorted me out with a new axle, I’m so lucky to have checked that when I did.

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Busted Axle.

 Anyway, 2 hours later, bike fixed, new boots sorted it was now finally Snowdon time. Only once before I had climbed this cracking mountain and that was when I came up to recce it with my mate Sion, only that time we got completely lost and soaked at the beginning. We had climbed the 3 Welsh Peaks that weekend to check out the routes for this trip but that’s another story all together. Knowing the way this time, not soaking and feeling good, I headed off up the Llanberis path towards a mountain covered by cloud. As it was mid week it was slightly quieter compared to the first time I had climbed, it was a peaceful hike most of the way up. The weather had turned pretty shitty but it was still warm so I carried on in just my T-shirt, It was that crappy sticky rain so I was getting drenched, but I was in the zone and loving it. One thing I love about hiking the mountains is everyone always smiles and says hello, even if soaked to the bone and tired people are just happy to be there, outdoors and in the moment, I love that. An hour and forty five minutes later I reached the top, which was being hogged by the numbers that had caught the train. I took a brief moment to take a snap at the summit then headed in to have a beer at the top of Wales, which was a Snowdonia ale brewed by Purple Moose Brewery and it was beautiful. 

After a lovely chat with 3 blokes and a well deserved beer I thought it’s time to head back down, but not before having a picture with the Snowdon sign which one of the gentleman informed me about, cheers mate. It didn’t take too long to get back down and before I knew it I was back at the campsite. After a quick shower I headed down to ‘The Heights’ for some grub which was amazing and a few beers before a good night sleep. I wanted to get to Dolgellau tomorrow and had a few places to see along the way so an earlyish night I thought would be best.

Snowdon

Friday 3rd August – Up early, packed and ready I was off once again. It took me a while to decide where I was going to head as I had two routes in mind, but I went for the route that was the scenic sea view or so I thought it would be. First stop was to check out Caernarfon Castle and the town around it which was pretty cool I must say, as I had the bike and everything on it I couldn’t have a proper look around so I swore to come back at a later date; which I did with the wife some months later. After nearly a week of constant riding long miles with a heavy bike and getting soaked everyday I was feeling a bit pissed off, I had to remind myself why I was doing this and what I wanted from it. I was just having a moment. At that time it’s like my wife was feeling my thoughts because I had an email through from her, she had got in contact with the legend himself Richard Parks who had sent a very nice email, which gave me the pick me up that I had desperately needed. It read…

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That little ending quote of “it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun” to this day sticks with me for many situations. There’s ups and downs to everything even the best of things, so enjoy the moment for what it is because it doesn’t last, it only lasts in your memories and what you can take from it you can look back at to reminisce, learn, laugh or think what the hell was I doing. That set me for the day and many days up until writing this, cheers Rich. I made a brief call back home to see if she was pulling my leg and if the message was real then it was back on the road heading south to Porthmadog. 

Caernarfan Castle

  The first leg started on a lovely off road cycle path which was a nice peaceful change from being on the road. I was just relaxing and chilling my way forward until a family of four all on bikes pass me. First the son and daughter, then the mother then the dad not too far behind them, you literally couldn’t of written this but as he was about to pass his pedal arm fell off causing him to via straight into a bush. I couldn’t help but laugh at first then once I’d had a chuckle I helped him out. After searching through my spares and tools I found the right Allen Key that was needed to put the arm back on. Bike fixed and no one dead I stayed for a chat with the family where they told me they were originally from Caernafon but moved to Canada 10 years ago and were here visiting friends and family. They spoke about the amazing outdoors that Canada has to offer and all of the cycle and camping trips they had done whilst living out there. I was warned about the mosquitos as well. If I was travelling the world at the time, Canada would have been my next stop because of the way they spoke about the country with passion, excitement and adventure. As lovely as it was to chat and learn about these people that literally fell into my life, I had to get on. Another few miles on and the heaven’s opened once again and the lovely bike path suddenly turned very eerie. It’s like the sky had dropped and the visibility had dropped to a few meters, everything seemed to have disappeared; no people, no sounding birds, and in Wales of all places, no sheep, there was a very strange feeling around. After an hour of cycling through what could be described as Silent Hill, I emerged out of the cloud. Finally out of the white out, I could actually see where I was going and I was coming up to Porthmadog. A lovely little town with a beautiful harbour and an amazing brewery ‘Purple Moose Brewery’. I was going to pop in, but it was closed so I carried on heading south to Portmeirion. After passing the harbour I noticed to my left there was an old steam train passing. This was awesome to see, smoke puffing out of the chimney with the old school carriages. I later found out that it was the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway, a nice unexpected sight to see along the way. I stood on the seat of my bike up against a 10 foot wall to get a quick snap whilst trying not to fall.

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway

 The one place I had really wanted to see for its architecture and colourful buildings was the seaside town of Portmeirion but I was disappointed upon arrival that I wasn’t able to store my bike anywhere, which meant I had to miss out walking around the town. I did see the side of a few of the brightly coloured buildings so I took that as a win and carried on with my day. The next 20 miles of cycling down to Barmouth following the coast, was a nice change even with the weather being a bit drab. The route passed through Harlech, where there’s a lovely castle etched into the hill overlooking the sea, this must have been built back in the day to keep an eye on the Irish. Surely? Anyway onwards to Barmouth and this place seemed to be teaming with life, it didn’t seem to be a big place but was so busy and a pretty looking. One thing this place does have, is a massively long bridge called ‘The Barmouth Bridge’, which passes over the Afon Mawddach Estuary and as sad as it sounds I was really looking forward to cycling over this bridge and getting some pictures, even with the visibility of the surroundings being poor it still looked like a beautiful place. There’s something about the sound of the rolling wheels over a cladded bridge which is strangely satisfying, as weird as it sounds. 

 Surroundings taken in, pictures taken and drizzle starting I headed off towards Cadair Idris to find camp. The journey to camp took me 2 miles along the estuary on a gravel path, through woodland with gushing streams and up a mountain forest lane, where I noticed sheep skulls on sticks hidden amongst the overgrowth, it was all peacefully haunting. 10 hours and 80 miles later I had finally reached the base of Cadair Idris, the mountains were nowhere to be seen as it was swollen with cloud. Wasting no time, I promptly put the tent up in the lovely drizzling rain and jumped into a well needed shower. One problem I quickly found about being camped in this place is that there is no signal which was a problem as I hadn’t spoken to the wife since I’d set off; so not to have emergency services being called I started walking to find signal. The walk ended up being a hike thanks to some local who told me that you could only get signal down by the estuary which meant a 4 mile round trip. To be honest it was quite nice to take in more of the surrounding at a slower pace. After a conversation with my wife to let her know I was still alive I headed back and went straight to sleep as tomorrow’s day was going to be a big one. 

Wet set up at the base of Cadair Idris.

Saturday 4th August – 4am and the alarm woke me from my cwtch. Outside the rain had stopped but the mountain was still hidden in the cloud and it was dark. One strong black coffee and a saucepan of porridge later, I was ready for the day ahead. A trek of the pony path to the top of Cadair Idris (Pen-y-Gader) to hopefully have a view from the top; a view I am yet to experience, then after a quick picture, trek back down to pack the gear away and cycle 60 miles south to New Quay. Sounded simple enough.

I set off at 5am walking mountain forest lanes in the dark with only my head lamp as light, it was massively creepy at first and all I could think of was those sheep skulls from the day before, but it didn’t take long before the sunlight started to emerge and the landscape start to show it’s beauty. That morning is one that will stay with me forever because of the purity of the surrounding and the silencing of industrial and human activity was candy to the ears; just the sound of waking birds, grazing sheep and the backdrop to the Wales I had been looking for. The path starts by going through a small piece of forestry but its not long before it opens up to steep rocky mountain views one side and an overview of what has been travelled, it seems to ascend quite quickly because before you know it you’ve zig zagged your way to the bottom point of the ridge. At this point the cloud had started to lift and the light was well and truly up which allowed me to start to oversee the distant surroundings, the viewing point was absolutely amazing and every direction was a picture of its own and just breathtaking. 

 

 I was getting very excited about reaching the top and I could see the cloud starting to shift above, even with the lovely blister the new boots had given me I pushed on hoping to finally get the 360 view of the surrounding scenery I’d been waiting for. The last 100 meters from the top and needless to say the mountain got shrouded in cloud and the visibility dropped to 10 meters, some things are best left hidden and I accepted that today was not the day she would bear all. I scrambled the small distance to the summit and had my foggy picture, I waited looking around hoping that the cloud would lift like a magical moment of serenity but that ceased to happen so I started heading back down.

 

Cadair Idris Summit shrouded in cloud.

I started to run back down to try and gain time but found myself stopping to take pictures constantly as every step was just mind blowing in every direction. I know I keep going on but I think you had to have been there, in the moment, and gone through what I had the past few days to realise that; you will go through shit, there will be moments of doubt, you will think “I can’t do it”, there will be thoughts of giving up, but being positive and pushing your body and mind through the negative times will lead you on to experience life changing moments that will stay with you forever, just like this beautiful perfect picturesque morning was to me.

 

I had taken longer than I thought I would have because of the picture taking and I had run out of water; but not in a life threatening situation I found a box which was beside one of the stilt walk overs, I opened it to find several bottles of water and a few bottles of protein shakes. How random and conveniently timed, I thought, so I picked up two bottles of each and left the rest there for the next hikers in need of a drink. From there it didn’t take too long before I was down and walking the forest lanes back to camp where I found loads of blackberry bushes growing all along the roadside, feeling peckish I helped myself and found them to be mouth wateringly tasty; there was something about those blackberries which tasted unlike any I had eaten before. Four hours later and I was back to where the day began, eager to move I packed and loaded the bike in no time. Whilst doing this the weather decided to completely clear and in the distance I could see the summit of Cadair Idris; bloody typical I thought but never mind it was on to the next phase of the journey. 

 

Cadair Idris

 Whilst leaving Dolgellau the place just kept showing it’s beauty; from the cobble streets and little quaint town, to the broad views of the mountains , the estuary, and sea from the hill tops, this place was truly magical. Anyway as stunning as this place was I had to get on, trying to leave was like trying to escape its gravitational pull. I came across the biggest, longest hill I have ever ventured up; when you think you were at the top another section of incline would emerge and some parts extremely steep. Pushing a heavy loaded bike up a mountain on what now turned out to be a baking day is a very sweaty affair, no doubt there’s always an end to a climb and what goes up must come down, which is exactly what I did back down the other side into a valley filled with forestry. Most of the journey from this point was on road but there were sections of cycle path that past old slate mines and followed running rivers where there was plenty of views and nature to see. I stopped at the village of Machynlleth, which I still can’t pronounce properly, to have a bite to eat and a little rest. Before long I was on the road again and the weather was just spectacular; just a small breeze enough to cool you but ineffective of slowing you down. Everything was running perfectly until my back tyre decided to ruin the party by blowing out. At the point it happened I was being overtaken by several cars and the bike was becoming harder to control, I did shit my pants for a few seconds but luckily enough and to my relief a random lay by emerged. Considering the distance and some of the ground I had ridden over the bike hadn’t done bad to get this far without a puncture. I’m kinda glad I did get one because the trip wouldn’t have been the same without changing the tyre on the side of a busy road, on a boiling hot day and getting covered in oil; all part of the experience and fun I guess. 

 

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Puncture repair time

  After that little hiccup it was plain sailing cycling through Aberystwyth and continuing along the roads which followed close to the coast. The day was so clear that there was a point along the road that when you looked back you could see the Snowdonia range pretty clear in the distance, it gave me a visual on just how far I had travelled that day and a realisation that Wales is a pretty small country, but the potential for the exploration of it’s beauty was endless.  As I came through Aberaeron I knew I was close to the finish for the day and happy of that.  With crystal clear skies and the sun shining I was looking forward to setting up camp and finding a pub for a well needed cold beer. After cycling through a rather busy New Quay town, I made it to camp where I quickly set up and showered, once done, off to the pub for that cold beer and some pub grub. The pub was a 10 minute walk through the lane, so in no time I was stood at the bar ordering my first pint of Doombar, I also ordered food only to be told that all tables were booked so I wouldn’t be able to order. No problem I thought; beer and peanuts would do just fine. As the sun was blazing and the air was warm I sat outside and got talking to some randomers who holiday there all the time. I told them of my adventure so far and they spoke of Australia and how they would like to be out there, many conversations passed lips until they got called for food. The beer was going down so well and the fact that I had to order two pints at a time because of a minimum card spend, was keeping me fuelled. Later on in the evening and after a fair few pints I re joined the group I had spoken to outside previously, there were now a few of us just drinking and having a laugh, before I knew it shots were being poured, pints were flowing and a ‘lock in’ was in progress. We must have been drinking until around 2am before I left the pub, I took a fairwell snap with the guys and left for the short walk back to camp. Now what should have been an easy one way walk in one direction through the lanes became mission impossible; it was so dark that the night sky looked like nothing I had ever seen and being so drunkenly fascinated with it I called the wife to explain what I was seeing. At some point between leaving and calling my wife I ended up becoming lost, now how this happened  I have no idea because it was a one way lane from the pub to camp; I had walked to within falling distance of the site and managed to turn on myself and walk back the other way. My wife was getting slightly upset on the end of the phone while myself in the mean time was still fixated on the starry sky. Luckily out of no where 2 people appeared and asked if I was the guy with the bike and small tent, I said I was and that I was lost, they told me to follow them as they were going back to that same site. If they hadn’t have turned up I probably would have slept in a hedge so thank you to who ever you were, being so drunk I can’t really remember getting in the tent or passing out, but I did know that it had been a bloody great day followed by an eventful night.

 

Pub lock-in with some lovely drunken folks (Bomber in the blue vest)

Sunday 5th August – From the second I opened my eyes I knew this day was going to be graft, as good as the night before was I was surely going to pay. The sun had already made it’s debut as the heat in the tent was horrendous which wasn’t helping the cause, I felt like a slug that had found beer and dropped into it over night; beer sweats with a side of being smashed in the face with a bat was the mornings awakening. I struggled to pack the gear away swaying side to side and barely having the energy to stand, any on looker must have had a great laugh at my expense. After a while I finally managed to get the gear packed and on the bike, off I went rolling down the same lane I’d got lost in last night feeling like complete shit. I struggled with the first hill and decided to get some food and fluid in to give me some energy and life. The day didn’t consist of too much as I struggled massively with the night before’s  alcohol abuse. I surely didn’t regret it, as it was a fantastic day followed by an unforgiving night. The majority of the ride consisted of rolling hills one after each other, a lot of road cycling and a brief traffic jam of sheep in the lanes, apart from that I got my head down and pushed to get to camp which was to be in Saundersfoot. The relief I felt when I passed through Tenby knowing that I was so close to sleep was just ace. I rolled into camp around 7pm after a day of hard graft due to self abuse, knowing that tomorrows cycle would be my last but would mean me doing 75 miles back to Bridgend was a great feeling yet a daunting prospect. I decided to set camp, shower my stinking sweaty self and drink one of the muscle repair drinks I had acquired off Cadair Idris. I had no problem passing out that night as not long after laying down I was out for the count.

Monday 6th August – Awake after a good long night sleep and with the weather looking up I was going to make the most of todays ride, as it would turn out to be the last of the trip, day 10. Knowing it would come to an end was a satisfying thought but also a sad one; this trip had truly had it’s up and downs but in total it was an amazing adventure of my home country. Packed up and bike kitted I was on my way, just a short stop at the shop to top up on Lucazade, Mars bars and some carb snacks, the beginning to the day ahead had commenced. The route took me through country lanes with lovely views as usual, passing through Pendine and heading towards St Clears I ended up on the A40 which is a motorway type road. I was a bit unsure whether to go on but thought f**k it; it had been pretty slow riding up until now because of the rolling hills from cove to cove so I thought I could make up some time by flying 7 miles to Carmarthen. Once I reached Carmarthen after a dodgy ass ride next to the fastest traffic of the trip, I ended up passing a McDonalds where I thought I’d treat myself to a Big Mac with salty fries and a strawberry milk shake. I’d been so used to eating Mars and snack bars that this was a super treat to smash down my throat. Fully fuelled and salted to the max I was ready to  smash the day ahead, there were only a few miles of on road cycling, and as I approached Kidwelly I was put onto a cycle path which was a beautiful change from the carnage of fast traffic. Passing through Pembrey then the lovely seaside village of Bury Port, I was on the path which took me around the River Loughor. The ride was flat and easy which allowed me to relax and take in the surrounding scenery, which on that day with the sun out was beautiful.  As I passed through Bury Port I was joined by a fellow cyclist who stayed with me chatting up until Llanelli, he informed me of the ride ahead which sounded like heaven compared to what I had previously had, flat easy riding mostly along the coast all the way to Bridgend; this ride was getting better by the minute. Before long I found myself passing over the Gower which was a downhill ride on a path that was covered with a forest canopy, the time flew by because all of a sudden Swansea sea front appeared right in front of me. Now being so close to home I was buzzing from adrenaline, the sun was blazing, my wheels were rolling and I was rocking out with Goldfinger.

Swansea sea front

The last 2 to 3 hours flew by so quick, I was just going through the motions that I had nearly achieved the random idea that had popped into my head a year earlier. Swansea passed by in a flash and so did Port Talbot, everything was going so smoothly that I was anticipating for something to go wrong. It was around 4pm and I was coming into Pyle which is where I worked so I thought I’d pop in to see the boys on my way past, they took the piss out of my tan lines and the fact that I had lost weight; it’s surprising how much weight I had actually lost in 10 days which I found out when I got home. Leaving Pyle and I only had 5 miles left, those 5 miles I knew very well as I cycled them everyday back and forth for work; today was no different except for the fact I had cycled the whole of Wales and climbed it’s three iconic mountains along the way. The journey was coming to an end but the adventure of the exploration of Wales was just starting. From this trip I didn’t know what I wanted to learn or how I would feel when finished, I had set out to see my country and what it had to offer and what I found was it had everything if you were willing to explore it’s beauty and put yourself out there. The generosity and kindness of the people I met just blew me away, and those times when I thought I was doomed, a helping hand just happened to appear still to this day pickles my mind, what I learnt is that “everyone can help someone”.

Opening my back gate I was welcomed by my loving wife with a camera to capture my exhausted elated face. With its ups and downs, every moment was a learning curve and a memory I will never forget. 

“Go live your adventure.”

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The End

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