23 Hours in the Cambrian Mountains
Thursday. 23rd March.
Komoot route is downloading, bags being packed up across the kitchen floor. How many layers do you take?
Friday. 24th March.
Cycling over the Mud Dock bridge my bags rattle, I stop to tighten them beside the harbour, then the scenic route to the cycle path to rendezvous with Dec.
Bike into the van, after a quick indexing to get that top ring working at its best.
12:00. Arrive Llandovery.
Catching a toilet door (to save that 20p no-one carries except the lovely welsh grandpa)
Stowing the Van on a back street. Sandwiches washed down with caffeine.
Get lost in the Llandovery lanes as GPS fails to connect.
The climbing begins, a long 183m rise into the hills. We are fuelled, legs warming up and rhythm setting in.
100m turn right.
20m turn right.
oh we missed the turn. hurtling through a gate the breaks squeal as the road disappears and we climb.
The Sennybridge ridge rising to the right, spreading its wings and drawing the rain towards us.
Brown barns secluded amongst trees
Then onto the shoulder it goes, climbing the stile
the deluge turn leats to rapid
Paths to small streams,
we slide across the moors
silence, to the backing track; hail stones
Shapes form our navigational aids, steering us around the bogs of Gorllwyn
Oaks, breathing in the season
boulders withholding their broken branches; swept along
will someone have left logs?
We soar along the river's edge, climbing to the first dam.
fragmenting, it falls
the beauty of water pauses in time, we forget the algal blooms 400m from the chicken shed..
the dormant force beckons to be released.
Why wouldn't a river restoration project in the UK deliver? Why hasn't it? Why does it need to happen?
wasn't the bothy turning.
if I can avoid puddles from now until we get there, I MIGHT be able to actually dry these shoes......
...we're going to make it.
A river crossing, no way around but through.. my bike high in the air I accept my fate..
I can't feel how cold my feet are, so maybe it wasn't that bad?
Pulling up, over the hill, the bothy reveals its foreboding warmth.
The suffering to get here blows off as we drop down to our new home
the sensation of the river begins to travel up my leg, it really was that cold
A candle glows in the window, somewhat more austere than waiting empty.
We slot in, a fire warms the main room, embers crackling.
My feet steam for hours as I hold them on the border between pain and comfort.
Pasta boils in the pan.
Wet shoes leant up against the fire.
Gloves hang above.
We join six, making eight.
Three more and a dog arrive eleven.
Another three headlights; what now?
Brushing our teeth, that's a mountain bike light...?
Tossing and turning through the night, wrestling sleeping mats.
Saturday 25th March. 04.49 am.
The light level slowly builds. Nautical twilight.
Exchanging glances from our sleeping bags we rise,
taking it in turns to wear Dec's flip flops to go for a wee.
Kitchen, the sun has risen now.
Water boils, coffee made, porridge cooked.
Gloves are, warm? that won't last
A friend from last night stands shoeless in the river.
Up the wet track, out to the road, through the village
Up through Strata Florida and onto the moors
We climb for 10km, valleys beginning to reveal themselves.
Tarmac, gates, the shiny reflections of villages appear in the distance
We've been out for 23 hours as we arrive back at the van
River crossings, lost tracks, hike-a-bike, new friends, warm fires, shared whiskey, wet feet, true warmth of the sun,
mental exhaustion, fatigue, shivering, sweating, luckily not bleeding
and all in less than half the average weekly screen time......