Aiming for Mid Wales, Louise and Pete somehow end up in South Wales
The trip didn’t get off to the best of starts. We had planned to go with the rest of the IMC towards Cader Idris, camping rather than bunkhouse, but when Pete rang the campsite he discovered it was closed – water-logged. So with the choice of risking a bunkhouse, or going somewhere else we decided to go to Brecon – after all I have not had a single cold or infection for six months now and I want to keep it that way!
When we arrived at Brecon, things deteriorated. I did the first lob of the weekend in the campsite, landing flat on my back in the mud with a huge bang on the back of the head.
When we woke up, things then got worse as we discovered out bread had been eaten by something in the night. There were just a few slices on either side of a big hole that could be rescued for the day. The weather however was good – cold, crisp and clear. The sky was a strange colour – blue – but on the whole we rather liked that.
We had decided to do a mountain bike ride from the campsite and things started well. The ground was hard with the frost but not icy. Then we reached the second stage of the route – this was described as “many paths but all heading the same way” with the un-written subtext “and none of them any good”. The hillside was thawing and the route went across many muddy streams. Here there is a dilemma. The easiest and driest option – cycle through, is closely related to the hardest and wettest option – try and fail to cycle through. This meant there was a lot of tiptoeing around mud baths – occasionally with the bike on the shoulder. Add into this the fact that these paths are winding through the gorse. And not all paths are end to end paths. So at one point Pete was heard to ask “why are you pushing your bike through that gorse patch” to be told rather snappily “because that is the easiest way forward”. Stage 3 was somewhat easier. Then began the notorious stage 4 which was described as the hardest bike push in the book. This was the scene of the second lob of the weekend. One minute I was pushing the bike uphill; the next I was on my back – again – with the bike on top of me! Once untangled I discovered I was OK, but extremely annoyed – I wasn’t even riding the thing!. Pick up bike and head on up. At one point I had the bike balanced between shoulder and head as I needed my hands for climbing up. Yes, we went scrambling with the bikes. At last we reached the top. Good views and, more to the point, nice soft grass to lie on.
Here we needed a planning session. It was billed as a 3hr ride. We had been going 3 hrs and we were only 1/4 of the way around. We decided to continue onto the furthest point and then come back via some small roads (missing out technical forest, which didn’t sound appealing in the muddy icy conditions, and the pony trekking mud bath). The next sections were much easier; we picked up a loaf of bread in a village and were well on our way back when lob 3 occurred. Pete was cycling down the single track road, saw a car heading towards him and hit the brakes. Since he was on black ice, this led to disaster. Pete left the bike spinning towards the oncoming car. He himself executed a neat 180 turn with flip to end up travelling backwards down the hill in a nice arc curving away to the safety of the side of the road. After much faffing, all was discovered to be basically OK, and at long last we made it back to the campsite, and put a lot of effort into trying to clean the bikes in the dark. We have since discovered that we failed.
Pub, for nerve restorer, pain relief and an extra portion of chips to supplement the dinner. Took the bread to bed with us. This turned out to be a bad move because in the morning we discovered the beastie (smelt like a fox) ate through the tent to get to the bread. Circular hole. 10cm diameter around the join of the groundsheet to fly.
The next morning was also a good hard frost – more of that blue sky stuff, the tent glistened like Christmas decorations, so still that we sat watching the shadow of steam rising from the tea. We decided to go for a walk. This turned out to involve no lobbing – despite a good amount of ice around. Just up the hill, over the hill fort (descending the steep north side was done carefully!) along the ridge, well togged up against a bitter cold wind. The ground was frozen so the peat bog was easy; the descent was down gentle grass. A good piece of entertainment was to be had watching the anomalous behaviour of sheep. They were marching in formation – a line of sheep stretching over 1/2 km. After about 10 minutes the front broke so that we had 3 streams of sheep (reminded us of the start of Dad’s Army). A tad tedious having to walk round the hill and back up onto the ridge line, but all in all very good. Journey home tedious.