Gathering sun beams

There are sun beams out there if you just go and look for them.

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The last week riding through Wales has been full of precious moments. The sun beams have been real at times, shining down through the trees so bright and strong that I almost felt them as I passed through. They also act as a lovely metaphor for people, views, moments of delight, even a pint of golden ale at the end of another day of endless ups and downs. The Welsh coast is certainly hilly, giving Cornwall a good run for it’s money both in the effort required to ride it and the visual rewards that appear around every corner.

Wales coastal scenery can rival anywhere

Wales coastal scenery can rival anywhere

I thought I knew this corner of Wales quite well but my visits have all been car based and even though Gill and I love to take to the quieter roads when travelling I quickly realised last week that I haven’t even scratched this landscape’s surface. Take Cardigan for example. I have passed through this busy little town dozens of times before. I have wandered it’s streets and enjoyed it’s picturesque river setting before moving on down the A487 towards St. Davids. What I have never done before is to go north up to Cardigan Island where you can find some amazing coastal scenery.

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We camped opposite the island a couple of nights ago and took a walk around the headland in the evening light.

Gill enjoying a moment

Gill enjoying a moment

The sun was low behind hazy clouds producing a golden light that picked out the drama of the cliffs in pin sharp clarity. We scanned the flat calm seas for any signs of dolphins but had to settle for a couple of seals, one of which bobbed curiously in the water, seemingly as pleased to see us as we were to see him.

 

Who you looking at?

Who you looking at?

The next morning as we left the camp site we startled a couple of badgers as they strolled nonchalantly down the lane only to disappear into the undergrowth in panic at being caught out well past their bed time. As I cycled down a quiet lane a short time later I was treated to the sight of a hobby flying just inches above the road ahead of me. It alighted briefly in the hedge, thought better of it and put on a further display of breath taking aerobatics as I chased it down the lane. Wonderful sights that will live in my memories long after I have hung up my panniers.

We stayed in Aberystwyth last night with another sun beam in the form of Hannah, aka the Seaside Donkey. That doesn’t sound quite right but it will make more sense if you go and read her blog. Hannah is one of those people that are good to hang around with. She exudes positive energy and it was lovely to be able to talk to someone who has so recently come to the end of a long journey like ours. We sat on the prom last night, surrounded by dozens of seagulls intent on stealing our chips, and we talked about ‘coming down’ from a big adventure and how easy it is to underestimate the amount of rest required before normality returns. Being aware of these things is going to be a distinct advantage when we get home, staying aware will be the difficult bit I fear. It was interesting talking to Hannah about our respective trips and the one theme that kept recurring was the generosity of strangers when you put yourself at their mercy. It’s another memory to cherish and to hang on to once we are being bombarded again by media negativity every day.

With Hannah in Aberystwyth. Swapping tales about sleeping with strangers.

With Hannah in Aberystwyth. Swapping tales about sleeping with strangers.

Tonight we are staying in Machynlleth, somewhere Gill and I lived close to for ten years and I for ten more before that. I must say that riding towards the market town today past so many familiar landmarks it really felt like a bit of a home coming. Almost like a practice run for our arrival back in Freckleton in about ten days time. Thinking of all the people we left behind when we moved from here and those back home now makes me realise how much home is ninety percent friends and family and ten percent place. I find my thoughts turning more and more to these things as our adventure draws to a close. It’s getting harder and harder to avoid thinking about the end of our travels and how we will settle down again once we get home. For the next two days we will be diverted from such thoughts by seeing old friends and enjoying their company and on Saturday we head for the beautiful Lleyn Peninsula and a bit more more sun beam hunting. I’m sure we will find one or two to put in our pockets before we get home.

Aberystwyth basking in the sun

Aberystwyth basking in the sun

 

Abandoning the hair dye

In order to provide some balance and dispel any idea that this is Tony’s dream and I have been press ganged into keeping him company as he is “no good on his own” – his words not mine – I thought I had better have a go at this blogging malarkey. I can’t promise to be as amusing as Tony but if I don’t try I will never know how good or bad I am!

As most of you know, we have been planning this trip in earnest for about four months and thinking of it as something we would “love to do one day” for a lot longer than that. My first experience of cycle touring was in 2006, three days in Mid Wales cycling from home near Machynlleth on a circular route via Abersytwyth involving some of the biggest hills I have ever climbed.Dylife

Anyone who has done those roads will know that they are make or break. No-one can force you to enjoy that experience, or make you repeat it. Cycling to the top of a big hill, stopping to enjoy the view and then freewheeling down the other side is one of cycle tourings’ great pleasures, along with that first cup of tea after you have stopped cycling for the day and pitched the tent, the hot shower, and eating everything in sight!

Packing is an art that I have learned over the last seven years. It is a precision task made easier by the packing list that I grudgingly compiled. Life is pared down to the bare minimum, everything I take has to be hauled up every hill that we climb. Gone is the make up that I carried on the first tour (who’s looking at me anyway?) One on and one in the wash is the basic premise of the wardrobe. We very rarely eat in the same place two nights running anyway so no matter that I might wear the same trousers for two weeks – that may need some thought as I’m not sure I would get away with it for six months!

Abandoning the hair dye is a symbol of how simple life will become once we are on the road. It was as a result of a passing comment from Linda, my hairdresser, as she was applying the colours to my hair a few hair cuts ago. “How will you manage your hair colour while you are on the road?” She very kindly offered to send me off with a wash in, leave twenty minutes and wash out colour. Apart from the fact that the reason I let her colour my hair is that I hate all the faff involved, I have showered in some very draughty shower blocks, where having a shower involves 20p pieces or constantly pushing the button to keep the water running. The thought of having to wait twenty minutes to rinse my hair is not an attractive one!

I can’t promise to always be a cheery companion for Tony. There will probably be days when I hate the hills, my bike, my grey hair, camping, Tony. There will definitely be days when I am distracted by hunger and needing a wee when there is no loo in sight. The reality is that there will be lots of days – we are going for six  months after all. You can’t expect them all to be good, but I am expecting that most of them will be. I have survived the Dent day so I know that even when it is really bad there are moments of joy. There are jelly babies for the hungry moments and plenty of fields to wee in after all.

Rainbow on Barra

Rainbow on Barra

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