I am exhausted. Finally made it to Lampeter and found somewhere to camp by 7.30 pm. Pitched the tent and cycled into town to raid a local Sainsbury’s. I am currently eating a very weird supper as dusk turns to night.
This will be a short blog post. More details may follow in a supplementary update, or perhaps I’ll save it for the podcast, Netflix mini series, and accompanying book.
The stats say it all really. Second longest day by distance and biggest day of climbing by a significant margin. Brutal.
And yet. Easily my most enjoyable day on the bike so far. Yes, the relentless climbing took it’s toll on my body and mind, but the sun was shining, the wind was at my back more than in my face, my ribs hurt less than yesterday, and I got to spend an hour in the sea on the best beach I’ve seen in a long time.
Very slow start. Partly waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in (ribs still sore from The Tumble) and partly because it was a busy campsite with lots of lovely, chatty people who were terribly interested in the bike and bike packing gear.
This included the wonderful Rob from Shropshire who insisted on making me a hot drink when I arrived the previous evening – thoroughly soaked from a day of cycling in the rain. He then greeted me this morning with another. Legend.
Didn’t get on the road until 9.30 am, which was much too late. But the weather was transformed. Glorious blue skies. No rain. Wind at my back.
I followed Afon Gwaen through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park initially on a splinter from cycle route 4 and then joining route 82, which I followed most of the day. The valley was breathtaking.
On one of the more evil climbs I caught up with a mountain biker. We were both struggling a little and got to chatting, on my part breathlessly. He said he was from Shropshire (this was becoming a theme) and that his family had a house near Poppit Beach. So he knew the area well.
That was the beach I had targeted for a swim and he kindly offered to show me the fastest route. Local knowledge. Obviously the short cut took us over a big hill.
At one point in the conversation we realised that we had met before, maybe a decade ago, when we were both volunteering at the Shropshire Apple Day. This is an event founded by my father in law, which inspired Jane and I to create the Cambridge Apple Day, and which this chap (John Pygot) had taken over running.
Now I know it’s a small world and we’ve already established that the whole of Shropshire is on holiday in Wales, but even so, this is an astonishing coincidence.
John deposited me at Poppit Beach, which is just stunning. I was feeling sad that I’d been to the Gower and Pembrokeshire with only a mild paddle at Tenby to my name, so I ditched the schedule and spent a happy hour on the beach and in the sea.
Back on the bike, I headed to Cardigan which is known locally as Aberteifi, where I picked up the Teifi river and followed it away from the coast though more stunning valleys and into farmlands.
Chased on three separate occasions today by dogs. None of them looked particularly threatening, but a bit hairy nonetheless. One owner said apologetically, “sorry, he doesn’t like bikes”. I said I was going off them myself.
As I entered Ceredigion I started seeing Welsh flags and big welcome signs everywhere. Flashback to Tenby with the massive harbour party to welcome me (see day 7 blog). Gradually it dawned on me that this wasn’t for me, but to welcome visitors to the national Eisteddfod, which is being held in Tregaron this week.
I’ll say more about Eisteddfods tomorrow. Too tired now.
Raising money for Llamau
The donations keep coming in and I want you all to know that it means a huge amount to me personally and it’s an even bigger deal for Llamau and the young people they support. Thank you.
You can make a donation on just giving here or if you prefer just send me the money in whatever medium works for you and I’ll get it to Llamau.
So many questions coming in. I promise to get to them all eventually.
Darren from Cambridge wants to know how my backside and other sensitive areas of body are holding up.
Thanks for your concern Darren. Honestly, my butt is quite sore. I have a good saddle, comfortable cycling bibs with chamois (that make me feel like Big Daddy), and excellent chamois cream (thanks again Tracy). But there is no escaping the effect on a delicate derrière which is not used to such persistent pressure.
I am reliably informed that this will get better eventually.
My other sensitive parts are fairing better. My main problem is the midges and mosquitoes. I am taking tablets, using soap, and spraying myself daily to deter them but nothing is working. I have literally been bitten a dozen times writing this blog post.
See how I suffer for your entertainment. To bed. Another monster day tomorrow. Aberystwyth beckons.