A deliberately shorter day, with a heavy dose of culture. I’ve made camp in the Snowdonia National Park close to Machynlleth.
The exhaustion persists despite the less strenuous day. It feels like it is part of me now.
Let’s unpack day 11.
Thank you, but it’s not over yet
I want to start with a massive thank you to everyone for your support. I’ve received loads of lovely messages with encouragement, cajoling, banter, advice, and love. I always thought this Slow Cycle would be a rather lonely affair, but it’s been quite the opposite. Thank you.
Extra special thanks to everyone who has donated to support Llamau to end the scourge of homelessness for young people in Wales. Today we passed £4,000, with 79 donations. It’s amazing.
It’s not over yet though. If all goes to plan we still have five days of this adventure left and they include some of the toughest climbs so far. 😬😬
One kind (anonymous) donor said that they hoped there weren’t too many hills remaining from here to Rhyl. Sadly – or not, depending on your perspective – I just entered the Snowdonia National Park where it’s pretty much all hills.
So please keep the messages of support coming. If you haven’t donated, please do (link). And if you have donated, spread the word and ask your friends to get involved. Remember how good it made you feel, wouldn’t you like your friends to feel that too?
If everyone got just one other person to make a donation, we’d raise loads more money.
Maes, Maes, Baby
I said yesterday that when I entered Ceredigion, there were Welsh flags and croeso (welcome) signs everywhere. After a brief moment of hubris, I realised that this was not because I had arrived but rather because Tregaron (in Ceredigion) was hosting the National Eisteddfod this week.
Luckily, Tregaron was on route. So I ditched the schedule (again) and went to check it out. Huge thanks to the fab staff on the ticket booths who offered to stash my bike in their staff area, so that I could enjoy the festival without worrying about security. Legends.
For readers who didn’t grow up in Wales, the Eisteddfod is a BIG deal. It’s a cultural festival centred around a set of competitions for music, singing, dancing, poetry, and (my personal favourite) expressive poetry reading.
I remember what seemed like endless local and regional heats where kids would compete to get to attend the National Eisteddfod. It was never my vibe, but I appreciated the work.
The Eisteddfod has played a big role in preserving the Welsh language and – through it – significant parts of Welsh culture that otherwise might not have survived eight centuries of colonialism.
It’s also a great big festival, with hundreds of stands showcasing Welsh businesses, causes, and crafts; food, drinks, live music, and general shenanigans. There’s an after party called Maes B (the main festival arena is called the Maes). Young people everywhere were sporting “Maes, Maes, Baby” and other Maes B swag.
Sadly I was there early in day and couldn’t really justify hanging around all day to experience Maes B. Mountains to climb etc.
I watched some choirs and a bit of the traditional dancing, perused the stands and chatted to lots of folk.
The Eisteddfod is primarily conducted in Welsh, which – despite being educated in a Welsh language school – I can no longer speak. The best part of 30 years living in England will do that to you. Everyone was very kind though and helped me out with my stuttering attempts and happily switched to English when it all got too awkward.
A real treat to bump into my friend and former colleague, Adam Price, who is now the leader of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party. Adam’s one of the smartest people and most sincere politicians I know and we had a good chat about the cross party work he’s leading to improve government in Wales. Legend.
My first genuinely poor nights sleep. The ribs are still hurting from the Tumble.
Short ride from Lampeter to Tregaron for the Eisteddfod. On route I chatted to an old chap who caught me taking a photo of his 17th century mill. He was interested in the Slow Cycle and particularly the tyres on my bike (“look like new, those, are you sure you’ve come from Rhyl”).
He said “you should write a book you know. You could call it Phil from Rhyl.” Spent a lot of the next hour regretting not having thought of that as the url for the blog (much easier to remember). Marketing genius that old boy.
Stopped at Llanfair Clydogau to find a loo and a lovely lady offered to open up the village hall for me. It struck me as such a nice thing to do for a sweaty cyclist, but then I realised that she just wanted to show off the smartest village hall in the area. Proper lush. Community infrastructure really matters in these parts.
After the Eisteddfod, I picked up the Yswyth Trail which is simply fabulous and took me pretty much the whole way to Aberystwyth. Large parts are so flat and straight that it felt almost like a canal. Oh how I miss the canals of East Wales!
Long time readers will remember that the Yswyth is the third of three sister / water nymphs who had a wager on who could reach the sea first. We met her sisters Sabrina (the Severn) and Varga (the Wye) on days 3 and 4. Nice to complete the set!
Quick stop in Aberystwyth for late lunch and then the brutal climb out and onto the road to Machynlleth. I opted to stick to the busy, but direct road route, rather than to the less busy, longer, hillier, route that criss crossed the main road and would’ve added several hours. Don’t @me.
By now I was on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park and the mountain ranges and valleys were appropriately breathtaking and daunting.
Final NPCs of the day were Steven and Katharine from Austria who are touring Wales in a big van with the coolest looking e-mountain bikes. They let me use some of their tools for a few repairs and told me how the e-bikes were a game changer, allowing them to spend much more time flying down big downhills.
Steven was genuinely surprised that I was doing my trip on a “bio-bike” almost like it was a nostalgic thing. So now I know that I am an old man desperately clinging to his bio bike.
Ask me anything
Need to find time to work through the backlog of questions. Apologies if you are waiting, I will get to you soon. Kate from Cambridge asked: are you half way round yet?
When Kate asked the question, a few days ago, I honestly wasn’t sure. But now I am confident that yes, I am at least half way round. Still lots of work to do, but I am now starting to entertain the possibility that this will come to an end. This idea is being reinforced by the depletion of rations. Tooth paste, coffee, porridge are all running dangerously low.