It dawned on me today that this adventure is coming to an end soon. Assuming that we stay on plan, I’ll arrive back in Rhyl on Tuesday, 16 days after leaving. That makes today (day 13) officially the start of the final quarter.
Welsh rugby fans know only too well that this is when you can lose everything you’ve worked so hard for. It’s also when legends are made. So what happened on the first day of the final quarter?
About last night
I was completely knackered last night. After making camp and eating a Duke of Edinburgh ready meal, I settled down in my tent (hiding from swarms of midges) to write my blog post. Woke up at 2 am fully dressed with only the first two paragraphs completed.
Nature called and I stepped out of the tent to see the most incredible night sky. There was practically no unnatural light and the sky was completely clear. The stars were shining brightly and I could see the hazy outline of the galaxy. As a city dweller, this is all too rare a pleasure.
Spoiler: I finished the blog post in the morning.
There’s no room for complacency
Today I committed the cardinal sin of complacency. Having conquered yesterday’s climb (which had been looming large for me all trip), I was feeling the end was in sight and getting over-confident.
I had a leisurely breakfast and took my own sweet time packing up. Hitting the road at the – shockingly late – time of 10 am.
The rapid descent down from Trawsfynydd was interrupted by my frequent stops to take photographs of the endless views. I chatted to everyone I came across. I visited Portmerion (see below). In short, I was behaving like a tourist with not a care in the world.
That was until I realised that it was 3 pm, I still had over 40km to go, including three properly challenging climbs, and I was out of snacks.
The golden rule of scout expeditions is you must not eat your emergency rations unless there is an actual emergency (being hungry isn’t classified as an emergency). If you return from an expedition without your emergency rations, you and your troop are disqualified. Today, I broke that rule to avoid a bonk. Emergency supplies have now been replenished, so someone please tell Akela to chill out.
The lesson, which is one learnt by countless Wales international teams and scout troops alike, is that it isn’t over until the final whistle blows. In my case I need to stay frosty until I step off the bio-bike in Rhyl on Tuesday.
I am not a number
Decided to burn an hour visiting Portmerion, which – despite my frequent visits to this part of the world – I’ve never seen before.
It’s obviously bonkers and brilliant in equal measure. There was an actual real life wedding taking place (I resisted the urge to gate crash).
My favourite moment was ordering some food. The woman serving me said “I am going to give you a number for your food” … pause … I say “ but I’m not a number, I’m a free man” … pause … she replies, with a weary eye roll: “you are this number now”. An exchange she must have a thousand times a day. Legend.
Left camp late for reasons of complacency (see above). Followed the cycle path around Trawsfynydd. The former nuclear power plant is like Lego designed brutalist architecture in the middle of a National Park. I liked it. The cycle path is great too.
Made me think a lot about energy, where we get it, and how much it costs. Particularly relevant given the news on energy prices, inflation, and interest rates. I’m intrigued by the new generation of modular nuclear reactors and I know that Anglesey (where I am headed in a couple of days) has been considering hosting a nuclear reactor for some years.
I also got to thinking about kinetic energy. Wales has a fledgling industry in micro hydro electricity, which uses the force of gravity and water to generate power. It occurred to me that I was currently a store of kinetic energy – having cycled so high into the mountains.
That was when I met John who was on a monster of an e- mountain bike. He has just retired and lives on the Llyn peninsula, which is hilly. He said the e-bike had opened up his world and got him exercising regularly. He proudly showed off his dropper post and gave me lots of route tips for the journey ahead. Legend.
I’ve seen loads of people cycling e-bikes this trip. The future is already here. I am clinging to my bio bike like nostalgia.
The descent from Snowdonia was amazing, even if quite a lot of it was on busy roads. I’ll happily admit to being a bit emotional and having to pull over to gather myself before pressing on. I think it was partly relief at having got through a really tough couple of days and partly starting to process the past two weeks.
Picked up Cycle route 42 which took me all the way to Aberdaron, including a couple of really horrible climbs. Sun was beating down throughout and I came dangerously close to bonking, which is a technical term for depleting your energy reserves when cycling long distances.
The clicking (see yesterday’s blog) was a constant – and irritating – companion. Suspect that Phil McB is right and this is the beginning of the end of my bottom bracket. Hope it’s got another 300km in it.
Made a poor choice of campsite due to shop anxiety (I am short of provisions and wanted to make sure I could easily get some). This is very family friendly campsite and very noisy as a result. I don’t begrudge them their fun, but I dearly wish I was in a field on my own.
Chatted to lots of folks today. Really enjoyed meeting Sabrina and Philip from Germany, who were hiking across Wales. They were also camped at Trawsfynydd.
They told me how they got caught in a storm on Cadir Idris a couple of days ago and had to shelter in a bothy that promptly flooded. Proper adventurers.
Ask me anything
Rolf (not Rolph) from Shropshire wanted to know what I sleep on. Thank you for your question Rolph.
My sleep system was covered in a previous blog post, but I don’t mind covering it again for you. I sleep on a Thermarest Neo Air xlite mattress which is super light and designed for side sleepers (which I am). Only downside is that it is a little creaky / noisy when you move around on it. Otherwise it’s great and I could sleep on this indefinitely.
Ed from Cambridge asks what – other than family – am I looking forward to / missing the most. This has been on my mind all day, like any good question should be.
I am going to expand your family qualification to include friends, colleagues, and neighbours (and my doggo). So apart from the people who I love and would normally spend time with, what am I missing?
Honestly… not a lot. I feel very comfortable with life on the road, much more so than I expected. I have my phone and my kindle, so I am connected and can read. I eat well. I have toiletries and my cat hole trowel. I am washing and swimming, so I feel clean. I haven’t trimmed my beard, but that’s no hardship. I guess the only persistent annoyance is washing and drying clothes, which is a bit of a chore on the road.
I think I’ll also enjoy sitting on a sofa again. There aren’t many soft furnishings when traveling like this.
The big final push for Llamau
I think that we should have a big final push to raise as much money as we can for Llamau. I’m open to ideas, but my current thinking is to get everyone who has donated to ask their friends to donate too. I think we can use Monday and Tuesday to really try to smash the fundraising goal.
What do you think? Are you with me?
Here’s that all important link and remember, every penny you give will help end homelessness for young people in Wales.