Welsh Spine #3 – Rain or shine?

Rain or shine. A great day out.
roadside commercial at the entrance to Tywyn



     The creature accompanied us nearly for the whole night, yet it left our weary souls untouched…weary? yeah right. I’ve slept like a baby and my feeling is the guys did so even more. Unfortunately the morning welcomed us with a rather poor weather. While we were breaking camp the drizzle eased and we could slowly reorganise ourselves and our belongings straight onto the bikes. 
A short, but intense cross-country section lead us to Trawsfynydd, where we had a chance to resupply at a small shop. I buy some cheap gloves to keep my hands comfortably warm. Radek uses the premises of a private lavatory to wash his shoes. Just a few minutes ago he got to meet the “chocolate” side of Wales. We lost our track for a brief moment and when it finally reappeared a bit to the side, it turned out, we had to cross a small bog.

At places the trail exists only on the map
and you have to negotiate your own.

With full bellies we leave Trawsfynydd and join the NCN 82 route, being part of a vast network of Sustrans trails extending across of whole Great Britain. It leads along a quiet tarmac road and cars pass by occasionally. We slowly gain height and following are the views on our next goal – the Coed y Brenin forest with it’s singletracks.
In the meanwhile the weather took on a slightly milder, yet still gloomy face. Our cladding remained dry and only the low lurking clouds and chilly wind heralded oncoming changes.

Radek and Pavel profit from the toils of their uphill work. Ahead of us is the Coed y Brenin forest, where such occasions will be plenty.

We enter the forest on a well maintained gravel, passing on our way signs leading to the various stages of the ‘Beast’ trail. Not all of them are given to us, yet some are a source of pure cycling joy. Just as the valley of the river Lledr was a feast for the eye, so the Coed y Brenin forest imprinted our memory as the place where riding made the most fun. Gravel roads, thick-wooded trails, brilliantly prepared singletrack – each of us had their own favourite section. In retrospect I have to agree with Radek, who was enraptured with one particular descent through the forest along the river Cain. Great views, thick foliage above our heads, fast, soft grass making it’s way underneath our wheels and the forest diversifying our ride by leaving dead branches here and there – yeah, that was it.

The Coed-y-Brenin forest is worth a visit if one is on the look out for mountain biking fun.

Hungry, as we were after the forest craziness, we get to Dolgellau and stop for – you guessed it! – Full English breakfast. This time it’s real! Everything doubles on our plates: toast, eggs (the only sunny side up we’ll see today), hash browns, bacon, tomatoes and beans. We relish. Devour. Lots of calories. Won’t get wasted.

We reach the cafe just in time to see a downpour start behind the windows. Now we’re not in a hurry and so we enjoy the contents of our plates. Radek daydreams about a cheese cake, but there’s only cream behind the counter… well we’ll just have to make do without. A slow coffee and some snus, that’s it. Tiredness from the first part of the day leaves our bodies.
The immensity of calories we take in makes me somehow nervous. Unnecessarily, right after the town there’s an evil climb waiting for us it turns out. Tarmac first, but soon we turn onto a bridleway and we find ourselves crawling on green. Pushing your bike is OK when you have all these views surrounding you – time seems to stand still.

The pushing is not for nothing of course. We reach a flattish section where we can ride to a gate. The name of the game behind it is ‘singletrack’. This time though it’s not a well maintained mountain bike trail, but more of an old hiking trail. At places it’s quite demanding technically, narrow, walls on both sides, and lots of cobble and stones with the odd drop. I get of the bike a few times, but most of the way down I can enjoy the gentle arm massage provided by the trail.

There were sections, where the only thing that stuck into my mind was the front wheel and
obstacles I had to navigate around. This had lots of those.

After the downhill we join NCN 82 yet again, it will lead us straight (well almost) to the town of Tywyn. We are slowly entering the kingdom of Cadair Idris that’s just about to grow huge on our left. First kilometres are tarmac, but – to my amusement – it soon turns into a gravel track winding it’s way up the hills. Clouds above thicken and one can see the gravity pulling them down to earth. Weather goes crazy around us; one minute it rains, the other it stops. Luckily most of the time we’re sheltered from the chilly southern winds by the hills. We put our jackets on, Take them off. Put on. What the…? Weather’s a… she’s playing games that is… in the distance – above Barmouth’s beaches – the sun makes it’s way through the clouds occasionally.

View from NCN82 at the mouth of Mawddach and the town of Barmouth 

We ride to Tywyn through the valley of Dysynni. Tarmac is gently flowing around stone giants in slumber. The town is our last stop before reaching Machynlleth, and sugar levels are desperately low. We stop at a market run by two Pakistani guys. Not sure if they’ve noticed us coming in, a dubbed version of The Mummy had clearly captured all the attention they had to offer. I got my change in between action shits shots and dialogues. I don’t mind – we have calories and so the party can start! Fresh water, chocolate milk, energy drink, flapjacks, m&m’s, and something else for sure – all full with sugar… in the end none of us gained any weight, quite the opposite really.

The Dysynni Valley is packed with stone formations. On our right is the Bird Rock.

We decide to bail on one cross country section and further follow the 82 through the ‘Happy Valley’ (didn’t seem very happy to me). Radek’s got some chaffing where the back loses it’s noble name. During stops he helps himself with some Sudocrem and valiantly pushes on. It’s getting late and we would like to get at least to Machynlleth or even better, to the Nant Sydion Bothy. It’s just 20 km in straight line… “straight line” I tell to the guys and we push ahead – did I really believe myself? Shortly before Machynlleth the cycling route makes a turn into a B road. I decide to follow it. Some minutes later I figure out that this just served us additional climbs and we will eventually join the main road we’ve just left. In fear of lynching I stay quiet – last year the same situation lead us to a great camping spot overlooking the Cardigan Bay. Fingers crossed. It turns out all this climbing was worth something. On top of yet another small hill we see a modest sign pointing at a camping ground. Happy about our finding we wait to tell Radek the good news. Suddenly Radek’s figure can be seen toiling it’s way up the hill – just as we did seconds before.
– We’ve found something special for you! Check it out! – I say showing at the crooked letters saying ‘Camping’.
– Where’s the town? where’s the food? – was Radek’s straight answer.
– There was supposed to be hot food? – he added, making us touched with the injustice just happened to him.
Some negotiations later we talk Radek into at least checking it out, you know… it’s late, you know… it’s better. They have showers and all… and we can still scout for food on bikes. Let’s just ask for the price…
The owner turns out to be a very kind woman and when she hears the word ‘food’ she’s on the phone booking a table for us at the only pub nearby! We have half an hour to check the ground for a camping spot, set up the tents and dash for well deserved food with light bikes. Thank you kind lady!
The pub seems rather fancy and being all smelly and muddy I feel awkward at first. A cold beer and an order for three burgers fix that. We sit in a warm, small Welsh pub, wait for chow and know that before sleep there’s a hot shower waiting for us. The day ends well yet another time.

Before making the order I ask about the burgers and how big they are.
“Well they’re THAT big!” – the girl showed us and she didn’t lie.
If you would wake the guys in the middle of the night they would say
that the burgers in Pennal are one hell of a treat.  



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