Welsh Spine #6 – Point of return

Optiganally Yours – Oar / Geppetto
Bedraggeled we enter the Moel Prysgau bothy. We are completely alone. The bothy consists of one chamber inside which a second, smaller room has been constructed using plasterboards. The main room is spacious with a high ceiling. We close the door behind us. Droplets of water running down our noses fall crashing on the concrete floor. In one corner there is a large bunk able to accommodate 4 persons, on the opposite wall, on a long table, a bunch of tools are scattered. Yet there was something different that has caught our attention.

In the corner nearest to the entrance we find a huge pile of dry wood and kindling, and right next to it a set of saws and axes – all in good shape. We take a glimpse through a wooden door inside the second room. Stone walls painted with thick white paint, faded into grays by the passing time, same big bunk, some shabby furniture and a stove incorporated in an old fireplace with walls black from soot. There is a cozy feel to all of this. The room is not big and it won’t take long to heat it up, we’ll stay warm for sure.
Having our basic needs taken care of, Pavel started working on getting the fire going, Radek organizes his stuff and I go to check the damage. It wasn’t hard to notice a 3 cm tear in my tire’s sidewall, same thing with the inner tube. But it wasn’t this that made me worry. While turning my crank my ears catch a creaking, metallic noise and can I feel some resistance. That’s not good… not good at all. I’m pissed. Even when the weather gets better by tomorrow, there’s no chance I’ll get anywhere with a broken bottom bracket. It took me a while to notice it’s just a bend water cage that’s rubbing against one of the crank arms. Silly me… A warm feeling of relief makes for a more cheerful mood. I get the most important stuff off the bike and start cutting some additional wood, so we don’t have to worry about it later in the night.
Pavel makes sure we get warm and comfortable.
Pavel took care of the stove and now it gaily eats through wood filling our room with heat and pleasant smells. While taking a look around the bothy we find, to our bedazzlement, a full box of wine sitting around on one of the shelves. The evening’s just started. Radek has taken over the DJ duties and plays music via his portable speakers. Pavel treats us with some red wine.
It’s high time to get my wheel sorted. I reach for my dental floss and needle brought with such crap in mind, and start to work on the tire. Pavel offers help by patching up my tube. I don’t think I’ll be using a tube damaged that bad, but having some kind of spare is a lot better than having none. I mend the tire using all sewing tricks taught to me by my grandmother Wladzia, all two of them. I stick the needle through one side first, then the other… not that Wladzia only knew that much, quite the contrary. It was rather me who was a poor student. I cover up the resulting scar with some glueless tube patches and duct tape.
It quickly gets dark and the only light sources we have is the fire and candles we have scattered around the bothy, if necessary we boost things with a head torch.
Rain is raving outside, we sit and listen to music while starring into the fire. No one will come knocking on the door – not with such weather – seems like complete wilderness.
Time passes slow, we debate about tomorrow’s plans. If the weather gets better we’ll continue, if it stays the same we’ll make ourselves on our way home. Yet the nearest train station is nearly 50 km away, and most of it through mountains. In case the weather gets any worse we might get stuck here for another day. There’s some wine left and I have some emergency food that should last for all of us. Worst case scenario doesn’t seem that bad. We fall asleep being uncertain about the next day.

Rise and shine!

We slept through the night and… rain. It seems that it hasn’t stopped pouring down for a second. The stream flowing in front of the bothy has raised it’s level a good half a meter and is slowly reaching our door step. It’s still raining.
Slowly we start our breakfast and get the fire going. Looking at the weather we’ll be deciding whether we should head for a train today or tomorrow rather than considering continuing with our trip…

We cut some additional wood for others to come. I leave food I won’t be needing, making the bothy’s can collection richer by some mackerels in tomato sauce. It never made it to my breakfast menu.
Shortly after noon we make the final decision. It’s time to leave the dry premises of Moel Prysgau and get our selves wet on the way to the train station. Luckily I know most of our way back by heart from my previous trip in this area… or at least that’s what I believe.
And so we pack up, for the last time strapping things back onto our bikes, putting on the last dry pieces of clothing and of course waterproofs. Each of us has ran out of dry socks, I only have one pair left I had for sleeping duties. These were supposed to stay dry no matter what. It doesn’t matter now, I put them on followed by a plastic grocery bag to delay them wetting through.
Most of the route follows forest service roads, with trees giving protection from the winds. I must say it’s quite an enjoyable experience, gravel coated with spruce sprouts. As if we are traveling along a green carpet. We descent into fog giving a special aura to some already special surroundings. Emptiness, there’s no soul in the whole of Tywi Forest apart of us – that’s how I feel.
At some point we reach a tarmac road. I check the map to see if taking that road makes any difference. It’s not much better in terms of distance but it leads through open moorland and this doesn’t fill me with confidence. Yet I feel the guys want to go this route. In spite of my reluctance I agree and soon we find ourselves climbing up the first hill. The winds is certainly not on our side. With each meter, I look back at the relatively peaceful ride through the forest and find myself longing for that. I keep quiet at first, but after reaching the summit we find ourselves using granny gears against a head wind and we’re not making good progress. As a matter of fact, I feel as if we’re standing still… I stop next to the guys and waving my hands I shout something about having the wind blowing in our f*ing faces and kilometers of this shit yet to come. I must have made a good impression on them because shortly after that I see them grab their bikes and turn back. As it later turned out, they didn’t hear a word I was saying, but my facial expression and gesticulation were enough to convince them. Riding through the forest is much nicer anyway.
I know that we will pass by the Soar y Mynydd chapel and I hope for some shelter. What we’ve found at the chapel surprised us quite a bit. The bridge we have to pass is completely flooded. Only the top half of the barriers was visible. Yesterdays crossings made us uneasy, but this time the view of a swollen river rolling over the bridge got us scared. Pavel looks like he doesn’t even think about attempting a crossing. Radek’s cold and only dreams about a dry place. As for me, I really don’t feel like climbing  for 30 minutes a hill we just rushed down in 5 minutes. I decide to check the current, first without a bike. Freezing cold watter reaches past my knees but the barriers give a good support and I can stand in the current without problems. With some team effort we get all bikes across and soon we find shelter inside the chapel. Before entering we get rid of the plastic bags protecting our feet, they’re full of water now and useless. Inside it’s dead quiet and only the old wooden floor squeaks under our weight. Radek’s complaining about having cold hands, oddly enough mine are fine so I hand over my gloves to him. We wait a bit to catch a breath and warm up. Once everyone’s ready we leave for the final push out of Tywi Forest. Our gate out is the dam at the Lynn Brianne reservoir.

Now there’s only the  Esgair Dafydd Foreset between us and the train station at Llanwrtyd Wells. As a welcome gift we get a nice long climb. The toll for earning vertical meters is paid off by some nice single track pointing down. It’s a pity the weather is foul. The single track leads to another flooded pass but instead of fording it, we decide to track back and ride through a nearby farm land. The road leading out seems to consist 99% out of dung – never have I cared so much about not falling off of my bike as now.
Upon arriving at the station we are informed that the next train to Swansea leaves in roughly two hours. Enough time to get some lunch and a farewell drink at a local pub. Unfortunately it would  take to long to wait for the food so we are happy with just having a beer… better than having it the other way around. We’ll top up calories at a nearby supermarket.
And so our trip made it to it’s premature end. We were short of good weather and… patience. The next day at home I had some clear blue skies reaching past the horizon to wonder about. I’ve smirked and went back to cleaning by bike.

Godspeed

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