We were feeling excited about being back on the bikes again as we left our friends in South Wales and headed back inland for the second part of our Welsh tour. We camped in a sheltered field on the edge of Brechfa Forest that night and it was the first glorious sunset and clear morning that we had witnessed so far.
In the morning we entered the west side of the forest and found that a wind farm was in the process of being built up there. It was lucky that we got there when we did because after speaking to the Countryside Ranger that we met (whilst cooking breakfast and drying our tent all across the fire road!) the way we ascended would be closed for six months as of the next day. Phew!
It was a fortuitous meeting too because he had an OS map of the area, on which he showed us the quietest, most scenic route to reach the Brecon Beacons and pointed out that we could go via Carreg Cennen Castle. Ben remembered visiting here as a child with his dad and brothers, climbing up a big hill and exploring the underground cave, so as Steph hadn’t been we decided that we would make a slight detour and visit the castle.
Carreg Cennen Castle is fairly compact, excellent for a morning’s exploration, but what makes it special is the covered passageway leading to the castle’s very own limestone cave. We chose a very cloudy day to explore, making the dark descent under the castle even more eerie and surreal.
After a much needed hot lunch we had a fairly short day on the bike but we did find the best wild camping spot of the trip at the very edge of a small woods. We were sheltered from the rain, which was coming down sideways, and just about managed to cook and eat before the pine trees couldn’t stave off the rain any longer.
The next two days’ scenery was stunning as we cycled through the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains, past farmland and along tall hedge-lined roads for two days, made even better by being mostly sunny. We made it back to Herefordshire in good time, our average speed higher than normal on the final day as we said goodbye to Wales and moved away from the hills. All that was left was for a celebratory pint of Wye Valley’s finest before returning home for a Sunday roast.
Wales has been difficult at times, with its unpredictable, unseasonal weather and steep hills but it provided us with a good experience of what life would be like on the road and what, if anything, we still need to do to prepare for the next chapter. Less than five weeks now… ahhhh!
It was a good test for the bikes too and as expected they were flawless. Other than keeping the tyres pumped up, the chain lubed and a couple of quick adjustments of the brakes they needed no attention. Again this bodes well for our big trip, proving they are robust enough to handle all kinds of terrain even while fully loaded with kit.
Days cycling: 11 days
Days off (with friends): 2 days
Total distance: 600.6 km
Total elevation: 9568 m
Average daily speed: 15.36 kph
Average daily distance: 54.5km
Average time on the bike each day: 8 hours
The Wales trip: What did we learn?
-After a few days of being wet, paying for a campsite or somewhere to stay (this time we stayed with friends, but in South America we won’t have that luxury). It is good for drying out kit as well as for your general state of mind.
-Beware of tree sap: It’s really sticky and a right pain to get off a tent.
-You can cook a lot of meals on the Whisperlite and we didn’t even use a litre of white gas. We reckon we cooked at least 12 meals – breakfast and tea – over the course of the trip and drank another dozen brews on it.
Not long now until we leave for South America. This trip has made us every exciting for this!
Steph and Ben
Oh, and on a final note… We made a friend!