14th to the 19th April
It is all very well talking about this trip, buying equipment and booking ferries, all of which we have done, but can we navigate, eat, sleep and get on with each other with only the stuff we can pack on two bikes and a trailer? The reality is bound to be very different from the dream. The opportunity to see if this is even possible came when we were invited to join Annie, Louis and Louis’s family and friends on their traditional Easter camping trip to Crickhowell, at a beautiful campsite under the shadow of the Sugar Loaf and Table Top mountains on the edge of the Brecon Beacons.
Camping in April? That is a new experience and possible challenge for us both. We once camped with our kids in the Forest of Dean on the first of the May bank holidays. My enduring memories are a steaming midnight pee in the frost – very spectacular it was too, and taking a week to warm up again. We were much younger then too. Can we keep warm?
We think we have cracked the issue of navigation without carrying maps or paying for an expensive bit of kit. We have found an app called Komoot that allows us to decide the route we want and then shows us and talks us through each bend and junction as a satnav does. It took us from Cheltenham to Chepstow, where we Airbnb’ed with a very friendly Richard and Debbie; on to Crickhowell, where we camped two nights; down the Taff Trail (all 95 kms) for a night in Annie and Louis’s new home; before taking us back to Richard and Debbie in Chepstow and on for our final leg back to Cheltenham. All 350 kms and all without error.
We used Bob the bike trailer to carry all our camping kit and he performed well. Although we did find his limitations in spectacular fashion. We had finished a very good breakfast of scrambled eggs and fresh brown bread and set off for our second day’s ride, climbing up into the hills West of Chepstow, when we came to a long straight downhill. I reached 50 kmh when Bob began to snake from side to side, almost throwing me off, very scary. Fortunately hard braking brought him back under control. 40 kmh is Bob’s maximum speed from now on.
We tried out our new wood burning Trangia stove, very light and environmentally friendly, using pine cones and twigs as fuel. Needs more thought though, as it produced lots of smoke and a short burst of heat, before needing to be refuelled. Hard work that left us smelling of camp fire. Does anyone out there know how to get the best from the Trangia?
The Tangia Stove and Uncle Peter’s Tent
Uncle Peter’s tent was fabulous, although we will have to learn how to get in and out without tripping over the lip in the inner tent. Kath has tried coming in backwards, now that was a sight to behold! Our new double sleeping bag kept us warm through the night, although we were helped with the absence of frost.
Mishaps, mysteries and misadventures:
We were getting along fine as a couple until I was suddenly accused of secreating away Kath’s unwashed pants (how on earth did she get such an idea?) as they had disappeared. Fortunately normal relations were resumed when they were found displayed over a caravan plot rockery for the owner, and everyone else, to see. A red face, this time not caused by the relentless and cold head wind! We cycled along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, which is rather lovely and very exciting, dodging under all those canal bridges, until I got too confident and had to swerve to miss a dog out for an afternoon stroll and narrowly avoiding taking me, Kath and Bob into the canal. The learning is not to use the handlebar extensions on canal paths as the hands are too far from the brakes!
On Monday Annie and Louis took us down the Taff Trail to Cardiff – all 95 kms of it! But what a fantastic ride.Kath got a bit tired and missed a turn, careering off the track and into a lampost. No damage other than to her pride fortunately. Then there was the time I had to change an inner tube and tyre. A young man walking his staff terrier offering help – the staff’s contribution was to piss on my cycle helmet and gloves. The owner apologised and made a hasty retreat.
In short we have proven to ourselves that this little project is a goer, with some adjustments, and we are a little more confident about the off in two and a bit weeks time.
For more pics use this link.