Saturday, August 14, 2021

Himalayan on the Trans European Trail pt 2

 A good nights sleep on our Forest of Dean hillside and an early start to make the push in to Wales. For some reason I woke with a cracking headache, I'll put it down to de-hydration from the heat of the previous day rather than the beers we enjoyed whilst soaking in the view from our camping spot. The headache was cured with an excellent brunch at Coleford and then shortly after the going got serious.

The TET joins the Offas Dyke Path and the going gets tough fairly quickly. We met a group of mountain bikers at the bottom of the path from where it climbs up to the top of the Wye Valley, they assured us that we would find the going difficult if not impassable on the Himalayans. Undeterred we gamely rode on only to have them overtake us five minutes later when we stopped to search for the spring from my sidestand which had come detached and allowed the stand to drag along the trail.

The track up Offa's Dike Path to the
top of the Wye Valley.

We found the spring but as it turned out the tang that holds the spring had caught on a rock and snapped off (it was indeed tough going). As we were zip tying up the stand one of the mountain bikers came back down to report a fallen tree a couple of hundred feet up the path. A shame as we were over the worst of the rough going but the tree was indeed impassable (we rode up and checked all the same). We had to turn tail and ride back down - not easy in itself on a steep, narrow rocky track with a bike loaded up with luggage. The tree rather looked like it had been down for quite a long time and it seemed as if it was left down to deter intrepid motorcyclists...

And back down Offa's Dike Path after
losing my side stand spring and finding
our path blocked by a tree.

A quick stop at Tintern Abbey for rest and shade.

We rode back down to the River Wye and re-joined the TET further down the valley on another very stony path. This took us up to the top of the Valley from where we rode down narrow, winding asphalted lanes back to the river and crossed at Brockweir Bridge. Progress was now very slow going as the TET followed small lanes and we constantly needed to stop to confirm our whereabouts on the TET app - as in the previous instalment do sort out a phone mount for the app, it will save a lot of stopping and starting.

A generally easy path apart from this
hefty obstacle.

Once in Wales we followed a mixture of asphalt and green lanes, mostly steady going with a few short more challenging sections thrown in for good measure. Several of the lanes were quite hard to find and marked as private. In general we weren't sure which of the lanes were genuinely private and which had signs put up by landowners trying to discourage rights of access over their land. We settled on asking people if they were around - in some cases we got positive responses but in others polite denials. If no-one was around we trusted the maps and rode past the notices.

Really not sure how I managed to do this. It wasn't
very easy to extricate from.

As with the previous day the heat took it out of us. Progress remained slow though due to the very regular route-finding stops plus an increasing number of gates (very annoying when you don't have a functional side stand). I guess it would not occur to most modern bike riders but personally as a piece of advice I would say that life on the TET would be extremely arduous without the benefit of an electric start.

Close by Newchurch we came across a beast of a descent, very steep and very rocky. It was almost a turn back moment but we walked it through to check that we could exit the other side and went for it. With a Himalayan the only way for this hill was down, there was no question of being able to turn around and ride back up. If stuck at the bottom the only option would have been to carry up.

We rose to the challenge and waddled and manhandled our laden bikes down the slope and made it to the bottom without major mishap. 

And the beast of a track that ended
our day.

Photos never give good perspective of
incline but take it from me this was
very steep.

Matt has a fair deal more capacity than myself for off-roading but after this descent even he decided that it was indeed enough for the day and from there we hit the asphalt for a while and cut off from the TET once more. We decided to cut off the dog leg of the TET that goes down to Port Talbot and headed North with the Talybont Reservoir our target as a likely decent spot to camp.

Crickhowell proved to be a good spot to fill up with water for the camp, get in a couple of beers and grab a takeaway.

We rode up to the dam of the reservoir in search of a scenic spot, it was ok but it appeared that riding further onwards would yield better results. We had a recommendation from a couple in a van to camp at a bridge further up the road but it seemed a bit cheeky for wild camping and there was nowhere to leave the bikes bar the road. Thus we carried on in search of a spot, we rode over the mountain and back down the other side where there was a car park with lush grass and picnic benches set within woodland. It was deserted and ideal. We unpacked and settled down for an end of day beer before making camp. Within a few minutes of cracking the beers open we were attacked by midges. This caused us to flee and we had the idea that surely the mountain top would be free of biting insects. 

Our camp on top of Abercynafon at the head end of
the Talybont Reervoir.

We eventually found a decent enough spot at the top of Abercynafon, cracked open another beer and started to put up tents. How wrong we were, the little blighters were here too. By now we had rather too much committed to drinking beer to be able to carry on on the bikes so had no choice but to make camp. This was achieved in several stages (more than a couple of minutes in one place would result in an intolerable number of midges). Once the tents were up there was little real choice but to retire in to them early and escape.

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