Day 2....From the Teifi Pools to the Elan Valley.
I was woken in the early hours by a blazing light shining on the tent; I stuck my head out to find it was a three-quarter moon shining down in a clear night sky. I remember thinking that it should be sunny in the morning as I was feeling a bit cold. I was not disappointed; the sun was blistering in the morning, drying off the dew from our tents. We then cooked some breakfast and washed our pots in a nearby stream. Two forestry trucks went up the track in a cloud of dust; it was just as well we had not camped near there! We packed our stuff and went downward to Strata Florida Abbey where we stopped here briefly to look at this remote abbey, which in mediaeval times must have been like living outer space! However in those days there was a network of roads connecting the abbeys across the country, one of these is known as the Monk’s Way. On the map it is marked as an ancient road and our task today was to find it and cycle over the mountain to Rhayader. We bought supplies from the solitary shop in Pontrhydfendigaid, here we talked to German cyclist who touring around the country. He was the last person we would see for the greater part of the day. We climbed up the mountain road to the Teifi Lakes, we had cycled down here last year, but doing the reverse ride is like visiting a new place as the part we sped down the year before, we were now cycling up steadily, noticing different views. The Teifi Lakes are a remarkable sight; half a dozen pools are sat up here at 460 metres on the side of the Waun Claerddu Mountain. This place was totally devoid of all people, even though it was Saturday lunchtime and there is a surfaced road here. We left these behind to hit the real rough stuff and to find the ancient road. After a mile of a rough stony track we came to the trail. I was a bit shocked, there was no real path at all, just some six feet high white painted bamboo sticks, stretching over some boggy ground across the mountain. The hard work started, we dragged pulled and pushed our bikes over a few miles of this terrain. We both occasionally slipped into the muddy ruts that had been left by off road vehicles. We stopped to eat some lunch overlooking Claerwen farm, which is at the top of the large reservoir we had cycled up the previous year. This farm is certainly very remote and the only building around for miles. Over the other side of the Claerwen River we could see the track going up the mountain; it looked steep and very rocky. We made our way through the bog to the river; a few times I slipped and had a good soaking in the wet peat. The trick was to walk and try and glide the bike over the bog! We stopped for a while to cool down by the rusty coloured Claerwen River. It was now early afternoon and the sun was scorching. Nick hopped over the river, but I took off my shoes and socks and waded through the cool water. The climb started, it was so steep it took every effort to push the bike up this rocky road, the monk’s in the old days must have been desperate to get to the abbey along this trail, but it was probably a bit better in ancient times, as they had no off road vehicles to tear it up! The white bamboo sticks were now replaced by wooden posts marking the way. As we looked down the mountain, we could here strange animal noises emitting from the vast bog that heads up the source of the river Claerwen. We also had company, two Buzzards and two Crows flew in the sky, one crow sat on a rock looking at us, as we were not going to wait to be eaten, we carried on up the mountain. We eventually reached the rocky outcrop of the summit of Bryn Eithinog mountain 547 metres. I hoped now it would be downhill to the top of the Elan valley, but I was mistaken, the ancient 'road' carries on along the mountain plateau for another six miles. The terrain was a bit better than previously, some of it was actually rideable, but it was still hard going as we hit a lot of boggy patches. Nick’s bike had rear and front panniers which seem to spread the load for more stable riding, whereas my rear panniers and large saddle bag made it difficult to control the bike on these rough tracks. Consequently Nick was ahead all the time riding the ruts in front of me. The views from this plateau are spectacular, 360 degrees of breathtaking mountains viewed in the afternoon sun. After a couple of hours of painstaking slow travelling we started to descend down the mountain. In the distance we could see the asphalt road to Rhayader, I started to ride down the grassy part of the hill, and I was making good progress until I was thrown completely off when I hit a rut! As I went down further I saw Nick scrambling out of some ferns, he was not checking out a new camp site, but had taken a fall as well which had sent him head first into the undergrowth! Eventually we arrived on the road at the top of the Elan valley, but it was 19.00 a few hours later than what I had expected. With only an hour and a half of daylight left we rode down past the dams of the Elan valley towards Rhayader. The ride down the valley was very quiet and enjoyable past the very low level reservoirs; it was great to be back on a surfaced road again! We arrived in Rhayader at 20:00. We decided to abandon ideas of cooking that night and ate in an Indian café. After getting supplies from the shop it was now nearly 21:00. We knew of an old quarry where we had camped two years previously, but that was along the main A470 road and as it was now dark it would not be a good idea as we had no road lights at all. However at the crossroads for this road in the village, there was a road closed sign. A council worker informed us that there had been an accident three miles down the way and it was impassable. The quarry was only a mile and a half away, so we cycled down the empty main road in the dark. We arrived in the quarry, I was now completely exhausted, setting up camp in the dark was difficult but we managed it quite quickly and before long were in our tents for some well earned rest!....32miles.
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Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3