After being robbed, ripped off and worked to the bone, Thad and I decided that it was due time to move on from good ol Dublin. Don't get me wrong, I loved Dublin, but still, it was time to go. So how should we do it? Plane? Bus? Train? Nah, hell no, let's go by BICYCLE.
So on the dawn of Oct 8th, we mounted our brand new trekking bikes, with bags on the back and a 50kg load on the trailer behind, and begun our journey. The start was the easy bit, just riding through Dublin city to the port and catching a ferry to Holyhead, Wales. Once we got there, we decided to give ourselves a break as it was our first day not working, and leaving the cycling to the next day. So we pitched our tent, cooked pasta on our little camping stove and went to sleep.
We planned to leave early the next day but, as is usual in the land of Michelle, sleep took priority and we left after midday.
Musing over the map, we decided that we could definitely get off the Isle of Anglesey by the end of the day, as it was about 20 miles, and worked out where we would camp that night before setting off on our first day of cycling. Now we knew it was going to be hilly, but what we didn't realise is that while it may be easy to ride over hills without any cargo, pulling 50kg worth of stuff behind you makes the going a little tougher. But that's okay, we'll just push it up the big hills. We seemed to be making good time anyway. We stopped for a 4:30 lunch at a giant windmill and I spread the map out in front of me to discover that, no, we hadn't trekked our way to the end of Anglesey, we were merely 5 miles away from where we started. Fuddleducks! The sun was lowering on the horizon so we made the horrible decision of turning back and off the bike track to a camping ground about a mile away and start again tomorrow. We rocked up at a little farm not long after and a woman was outside. I asked her if she had a camping ground. "Oh yes," she replied, rather confused, "but only in summer!" My crestfallen face must have worried her because she hurriedly said that she could accommodate us. "Brilliant!" we said, and promptly started unpacking our tent. Her eyes travelled over our tent, and then up to the sky. "You know there's a big storm coming? Perhaps you should stay in the caravan." So we did, and by god are we glad we did. The caravan shook like King Kong thought he'd spied Naomi Watts in it. The next day, however, was fine and sunny, so we set off at a nice and early 10am to reach our previous goal of getting off this damn island of Angelsey.
We found the track again, whooshed past the windmill and continued on our merry way, sharing the trailer load every so often. We decided we were to have lunch in Llanerchymedd, then pedal off of the island onto mainland Wales to camp for the night. At around 12:30, as planned, we pulled into a town and stopped for lunch. A meat pie sounded fab, so Thaddeus went into the store to buy a few while I guarded the bikes. To pay for the pies, he pulled a 50 pound note out of his pocket and handed it to the boy behind the counter. The boy looked at it oddly and scuttled over to his dad so he could inspect it. The dad twisted it in his hands, held it up to the light and scrutinised it, tried to tear the corner and finally tested it with his teeth before deciding that it was indeed a real note, and we were allowed to buy our pies. Thad returned to me outside to find me sobbing into the map. Nooooo! We hadn't reached Llanerchymedd, as we'd assumed, but were in fact in a town only half that distance away, Llantrisant. We solemnly ate our pies and considered sending half our luggage forward to London so we could actually cover some distances. We had some trouble leaving the town, as well, because some idiot had bent the cycle route signs around the poles so that they pointed in the wrong direction. Eventually we found the route though and, determined as ever, pedalled like we had never pedalled before. And damn we made some ground! We were whooshing along the tractor paths between the farms at least at the speed of sound. All we had to do was make the next town, the one we wanted to have lunch in, and we could stay at a B & B the night instead before reassessing our situation. After about 4 hours of straight pedalling, only stopping to change bikes when the trailer-carrier got too exhausted, we finally happened upon a town. Dragging my bike up the last hill, panting, covered in rain and sweat, I encountered a very smiley welshman who declared "Welcome to (name I didn't catch)!" and stopped for a friendly chat about the dismal weather. "Could you show us where we are on the map?" I asked, and he pointed to some place called Pentraeth, about 10 miles further down the track than we were aiming for. WOOOOHOOOOOO! We actually got somewhere! We were almost off the island! Time for celebration! We found the closest campsite and pitched our tent before heading out into the surprisingly warm night to have a celebratory pub meal.
The pub was fantastic, we had the best burgers there, the first and only time I think that I'll ever enjoy a burger that doesnt have salad on it. It was just meat, cheese and parsley, but damn it was good. The publican, who came and had a seat with us for a while because she had no other customers, told us she had them specially made for her. The first time she got them, she said, they tasted awful. She took them straight back to the butcher and said, "What's in these that makes them taste so awful?" "Flavour enhancer," the butcher replied. "Well take it out!" she screamed, "and take out anything else that's not beef as well!" Mmmmmm 100% beef. Anyway, after our meal, we went back to our campsite, our bellies full of beer and burgers and fell into a comfortable sleep. Ah, but it wasn't to last, was it! After midnight, it started raining. And it didn't stop. The newspapers reported that 2 months worth of rain fell in one night. So much for our waterproof tent. It was soaked through, which meant all of our clothes were soaked and so were our sleeping bags and the rain STILL hadn't stopped. SO that was it. Screw it, we thought, let's just catch the train the rest of the way. But of course we still had to get to Bangor, where the train station was, which was still 6 miles away. And it was still raining, of course. Thad went and had a shower, and left me to consider our options of getting to Bangor. When he came back, I had contrived a perfect fantasy where a guy happened to drive past who owned a courier or shipping company and could throw our stuff onto the back of his truck and drive us to Bangor. Unfortunately, the likelihood of this happening was quite low, so we begrudgingly began to load our bikes up and prepare for the ride. Low and behold, the owner of the caravan park stopped past, took one look at our sodden selves and told us to wait there, he was getting his trailer. Hooray! He threw our bikes into the back and drove us all the way to Bangor, stopping occasionally for a bit of sightseeing, too.
We arrived at the train station in good spirits, so I ran in and demanded "We want to be on the next train to London!", throwing all my money on the counter. "That's 130 pounds," the assistant said in a monotone voice. I counted all my money, even the pennies, but all I had was 120. "There's nothing cheaper?" I asked, considerably horrified that a 2hr train journey could cost half my weekly wage. "Nope," he responded in a voice that put Eeyore's depressed voice to shame, "only that one." I scuttled off to get more money from the magic ATM, but alas, it wasn't being magic today, and the glorious words "Insufficient Funds" popped up onto the screen. Oh dear. I dragged my feet back to the train station and faced the assistant again. "Are you ABSOLUTELY sure there are no cheaper tickets?" I queried. "Nope, all 65 pounds." "Is there a student discount? How about a pity discount? What if I go late at night or early in the morning?" "Nope, none." I started to inspect the walls, seeing how easily I could rip the glass pane that divided us out and throttle his neck. While musing, he pressed a few buttons on his computer. "Oh," he said, "if you go tomorrow morning it will be 15 pounds each." Yay! We'll just stay the night then. Sigh. So finally got the tickets and now all we had to do was find a place to stay. Well there was a hotel across the road, and that would do, so I went in and asked for their cheapest double room. 50 quid was the answer. 50 quid! "Are you SURE there's none cheaper? What about a twin room?" She shook her head. "Fine," I sighed, "I'll take that one." "Sorry," she said, after tapping about her on her keyboard, "All those rooms are taken, but I have a twin room here for 40 pounds." I resisted from banging my head against the counter and just smiled and said I'd take it.
Up at 6:30 the next morning, we bounded across the road to the train station, only hampered by the trailer continuously breaking and than deciding not to move at all, and got onto our train. We still hadn't gotten in touch with Shelagh, whom we hoped to stay with in London, but oh well, we'd get there. We arrived in Euston Station, London at about 11am and, after hearing from Shelagh and getting directions to her house, rocked up on her doorstep shortly after. Unfortunately, Shelagh was at work so we went to the McDonalds down the road, where I slept for about 2 hours on my "Europe on A Shoestring" after reluctantly buying a lemonade to justify my presence.
Thad and I spent the next week wrapped up in blankets, sipping tea and watching satellite TV until we felt rested enough to take on London. But just in case the idea ever crosses your mind,
DON'T TRY TO CAMP AND RIDE THROUGH WALES WITH MORE THAN YOUR WEIGHT IN LUGGAGE IN OCTOBER!
The rainbows were pretty though.