It’s the day before I take my longest road trip to date. A 657 mile roundtrip from Plymouth to Wales, stopping off in Birmingham on the way back to see family. With a hike up Mount Snowdon thrown in for good measure.
Hasten to add I am feeling very nervous with my anxiety raving havok all day. But I am equally as excited.
I try to calm my nerves somewhat with a soak in the tub and a little meditation the night before as I will be getting up at 4am and need my mind to be clear.
I have tried to pack as light as I can but of course have packed all my basic essentials.
I have carefully plotted my route with the help of my motorcycle atlas and Google maps. Taking into account meeting a friend on the way who will be driving in her car. It’s going to be a long few days.
It’s 4am when my alarm goes off. So being careful not to wake the husband I hastely start getting dressed. All my panniers were packed the night before and I have left them by the front door.
I am feeling really excited, so after a quick cup of tea and making lunch for the journey I am eager to begin my ride.
Loading up the bike doesn’t take long, I have done this a few times before. My luggage holders consist of my humble Oxford 1st time motorcycle panniers. A quick mention here, these are no fancy top box or expensive luggage panniers. I bought these when I first started to ride over 6 years ago! They have been on all my journeys with me and are still in excellent condition. They also come with waterproof covers should it rain. The fact that I have been able to fit a months worth of shopping into these babies are a testament to their sturdiness. Although since getting my bigger bike I do have to put them on slightly differently to how they should go on, with the large strap going over the seat rather than under. But providing you tie them down correctly, they’re not going anywhere. I also have a rucksack and tripod on the bike which are all strapped down with karabina bungee cords. These are ideal for travelling as they just clip on.
So all loaded and ready to go, I manoeuvre the bike in position. Getting on the bike is a different story with all the luggage. I mount it as if climbing onto a horse, being careful to ensure the bike is in gear and I am holding onto the front brake as I do so, (I don’t want to start the day peeling the bike off the floor).
It’s two hours until my 1st stop so I ensure I top up with fuel before setting off.
All fuelled up and ready to go, I am finally on my way. I do like riding at this time in the morning, although dark, there is little traffic on the road and it makes for an easy journey. I start by travelling up the A38 from Plymouth before joining the M5 and onto the M4 over the magnificent Severn toll bridge into Wales. I don t mind riding on motorways it’s just not as pretty. I take a steady pace to ensure I don’t eat up too much fuel so I am sticking to 70mph most of the way. Coming over the toll I was pleasantly surprised I didn’t have to pay anything for the bike, considering cars were £6.70 I was a little worried. But this made a nice start to the morning.
I get to my 1st destination exactly on time at 7am and wait for my travel companion (Elle) to arrive. I haven’t seen her in some time, so I was looking forward to catching up. But who else would she have contacted to join her on a last minute road trip to Wales and climb Snowdon! She most definitely asked the craziest person she knew.
So here we are my friend Elle and I ready to take on our Wales adventure! We only had a short stint of motorway driving left to go before the real fun begins. It is slightly strange that I am on my bike and she is in a car. But there was no-way I was going to turn down an opportunity to ride the bike to Wales and most definitely wasn’t going to be a passenger in a car.
With at least another 4 hours driving to go, after a quick bite to eat and hot drink we’re ready to hit the road.
I did point out in my basic essentials blog that the atlas I was using was quite basic. Yes this is true but the reason they sell it as a motorcycle atlas is because it specifically highlights the best motorbike routes. Using it alongside Google Maps to plot my route (the first time I have used it properly). I can honesty say it most certainly lived up to its expectation of ‘The Best Rides Motorcycle Atlas’.
After our last stint on the M4 we followed the A449 up towards Raglan before heading onto the A40 towards Breacon. Yes I admit the turnoff to Raglan looked a lot more built up on my map and I did miss the turning, which resulted in an additionally 20 minutes or so added onto our journey. But this was only a slight hiccup and the only one I would make on this journey.
Although these A roads were pretty, it wasn’t until we joined the A470 for most of the remainder or the journey that Wales really came into life. This road soon became one of the most stunning I have riden on.
Beautifully tarmacked with a mecca of twists and turns flowing up through the Wales countryside. Challenging at times but perfect for me to practise my motorbike skills. The weather was also just right, slighlty overcast with just a few patches og drizzle. The only negative was there wasn’t many places to stop. Being a trigger happy photograph fanatic I was in my element and just wanted to keep stopping to take piccies. Although actually the beauty was to be found in the ride and once I had overcome the urge to constantly stop, taking in this beautiful journey was plenty enough.
But the time we had arrived at our location I was a buzz of excitement, pride and adrenaline. I had made it all this way on my bike. The first part of my journey was done. A little victory dance couldn’t be resisted:
We arrived at Basecamp, a basic but very clean and friendly hostel run by brothers Tom and Tim. You can read my review here. I had never stayed in a hostel before but was pleasantly surprised especially for £24 a night for our own room. Although we did have to share a bathroom but that was no issue as they had separate men and women’s (thankfully) and again they were very well looked after and clean. The location was good and we could see the mountain from the hostel, although under cloud cover.
Unfortunately we had arrived later than anticipated, it was 1.30pm by the time we had arrived and unpacked our bags etc. However we still wanted to climb Mount Snowdon that day as the weather was looking OK and we wanted to get off earlyish tomorrow morning.
It was a 40 minute drive to Pen-Y-Pass carpark where we would be climbing the Miners Path and after my long stint on the bike, I was most definitely going to take up the offer as a passenger in the car. The route would roughly be a 6 hour round hike to the top and a 723m climb. But in all truthfulness we had planned that we would most likely get the train down and shuttle bus back to the car park. As it wasn’t until 2.45pm when we started our hike we didn’t particularly want to be climbing down in the dark.
The route was utterly breathtaking! It took us past the smiley face of Lake Llyn Teyrn and across the causeway over lake Llyn Llydaw. Along rugged stone paths, across little streams and steep ascents. It was one of the easier routes but after the long ride it was a fair challenge.
The first part was fairly flat and an easy walk around the lakes. The weather was just right although slightly overcast but dry.
After a few hours into the hike we would start making our final ascent to the summit. By this time my body was started to ache and I was starting to feel tired. Who in there right mind would ride 6 hours on a motorbike and then take a 3hr hike up Mount Snowdon all in one day! I definitely wasn’t feeling the love for this final bit. My companion however who I must add is 6 years my junior and has legs twice my size took it in her stride (Mrs Spring Chicken) and pretty much sprinted her way to the top.
Just as I thought, I struggled all the way to the top even debating if I would make it! My companion went ahead as there was no point her waiting for me. I am definitely not as fit as I thought. But each twinge, ache and bucket of sweat was worth every step. Just an excuse to stop every now and then though to take it all in had to be done, not that I needed an excuse.
I knew I was somewhere near the top although the cloud coverage made it hard to see. I climbed the finally part on my own (there was no way I could keep up with Mrs Spring Chicken!). The railway line was to the right and the train was also making its final ascent (how I wish I was on that train right now). But just a few more steps to go and WOW! I had finally made it in 2hrs 45 minutes, 15 minutes behind my companion.
Exhilarated, tired, buzzing and a huge sense of achievement. I was looking forward to getting the train back down and hoping to squeeze a drink in at the pub. However unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Little did we know there was only one more train ride down and as we hadn’t booked there were no more spaces left. This worried me as I have problems with my knees especially when descending and I was feeling knackered. But we couldn’t beat around the bush, we had to get down fairly quickly as it would be getting dark in a few hours. I pretty much bum shuffled it down the entire mountain as my right knee locked up pretty soon into the descent. But oh my, the views on the way down as dusk was approaching were well worth it. I am glad we didn’t get the train even through the pain of my knees.
We get down by 8.30pm and have completed our hike in 5.15hrs although Mrs Spring Chicken could easily have completed it in under 5hrs. Buy now, there is not a single part of my body which doesn’t hurt. We stop off at a local garage for dinner (nothing more than a ready meal) as we can cook back at the hostel and of course a bottle of red wine.
Even after only being sat in the car for 15 minutes I struggle to manoeuvre out of the car and looked very much like John Wayne as I attempt to walk around the garage shop. How I will be able to get on the bike tomorrow for the next part of my journey I do not know but for now a large glass of red and hot meal is all that is in my mind. Even if it is a heavily processed ready made spag bowl. Just a perfect end to a very long, adventurous day!
Day 1 complete
- 299 miles riden
- 8 miles hiked (723m climbed)
Watch out for part 2 of my journey through Wales where I ride solo, cross-country towards Birmingham before heading back to Plymouth………….