We awoke at 7am to sunshine and beautiful morning skies. The forecast was for rain by late morning, however, and I was keen to make as much progress as possible in the dry. The first part of the ride was a steady and long ride to Bryn y Fedwen, following an 8 mile gradual descent into the town of Machynlleth. Liam elected to dismantle camp with Fabian and the three of us cyclists were on the road by 8.30am. After cycling more than 120 miles over the last 2 days, the previous evening was the sorest I had felt in many years. Today was slightly better but we also made sure we used special cycling cream to aid our padded shorts. This was a wise move and the soreness lessened from this point on.The climb was initially steady, but as we travelled through Hafren Forest the hills became more challenging. Tom led, climbing all the way to the top of the pass, while Jonny and I elected to reserve our energy and walk part of the way. Liam had elected to reserve even more energy and met us with Fabian at the top of the pass, his bike ready for the long decent. The decent was preceded by amazing views across the Cambrian Mountains, which stretch across mid Wales. The long descent was a fabulous tour of the beautiful countryside with no effort involved. However, the spots of rain were becoming more frequent and the clouds were getting darker. As we stopped in Machynlleth to consider having lunch or moving on, a local commented to us: 'Better find a pub, you’re going to get wet soon’. We didn’t follow his advice, however, and decided to cycle onto Dolgellau (somehow renamed Doggy-log), but he was right… we were about to get very wet!
This stretch was tough. It started well, with lovely quiet tracks along a river, but as we travelled to the village of Corris the showers were getting heavier and more frequent. We were trying to avoid getting soaked, so would take shelter anywhere we could. It was while waiting for one of these showers to pass that Liam noticed a bubbling noise coming from underneath my front tyre; the first puncture of our trip, although thankfully a very slow one. We continued east to the village of Aberllefenni and then north through a steep-sided valley which had, at the very top, a magnificent man-made cave - the entrance to slate mines that obviously at one time sustained the local community. It was now derelict with gigantic piles of slate scattered at the base. We remarked that it felt like 'Lord of the Rings' as we passed underneath the Mines of Moria into the Misty Mountains.The road soon became a path and continued steeply up the rocky and barren valley. This was one of our most difficult climbs, with all four of us pushing our bikes and frustration being felt by all. As we neared the top, and could see the forest ahead, the air became cooler, the wind picked up and a dark cloud seemed to be following us up the valley - heavy rain was coming! Although shattered, we pushed our bikes as quickly as we could up the hill towards the trees to get some sort of shelter. Although we didn’t quite make it, we managed to shelter ourselves under scattered pine trees from the heaviest part of the shower. However, we were wet, cold, hungry - and still some miles from Dolgellau. The negative feeling was then compounded as, coming down the hill, Jonny’s tire blew and the whole team ground to a halt. Thankfully, we were near a main road, Fabian was only a few miles away and for once we had telephone reception!
15 minutes later Fabian came to the rescue with the van. We parked off the road and were able to pull out the awning and make our repairs out of the rain. Amazingly, Tom cooked a great lunch of pasta, bacon, sausage and beans. Bikes now repaired, the team fed and warm(er), we cycled on over the hill into the pretty town of Dolgellau.
As we entered the town, we spotted the biggest and darkest cloud we had yet seen. We unanimously agreed to take shelter in the town as shoppers continued their business about the streets. This decision proved a wise one as the heavens opened (not for the first time this trip) and everybody ran for cover. The wind and rain were so strong that the water blew under the arches where we were sheltered. As soon as the rain stopped, we were back on our bikes heading for the River Mawddach, up the estuary and out onto the coast. We were finally leaving the hills behind us.
Not only was this ride along a lovely flat path up the estuary, but the showers took a break and the sun came out. As we travelled towards the 15O year-old Barmouth Bridge, we all shared a real sense of bliss as the cold wind and rain turned into a warm sea breeze. We paused on the bridge and considered contacting Fabian to arrange camp here (as was originally planned) but decided to continue 10 miles up the coast, as the original day 4 route was over 70 miles, and we wanted to make the last day more manageable. This sense of harmony was spoilt, however, when a motorist decided to throw a Custard Cream at Tom! Sadly, this was not the only time when a young motorist decided to abuse one of us for no apparent reason - just because we happened to be on bikes, I presume - so strange and little pathetic I think ... at the very least, a waste of a good biscuit!The road was quick and the wind was behind us as we beat the incoming rain to our campsite in Llanfair. Just as we put up the tents, strong wind and torrential rain came in, dampening the spirit of our planned barbeque - but we were mostly dry and with ¾ of the journey completed ...