Travel StoriesSouth Wales 2017
Exploring Around Tywyn
By Ren Withnell
Last night's sleep was punctuated by heavy rain rattling the tent, flapping awnings on nearby caravans and too many visits to the pee can. I have slept, sort of, but not the deep sleep of the guiltless mind. To pass the time before I dare to prod she who must not be disturbed I make a cup-o-porridge and a brew. It's lashing it down outside the tent, Sharon will not be at all pleased.
By the time she who doesn't like the rain has got up, got dressed and stopped cursing the weather the worst of the rain has passed.
Today we explore. We've been to Tywyn before but we've not had a look around. After some deliberation Sharon decides it would be most pleasant to sit upon the rear of my motorcycle and observe the hills and mountains and the sheep and the cattle and the common folk rather than doing anything so vulgar as actually riding herself. With a cheeky "Onward Jeeves!" I am commanded to depart the campsite.
My first task is to get lost. Getting lost is where all the good and interesting things are so if someone tells you to get lost it's a good thing. This round of getting lost sees us somewhere around the back of Tywyn, Abergynolwyn and Peniarth. Hills - big, sheep - lots, roads - narrow, air - fresh and scenery - excellent.
...oh and sea, don't forget the wonderful wild sea.
Back on the main roads I find the Penmaenpool Toll Bridge. This is a narrow, old and well worn bridge that for 50p (motorcycles) cuts a little off the journey around the Mawddach estuary between Fairbourne and Barmouth. We clatter across the wooden slats, trying not to slither while admiring the views.
Dolgellau brings forth hot tea in the Crasdy'r Gader cafe and some shopping for tonight's meal from the Co-op.
Another road leads us down to a ford, regular readers will know I like a good ford. This one, well this one is a cracker but this morning's rain is flowing in full force and I fear the wheels may be washed away if I try to cross is. Remembering that I hope to ride this bike for several more days on this trip and many many more trips after this, I decide to leave it. Maybe I shall return one day.
Great! But - er - I'll pass on crossing this one thanks.
By dumb navigation we've taken a different route back into Abergynolwyn. This time I veer off the main road and venture up another single track back lane. This one is steep, very steep and covered in leaf litter, mud and crud. The 500 chomps and grapples it's way up like a mountain goat, it is far more confident than Sharon or I are feeling. Alas we're not rewarded with a secret trail across the mountains but a closed gate. Coming back down is equally scary, the bike is fine it is the passengers that are terrified.
Aberdovey appears before us as a pleasingly peaceful and sunny Welsh seaside town. We park on the front and sit on a bench to admire the broad beach. The sun is shining yet this isn't sunbathing weather as the stiff breeze flips our hair about. Perhaps I could shed a jumper but that's all.
Aberdovey seems to be putting a smile on Sharon's face.
Google maps suggests there should be a single track route inland that will take us over the hills and back north up the coast. "Panorama Walk" should take us upwards and inland, a road should connect us to "Happy Valley Walk" which will then lead us west back to the main road south of Tywyn. This should be a fabulous little detour and see us back in time for tea.
Panorama walk is splendidly remote. There is tarmac amidst the sheep and the tufts of grass making progress perfectly navigable. Vast fat hills roll deep into crevices some may call valleys, the occasional trees are shaped by the wind and boulders stick out between the hardy grass and moor. We have to stop for a few minutes as an intense hailstorm enshrouds us, battering us and causing the sheep to look ever more forlorn.
Then we meet a gate and another gate and another gate. The final gate next to a desperately remote house offers no more tarmac beyond. Gosh darn it! Desperate to see if the terrain is passable we walk a little only to find grass, rocks, mud and gravel. If I were on someone else's bike I'd have a go. If I didn't want to spoil my holiday I'd give it a shot. If I weren't 2-up I'd consider it. If it were dry then maybe. There are too many good reasons not to carry on and not enough reasons to risk it. It's time to turn around once more. As we ride back the sun makes another appearance.
This seems to be as far as I'm brave enough to ride.
Tonight's evening meal is boiled rice with 2 tins of chilli. When I go camping on my own I usually lose a pound or two because I make very simple meals and don't spoil myself. When I go camping with Sharon I gain a pound or two because we create proper meals then she forces me to eat biscuits and other luxuries against my will. I think by the end of this trip I'll need something bigger than the 500 to pull my excess mass.
The rain is battering the tent once more.
By Sharon Parker
The weather forecast for the week was not looking good. The pessimism proves correct as the tent flaps in the wind and the rain hammers overhead. We do a video of the rain just so everyone knows how much fun camping can be.
I am in no rush to go outside in this so I take my time getting ready in the hope that the worse will pass. Fortunately the rain does ease and although the heavy grey skies persist it is far better than what was on offer first thing this morning.
Ren asks me if I want to ride my bike or go pillion? Now there is a dilemma. Recently after my operation I was pillion again and I really enjoyed it. However I feel that if I do not ride my own bike then I am somehow lacking in commitment. Hmmm what to do? Oh come on Sharon what do you have to prove about commitment? You have done over 30,000 miles in all weathers on your bikes since learning to ride, there is nothing to prove. Besides it will be nice to sit back and be able to take in the scenery at one's leisure for once. That'll be me on the back seat today then.
It is real fun being pillion again. I know a lot of people who say that once they can ride their own motorbike they hate going back to pillion. I though get to snuggle up close to Ren and chat easily about the abundant beauty that passes us by, this feels just great to me. I also get to take photos as we ride along, a job I adore doing.
Being pillion I get to sit and stare, taking in slowly all the dramatic and colourful beauty on display. From craggy mountains, wooded glens and the wide blue ocean.
As we approach a slippery wooden rickety bridge that Ren intends to ride over I am grateful I am not on my bike. No need to worry and raise a heartbeat, Ren is far more capable than I so I can just take more photos while he gets to carefully negotiate the slippery surface.
The bridge over the river? I do not know the river's name but the views are great.
We are doing our favourite type of riding, going down single tracks looking to see where they end up. The present one leads us to a ford. How fantastic I know Ren loves his Fords so this should make him happy.
Ren surveys the Ford and considers the possibility of a crossing
Unfortunately the heavy rains has caused the river running across the Ford to be in full flow. The rapid current coupled with the slippery surface does not bode well for safe passage. It is a shame because we had hopes to take the road around the lake this way.
Not one to be beaten lightly Ren manages to find another way to the path alongside the lake from the opposite direction. It was worth the effort as we are reward with some wonderful Welsh views.
If at first you don't succeed then try a different route to your chosen destination
As I stated earlier as we rode across the rickety bridge I have every faith in Ren's ability as a good rider. However my usual "never worry you are in safe hands" is tested when on yet another side lane Ren begins a very steep ascent only to reach a dead end that results in an equally steep descent. I am admittedly rather unnerved, rather worried, rather well - er - terrified to be honest. Ren's skills keep us safe and much to my relief he keeps the rubber on the ground.
If Ren scared himself it did not show because it is not long before he has found yet another steep, twisty lonesome single track to take us exploring. I am loving this. The tracks winds itself ever higher into the realms of free roaming sheep and stunted trees growing at angles that leave you in no doubt which way the wind be a-blowing. Talking of wind it rapidly picks up and the already grey skies darken even further. We suddenly find ourselves in the middle of a rather fierce hailstorm. The hail beats us to a stop and the wind buffets the motorbike pushing it side to side. Wow where the hell did this come from? For the second time today I am glad I am not on my own bike. With me not being able to flat foot on my bike I am not sure that I would have remained upright if I had been on my own bike.
The storm passes as suddenly as it appeared. We are once again free to continue along the track. Sat nav is leading the way but she seems to be somewhat in error. Maybe she has the same navigation skills as myself, that'll be zero then. According to her we should be following a tarmac road suitable for vehicles. Ok, thus far the tarmac has been rather sparse, interspersed with the usual grass growing along the middle which is to be expected on the more remote single tracks. What now lays before us is not tarmac at all but rubble. We get off the bike and have a walk along the rutted surface and both decide that two up on this terrain at the beginning of a holiday is just too risky.
It is the end of the tarmac for the bike on this road.
Maybe there was a road here once but not any longer
But hey hang on all is not lost, sat nav says there is another road off this one we can use. Fab lets go see, oh right, think she is having another laugh.
The alternative route offered by sat nav, yeah cheers sat nav thanks for nothing.
We have no choice but to turn around and go back the way we have come. The sun comes out to journey with us back to our canvas home.
As I snuggle into my sleeping bag later that evening the rain returns but it is ok. I am snug as a bug and as I drift off to sleep a smile is still on my face as a recall a fantastic day exploring all those remote tracks where hidden beauty lies. Today we found some beautiful places to get lost in. We were even lucky enough to come to dead ends so we had the chance to turn around and view it all again for a second time. How lucky were we.
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Not Even Wales!
With a storm set to cause havoc across the UK is this day the best day to set out on a camping holiday? Maybe not.
Finally Sharon and Ren get themselves out of the house and onto the road. They've set out, but have they got everything?
Exploring Around Tywyn
Mid Wales provides an engaging, gorgeous and sometimes challenging landscape to explore. With all the sea, hills, mountains, valleys and single track lanes that go nowhere, our explorers are exploring.
Bracing Winds And Wobbly Hobbits
Between the rain and the beauty Sharon's riding is creating mixed emotions for her and Ren is getting giddy over a TV programme.
Exploring St Davids - On Foot
It is time to leave the bikes for just one day and set out on foot to explore the tiny city of St Davids. The city is small and pleasant, the cathedral is just sheer delight.
Exploring Around St Davids
In the land of a thousand coves Sharon and Ren are looking into a handful of them. There's a chance Ren's 500 might not be getting out of one of them though.
Is Tenby Really Utopia?
Tenby has been much lauded to both Sharon and Ren but now it's time to see if the reality will live up to the hype. Will Tenby be amazing or an amazing flop?
Exploring Around Tenby
Between the endless cute coves, splendid coastal resorts and curiosities there's time for some field repairs. The big worry now is the forthcoming weather.
Spoiled Rotten In Gower
Sharon is for once actually preying for rain and Ren is wondering if Sharon is going to kill him. What on earth is going on?
Exploring The Gower Peninsula
Considering the day was supposed to be a washout Sharon and Ren get to look around the Gower Peninsula in good conditions. There's only one problem with Sharon's perfect beach - the walk back.
New Friends And Llandovery
While the weather is very much against them Sharon and Ren enjoy the day with new friends and a lot of hot tea. They're heading a little North in South Wales.
Exploring The Brecon Beacons
After yesterday's deluge will the soggy campers get chance to dry out and actually see The Brecon Beacons? Sharon is bleating out some awful sheep puns too.
Epilogue - South Wales 2017
Once again another trip comes to an end and it is time to return to the reality of everyday life. Neither Sharon or Ren are ready for it to be over.
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Travel StoriesSouth Wales 2017