Well that was one of the most enjoyable and bonkers BaMs for ages – thanks to the top company of Pickers, and also some hare-brained situations and japes. Pickers joined my train at Machynlleth, explaining he’d just heard an announcement that people should “look out for anything odd or wierd and report it”, and of course we fitted that bill perfectly although for some reason nobody reported us. We alighted (good word that) at Borth straight out into some Bikepacking Standard Weather – first day of rain for goodness knows how long, with our usual excellent timing. There was now literally no going back because we only had one-way tickets to Borth! Shortly afterwards we spotted a buzzard very close to us on a post in a farmyard – amazing sight. We thought it would be fun to see it fly, so spent a couple of minutes gently clapping our hands, strangely to no avail. Eventually the farmer poked his head around a hedge and gave us a very strange look – two blokes clapping hands on a lane in the middle of nowhere. It eventually transpired that the buzzard was, er, a plastic decoy for the crows.
The long climb up through Talybont and Cwm Ceulan brought us to the old Esgair-hir mine with its very dodgy looking open shafts several hundred feet deep. Pickers is used to my fixation with dangerous mines and caves by now.
The main shaft had some extremely wierd noises far far below, rather like someone clambering around over rocks and stones. Shouting elicited no responses, so we assumed ghosts of miners past and legged it smartly away via Anglers Retreat and the rather nice woodland track through Hafodwnog towards Hyddgen.
We opted for the quick way down to Mach, although seeing the sign at the bottom – with no matching one at the top presumably because they expected nobody in their right minds would approach from that direction - made us wonder whether we should plod 1300’ back up and go down the “proper way”.
Arrived at one of my favourite pubs just in time for last food orders, and the bar lady reminded me about my Margerita debauchery from 3 months ago. Had to have another to remind myself...
A discreet enquiry about bivi spots resulted in permission for the village green, upon which we endured a damp, midgy, night. Next morning it was porridge and an early start for our assault on the Pickers Gap. We had no idea about the terrain up there and 1500’ was a long climb to risk, with the weather closing in as we ascended. At the top, some trees had been felled and the whole area resembled the scene after a nuclear attack or destruction by aliens. We also gradually realised that the place was totally silent, totally
silent. No vehicles, birds, branches, wind, nothing. I can't remember the last time I encountered that. A very eerie atmosphere.
As it turned out, the traverse wasn’t too bad and we emerged above Bryn Eglwys quarry, plunging down the tracks into Abergynolwyn where the really excellent community cafe supplied us with soup and the first brews and cake of the day – I passed over the lemon drizzle for a very toothsome bakewell slice. Highly recommended.
After lunch we headed up past Talyllyn Lake. By this time we were getting blasé about all the stunning scenery repeatedly appearing round corners – oh look another shimmering lake, there’s another load of mountains, two buzzards on that tree, more tinkling streams in sylvan glades – sensory overload.
We tried a, for us, new track up towards Dolgellau. This would be a good alternative to F*ck It Hill in either direction and we resolved to build it into a WRT or something at some point. If that wasn’t enough excitement, we found an almost entirely off-road drop down into town which also avoids that desperately tedious road between Dol and Tabor. En route was a haunted house, so here’s a few pics that will appeal to 28dayslater fans, including a stupendous slate “garden wall” (had to pause and stroke the bloody thing, it were that sexy), and a handy outdoor netty for those taken-short-while-bivvying moments. 40-year-old pickled onion anyone? And yes I admit that the kitchen looks in a considerably better state than ours at home.
Only way in was through this window with one pane of glass missing, so I might have been entering but I certainly wasn't breaking
"There comes a time in your life Ponsonby, when you think: 'My God, I'm two-thirds of the way to the grave and what have I done?" - RIP
"It is in the petty details, not in the great results, that the interest of existence lies" - JKJ