Mark booked the best hotel in Aberystwyth – well it was nowhere near the best or even in the top 100. However a good breakfast put it up a few places.
Off we go with the our new recruits Connor and Mark. They both set off up the big hill out of town at a fast pace accompanied by Bingo. Dave, Stubbsy & I stayed on the steady pace. Fair play as it was pretty steep and not my ideal start but I soon got into the swing of it.
It was steady climbing all the time as we passed King Arthur’s Labyrinth at Corris and a Gin Distillery. It’s a weird combination but it took the mind of climbing thinking what King Arthur got up to drinking gin
Up we climbed to Bala Lake at Lyn Tegid where Keith, Mark and Connor stopped at a lake side tourist cafe. It was really busy and cramped so the rest of us went into Bala (The Old Bull Inn) unfortunately they did not serve food so we had a drink and got some sandwiches from the Co-op next door and tried to dry off a little.
It was raining even harder now so with rain jackets and gloves on we went, with the quip “I am glad we came in the summer”. As normal we always start the session off with a big climb and it was no different today. The road was busy getting out off Bala with loads of tourist traffic; most of them looking at us as if we were mad I think they may be right! Bingo was setting a really good pace as we started to eat up the miles and before long we entered the small town Ruthin where we turned off the A494 on to the small country lanes. So much nicer to ride on.
Soon Bodfari was on the signposts and with the rain easing up slightly we pulled into the Kinnell Arms to regroup which was only about 2 miles from Doreen and Alan’s place. I gave Doreen a call said we were in the Kinnell Arms regrouping and drying off, obviously she knew better, after an hour Alan joined us with a wry smile.
Alan guided us down to their place and it was really good seeing Doreen. Angela was also there making us all very welcome as they always do when we venture up to see them. The lads got showered and cleaned up as best they could. Keith & I popped over the road to see Auntie Irene, once again she was so glad to see us, very humbling, unfortunately Irene was not up to joining the rest of us over the road, but offered both of us a bed for the night. We both jumped at it, far better than camping!
We then rejoined the rest, with Cousins Jeremy and Karen with their partners and children joining us it making it a lovely evening. We had a with a curry and later an array of flapjacks and Welsh cakes with Alan making sure all the lads drinks were topped up. All we had to do was all get together for the customarily family photograph, which was duly organised.
I would like to thank Doreen and Alan for their amazing hospitality. It was a real pleasure seeing you both and lovely to catch up with Irene too. We managed to squeeze in a few extra cakes into our bags.
Catching up with all the cousins and families made for a wonderful evening.
With a final contribution from another collection made at the Two Sawyers in Woolage Green the total now raised has reached £12,000 which is double our original target. A big thanks to all those at the pub that contributed. A grand effort. We look forward to the time when we can thank them properly with a visit once the restrictions are lifted.
Meanwhile we’ll keep the charity donations ticking over … because … why not?
Stay In & Stay Safe
Meanwhile as everyone is largely restricted to home and travel & holidays are currently suspended and the plans for the boys cycling trips to the Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Belgium) Sportive is cancelled and any plans for a 1000 mile ride to Greece this summer postponed we’ll bring you some notes of older trips to keep you entertained (and me busy).
Getting to the Indian Himalayas
We’re kicking off with a hiking tour of the Himalayas that me (Steve) and Keith did in the autumn of 2009 with our friends Adriana, Jim, Jan and James. We spent 3 weeks hiking in the mountains with everyone and then Keith and I went to south India for a look around Kerala and Tamil Nadu states, which included some canoeing (but no cycling).
India; 22nd September; Day 1
Kristian arrived at 2am this morning from Manchester with a trailer to pick up an ailing black Morris Minor which he will ransack for parts [this Morris had previously been used by the Aylesham Community]. He has a pale blue Minor of his own! He’ll be leaving for Australia on Friday for a couple of races and some warm winter training. Next season he will be riding for Rapha Condor again.
Keith came up in the morning and we walked around to my Dad’s garage to load the black Morris onto the trailer. Keith drove my Dad’s green Morris around to take the free space in the garage. It started first time after 3 months standing idle. We wondered when it would be driven again.
When the black Morris was loaded and tied down we bade farewell to Kristian as he returned to Manchester. He’ll be back from Australia in the New Year.
An hour later I said goodbye to Mum and Dad and walked down to Keith’s place where we I picked up my bag and we walked down to the station to catch the train to London and on to Heathrow for our flight to New Delhi. Linford, Keith’s son, walked down with us and we said goodbye to him as he left for college at Canterbury.
After struggling through London on the Underground Keith and I arrived at the airport to meet our fellow travellers James, Jim, Adriana and Jan. Keith hadn’t met anyone before and neither of us had met Jan (Adrian’s brother) before. I trekked with Jim, Adriana and James several times in the past including our last trip to the Himalayas in 2005.
As usual I had trouble at the check-in as I wanted my films to be hand-scanned. They refused even after I’d persuaded them to bring the manager down. So all my film went through the scanner and then to cap it all they hand-scanned my photography bag anyway. What a pointless waste of time!
India; 23rd September; Day 2; New Delhi
After an uneventful flight where I read the paper, slept and ate and drank we arrived in New Delhi at 6.30am. I stupidly left my camera bag on the plane and had to rush back to claim it! The cabin crew joked that they were just about to blow it up! Of course my hold luggage was last off the carousel too!
We were met by our travel company Himalayan Run and Trek and driven to the Connaught Hotel. In an attempt to avoid jet-lag we then all went for a walk around Connaught Place in the centre of Delhi. In the heat it was chaos though as much of the area is being rebuilt for the Commonwealth Games to be held here in a years time. Also, as is common in large cities in India, we were pestered by strangers trying to be helpful and show us around! We did however manage to change some money into rupees and ended up with huge wads of 100 rupee notes. It’s important to get small denominations as it’ll prove difficult to change larger notes in the villages of the Himalayas. In any case we won’t be needing a great deal of money on the trek.
After a brief rest in the hotel Keith and I, in a desperate attempt to fill the time in the afternoon by staying awake, catch an auto-rickshaw to the Delhi Railway Museum. This is a largely outdoor museum where the exhibits sit rusting in the baking heat. Apart from a small gang of schoolkids we were the only visitors. We wander around for a couple of hours and I get my first close look at the iconic Alco WMD2 diesel which is still the mainstay of the Indian Railways.
In the evening we all pile into a taxi and go to the Imperial Hotel for dinner. This is a very posh and very colonial looking place with staff strutting around in sub-military uniforms. Needless to say we were not allowed in the main dining room – some of us were wearing shorts – but we did have a decent meal in the plebs canteen!
India; 24th September; Day 3; Rishikesh
We were up at 4.45am for a quick breakfast at the hotel before getting into the bus to take us to the station. Our own minibus had left last night with our main luggage and would meet us in Haridwar. Instead of a 10 or 12 hour drive we were taking the morning express which would do the journey in 3 and 3/4 hours.
After some confusion at the station – we arrived at the wrong side and then had to drive right around town in heavy traffic – we piled onto the bustling station. I think we have a 1st Class Aircon coach which proves to be pretty comfortable. We are served tea and a second breakfast on our journey.
As the train crawls out of New Delhi we watch as the world awakes in the ghettos and Shanty Towns. As we then speed across the plains we pass mostly farmland and a few scruffy little towns. We see plenty of egrets in the ponds and ditches and also a peacock.
By 11am we have arrived in Haridwar and we stream out of the station with hordes of other travellers into the square which is also heaving with people. We scramble into our minibus and are re-united with our luggage! It’s only a short 24km ride to Rishikesh where we are to spend the night.
After checking into our dusty hotel Keith and I decide to go for a walk about town. Even though it’s overcast the day is hot and humid and sweaty. It’s a scruffy place but it’s holy and it sits on the Ganges river. As we wander through the streets we dodge the cows and pigs lying around and try not to get clipped by the traffic. Amazingly we find an elephant and though the minder tries to persuade us to go for a ride we decline but give him a few rupees anyway for the photographs we took. At the river we walk along the ghats, which are empty at the moment, and watch a few people braving a swim in the holy river. The water is icy and a glacial grey/green colour.
Further down we climb up to a road high above the river and then take some steps down so that we can cross on the suspension bridge. It’s here that we see large troops of what look like Baboons. I think in fact they are Rhesus Macaques. We watch the males as they run around keeping control of their family groups and maintaining their territories.
The bridge turns out to be a pedestrian bridge but this doesn’t prevent the odd cow wandering across – and the cow pats you have to dodge – nor the locals coming across on motorbikes and push bikes. At the other side we walk onto more ghats and watch as devotees place ceremonial platters on the river made of fruit and coconuts and leaves and brightly coloured papers.
A small ferry is plying its trade from here and so we return to the other side in a small boat. Once here we find a large, but empty hotel, and have a lunch of lassis, toasted cheese sandwiches and sweet sweet tea in a room overlooking the river. We catch an auto-rickshaw back to our hotel at the other end of town thinking we may take a swim in the swimming-pool before dark. After peering into its limpid and faintly rank green waters we decide against it. In our room we doze and sleep and watch cricket on the TV.
We have dinner in the hotel. It’s all vegetarian and we can get no beers. We will have no meat or beer for the next 20 days.
India; 25th September; Day 4; Malla; 1390m
We left Rishikesh this morning at 6am without breakfast. It was a pleasant warm morning but still overcast as the minibus climbed out of the valley. It did rain a little as we climbed but it soon became clear again as we drove on.
After three hours we pull up for some tea and toast and then stretch our legs in the sunshine. Keith and I stroll down the road thinking the bus can pick us up but we hear some yelling and have to turn back. Apparently the driver had taken a detour to the cafe and was going back the way we’d come!
For a long while the road meandered alongside the Tehri Reservoir until we climbed up over the Tehri Dam itself. The scenery is green and the valleys are wonderfully terraced. We stop for another tea at a cafe overlooking the reservoir and marvel at the emptiness of it all. Not a single boat mars it’s huge surface. I wondered if it was full of fish but then realised that the locals are vegetarian and wouldn’t be interested!
Later we stop at Uttarkashi for lunch. The restaurant is dark and busy and the food is good. We stretch our legs outside as the crowds mill about.
Eventually, at 3pm, after 9 hours on the road we arrive at Latasera just before the tiny village of Malla. We meet our guides and porters and lug our gear a short distance over the footbridge to a field beside the Ganga River. On the path I see a brilliant green black and pink Swallowtail butterfly but failed to get a decent shot.
After setting up camp we stroll along the riverbank and then have a wash in the freezing river. Once the kitchen tent is set up we are brought a cup of tea and later of course we have the first of many dinners prepared by our Chef. The porters have there own kitchen stuff and prepare there own meals. We must have about 15 or 16 porters here and we will gradually get to know them over the next few weeks. We also have 3 muleteers and a team of six mules to carry our stuff. That makes a party of about 25!
All three of us have obtained Tajikistan visas, and Keith is busy working on the Russian and Chinese visas: all the forms are completed awaiting a convenient date to go to the visa application offices for the respective countries.
For the Russian visa we will need to have a letter of invitation, a brief itinerary of our route and have our finger prints taken, for the Chinese visa very much the same. Keith has it all in hand.
Keith also been very busy on the procurement side, purchasing a Cannondale Touring 2, including bags and paniers.
Linney is still looking for his touring bike and getting advice from the rest of the team.
Dave has suggested this – it’s the right colour, is a step-through for the wearing of skirts and has luggage space:
Dale has reverted to form and has hired Steve’s vintage Cannondale T700, which comes with a certain pedigree having completed a tour of the USA and New Zealand and clocked up over 8000 miles.
Training is going well. For the Tour of Flanders Sportive on the 6th April we have eleven riders taking part this year, so it should be a good weekend, with some of the guys taking part in their first sportive. We’ll be riding the 174km course: 110 miles or so.
The weekend rides are going well as they all seem to finish in a pub, but that’s par for the course.
Last week we all trained at WattBike (in association with Black Cat Cycle Coaching) at Canterbury Christ Church University. All, that is, except Linney (he has more important work to get on with, choosing the colour co-ordinated silk shirts for the ride).
We have attended these sessions for the last 12 weeks, gaining valuable insights into our physical capabilities or lack of them.