Friday, April 6, 2012

Cycle Touring Day 6

Route: Oswestry - Chirk - LlangollenCorwen - Betws-y-Coed - Bethesda - Bangor

Compared with today, the previous five day's cycles had all been easy! After passing through Oswestry and entering Wales, I spent much of the day climbing.

For the first time on this trip, I had also a deadline to make - I wanted to catch the 17:15 sailing from Holyhead to Dublin. The distance for the day was to be well over 100km again, so I set off from Canal Central at 08:30 which I figured would give me plenty of time. I stocked up on food for the day at a local shop and was then on my way.

Pretty soon I could see the snow-capped hills and mountains of Wales in the distance - I knew it was going to be a cold day. As with every day so far, I was soon stopping regularly and snapping away to capture the views with the camera. I entered Wales at around 10:00 and whist photographing a road sign displaying the distances for the day, I realised that it was still 131km to Holyhead - It would be tight but I figured I could make it just in time. Not long after this though, the climbs began to get serious.

I spent pretty much every minute of the following two hours climbing and because it was cold and I was not moving very fast, I could get warm either and the pace remained quite slow. I wanted to stop for a relaxed lunch in Betws-y-Coed but even after a fast 30 minute descent into the village, I realised that if I was going to make my deadline, I wouldn't have time for anything other than to consume my sandwich and move on again pronto.

The next hour consisted of a long slow climb of 300m in elevation. I was now surrounded by snow and a headwind was slowing my progress further. I could still not get any warmth into me either - I have always hated days like that. I was now also struggling with fatigue. I had to stop briefly and consume pretty much the rest of my food and my last two energy gel sachets in the hope that the extra energy boost would see me through the rest of the climb.

I had decided, when planning this day, that if I needed to I would get a train across Anglesey if that meant I would make the ferry in time. As the going had been so slow, this was now going to be the case but there was also a danger that I would not make the last train I needed in order to make the ferry!

I hoped to get a train from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch just so I could have a train ticket bearing the name. I have always been fascinated with the name of the place, so much so that I asked a friend in school (whose mother is Welsh) to teach me how to pronounce it - it is now my party piece!

I was still climbing and as time was now so tight, I realised that I would have to get a train from the earlier station - Bangor - just to give me an additional 8 minutes! I checked the train times on my iPhone and discovered that the Bangor train was expected to be delayed by 10 minutes - now departing at 15:40 instead of 15:30. I hoped this delay would give me the precious extra minutes I needed. I had now reached the peak of my climb and had started my descent. Forty-five minutes later, after speeding as fast as I could down the winding roads, I was still unsure how far I had left to go and if the expected delay had been rectified. A sign told me that Bangor was still 2.5 miles away but it was 15:28 - I began to think I was fighting a losing battle, but I pressed on as fast as I could. I figured that if a person could run a mile in under four minutes, that I should be able cycle 2.5 miles in under 12 minutes even in my fatigued state.

I reached Bangor at 15:36 but I had no idea where the station was and had no time to stop and check or to ask someone, so I just kept cycling along what I assumed was the main route through the town. At 15:40 (the expected departure time of the train), I was just about to give up all hope when I noticed what looked to me like a train station at the top of the hill. Even though I was now sure the train had gone, I didn't want to fail due to a lack of effort on my part, so I gave it one last push and used up all the energy I had left to get up there. I reached the station at 15:43 and could see no sign of a train. Bugger! The first platform I got to was for a train towards Birmingham but I could not see the sign on the opposite platform, which would have been for trains towards Holyhead, and then noticed a train was approaching that platform - could that possibly be my train 13 minutes late? In order to get to the other side I had to carry and run with a bike I could barely even lift, up the steps, over the bridge and down the other side! As I bounded down the opposite steps I could finally read the electronic sign - Holyhead. Holy flip! I had made it. I literally jumped the last few steps and then jumped straight onto the train just as the doors were closing. I had made it! My heart was racing and I was sweating profusely but the sense of elation was intense and I soon realised I had a huge grin on my face but hoped that I had not just used up all my luck for my entire trip as I still had to buy a ticket for the ferry!

I had not booked a ticket in advance, as I was not sure which crossing I would be catching or with which company, so once at the port my next task was to organise that. I had forgotten, however, that it was Easter weekend and was informed that I would have to pay for an upgrade to Club Class, as there were no other seats left. I was also told that I was also very lucky to even get a ticket as there was literally only a handful left - I was certainly burning through my quota of luck today! "How much is that going to cost me?", I asked. "£100?", "Is it like an airline upgrade?", I enquired worriedly, and was told it would be an additional £16! I laughed! I was then informed that the upgrade included complimentary refreshments and snacks - my eyes lit up.

Once onboard I found my seat and then made my way to the buffet. I indulged in copious amounts of sandwiches, cheese and biscuits along with flapjacks, cakes and muffins - just what a cyclist needs after a long and difficult day in the saddle. I then washed it all down with glass after glass of both apple and orange juice. I feasted just as Leo Sayer had done in the song "Long Tall Glasses", although dancing was not required thankfully. I made sure I took a few extras to stuff into my panniers too. "Next week I'm coming back for more!" Finally I settled into my seat and could finally relax after one of the toughest and most fraught days of travel that I have ever endured!

I never did get to take a photo of my bike on the platform of the Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch station as I hoped to do, but I did manage to grab a shot of the station building and sign through the window of the train when we stopped at the station.

A short ride from the ferry port in Dublin to my friends house where I would be staying and I was done for the day at last. I had been travelling for 12 hours exactly.

Country number two.

Distances for the day (in miles not kilometres)

Some stunning scenery was on display as I entered the climbs of Wales.

I never quite forfiled my dream to catch a train from here but I managed to snap this from the train when we stopped at the station.


  1. Well done, as you now know never say never. You just kept on going and luck was definitely on your side that day. xx

  2. INCREDIBLE!! This has to be made into a movie....I was on the edge of my seat reading it, will he make, has he got time to get to Bangor!! Well done!

    1. I could have tried to film it on my video camera but if I had stopped for just one more photo I would have missed the train it was that close :)

  3. Bless you, I love your determination...inspiring xx