Welsh Black Top and a Skinny Ride

It’s strange to go from a life where every hour is recorded with a photo of some mountain scene, meeting different people everyday and sleeping at a different coordinate every night to a lifestyle where you sleep in the same place, spend all day in the same place and the hours and days all merge into one. We desperately needed somewhere we could call home, so have chosen to ‘settle down’, and I have a great job helping people plan trips to Patagonia; but you can’t help missing life on a bike.

I had a week of leave and sadly Neil had to work so I took my shiny new road bike and sought out some climbs, solo for the first time. I rollercoastered endlessly and felt blissfully happy just spinning my wheels, deep in my own thoughts and chatting to the lovely people I met. This was the Harriet I like the most.


After consulting the weather forecast I decided hostels and Warmshowers were the way to go. I carried a Wales atlas book, waterproof jacket, Primaloft jacket, a towel and flapjacks.


Setting out from Abergavenny my first target was the famous Tumble climb.


As one must, I giggled at the Welsh signs. ARAF ARAF!!!! No I won’t!


Across the moors in the pouring rain…


…and onwards into the heart of the Black Mountains. Asking directions was proving difficult because I couldn’t pronounce the place names. Welsh is considerably more tricky than Quechua.


At 18:00 I considered stopping in the town of Llyfhwlllwwwd Wells but I had spotted a cool little hostel in the hills that looked promising and continued to climb…


What the hell is that?! Looks pretty steep…


I’d seen the double arrows on the map, but climbing the Devil’s Staircase late in the day wasn’t intentional. Best take a selfie to record the moment. Looking a bit crazy, heart leaping out of chest.



I spent the night at the wonderful Dolgoch hostel. Apparently this is what it looks like when it isn’t raining.


This was becoming pretty normal…


…whilst this seemed strangely out of place miles from the nearest house and led me to muse about how much better connected remote places used to be. If every post box was replaced by a telephone mast, the country would be as connected as it was 100 years ago.


Paul and his bread van awaited me in Tregaron. I may have inadvertently barged in front of a man in a wheelchair and four OAPs in my clamouring for pastries. Sorry!


Pastry powered, I spun over the hills and far away.


I spent a night with That Emily Chappell‘s parents, watching Emily’s GPS dot race across Europe in the Transcontinental – an evening of pure geeking out and route planning – love it! This is a shop in their local town Llandiloes (the only place name I can say). Mid Wales has some great towns whose shops provide fabulous gossiping opportunities.


I asked Mr Chappell to tell me of all the most interesting climbs, so he sent me up…


…..and over to Mac(somethingorother) where I had been told that it would be silly not to hunt down the curry lady, being as it was market day.


Then up…


…and more halteringly…


….over Belchy Grows pass


A full hostel meant a night sleeping on a cafe floor, before I climbed a load more green rolling hills…


and then I reached the sea. The thrill of having reached my destination, but a heavy heart at the realization that the adventure is over, for now.


And as everyone knows when you reach the sea you MUST eat chips.

Sorry if there were more food references than usual. Thats what happens when you let a chica out on her bici alone. I’ll also take the liberty, whilst Neil isn’t watching, to add a gear shot.


Salsa Anything cage with bag is great, though slightly thigh-swishy. It fitted a phone, wallet, lock, full size atlas of Wales and a bunch of bananas.

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2 thoughts on “Welsh Black Top and a Skinny Ride

  1. Lars Henning

    Glad I’m not the only one who stumbles on those names. Even if I could pronounce them, I’d still get them all mixed up with the double Ls.

    I didn’t make it into Llanidloes massive, but I thoroughly enjoyed Emily’s lovely home. Hope to visit again armed with a quiver of bikes!


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