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The Gecko Challenge - Day 3

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"


[one_half]OK, as far as opening lines go that one’s been plagiarised more than Wikipedia in a high schooler's history homework but it is an appropriate epitaph for day three of the challenge.

The day started off badly with me lingering in Builth Wells, reluctant to abandon Emma 120 miles from home, but the journey had to continue. I started my journey slowly and, after having to double after a number of wrong turns, eventually left Builth Wells and started on the most exciting day of the challenge.
With no other option available I headed north along the dreaded A470, but to my great joy and relief the road was quiet the sun had finally decided to grace us with its presence, and I was well on my way at a great pace. Even with this auspicious start I felt as if something was missing and could feel a metaphorical black cloud hovering above me.

I felt a massive relief when I finally turned off the A470 and headed back into my comfort zone on a B road through sleepy country villages and farmsteads. As the road twists and turns alongside the river and I crested a rise a tractor blocks my path. I didn’t mind though, being on the slow lazy road, drifting with the river in the blazing sunshine, I felt relaxed again and at peace with the world. I stopped and waited as the tractor turns and let my vision drift across the stunning landscape. Something caught my eye above me and I saw another bird of prey and, applying my new found knowledge, I identify it as a Red Kite, my second of the journey, and decided to take it as a good omen of things to come.

For the most part the journey was fairly uneventful and I continued to push myself through the mountains, enjoying the peace and the ability to stay at my own pace, stopping occasionally to take stock and let my eyes wander over the beauty of Wales from the physical and mental high points.
35 miles in, as the journey was starting to take its toll, and I lost all belief in road signs and their ability to measure distances, I hit a massive downhill and sped towards Llanidloes and my lunch stop. I took time in this idyllic little town, aware that I was only half way through the challenge and half way through my day riding solo. After a double bacon cheeseburger it was time to move on again.[/one_half] [one_half_last]I set off slowly enjoying the views and taking my time to stop and really take them in, especially the beauty of the lakes and dams following Llanidloes. Up over hills and through the mountains, the road was beginning to take its toll and every downhill was a struggle as I knew that it would be followed by an uphill. But I was still feeling buoyant and free and took on every uphill as a personal challenge for me to conquer.

A few idyllic villages and blackberry picking stops later and I got the turning that let me know I was nearly there. Machynlleth was only 11 miles away and I still felt great.
I took the turning and followed the road up and up and up and up an up…

Eventually the road plateaued and I passed a few cars who looked at me in disbelief. Along the winding road, I turn around a corner and see this:

My heart soars as I really let go and test my mettle (and my bladder control!). What a road! Just letting gravity take hold I get my mountain bike up to a personal top speed of 50 miles per hour, looking over the stunning views while trying to concentrate on the road ahead of me. Before I know it I’m in Machynlleth and am ready for a break again. I spot Owain Glyndwr’s parliament building and realise that this is the perfect place to recharge.
I’m well on my way again and doing my best to stay off the A roads, although this does involve going through a building site and pushing my bike through ankle deep mud, I’m still certain that I’ve made the right choice in keeping away from the busy traffic.

[/one_half_last]

Lost...

I end up in another small town, ask some locals if I’m in Dolgellau and am apologetically informed that I’m definitely not there yet. I  ask the best way to go and am told to take the A road, which is the easiest and fastest route. I ask about another way there, and am pointed in the other direction but am told that it’s a bit steep. After 3 days of climbing up hills and mountains, I can manage a bit steep.

I follow the road out of Corris and up the back roads past the ghosts of Welsh industry. Up, up, up. A deep valley on my side keeps me along my trail which becomes more decayed the further along I get.I suddenly realise that I’m basically at the top of a mountain, with a peak just above me on either side. My battery beeps, letting me know that my phone’s almost dead and my only means of communication is gone. The light is quickly fading at this point and I eat the last of my food, and swig the last of my water. I have no choice but to keep moving onwards and upwards. I eventually crest a rise after pushing my bike for what feels like miles up a vertical ascent and am met by bleeting and confused sheep. I turn my bike light on which affords me zero increased visibility and I cruise down the mountain in the dark. I suddenly realise, as I’m navigating down the side of a mountain by almost blind, that this is exactly what I came out here for. This is the challenge that I sought and the adventure that I craved.

To my great relief I get off the mountain and join up with the A470, travelling through the dark with every passing car blinding me further , I navigate the dangerous road by instinct, until finally, FINALLY, I’m in Dolgellau. I circle the town again and again in a delirium until I spot the side road I was looking for and find my saviour in the "Ty Seren B&B”.

Pizza, decaff coffee, sleep…

- Ryan Davidson

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