Just as we settled down for bed, after devouring a whole packet of salted rice cakes, the wind rose up shaking everything. Up until then we had been fortunate with the wind, it had been a wonderfully still day. However the moment we began to rest our heads the wind came out to torment us. This coincided with the sheep to increase the frequency and volume of their bleating. It was going to take a while to get to sleep.
Just as I thought that I turned over and was dramatically contradicted. Tom was on his side mouth open, out cold, the eponymous snoring had begun. Oh joy I thought to myself, knowing it would probably take me even longer to drift off now. At least we weren’t cold though. All was not lost.
It got cold. As the night sailed on, the wind increased and the temperature plummeted. I zipped my cycling jersey around me, put my buff on my head and narrowed the opening on the bivvy bag so just my mouth was exposed. Still I was freezing. I checked my watch, it was 12:17, and I came to the conclusion I must have drifted off for an hour or two. I lay there shivering, waiting for morning to come. Tom’s snoring had now uncharacteristically stopped which left me wondering if he too was awake. I continued to lie there drifting in and out of a light stupor. Until eventually I could not take the cold anymore. I was sure Tom was awake now, I could feel him moving around next to me under the tarpaulin. I looked at my watch, 4:30am, it was early. Well we did want an early start and there was no way we were getting back to sleep in these conditions. I called over to Tom confirming he was awake. He agreed with my thinking so we got up in the pitch-blackness.
It was freezing so I wasted no time whatsoever in throwing on all my clothes and a few extra layers borrowed from Tom. Luckily I found my head-torch pretty fast so we could see our surroundings once again. We were all packed up within half an hour and ready to go. Probably the fastest we have ever got ready. After eating half a banana each for a bit of fuel we were ready. The only thing was, my rear bike light and Tom’s front bike light were not working. We would have to light our way down the road using only my head-torch; this would be interesting. At least we were cycling on minor roads though, which had very few cars at the busiest of times.
We started pedalling. Straight up a big hill. After pedalling uphill for four kilometres we were now nicely warmed and raring to go. Weirdly we felt really alive, somehow we had tricked our bodies into thinking they were well rested when they had only had a couple of hours sleep. Our new plan was to push hard and to try and make it back to England by 9am. A tough call but we were up for it. Then the hardest cycling would be over because once we got back into England it would be completely flat all the way back to Lymm.
It is a strange thing cycling and only being able to see the ground about four feet in front of you. It requires a lot of focus, so much so that you almost forget about the cycling or how hard your legs are working to climb up the hill. As you can probably guess we enjoyed it a lot. We felt like adventurers heading out into the unknown. Although we had cycled all of these roads the previous day at night-time they were completely different. Bats darted out in front of us, potholes appeared from nowhere, and the sheep had finally stopped bleating, it was eerily quiet. The only sound came from our hurried breathing and our chains moving seamlessly along our drivetrains.
Our legs evidently were felling fresh because before we knew it we were back in Denbigh and still to see a car! This was also helped because after that first long uphill the rest had been pretty much downhill all the way. No wonder we were so tired yesterday, we had done an awful lot of climbing.
After a swig of Lucozade in Denbigh we pushed on to what we knew would be the hardest climb of the day. It came after about seven kilometres of flat and just went up and up. The morning dew made the road glisten with moist even though the sun was still to rise. As the road incline increased our rear wheels began to slip ever so more often. This was hard work. Suddenly I felt all of yesterdays miles in my legs, they sagged under the new found tiredness. Making it to the top of this mountain would take some kind of miracle. As ever Tom showed no sign of weakness and pushed on with me clinging to his rear wheel. It wasn’t until the gradient reached almost thirty percent that we could carry on no longer. The road was too slippery and we could not cycle. We walked our bikes for a short while until the road flattened out to about ten percent where we mounted them to push for the summit.
When we finally got there we dismounted and almost collapsed. It was very windy up here; we were almost blown over. It was now 7:30 we had come a long way and only had about 20 kilometres to go until we were out of Wales. We were going to do it. We were so overjoyed when we were rewarded with a long six kilometre descent of freewheeling. It was then when we made our plan, our rather ambitious plan, of making it back to Tom’s house by 10:30am in time for a bacon sandwich. We pushed hard, taking it in turns on the front whilst the other slipstreamed behind. We reached the base of the final climb knowing it was the final climb so we gave it everything we had. It was only short, just less than a kilometre, so we scaled it quickly and let our burning legs rest on the rapid descent.
Before we knew it we were back on the amazing cycle path and crossing the River Dee, exiting Wales. It had been a hard morning and reminded us a lot of a year prior when we woke at 5am in order to cycle the final 120 kilometres to Nice so we could have a ‘rest day’ there before we turned North and began our attack on the Alps. However now we had no Alps to cross, we had a flat 50 kilometre cycle back to Tom’s.
We took no breaks, pushing on, we have some of the most fun times when we go fast and cover lots of distance. That was what was happening today. We were knackered, ready to keel over, however our spirits were not dampened because we had been on and were having an adventure. We chose to go the same route home as the one we went on. Choosing to go on the dirt path again. However this time we were not afraid of getting punctures for some reason, we instead treated it like it was a cyclo-cross course managing to average 25kph across the potholes, puddles and mud. Needless to say though it shook our backs something dire, this combined with the fact we had our heavy backpacks on was not very pleasant. I was looking forward to taking mine off.
Through Frodsham we pushed, leaving other cyclists in our wake, we could almost taste the bacon now. Spots blurred our vision as we entered ten kilometres to go. We were going to make it back for 10:30. Tom now knew the way, and all the shortcuts, so our pace quickened. However I was still wary as I would have to cycle a further 30 kilometres home from Tom’s house! The roads were as empty as ever, the scenery was wonderful and we even got glimpses of blue sky here and there.
As we passed through the centre of Lymm we both knew we were tantalisingly close. Cycling passed the countless farms until we reached Tom’s. We had done it. An experience which had been a great deal harder than we imagined it to be but had also been a huge heap of fun and adventure. It reignited our passion for cycle touring and adventure together. Despite us both collapsing in Tom’s hallway, within minutes we were both buzzing with excitement and talking about possible future adventures. Then Tom’s mum appeared with a bacon and sausage sandwich for us each. The perfect end to a fun-filled Micro-Adventure.