Caught by the River

THE TOUR DE TEIFI – field notes

2nd February 2008

Peter Kirby’s journey, taking the path of most resistance, continues;

Friday 21-9-07

Wake in London. Make porridge for Bess & Kate. Kiss and scarper. Cycle to Gabriel’s Wharf, Southbank. Fill bike bottle with River Thames water. Train to Camarthen. Ride towards Cardigan up along Afon (river) Duad as test run for tomorrow. Mist turns to monsoon. Road is a bitch. Truckers cut me up. Stop. Thumb 3 white vans. None stop. Get back on and veer off to Hermon. Evil climb up to 283m. Back tyre loses bite every time I get out of saddle. Wind farms are rampant. 90% brake descent into Newcastle Emlyn for Star Bar & Lucozade reboot. Greet the Teifi with a nod. Glide down river to Gwbert. Hang sodden kit on towel rail. Red sky bodes well for climb. 3 course feast, then recce beach in dark for swim. Empty Thames water into mouth of Teifi. Write sea sonnet under glare of moon.

Saturday 22-9-07
Fidget sleep. Dream of punctures. Weather dry, but grey. 07.50 swim in sea. Water warm-ish. Fill bike bottle with mouth of Teifi water. Find driftwood in shape of river. Fry up, herb tea. 75.4m to go. Make deal with handlebars: always take road closest to river. Big detour to Cilgerran. Pooh sticks debut – this will be a theme. ‘Beryl & Joan Thomas’ etched into stone bridge. Shout “Morning Teifi!” many times. Rain cranks up. Ask firemen best way to Lampeter, 3 different answers. Let them squabble. Study map. Find friendly contours. Route is not shortest or prettiest, but is the one the bike takes like a horse to water. Hug river high up along A484. Think: rivers are veins, capillaries, arteries. Rain eases up around Llandysul – best-kept small town 1990. Carved pelican watches over kayak poles. Geraniums in red canoe. Take D road past feral geese. Deep South couple give directions – she smiles, he sneers. Pass 3 stone pigs, ask farmer for photo. Sign in porch at Maesycrugiau – NO WATER PLANT, YIPPEE! Second sign reads: NO LORRIES. NO BOTTLES. NO FACTORIES. EVER!! Llanbydder, sugar stop at Spar. Dead red kite in road, grieved by spouse kite above me. Two more hover over lamb abattoir. Pedals squeak on hills. Cadge WD40 from motor spares man. Chapel Brondeifi, chat with Mary, janitor. Blissful serenade with river for 5 miles to Llanfair. Cute shop crammed with Ecover. Buy bananas, galaxy, water. Kids crash on bikes – no tears, just swearing in Welsh. Squirrel mourns dead lover. Dead fox. Dead hedgehog. B4343 – wildlife needs an underpass here. Share galaxy with horse on Riverhood Watch. Single bovine family by riverbank – Bullocks 4 Justice perhaps? Off-load weight at Talbot Hotel, push on 2 stone lighter. Cors Caron simmers a dead red – Kenya in a sulk. Sweating heavily, but no smell, such is genius of merino. Aptly, sheep spur me on with bleats of chutzpah. Pass school of mural magic. Find McDonalds litter thrown out of car. Junk food, junk brain. Collect on way down and bin. Teifi Pools – right, and up, up, up. Hills really hurt now. Finally, at 1500 ft, sun beats cloud in arm wrestle. Fuck, it’s beautiful up here. Stash inscribed driftwood from beach behind stone slab, manned by curling black slug. Write summit sonnet. Empty salt water into source. Collate lake water in bike bottle for Thames deposit tomorrow. Strip to trunks and swim.

Sunday 23-9-07
Fry up. Cloud to mizzle to sheet rain. Arrive Carmarthen drenched, in 3 hours. Oh, the joy of downhill. Replacement bus burns out on motorway. Wonder why engines fail and bikes don’t. Hit London as Freewheel car-free day ends – nice feeling. Coast down The Mall. Empty Teifi Pools water in Thames. A Holy Water Trinity.