Saturday, 17 August 2013


By Sanne

We left London to head west towards Wales. We had arranged to catch up with Zeman and Mike whom we met back in Cambodia last year where they were running off road dirtbike tours Cambodia Expeditions.
On the way we passed by the UK version of Mark's hometown in Australia: Gloucester, so of course we had to stop for a photo op.
We stopped for the night at a campsite outside the peculiar named village Hundred House. Here we met up with Mike and the Black Desert Training Team. Owned by Craig Bounds and Tamsin Jones, they run offroad tours through Wales and have both competed in the Dakar Rally and Australasian Safari. Respect. Really nice couple and it would have been cool to spend some more time talking to them about their experiences. Off course they also earn our respect for favouring the DRZ-400 as their ride...
We went out for dinner with the whole crew that night to the local pub in Hundred House. It was cool to see Mike again a year and a half after meeting the boys in Cambodia and he is just one of the many people whom we've met again down the track.

The next day we rode to St Davids via some beautiful little roads that Mike had recommended to us. It became clear immediately that Wales is very pleasing to the eye. Lots of little single-lane roads, LOTS of sheep and barely any other vehicles around so we had the roads almost all to ourselves. We arrived in St Davids, the smallest city in Britain, in the afternoon and went to see Zeman at the boat harbour where he works as a skipper for a boat tour company. We managed to score ourselves a free trip on one of the boats for the afternoon thanks to Zeman and we went out for an hour and a half sailing around Ramsay Island where we saw many seals frolicking in the water.
After that we followed Zeman on his bike back to his house where him and his wife Deb had been so kind and let us stay for a few days. As with Mike, it was great to see Zeman again. He runs his dirtbike tours in Cambodia in the winter and then spends summers back in Wales running boat tours. Not a bad life really.

The next day we went for a ride around the area with Mike on his DR BIG 750. He took us on all these small roads that we wouldn't have found ourselves so it was really nice to have a local guide leading us. Also, it is totally nice to be able to just follow someone for once and not having to navigate! We stopped at Pentre Ifan, an ancient burial chamber with a huge capstone poised delicately on three uprights dating all the way back to about 3,500 BC. The capstone weighs over 16 tons(!), is 5 metres long and is 2.4 metres off the ground. Quite remarkable. Local lore says that sometimes fairies are seen here; they are described as 'little children in clothes like soldiers' clothes and with red caps'. Wow, creepy much! Maybe we should have camped there and made a sort of Blair Witch Project style movie - the Pentre Ifan Project...doesn't sound quite as catchy does it? 

Turns out Wales was to be the destination for catching up with old acquaintances. Stef, the French biker whom we had run into several times on our trip was on a bike trip with a friend in Scotland and came to see us in St Davids on their way back south. We all went out for dinner that night at a local Indian restaurant which was really lovely and the next day we went out for a ride together. On the way Mark noticed that my tail light had stopped working and Stef being a former motorbike mechanic went to work on diagnosing what the problem was. It wasn't clear but we assumed it had something to do with the circuit board as some of the resistors looked a bit corroded. Fast forward to a few days later when we are putting the board back in again as we hadn't been able to fix it yet, and I kid you not - it magically works again! This is not the first time my bike has responded in such a peculiar way that there is no logical explanation. So my lovely bike has therefore now been rightfully named: Christine, after the Stephen King novel about a car that has a mind of its own...

After saying goodbye to all the guys we headed for Aberystwyth, or Abba Wrist Watch for people like me who cannot for the life of them pronounce Welsh town names. Here our genial hosts were John and Karen Walsh, parents of one of Mark's friends in Australia, Claire. John himself is a bit of a bike nutter and has done many bike trips around the globe so we had plenty to talk about! When we weren't being smothered in puppy love from their 14(!) dogs and cat we managed to go for a ride with John. He took us to a place called the CAT village. And no, it's not a village full of felines (although that would be freakin' awesome), it stands for Centre for Alternative Technology. It was settled by hippies back in the seventies as a sort of experiment to live off the grid and in a more simple and ecological way. I am very inspired by alternative living as a whole and when I "settle down" (hate that term) I do want to live as sustainable a lifestyle as I possibly can. Well, a lot of examples of sustainability are on show at this village, amongst them a strawbale house. For people who have never heard of this a strawbale house might sound a bit wacky but it's actually a very sensible way of building a house and is known for its high insulating properties. 

John and Karen were wonderful hosts and even after we left John kept on helping us. We were heading to Abergele in Northern Wales to Wood's Motorcycles, owned by Andrew Woods the mayor of the town whom we had met in Hundred House as he was one of the participants of the Black Desert Training tour group. He had then said to us that if we ever needed anything he might be able to help. Well, we took him up on that offer! We weren't going to make it to the bike shop that day because someone (Mark) had a total brain fart when we left Aberystwyth and so instead of heading north, he proceeded to lead us east and all the way around a mountain, which resulted in us having only made it 100kms from Aberystwyth in three hours! To be fair, there was a reason for this senior moment of his; after leaving John and Karen's that afternoon we witnessed a motorbike accident where the guy involved was very lucky to still be alive. So Mark's mind was elsewhere after that, understandably. Anyway, because of all this we couldn't get to the bike shop in time so Mark rang up Andrew to talk about the crates. Well, turns out John had already called Andrew for us and arranged everything! Andrew had some crates for us and John had offered to pick them up with his work van and drop them off to Leeds, where we were going to ship the bikes from. So that's what it must be like to have fixers working for you! What awesome guys to help us out like that. When we went to the shop the next day we saw the crates and although they could definitely work they were quite big. No problem for Andrew! He promptly called up a friend of his in Leeds who owns a Ducati store and asked for crates for us. So now we have crates arranged and a place to crate them in Leeds (in the guy's workshop) which is a huge relief! Sometimes it really is about the people you know.

A little taste of home...

Craig and Tamsin from Black Desert Training

Mark and Mike

Riding in the Welsh countryside

Lone phone booth

Sailing around Ramsay Island

Mark and Mike

Pentre Ifan (seen here with the fabled fairies) 

Having a beer with the boys

The bikes together

A beautiful little bay in Pembrokeshire

Stef and Mark trying to diagnose my tail light problem 
(little did they know Christine was playing a trick on them!)

St David's Cathedral

Stef, Mark and Bruno

Mark with Zeman

Mark and a sunflower in the CAT village 

Out for a ride with John around Aberystwyth

Beautiful riding terrain

Mark with John and Karen

And I FINALLY got to taste some delicious spotted dick!

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