Today I drove to Wales and was worrying about the traffic and the problems on the M5, M49 and all roads that lead to Ystradfellte where I am on a course for off-road motorcycles. I needn’t have at all. The start of the journey was not too bad and it was when I reached the Principality on the empty A470 that my heart began to soar. There was nothing on the road and it was like being on a conveyor belt gliding me through a forest theme park.
On each side of the carriageway a low tree line gave way to barren rocks. It is no wonder that the Army exercises here. I am sure that the Welsh Guards on reaching the Falklands in the 80s would have felt at home. The tops of the hills are hot and unforgiving, purple heather and scree covers the ground but few seemed to have ventured up on foot today. Heat shimmers in the atmosphere creating a mirage.
The course I am attending is, despite giving us the most powerful bikes to play on, the R1250GS, bound by a very keen respect to clothing safety. Therefore I am ready to wear just a thin shirt under my heavy leather jacket. I decided on the trip to try to acclimatise for the next few days. I closed all the car windows and put on the heated seat. Soon the inside temperature reached a good level of 30 degrees and as I started to sweat my mind drifted as the road swayed along the gullets and valleys.
I was reminded of driving from Riyadh to Dhahran, dripping and uncomfortable in a springless Mercedes taxi or taking the late night flight from Doha to Manama. Then I would be returned barely conscious to a marbled floor villa and then just leave my clothes in a heap which would disappear to be cleaned, one forgets how lucky we were then. Now i was heating up, my face glistening as I glanced in the rear view mirror. The sensation of tasting salt on my lips was taking me back to those years, flashing images and sensations and I knew that no matter the heat tomorrow I would cope as I had done in the Gulf.
The Ancient Briton, where I am staying is a madhouse but a roadhouse, a camping site, a biker magnet and managed by a charming crew who look after untidy clients. On the next table are six very rowdy, heavy, drink soaked men, who swear and carry on, abusing the young bar girls. They, Millie and Molly are thin and speak with an accent that betrayed their origins have seen it all before. It has rather spoiled the early evening but the lager lads have been moved to another part of the pub but their voices are raised higher.
It will be a hot humid night, but adventure awaits. I will dream of when coming to Wales meant travel in the back of a Bedford military lorry for a few days ot walking, or should I say forced marching in the rain. But for now I have finished the one pint we are allowed, shandy means it lasts longer and now have met another biker on the course, my new best friend. So all looks set.