I did a lot of things for the first time on this trip: I took my bike somewhere other than the bike shop in the car. I visited another country without any parental – or other authoritative figure – supervision. I shaved my head completely bald. I went back to Wales for the first time after leaving university over two years ago.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself. How could I not have? A long weekend spent with five of your mates, lots of beer, lots of food – which consisted mainly of crisps, nuts, biscuits, cakes, and energy bars – and some of the best scenery and mountain bike trails we could find.
The trails themselves ranged from easy (blue), intermediate (red), and difficult (black). The land owners advised us against the black run because of the recent motocross event which churned the trail beyond recognition. Naturally, his warning only got us all the more excited and the next day we were on it like riot police to innocent bystanders. Dismounts were made, punctures were repaired, our bikes and bodies were pushed to the limits but we managed it no sweat (metaphorically speaking).
The blue run became something of a warm-up before setting off for the day. “Just goin’ up to do the blue run, guys” someone would call out in the cottage, as if they were popping down the shops for some milk. It was a great trail, though; the initial ascent was short and easy and, from the top, you round a hairpin, bomb the following straight, meander your way through small pines, splash through a trickling stream, round another bend, up a ridge, and down a hill for a semi-circular skid stop. It probably took us a minute and a half. Bit like a rollercoaster.
Our cottage was perfect as well. There was a real fire, beam-striped ceilings, creaky stairs, wonky floors. We played drinking games every night, farted, burped, found out how to play free games of pool (which I’m not willing to divulge). It was a proper lads getaway. And, when we got so muddy you couldn’t tell where the ground stopped and our feet began, it was a trip to the river. Simply ride through it for instant results. And it didn’t matter if you fell in; you were probably in need of a bath at that point anyway.