Thus murmered Jack as he sleepily surveyed the outer world from the depths of his shorts-cum-jacket-pillow. I assented as I saw the steady drizzle descending from the triangular patch of grey sky above the tent door. So, with one accord, we turned over and slept another hour away. The grey sky and the drizzle still continued, and we made breakfast a long, lazy affair till nothing remained. Then a joiner ‘rained off’ from a nearby job came and we chatted away till noon brought a cessation of the rain. We packed up, and for eight beautiful miles rode dry-shod. At Llyswen we joined the Wye, and shaped our course up what I consider to be the most beautiful section of a very beautiful river-route, the Wye Valley. At Llyswen too, we ran into rain of the real Welsh type, thoroughly wetting. The river was in flood, and it is worth a days heavy downfall to see the upper Wye in spate, bubbling ‘over itself’, driving between rock walls and over cataracts. At Builth we were soaked and hungry, and we found a place that did us well. Happily the tyre was on behaviour beyond reproach, so our spirits soared as the mercury fell and the rain settled to a solid downpour all the way to Rhayader. All the way to Rhayader – miles and miles of winding road by a river that kept our senses in delighted surprise at each bend….. “oh, sylvan Wye thou wanderer through the woods” – sylvan yet in deluge !
A smoke and a ‘breather’ was indicated at Llangurig, six miles above above Rhayader, for ahead were the mists and heavy gradients of Steddfa Gurig, ‘Plinlimmon Pass’. A charabanc en route to Aberystwyth from Hereford unloaded a cargo of the most miserable-looking human beings imaginable. Their very features set Jack and I into hysterics.
Steddfa Gurig ! Incredible, it seemed, that such a deluge could possibly continue for so long, but it did continue. It swept the moors in hissing douche, and the mists crept down as we crept up in the teeth of a wind that bit us. We helped a car out of a ditch and didn’t get a word of thanks for it; we saw half a dozen others in a similar fix, and in anger we ignored appeals for help; we got drenched to the last stitch, and laughed thereafter that the worst could no more wet us; we fought our way all along the rippling summit of the Pass, and fought our way down when we should have coasted, till the lower slopes were gained and the wind lost its power. And at Ponterwyd we had tea after thirty-six soaking miles.
But worse had still to come – and better, withal ! We started again loaded with the evenings foodstuffs, somewhat drier, but still with heavy rains. The land was very familiar now – we approached the lovely lands of many a holiday tour, a North Wales that is charged with memories and dear to me. Lovely, lovable North Wales roads ! A downhill sweep took us to Llanbadarn where branched a lane that cut out Aberystwyth and took us well on the way to Machynlleth. From Bow Street to Tre-Taliesin something like a cloudburst descended on us, and in five minutes we reverted to that state which knows no wetter. The fury of it was appalling; roads were awash, streams rose to over-flowing, houses were invaded by irresistible torrents, and down the mountain-sides came newly born streams, over bushes and bracken and round the trees, down the walls, across the roads. We rode through it all like laughing, silly children, though we weren’t silly because we might just as well carry on once we were wet, and we laughed because it was easier for us to laugh than to mope and grumble – and quite as effective. We had laughed at all of our ills in the same way.
Looking across the tide of the Dovey Estuary, we saw the clouds massed as black as night, and the wind from the sea driving them across Cader Idris – though Cader was invisible to us. As twilight approached the wind growled and grew, and whipped the trees into a sigh. A gale was coming in from the sea; we could see it in the quickening clouds and in the whining of branches; we felt the lash of the rain to our backs and on our heads, and twilight came early and went…….. and left the night behind it.
A little farm at Glandyfi, four miles from Machynlleth gave us a campsite with sympathy ad lib. We only required the site. A friendly hedge staved off the force of the hurricane, and the farmers wife took in to dry as much of our clothing as we dared to let her take. We were left with little else beside a bathing costume ! We camped in haste, and found ourselves upon tree-roots that stuck up beneath the groundsheet like logs of wood. But we dined well, and slept well upon them, in spite of the hurricane and the tattoo of rain on the tent.