August 30 – Rosslare to Swansea
Oh that dastardly wind. It had blown fiercely all of yesterday and it hadn’t mellowed at all overnight. The trees were horizontal and it gave every indication of being a very lumpy ferry crossing. We also had the challenge of having a plan but having absolutely no idea if we could implement that plan after some unexpected glitches with our preparations.
Today we swung back into the saddle and took a leap into the unknown. In brief, the glitch went like this…
Knowing there were some dodgy routes riding out of Fishguard, where the ferry would arrive, we decided to catch a quick train from Fishguard, as far as Swansea, where we could pick up a cycle route tomorrow. The train left right outside the ferry terminal which was great. But…due to some conflicting information we were given when booking the train tickets on the phone, we ended up with tickets for us, only to then be told there were no available spaces for the bikes. So we had nonrefundable, nonexchangeable tickets for a train that we couldn’t put the bikes on. Splendid! Another phone call to Transport Wales and we spoke to someone else who told us that just because there wasn’t available space didn’t mean we couldn’t get the bikes on, it was at the discretion of the conductor. So he told us to turn up anyway and chance our luck. So, our plan now involved us getting on the ferry and just hoping we’d be able to get the bikes on the train when we arrived. Nothing like the element of surprise.
First, we had a ferry crossing to get through. We packed up and loaded the bikes for the first time in what felt like forever, put foot to pedal and set off.
“It feels heavier,” commented Steve as we wheeled onto the road. Yep it was bound to! It’s been weeks since the bikes have been pack horses. I dealt with a couple of front end wobbles, while I adjusted again to the load and the extra weight and we pedalled off down the road to the ferry terminal. This time we were back to standard operating procedure, checking in at the booth and rolling on with the cars. The bikes were stowed by one of the ship’s workers, way up the front, strapped in and we were ready for the crossing.
A seat by the window meant we had a view but also meant we had a view of the white caps. An announcement came over from the captain to tell us he would be using the stabilisers to help us have a comfortable crossing, but the big boat still rolled and swayed in the churning swell. Then, about twenty minutes into the trip there was an almighty BANG from underneath us. I looked up. Steve looked up. We looked at each other. I looked across at the crew serving behind the bar to gauge their reactions. They hadn’t batted an eyelid, so it couldn’t have been anything too out of the ordinary.
“I hope we didn’t just hit a whale,” I said. I don’t know what it was, but it was one hell of a bang and thump.
I read a book and Steve watched a TV program on his phone. Then I watched Steve put his phone down and put his head on the table. There it stayed for some time. The ship rolled. The ship swayed. When the head eventually came upright again, Steve said, “I felt a bit funny.” I had as well. We weren’t completely green, but there was enough of a swell and a constant rolling to leave us both decidedly queasy. A few hours later, we docked, returned to the bikes and pedalled off with one other cyclist.
We were then waved away from the line of cars, “Over here, over here,” by one of the ship’s workers, as he waved his arms at us. Then, with a smile, he escorted us into another section of the port and then another smiling lady opened a door for us and we were in the terminal. Our arrival in Wales had been met with a series of smiling people. Lovely.
The train platform was literally right outside the terminal doors. We waited and when the train arrived, we planted ourselves right where we could get on quickly, hoping to beat the passengers with luggage, knowing they were bound to put it in the bike storage section.
The conductor saw us and with the friendliest of smiles and instructions, he simply said, “You can get on in a minute, we’ll just let the others get off. It might help to deconstruct those as much as you can and take some panniers off to help fit on.” So we unloaded, lifted the bikes on, put them in position and… You little beeyooty! We were on! Off we chugged on a train that resembled something from the 1940’s. It was old and rattly and great! Apart from the one cyclist who got off the boat with us, who must have ridden to the next station, because that’s where he got on, we were the only bikes on board, so I don’t know why we were told there was no room on the train. Maybe, the problem would arise when we had to change. We had one change at another station before getting to Swansea, so things could still go pear shaped.
We managed to reload the bikes just before our stop and hold onto them while our antique train choof-choofed along, then we were off and had out final stage ahead. We waited at the station which was another example of something from a bygone era, just a lovely, single platform station, just a small waiting room and the platform. Nothing fancy shmancy here.
The train arrived. We positioned ourselves. It stopped and we leaped into action. Getting on took some effort, since we had to squeeze through a very narrow door into the carriage and with our fat rear ends, it took some pushing and shoving and squeezing through. Of course there was a huge suitcase right where the bikes needed to go, but…for the first time, its owner saw us and straight away jumped up and moved it for us. I thanked her wholeheartedly, because that’s the first time that’s happened and it was much appreciated! We put the bikes in place and once again, they were the only ones on, so I have no idea where the message that there was no availability for the bikes came from. We took a seat, watched the world go by and waited for Swansea to appear.
When it was time to get off, the next challenge arose. Getting thought that narrow door. It was hard enough pushing through it, with a fat rear end at the back, but now we had to reverse out, so that fat back end had to somehow squeeze through first. We were definitely on the edge of “square peg in round hole” territory now. Steve started reversing back and got stuck in the door, so I kicked at his back panniers to push them in enough to fit through and voila, Steve was sorted. Now I had to get through. I tried reversing and that fat back end would not fit through. Then two nice fellas came to by rescue. One pulled and pushed at the panniers from the back while another pushed from the other end with me and that bike squeezed through with some mammoth effort. I thanked by helpers and we were off the train and we had arrived in Swansea. We stood on the platform and gave each other a high-five. We’d done it! After starting the day thinking we’d have to plead to get on a train, or not get on at all and have to create a Plan B, we had now found ourselves on the end of a seamless, glitch free journey. Plan executed. Mission accomplished. We had arrived! G’day Wales.
Time to pedal now, into a city and out to our lodgings. We set off down the street into that mighty wind that had followed us across the Irish Sea. Across the road we went, around the corner. Steve stopped. “We’re going the wrong way,” he said. Of course we are. We may be in a new country, but nothing new here. We were on form once again! Around we went, back the way we’d come and off we went again, for a Take 2.
We had cycle lanes for a while and then a cycle path, which was great. We went alongside a road and beside the rail line, along the back of some dodgy bits and through a tunnel.
Then we had to get over the tracks, so up a ramp we went, across a rail bridge and then down a twisty, turny ramp on the other side.
Our cycle path continued though, so we were nicely out of traffic. Then, the path became a lovely ride through trees, with some dog walkers, runners and another cyclist passing us, each one giving us a smile as we went by.
The path took us almost to the door of our accommodation, where the bikes were given a top spot in an office and we could settle in and have a cuppa. A walk to get supplies and the day was done. What a relief. We really didn’t know how things would play out today. We had alternative plans of having to tackle the dodgy routes and ride somewhere after all, of having to wait for other trains, all manner of contingencies had been thought out and in the end, the original plan worked perfectly. So here we are in Swansea, home of the poet Dylan Thomas and the place he once called, “An ugly, lovely town … crawling, sprawling … by the side of a long and splendid curving shore.” We won’t see much of Swansea, it really is just a jumping off point for us. From here we will pedal on, perhaps along the coast, then over the water and into England again. “We’re going to take it slow though,” Steve keeps reminding us, “we’re not going to rush, we’re going to take time to do things and see things and take it easy.” Yep, that’ll be the plan. We’ll cruise along, take in some Welsh sights along the way and just enjoy the ride. It felt so good to be back on the bikes again for real, back to our two-wheeled travel, so on we shall go, pedalling along, with no plan or timetable and nothing to do but wonder about what lies ahead. There’s that element of surprise again! This time though…it sounds just fine!
Distance ridden: 7.9 km
Time in the saddle: 40 minutes
Weather: chilly and very windy, then warm and windy, 19C