Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Final Countdown - Tour of Northumberland

Woohoo! Only a month to go until we head off now. As final preparation we both loaded the bikes up with as much stuff as possible and headed out for Northumberland. The plan - to cycle 200 miles in 4 days to get an idea of exactly what we were letting ourselves in for.

Day1: -

Home - Alnmouth (~50 miles)

Barely twenty minutes into the trip and we hit our first major incident. Cycling along the River Tyne we were faced with two men shouting Geordie. Luckily Gemma deciphered the rant as something close to "Help!". Some crazy had managed to land himself in the river floating downstream, heading for Norway, until I sped off shouting after a rusty old tug to come back and rescue the poor chap. Luckily the captain heard the screams and ignored the "cockney" accent. Back he came and saved the drunk who was out for a morning dip.

"Well, this should be an eventful trip" we thought. And off we went, heading for the coast...

Luckily our plans took us along the coast all day so the route was fairly flat. The bikes felt heavy and the speed was slow. Still, it was a nice day and we met a guy outside Asda in Blyth who was more than happy to hold us up with tales of cycling in Germany, during the war. Apparently the bikes were very different in those days.

Here's Gemma going up a hill. Face cracking as she tries to smile.

Just moments later I got chatted up by another bloke with tales of cycling with his mates in Scotland.

2-0 to Ian for number of crazies.

I may get into trouble for this because this is the Cycle Tourers secret Prayer Dance. To be performed three times each day you ride, it ensures tail winds, no punctures and long downhills.

Day 2: -

Alnmouth - Alwinton (~35 miles)

Sadly, the dance didn't save us from poor decisions.Here's a picture of our way across the river. The stepping stones are normally easy to find. Following major floods they become a bit more difficult to navigate.

This led to an even worse choice of following 'Ian's recovery plan' which menat pushing the bikes through extremely steep fields of knee high grass.

It's supposed to be an adventure!

So after a quick chat with some cows, we found the road again and headed off to Alnwick.

Following a spot of lunch we went straight into the hills of Northumberland. The hills were extremely steep and Gemma was quite close to turning back. Fortunately half way up a big climb the mood changed when a white van sped past and some young punk tossed his half eaten jam sandwich right onto my back.

Clearly happy to see me suffer, Gemma pushed on and we made it to Alwinton.

Our hotel was in beautiful surroundings and the food was excellent. However, we stayed in the garden, in the tent.

Day 3: -

Alwinton - Langley-on-Tyne (~40 miles)

Unfotunately, day 3 was met with rain. Lots of rain. We headed south which meant traversing many valleys and so there were many hills. The ride was very beautiful in places but quite uneventful due to the bad weather. Following a very tiring day we were meant with a monstrous climb from the Tyne valley floor up to Langley. Another badly chosen short cut took us through a very muddy, very steep field which meant lots of pushing and mean faces.
Our efforts were well rewarded with a fine meal at The Carts Bog Inn. A beautiful pub with lovely local ales and absolutely delicious food. Our camp for the night was in the beer garden which was a bog. Ah well.

Day 4: -

Langley - Home (~35 miles)

Again, no pictures of this day. Another huge climb out of the Tyne valley into the North Pennines meant we were both very tired. Especially after the huuuge goats cheese and olive sandwiches (from the pub) we had for breakfast. Yummy! Anyway, as soon as we made it to the top, the road back into Gateshead was downhill, along the Derwent Valley path for a good 10 miles. Along the way I was met by a guy screaming in Dutch out of his car window. As he ground to a halt he baffled on while I looked on in bewilderment. Clearly confused, the guy asked if I was English. "Of course", I replied, much to his amazement. "But you are riding Dutch bikes!?".
"Er.. yeah."

3-0 to Ian for crazies.

Overall, the ride was very good for finding out what to expect. Unfortunately the weather was not great but a good test for us. Gemma says she enjoyed it and the flights haven't been cancelled yet, so hopefully she'll still be coming to South America. She even managed to overtake me on two hills. I was distracted by the llamas of course.

Next time we post on here, we'll be there. I can't wait.

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