A loon in the dunes – 9th June
With not much going on at the weekend I thought I’d take the Mukluk sand riding for the first time, but with the weather not playing ball, pretty much right up to the morning I left I could have been either heading West to Barmouth/Harlech or East to …. well some where in East Anglia where they have big beaches and loads of dunes. I don’t know that side of the country so it really would have been a ‘wing it’trip!
The weather in Coventry dawned OK, and looking at all the weather forecasts I could find it seemed both East and West would follow the same pattern (although as it turned out Mid Wales got a proper soaking) Crappy in the morning, but clearing in the afternoon, and staying fine till Sunday afternoon…. So Wales got the nod, purely because I know the area from many years holidaying there as a kid. So online, and a bed at Kings YHA on the South side of the Mawddach estuary booked… £11 result!
Arriving in Barmouth at 11:30 it was worrying, the wind was howling over the sea wall and bringing huge waves with it…. time for some chips, sit in the car and wait…. go for a wet walk round town, back to the car and wait some more…. then through the steamed up windscreen the sky seemed to lighten, then the rain turned to drizzle, then stopped. Even the wind eased a bit, the Blue Beach quality flag no longer about to be ripped off it’s pole.
I got kitted up and headed for the sand after I’d pondered the helmet or just a buff conundrum. I threw caution to the ever decreasing wind and opted for just a buff… my Welsh dragon one of course! Getting a feel for the bike’s sand handling characteristics in the small dunes by the harbour I quickly learnt the massive difference in turning ability between riding on hard and soft sand!
Heading North I had to do a bit of road as the tide was high and there was no way past the rocks below Llanaber. Back on the sand the target was the dunes at Morfa Dyffryn, the bike was flying along on the freshly uncovered sand. Passing the caravan park below Tal-y-Bont I hit a bit of a problem. The rain had caused the usually walkable and so rideable Afon Ysgethin (The stream that Pont Scethin crosses 330m up in the mountains) to turn into a raging torrent…. another road detour.
Now I’d reached Morfa Dyffryn, a massive area of dunes, with some seriously steep faces to drop off…. great fun. In some places the high wind and rain had sculpted some fantastic shapes in the sand. Heading round the Mochras Headland (Shell Island) the beach turned into a rock garden, time to weave in and out of the seaweed covered rocks, and steadily roll them when a dead end was reached.
I reached Afon Cwmnantcol and couldn’t go any further, it was far too deep and I’m sure even in normal conditions this one would be a no no. So I turned back and got my head down and started riding back to Barmouth. By now the sky had cleared, and the beach was bathed in breezy sunshine. Halfway back I got talking to a couple of guys out on their kite buggys. They were as fascinated with the Muk as I was with their buggys. It seems that in kite buggying, the size of your kite is in direct relation to the size of your balls.
We headed of down the beach, I was keeping up with both, just, 20 mph…. then the one with the biggest kite turned it to really catch the wind….. bloody hell, he went off like a scolded cat! As he disappeared into the distance there was a huge splash and his buggy went a couple of feet in the air! He’d spun almost 180 degrees and managed to drop his kite before he started getting dragged backwards. I arrived and he explained he saw the water too late and checking his Garmin he’d hit it at 33mph…. his mate seemed quite impressed that he’d not flipped it! He was quite disappointed I hadn’t caught it on camera!
I carried on, leaving them to race each other back up the beach. Getting back to the rocks below Llanaber I noticed that the tide was almost right out, and talking to a local it seemed it was walkable. So I decided to try it rather than climb back up to the road. No problem, the water was about 1″ deep. As I reached the worst part it was about 3″, so I hugged the rocks.
Suddenly the water was up to the bars and I was in up to my waist! I’d ridden too close to the rocks and had fallen into a hole created by water running back into the sea….. It was only a couple of feet across but I can safely say for a split second I almost crapped myself! The rest of the ride back to Barmouth harbourb was pretty uneventful, if not a little wet and sandy.
Ride – #101 Bike – ’12 Salsa Mukluk
Miles – 27.5 Total 2012 miles – 2035.7