“The West Surrey Cyclist” - January - March 2000
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Rico Signore (Chairman)
|VICE-PRESIDENTS||George Alesbury, Les Warner, Les Houlton, Harry Statham, Ken Bolingbroke|
|Geoff Smith (phone/fax)
|HARDRIDERS||Clive Richardson||01428 724390|
|INTERMEDIATES||Bill Mann||01252 524509|
|GUILDFORD AND GODALMING WAYFARERS||Hilary Stephenson||01483 572687|
|WOKING WAYFARERS||David Nightingale||01483 725674|
|AUDAX AND DATC||Roger Philo||01483 233381|
|MIDWEEK WAYFARERS||Harry Statham
THE CTC (Cyclists Touring Club), WORKING FOR ALL CYCLISTS, IS THE UK’S LARGEST NATIONAL CYCLING ORGANISATION WITH 70,000 MEMBERS AND AFFILIATES. IT HAS A NETWORK OF MORE THAN 200 DISTRICT ASSOCIATIONS OF WHICH THE WEST SURREY DA IS ONE. THE CTC ENCOURAGES ALL CYCLISTS TO JOIN, SUPPORT ITS CAMPAIGNING WORK, AND TAKE PART IN REGULAR AND/OR SPECIAL ACTIVITIES. MEMBERSHIP HAS MANY BENEFITS INCLUDING £5 MILLION-WORTH OF THIRD PARTY LIABILITY COVER AND FREE LEGAL ADVICE. DETAILS CAN BE OBTAINED FROM:
CTC, COTTERELL HOUSE, 69 MEADROW, GODALMING, SURREY. GU7 3HS. TELEPHONE 01483 417217. www.ctc.org.uk
The opinions and comments contained in this magazine are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the West Surrey DA.
CONTRIBUTIONS - articles, poems, letters, sketches, tips, product reviews, recipes (!), jokes, in fact anything which can be described as related to cycling - are more than welcome by the editor.
Please send them to
2 JULIAN CLOSE
PHONE/FAX 01483 769051.
Call Geoff for a chat about possible contributions. Word-processed submissions on A5 or A5 sized paper ready for the printed page would be much appreciated.
That’s how one long standing and respected local CTC member described the CTC HQ. So, why the distrust and what have the crew and their masters - the elected CTC Councillors (I am yours) - been doing?
I think there’s a feeling the staff are too remote, and too much time is spent on campaigning rather than on helping the DA rides. But most of the staff are keen riders, including our Director, Kevin, who broke his arm out cycling!
And, we’ve increased the CTC membership and expect to reach 50,000 by the end of 1999 - a gain of over 3,000 in a year. But few of these come out on DA rides, so it doesn’t look like a gain.
The CTC now has staff for Mountain Bike and Access work. At last, it has a specialist fundraiser. It has become much more active in campaigning, has remodelled its Right to Ride network and produced a first-rate handbook to help campaigners.
Most members just want to ride their bikes and don’t want to spend their time attending meetings. But we should be grateful to those who do. We’re getting more cycle lanes, cycle parking and controls on road traffic, all helping our rides. Two local to me mean that I’m now happy cycling from Guildford on the A246 to Clandon, and I can use the A3 in going to Cobham, without taking my life in my hands. Campaigning and riding go together like hands and cycling gloves!
This is a crucial year with all Councils having to produce local Transport plans giving people alternatives to the car. It’s vital we put the case for cycling, otherwise we’ll get nothing or something inappropriate designed by non-cyclists.
And next year we have the Millennium Festival of Cycling - a real chance to put cycling back on the map. I hope every DA will be working to make this a success.
But all this has cost us. The CTC has spent £200,000 more than it received for the last 2 years, is budgeted to spend £100,000 this coming year and break-even next year. We’ll still be solvent - our investments did well - and we’ve used the money to build up the CTC.
In 2001. we’ll move to a regional organisation for the CTC, with a London Region (with 2 councillors) and a South-East Region (with 3 councillors), so if you’re dissatisfied with your councillor, or just want a go yourself, there’ll be elections next year.
Keith Chesterton 01483 563392 or email@example.com
Look no further for a fine list of special rides right here in West Surrey. Make a note of these in your diary now and look forward to a great Spring and summer season....
AUDAX rides at 200km, 150km, and 100km, all on Sunday May 28 from the South of England Millennium Rally, Merrist Wood, Guildford, will be organised by Roger Philo, 01483 233381.
EVER-POPULAR Stonehenge 200km and Danebury 150km Audax rides will be held on Sunday June 25 from Elstead Village Hall, organised by Peter Callaghan, 01483 770902.
ROUGHSTUFF 60km hard Audax and 50km easy Audax, take place from Newlands Corner on Sunday July 18. Organiser: Trevor Strudwick, 01483 272387
TOUR OF THE HILLS 100km Audax, a challenging ride encompassing 2,000 metres of climbing, based at Shere, is on Sunday August 6. Organiser Harold Coleman, 01252 5466325
All CTC members can take part in Audax events, which have designated routes to be completed in a set time.
CLOVER LEAF runs offering something for everyone - four 25 miles circular rides from Elstead Village Hall on Sunday June 25, the same day and the same venue as the Stonehenge 200km and Danebury 150km. Do one circle, two, three, or all four - it’s your choice. Organiser is Peter Callaghan, phone 01483 770902.
AN EARLY SEASON 50 miles ride will take place on April 9. It will start and finish at two locations - Pyrford Common Road and Old Woking Road junction car park, and CTC headquarters, Cotterell House, 69 Meadrow, Godalming. Organiser: Rory Fenner, phone 01483 569705.
A NEW BATCH of rides will take place on September 3, starting at Pirbright Village Hall and finishing at Goal Farm Golf Course nearby, including a choice of four distances, 25 miles, 50 miles, 75 miles, and 100 miles.
TRICYCLATHON will take place on October 1 at a location to be announced. The idea is to complete three events - a hill climb against the clock, a pacing competition judging your own speed over a distance, and a downhill freewheel based on distance achieved without pedaling.
FUNDS are healthy, the regular rides are appreciated and seemingly well supported, but ... there is always a “but” ... the big continuing mystery of the Cyclists’ Touring Club West Surrey district association (DA) remained unsolved at the annual meeting in November.
The membership print-out provided by head office was the starting point. It gave a total of 1,013 paid up members, a heartening number by any reckoning. Growing too, according to our CTC council member Keith Chesterton.
The mystery was, why don’t more of them support local DA events (and support the mag with a mere £2 annual subscription - Editor)?
It is not that the organisers and run leaders are complaining. Everyone at the meeting was concerned with trying to do the Right Thing so that the DA can be seen to be doing a good job in encouraging cycling in and around our lovely part of the country.
After all, 40-plus members turning out to Pirbright Village Hall on a Sunday morning just for a meeting is no mean achievement. If nothing else, it shows that a great body of enthusiasm exists. What was agreed is needed is our own annual major event, something with zing and a little bit of challenge to celebrate cycling and attract the hundreds of our members out there to join in.
The South of England Millennium Rally, to be organised by ourselves at Merrist Wood, Guildford, on May 26-29, is geared to the whole region and we are all hoping for a big success.
But what speakers at the agm were united about was the desire to do something special to appeal to our own West Surrey newcomers.
Marguerite Statham wanted a 50 miles set ride, preferably from Woking, with refreshments before and afterwards. She was not swayed by suggestions from Roger Philo that one was already available as part of the Clover Leaf quartet of four 25 miles circular rides from Elstead village.
No, what was required was a venue for celebratory chats and refreshments after an achievement ride with a bit of a challenge thrown in, which would bring together cyclists of all “types”, persuasions, experience and abilities.
A suggestion was made that the ride would need a catchy theme or title to attract cyclists in sufficient number to really put West Surrey on the cycling map in the way that The Gridiron (cycling over every gridiron they can find) has done for the New Forest.
So here’s the chance for all readers to let imaginations rip. Chat over the idea among family and friends, make a list of ideas and working titles, and send them to the mag. This could be your big contribution to posterity.
It might also be a good idea to contact a member of the committee to test the water - see page two for names and numbers.
Meanwhile, the newly elected committee took action within days. At its first meeting following the agm, an exciting programme for members to enjoy during 2000 was agreed. Details appear later in the magazine.
AT PRESS TIME, full facilities for visitors to book places at the Millennium Rally were expected to be available via a web-site address, through the national CTC Cycle Touring and Campaigning magazine, and the Audax Arrivee Magazine.
On the entertainment front, a jazz group will play on Saturday evening. A bouncy castle and magician have also been arranged. A children’s treasure hunt will be arranged in the grounds of Merrist Wood.
Family bike rides have been arranged for Saturday and Sunday, both of
about 29 miles. The plans for the Audax rides are:
200km via Petersfield, Bishops Waltham, South Harting, Duncton.
150km via Midhurst, Singleton, Duncton
100km via South Harting and Duncton.
A 60 miles ride will take in Polesdon Lacey, Box Hill, and Leith Hill. Three 50 miles rides and another at 60 miles are being arranged.
COLIN, a regular and well-liked rider with the Midweek Wayfarers, died on November 6 after a brave fight against cancer.
A man of many and varied interests, he had extensive knowledge of canals and narrow boats, steam engines, model aircraft, birds, astronomy, and electronics.
He served in the RAF and in the 20 years before retirement was in the wind tunnel department at the then Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough.
The Midweek Wayfarers were well represented at the farewell service at Aldershot Crematorium. Sincere condolences were offered to Colin’s widow Dorothy and his family on behalf of the group.
MARY Suckling, popular operator of the Old Cartlodge tearooms at Dunley Hill Farm, Ranmore, decided to close down at the end of December - a big blow to the tea-drinking classes.
In a message to cyclist patrons she said: “After many years of working with a very loyal team, many of whom have been with me for almost all of the 15 years that I have been open, I find myself about to lose a number of staff. The process of replacing them is becoming increasingly difficult in the current economic climate.
“Because I do not wish to see the standard of service go down and because of the unique situation of the tearooms in relation to my own home, I have decided there is no other course I can take.
“It is with great sadness that I say goodbye to my regular loyal customers and take this opportunity to thank you for your support over the years.”
THE case for having a folder has to me seemed an increasingly good one. The problems of bikes on trains and my regular traumas at the hands of airport baggage handlers, have both convinced me.
The next decision was what to get. To this end I got a brief test ride on a Brompton, which really put me off. Light and foldable it may be but the handling was not at all like a proper bike.
Dare to sneeze and you will be straight up the kerb! I decided that 16 inch wheels are too small for longer distances and that the Bike Friday might be a better bet. Then I noticed the price tag of £1000 and the lack of anything secondhand. I gave up on the idea of a folder.
One day some months later I was reading my “local ads”.
“Raleigh folding bike, hardly used, 3 years, £25”.
Well, I thought, it is only around the corner, it must be worth a look. An hour later I was the proud owner of a 1977 Raleigh Stowaway - Veteran Cycle Club eat your heart out. I had knocked the previous owner down to £20. You may laugh but it really rides very well, corners like a conventional bike, behaves well on descents and accelerates surprisingly well for a bike weighing 30 lbs. Okay - so it has been modified a bit, drop bars, campag pedals and a B17 but still I reckon that the Raleigh engineers got it about right.
I have taken this cycle out on a few Hardriders runs, including a foray over the South Downs to Bognor. When we stopped at the cafe though I had to hide it round the corner - it hardly fits in with the section’s lycra clad image. Clive has indeed threatened to ban me, saying that my bike is only fit for trundling to Tesco’s and back.
The folder, I decided, had a good chance of avoiding being wrecked by airport baggage systems. My normal touring bike gets its wheels bent most years through having luggage stacked on top of it. The folder having nice small 20 inch wheels could fit inside conventional suitcases. The result? Success! It escaped unscathed on our recent holiday to Fuerteventura in the Canaries both there and back.
An interesting destination Fuerteventura, being only 65 miles from the Sahara Desert. One side of the island is very sandy since sand had literally blown over on the wind. Annual rainfall is very low so much of the island is semi desert. However the mountains and scenery are very worthwhile with spectacular sea views.
The summer weather is quite acceptable for cycling, probably averaging mid 80’s Fahrenheit. The reason for this is cool winds blowing continually off the Atlantic Ocean so despite being so far south the weather is less hot than most Mediterranean resorts.
There is no tradition of cycling on the island. There are a few hire bikes available at the resorts but nothing inland. Locals don’t cycle! This means that drivers don’t always cope well with the unexpected bicycle, particularly on main roads so these are best avoided. The inland roads are very quiet with almost no traffic and there are also many untarmaced roads if one chooses to use a mountain bike. My daughter and I hired mountain bikes one day and we had a beautiful ride along a coastal track, the sea on one side and extinct volcanoes on the other.
The folder coped well with the terrain, the 47 inch bottom gear in the Sturmey Archer seemed really low compared to my normal 66 inch fixed.
THE annual report contained a warning that the intake of “DA active” members was small but the committee and all helpers had worked hard during 1999 to ensure the success of many activities.
Reports received included:
A SUCCESSFUL year with car assistance ensuring rides extending into parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, and Winchester and the New Forest. Then there was the annual train and ferry trip to the Isle of Wight and its non-cycling added delights of crumpets on a barge in Bembridge, and a sea swim (in obligatory Lycra shorts).
A late summer ride into deepest Sussex found the group walking down the aisle in Lancing College Chapel to the lilting strains of an organ recital.
As to next year, there is just the chance that the group will take up an invitation from ex-hardrider Swotka to visit the Czech Republic to ride the Iron Dragon, a 160km route through that country’s second highest mountain range to finish at an altitude of 1,492m.
The group would like to extend an invitation to all to join them. Clive Richardson reported: “At last we have disciplined ourselves to riding at a moderate pace especially when newcomers have joined the group. We want to attract more cyclists out on our regular Sunday rides but realise that we must not live up to our name by giving everybody a hard time.”
THE aims of the group are due for an overhaul and the listing of the route details is due for revision, Bill Mann reported.
He said there had been criticisms over the speed of some of the ndes and that on occasions the lunch or tea stop had not been reached.
Having noted that, he said new faces in the group had been unanimous in their praise of the routes.
A TOTAL of 60 members joined the Wednesday riders, the highest attendance being 26 and the lowest, seven. The decision to publicise just the coffee shop in the runs lists, leaving the lunchtime destination to be chosen during the coffee break, has proved popular and successful. Such imponderables as the weather, and number and ability of riders, can be taken into consideration.
In practice, riders generally split into three groups from the coffee stop - a B group riding on at a leisurely pace to a not-too-distant lunch pub, A group venturing further afield, and some returning home straight after coffee.
Thirteen train-assisted rides were popular, destinations in Hampshire seemingly favourites as roads experienced were much quieter and better maintained.
A three-day trip to the Isle of Wight - midweek, of course - attracted 17 members. Another extended trip is planned for 2000 at a venue yet to be decided.
“The general affability, good cheer and helpfulness among the Midweekers makes the organising Troika’s task very easy and enjoyable and we hope to continue along the same lines for another year.”
(I can second that. It should also be pointed out that you do not have to be in any way “retired” or a “senior citizen” to enjoy the special Midweek Wayfarers ambience As with all the riding sections, which include the Woking Wayfarers and the Godalming and Guildford Wayfarers, just turn up at the start or coffee stop and you will be made most welcome whatever your age, inclination, or ability. See the runs list and get on the phone to organisers to check the finer details or just to say hello - Editor)
NOTE TO RIDING GROUPS ORGANISERS: May we have regular reports submitted to the magazine please, particularly items of printable gossip and news of special events that will encourage newcomers to join you? Deadline for next issue: February 1 2000. Many thanks, Geoff Smith, Editor.
I recently completed the end-to-end of the Pyrenees, riding west to east, sea level to sea level, from Hendaye, Bay of Biscay, to Cerbere, Mediterranean. It is a great touring holiday and I am happy to pass on the route details to anyone interested. But I had taken on the challenge of the Raid Pyreneen, which meant completing the 710km course, taking in 18 cols and 11,000 metres of climbing, within 100 hours. The pleasure of completing was undeniable, but there was frustration too in not having the time to enjoy the mountains as a tourist. Here’s how I prepared for the escapade.
ISN’T it great climbing the hills of West Surrey? As you go over the top at Coombe Bottom or White Down Lane don’t you just imagine yourself to be riding through the worshipping crowds at a Pyreneen col as a star professional rider?
Here’s some advice - forget it. Stick to touring, enjoying the scenery, and chatting merrily to your companions, and walking up the hairy bits.
On the other hand.... there IS something marvellous about climbing as the hundreds who tackle our very own West Surrey Tour of the Hills every year can testify. The trick is to ride the inclines at your own pace. But discovering precisely what is your own pace and just how much to push your body into action is the difficult bit.
All of this is by way of preamble to trying to convey my feelings as I rode around West Surrey this summer preparing for my Raid Pyreneen. Just how do you ready yourself for a challenge of this nature?
One rider on the tour I joined did precisely nothing. He did not make it but had an enjoyable holiday, rode at some point every day, and is determined to return to the mountains soon for another crack at the raid.
Some relied on their normal cycling activities by way of preparation. Most, though, fretted and bothered themselves about getting in more and more miles and pushing themselves harder and harder over as many hills as they could find as frequently as they could.
I am here to advise you that while the latter way is the popular choice, it needs to be tempered with moderation.
Just deciding to tackle the raid means you have some confidence in your ability and experience as a cyclist. In a way, that means you are half way there. For the actual preparation, just do what you feel you want to do and, as my Mum has told me over the years, don’t overdo it.
As the day of the start grew nearer I sought the advice of former raiders who had lived to tell the tale. Interestingly, one I spoke to during West Surrey DA’s Tour of the Hills said he had succeeded but it was terrible and he would never do it again.
Another, a friend of mine, had taken the tour back-up coach for 60 miles one day because of a sore bottom, so the poor chap had failed. But far from being downhearted, he had had a great time, thoroughly enjoyed the mountains, cycled again on the following days, and arrived at Cerbere in celebratory mood.
Would he go again? - “Certainly, I really envy you going and would come again with you like a shot if I could,” he replied.
So who had it right? I told myself that as long as I could “conquer” the Aspin and Tourmalet on the second day I would not mind “failing” thereafter. In the event, this proved to be sound thinking, or good mental preparation. There is no doubt that I was more relaxed from then on even though there were three more riding days to go.
Other advice I had by way of preparation included trying to get in a couple of back-to-back jaunts of 100 miles a time. As that would have amounted to 400 miles over two full weekends, that was a non-starter for me on the boredom factor alone. Heretical it may be to say so, but there is more to my life than cycle training all day. A hundred miles with the purpose of getting from A to B or on an official tour fine, otherwise no.
But I headed out from Woking to the hills of the North Downs as often as I could, around twice a week for 20 to 40 miles, and continued my daily commute of 21 miles, tackling all the hills I could find and staying in comparatively high gears.
My wife and I enjoyed a three-day break in the Yorkshire Pennines, when I was able to put in 50 miles a day on the bike. And I did manage one back-to-back weekend when I fulfilled a long-standing aim of riding around the Oxfordshire Cycleway, starting and finishing at Henley - not hilly but an invigorating 175 miles route in the sense of appreciating a great variety of English countryside.
For general fitness I relied on swimming two or three times a week. I tried to cut down on alcohol but I am afraid it was 48 hours before the ride started that I actually achieved total abstinence.
Five days before the “off” I treated my legs to a full-scale massage by a sports therapist. Being told my legs were in great shape (!) by such an expert was great for my morale. He did add that he had detected some muscle fatigue but that too was good news. It gave me just the excuse I needed to calm down a bit in the final few days.
On the night before I boarded the tour bus at Maidstone I had this great big carnivore pub meal with family and friends. Plenty of chips, plenty of beer, and plenty of all-round good cheer in the manner of backslapping assurances that “you’ll do it, no trouble”. It may have been “incorrect” but I loved every minute of it.
And that was it, really. To get back to my main point made earlier, the best thing to do in preparing for a new cycling challenge at whatever level is just trust yourself and your own inclinations. Obviously train when and how you can but don’t be persuaded to do anything you would personally find to be unpleasant, boring, or giving you the slightest hint that you might be wasting your time.
And whatever you do, wind down towards the end and give yourself a relaxed slap-up “last supper” treat just before the “off” - and only make it prescribed carbo-loading if you genuinely do like the stuff.
I should like to start this farewell note by thanking the Wayfarers for their wonderful gift and kind remarks made during our coffee stop at Dunley Hill.
Wednesday Club runs have always been the highlight of my cycling week and the memories of them will stay with me for ever.
One of my first runs was to Lasham and I can remember being dropped on the way home when Roy Banks and Bob Page decided to up the pace.
Who could forget Rico’s run down the side of the Thames or the wonderful 3 days in the Isle of Wight when our President tried to commit mass cyclocide on the M275!
I have been a member of a number of cycling clubs in the past but the friendliness and comradeship of the West Surrey DA surpasses them all.
There are many super people in this Club: Harry Statham, who is always the first to greet the newcomer. The Wednesday Mafia: - Ken the Wheel, Fingers Bolingbroke, Tail-End Eric, American Bob, The Laughing Policeman, Hawkeye Roy, Professor Bob, Alicante Bill, President H, Big Pete - my two mates Rico and Don Jones, and all the ladies and gentlemen in the “B”-Group.
A special thank-you to Phil and Susan Hamilton - they know why!
Best wishes to all the members
May the Club live long and prosper
AN “INSPIRED” TRIBUTE TO BILL WELLINGS, PENNED BY RICO SIGNORE, IS ON THE NEXT PAGE .....
There is this Scouser called Bill
Who cycles down dale and up hill
He’s now in a hurry
To leave leafy Surrey
And reside by the Merseyside swill!
Building bikes from multiple bits
Mixing and matching - till it all fits
He’s cleary on song
With hammer and tong
But mudguards defy all his wits!
The runs with friends of the club
He loved, but there is the rub
As ending each ride
By Sutton Green’s side
He was forcefully yanked into t’pub!
Dear Bill, we’ll miss your humour and wit
With us, you are Liverpool’s hit
A Scouser and wag
With many a gag
Here’s hoping you’ll miss us a bit!
If feeling the pull South you’ll find
A warm welcome, and keep in mind
That you oughter
Visit your daughter
But please leave your North winds behind!
Before describing the next stage in this cycling trip, readers may be interested to know a little more about where it all took place. There’s a paperback book worth reading, “Driving over Lemons” describing the experiences of an ex-pat buying a farm in the area, and gives a good insight into the rugged terrain in which we travelled and the character of the local people.
We’d now reached the mid-point in our Andalusian journey, having cycled in a clockwise direction, and west towards Granada, some 40 kms away - and now had the opportunity to do some leisurely sightseeing.
To get to Granada, we went by local bus - with our instructions to go to the local ticket office down the road (which opens intermittently before each departure), and in our best Spanish ask for a return ticket - “un billete de ida y vuelta a Granada por favor”. Our group of about 16 managed to get the tickets with a little help, and shortly afterwards boarded a large comfortable bus headed to Granada.
The arrival was somewhat disappointing - at a large very modern bustling terminal on the outskirts of this sprawling city. Not the romantic Granada in the song. We split into taxi-sized groups to be taken to the entrance of the Alhambra palace, there joining the other tourists to get our admission tickets on a timetable basis.
Fortunately there was no delay, and off we went to explore the ‘Generalife’ formal Moorish aquatic gardens, all with fountains and water features, then on to the Alhambra palace itself - to see the many different courtyards, colourful Arabic mosaics and intricate wall sculptures. Like all these magnificent places, you have to go there to appreciate them - one of the bonuses of cycling / travel.
The Alhambra palace area is built on a northerly rocky outcrop, covered in trees and overlooking the old provincial business district, with its substantial stone buildings, while adjacent is the old quarter of the town where a group of us headed for lunch - by taxi - as the driver knew the way and the best restaurant too! We later strolled back down quaint narrow cobbled streets, with their balconies of flowers set against the whitewashed houses of varying shapes and sizes.
Lots more photos were taken, before we wended our way back via the main shopping area to get our return bus to lonjorron, and have a relaxing evening in a local restaurant with the rest of the group.
Back to biking with a vengeance. Never mind the sore muscles and aching back - we had to cover 64 kms today, and our itinerary guide mentioned “at least 1000m of climbing each day - Thursday/Friday” - so this was the first of the two tougher touring days.
The start was a glorious freewheel through the many hairpin bends back to Orgiva (mentioned in the above book), then we started the first (of three) climbs, taking us up to Pampaneira (1058m) - the hardest taking us up 600m in 13km. This was a relentless pull up the side of a mountain in hot sunshine. The few of us in our group stopped many times to admire the spectacular views across the rocky valley with its steep gorges. Breath-takingly beautiful.
By the time our “lanterne rouge” group had reached the first stop at Pampaneira, the others had either left or were just about to disappear onwards and upwards! We had a well deserved ensalada and more liquid refreshment before continuing our climb to Trelevez, the highest vilage in the Sierra Nevada at 1476m, a further 21km away.
This climb was supposed to be less severe, but following our protracted stop, it didn’t seem to be less than a hard slog - also in hot sunshine. Eventually, the village of Trelevez with its spread of white coated houses with their pinkish-red tiled roofs and obligatory church steeple came into view round one of the many bends up this steep sided valley.
Again we arrived as a group of the faster riders were setting off on the last leg for the day - pointing us to the best taverna in town - where we took on more liquid refreshment and watched one of the World Cup football matches, before mounting saddles again.
Our efforts to make progress from Trelevez to our destination, Berchules some 19 kms away, were halted by finding an injured goat stranded on the roadside some 6km up the valley. Our efforts to get help from the flagged-down locals in their cars and lorries proved abortive - pidgin Spanish was met with a shrug of the shoulders and suggestions to go back to Trelevez.
Then we got lucky - a helpline telephone number from one guy - and promptly rang it using the mobile carried by our cycling companion, the FAX man - who’d caught us up, after taking and sending messages to his UK office.
However we only succeeded in getting through to Madrid ! on the phone - so to cut an even longer story short - we had to abandon our good Samaritan deed, as it was now very late in the afternoon. Darkness was descending by the time we crawled up to the hotel in Berchules, with everyone at dinner except us. Having explained our late arrival, the itinerant vet in our cycling group confirmed our suspicions that the poor goat would probably be put to sleep, as the cost of any medical attention would outweigh its value.
Final chapter in next issue of the magazine.... Richard Ellis
AUGUST 3rd 1991 Saturday
At this moment in time if I were asked to describe my vision of heaven I would say it is here in our room at the Huayuan Hotel about 3 miles from the centre of Beijing.
A total of 14 hours flying time from Romania’s Bucharest landed us at Beijing Airport in The Peoples Republic of China. We had no trouble at all getting our bicycles through customs, in fact it was dead easy. This had been our greatest anxiety in regard to our arrival in China. All information that we had gathered on this country showed that the Chinese government did not look too kindly on foreigners who wanted to travel independently in their country. We were told many times that we would not be able to get our own bicycles through customs. It was advised that we not take them. We decided to take the risk.
The Boeing 767 touched down at 8pm on Friday. We were outside the terminal building assembling the bikes by 9pm. The humidity was very high and I sweated buckets exerting myself to get air into the tyres.
It was as if I was dreaming as we cycled along the wide road heading for our hotel. I had not managed to grasp the fact that we were now actually riding our bikes in China. The warm moist air was heavy and as the road was unlit we depended on our battery lamps to show us the way.
We stopped frequently to ask directions from strangers on the roadside. They all indicated that we were on the right track and must keep going straight on. The road seemed very straight and long in the dark and our eyes were constantly straining to notice a sign which would point us to the hotel.
There were a few cyclists around. They were intrigued by our battery lamps. None of the cyclists we came across had any form of lighting. We stopped to ask some police the way. They waved us straight on but only after they investigated our strange lights. One policeman seemed absolutely transfixed by my rear LED.
Finally a sign was spotted - Huayuan Hotel 1500 metres. We turned left into a side road and pulled up at the hotel at around 11pm. The bold Las Vegas style fluorescent sign mounted above the entrance seemed starkly out of place and it threw a strange pink glow over us as we parked our bicycles.
Our room on the 4th floor is very comfortable for the price of 150 Yuan (about £15) equipped with bedside control for television, ensuite bathroom and air conditioning.
Today we visited the American Express office for mail. After unsuccessfully trying to find our way there on foot we eventually caught a taxi.
Before coming back to the hotel we stopped at a “Friendship Store”. Friendship stores were set up to cater to foreign needs, stocking the kind of items that foreigners were used to such as potato crisps, peanut butter, that sort of thing. The ordinary Chinese have no access to imported luxury items and many can only dream of getting through the doors of a Friendship Store.
NOTE: Nowadays China is in the grips of a consumer revolution and Friendship Stores have become one of the many chains of department stores stacked to the ceilings with consumer goodies.
AUGUST 4th Sunday
After shopping we both felt exhausted. I think a combination of the heat and humidity as well as jet lag is taking its toll. We caught a rickshaw back to the hotel ...... I take my hat off to the guys who pedal these rickshaws, single geared machines that must be really hard to get moving from a standing start when laden with two passengers. Our pedaler was only a slim little chap who certainly looked as if he was straining. I could see the sweat soaking through his shirt and running down his back. At one set of traffic lights I jumped out and gave him a push to help him get inertia up. That was a mistake, I had made him lose face in public. He gestured angrily for me to jump back into my seat and let him do the work. He charged us 25 yuan for the journey (£3.00), we gave him 30 yuan. I reckon he had earned it!
After a rest we rode our bikes through the city. We joined the thousands of cyclists in Beijing.
Tiananmen Square is in the centre of the city. The square is Mao’s creation. During the cultural revolution chairman Mao reviewed parades of up to a million people here. In 1976 another million stood in the square to pay their last respects to him. Around the square are various monuments of the past and present. The Chinese Revolution History Museum, the Great Hall Of The People, The Mao Mausoleum and the Monument To The Peoples Heroes are some of them. Bicycles can be walked across the square but they cannot be ridden.
The Tiananmen Gate is a national symbol. It was constructed in the 15th century and restored in the 17th. It functioned as a rostrum for proclaiming to the assembled masses. It was from here that Mao pronounced the Peoples Republic on 1st October 1949.
You pass through Tiananmen Gate on your way into the Forbidden City.
To Be Continued.
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 3 November 2009.