With plenty of heaving and shoving we make it over the camber, proceeding just a few yards before we’re faced with another series of switchback turns and awkward angles. Occasionally we hit a break in the trees and whilst this gives us a little respite from the loose leaf material and flint-like stones it brings with it a number of awkwardly-placed rocks.
Eventually we all reach the summit, only to find a small crack in one of the engine cases of Phil’s CRF. Oil is gently weeping from the split so Stephen suggests we stop for lunch while he fixes the motor with some ‘liquid metal’.
As we scoff down our bread, tomatoes and cheese the wind begins to rustle the trees above our heads and the sky darkens with an eerie grey cloud which promises rain. Sure enough, just as we pack up and get set to head off along the hilltop the first spots begin to fall.
We’ve travelled little more than a few hundred yards when the front-end of the Yamaha starts to wander downhill. I counter-steer against it though something’s clearly not right. When Stephen momentarily stops at the exit to the woods I break the bad news. ‘Mate, I’ve got a puncture…’
A small fire still smouldering in the open suggests that a shepherd has only just left - perhaps concerned about being struck by lightning should a storm roll in - but we’re going to have to stay a little longer and fix the flat. Trees at the edge of the woods provide cover from the light rain and we start the process of removing the flat tube and the huge thorn that’s punctured it.
Roam Sweet Roam
Fortunately the rain doesn’t stay with us for long and the grass remains grippy as we drop down from one peak to the next. Rocks are few and far between now, allowing us to take in the awe-inspiring views and keep up a good pace, though they soon make a reappearance as we enter the section of woods we’d dropped down through the previous day, and head up towards the natural spring.
We press on, through the paddock and past the climb we’d conquered yesterday towards the pale-coloured cliffs far in the distance, riding goat tracks, well-trodden paths and open grassland. The occasional fence or hedgerow partly determines our route, though there are no ‘fields’ as we know them. Most of the livestock we see has their front feet manacled so that they can’t go far or fast.
We keep our pace to a crawl too as Stephen leads us to the top of a helter-skelter of hairpins which will take us down through another forest. ‘If you can’t make it round a turn then get off and walk the bike’, he warns before we start the descent. Each turn is so sharp that without the skills of Jarvis or Blazusiak the only way to ride the bike down is to roll the front wheel over the inside edge of each corner and then brake-turn the back-end so that you pivot around the headstock. Attempting to ride round one corner, I realise that the Yamaha simply doesn’t have the requisite steering lock and instead I’m left to get off and drag the back-end round to prevent a trip over the edge.
This natural fairground ride fires us out in the bottom of a river valley, where we ride along the riverbank before hoiking the bikes up onto a narrow bridge. Sizing it up, the bars only just fit between the wires on each side though more of an issue is that as soon as you set tyre on it the bridge begins to sway. There’s a 15-foot drop into the water below…
Stephen goes first then guides each of us across. Ride too slow and the bridge begins to swing and you lose your balance, too fast and it REALLY starts to move around! Safely on the other side - some calmly, others with racing hearts after getting a little giddy with the throttle - we head down a nearby road for a mile or so before again crossing the river. This time the bridge is fixed with girders, though the higgledy-piggledy arrangement of wooden planks that form its platform make it look far more unsafe than ol’ Galloping Gertie we’ve just crossed. I hang back from the two guys in front, just in case the weight of three bikes and riders exceeds its capacity…
And so the climb begins. Straightforward enough at first, we’re soon riding another loose stoney goat-track along an impossibly steep slope. Then Stephen’s off the bike, heaving, puffing and shoving the little Honda - most uncharacteristic. A tree has fallen, taking a good chunk of the path with it and leaving an awkward tangle of roots and holes to negotiate. There’s no way around, we have to go through it.