Lands Ends to John O’Groats 1997 Part 5

As day two unrolled, it was clear that it would be a memorable day on a bicycle. Light rain fell on our departure from Boswinger. We had 83 miles and over 6,000 feet of climbing in front of us, including a finale over bleak, wet and windswept Dartmoor. Once again the first half involved a succession of testing climbs.

After a brief stop for lunch in Plymouth, we inched our way onto the moor. The wind attempted to blow us back to Lands Ends and the rain went in one ear and out the other. The road snaked off into the distant wilderness like a silver serpent. The Wattmeister’s resolve began to crumble under Nature’s assault. What an undertaking it was to fight for every single pedal stroke as we gained Princetown, then Postbridge and Two Bridges before the endless drag to Moretonhampstead and a final descent to crumbling Steps Bridge hostel. In the circumstances it seemed that we had arrived in Heaven.

Dinner consisted of corned beef, crisps and the sniff of a champagne cork….we slept well.

After two days cycling in the deep countryside, negotiating the traffic-strewn metropolis that is Exeter came as quite a shock to our newly awakened sensibilities. However, somehow we found our way back into the gentle lanes via Broadclyst, Whimple and Talaton before our climbing legs were once again back on duty in the Blackdown Hills. The steepness of the narrow thoroughfares around Rawridge and Upottery threatened to cause us to dismount, but none of us wanted to be the first to surrender, so we plodded over the Hills to a more benign countryside around the town of Somerton, leaving one final ascent over the Polden Hills to the YHA at Street.

Our routine began to settle into a kind of drill. In the mornings, Martin would empty the entire contents of his panniers over his bed and the surrounding floor. Bizarrely, he had  chosen to pack a tweed jacket and a pair of leather brogues…just in case. It seemed impossible that he could take breakfast, dress, wash and  re-pack everything within our time schedule.

Ray assumed the role of sergeant major. First to rise, all equipment neat, tidy and ready for action, he chivvied us into action, barking out commands in a friendly manner, but one that brooked no argument.

The Wattmeister just wanted to lay in bed.

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