Growing up in Oxford, cycling was an inevitability and gave three young lads an easy sense of independence and freedom. Heading outdoors with a bike was what made us happy back then. Add to that a hammock, an ale, and an open fire and you’ve got what makes us happy today.
Our aim with The Dumway (Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway) trip was to ride and camp, unsupported, for 8 days in the most accessible and affordable wilderness that we could find close-ish to home. Planning and organising was an important and enjoyable part and it actually mattered for nutrition and comfort if something was forgotten or failed.
Planning 8 days of non-perishable but nutritious food was a fun challenge. Not wanting to go down the self-dehydrated route just yet, we laid out daily ration bags: porridge sachets, cured meat, spicy cheese, couscous, rice, noodles, red onion, garlic, ginger and three leaves of fresh greens became our staples. Not to forget coffee, sweet treats, hot chocolate and the occasional bread-baking challenge (with varying success). This was all pretty heavy and bulky, but it was immensely satisfying to know we’d prepared for the end of the world. Or so we liked to think.
"We may have only been an hour or so from help, but for us, the feeling of a far-reached wilderness and exposure was what counted. It was our stepping-stone and learning curve for future trips."
We were spoiled on the first 2 days, with sunshine and a pleasant camp spot by The Otter Pool on the River Dee. It helped us ease into the trip gently and was an idyllic place to celebrate Dan’s birthday with a splash of whisky and a slab of Battenberg. A surprisingly good combo. It wasn’t long, however, for the weather to turn and set the tone. The riding was gentle and pleasant, but the rain was not.
Rolling down the valley from White Laggan Bothy to Glentrool, hugged by the mountains and burnt by the rain, we realised what we’d come for – humbled by the moody beauty and feelings of exposure, wet through, with cold hands and feet facing an endless track, this was adventure. We no longer had to rely on the memories and photos of others for a fix.
We now had our own and it felt good.
The Dumway trip fulfilled and exceeded our expectations of what was possible with a bike, a piece of ripstop nylon and the lure of the wilderness. We were left wanting more, even if it meant travelling above the tree line and having to replace our luxurious hanging pods with a ground-dwelling system of some sort.
As for the big one, like many, Nepal and Mount Everest has always been a pull.