Well, thank goodness that's over with! I'm now at home resting, minus one very damaged gall bladder, and with an abdomen full of holes and stitches!
So, what else has happened since I last posted on here? Oh yes - me and the Insect took a little trip to North Wales. We stayed, as usual, with Chris and Sue at the Castle Inn in Knucklas. Wouldn't dream of staying anywhere else!
I'll spare you the endless photographs, and trip details, as I've already updated 'My British Isles' (my other blog). However, a little tale concerning poorly Insects, big dams and the RAC now follows.................
Given decent weather, there's nothing I like better than heading for the Elan Valley. Somehow, however, I've never had the time to head out to the Claerwen dam. This lies off the Elan Valley Trail, down a separate valley, and basically, you go there and come back, because it's a dead-end road. The dam lies at the head of the valley, some 7.5 miles or so out of Rhayader.
The largest and most impressive of the five Elan Valley Dams, Claerwen dam holds back 48,300 megalitres of water, and I guess it's about 200 feet high. When you get there, the road divides - the left fork takes you to the base of the dam, and the right fork takes you to the top, where you can actually ride across the top of the dam, and there's a viewing platform at the middle point.
Anyway, I took the lower road first, duly admired and photographed the dam from below, and then turned around and headed for the top. Totally amazing! I parked the Insect and walked across the dam. It was a loveley warm day, and the sun was reflecting off the water, and the air was full of martins, swooping and diving for the thousands of midges.
I walked back to the bike, turned the key, pressed the start........click click silence. The Insect was completely dead. It slowly dawned on me that I'd now got a real problem. As I said, the Claerwen is over 7 miles from the nearest settlement, in the middle of the mountains, where there is absolutely no mobile phone signal. And I'm a woman, travelling alone, with all that implies. The Breakdown Services and the Police always recommend women to stay in their car if they break down, lock the doors and windows and wait for help to arrive.
But what do you do if you're on a motorcycle?
Over the far side of the dam, halfway up the opposite valley wall, nestled a little farm. I walked back down the road, took the lower dam track, and then walked up to the farm. I asked the lady if I could use her land line to call the RAC, and she very kindly obliged.
After a short wait, the RAC Call Centre answered.
"RAC Breakdown. How can I help you?"
"I've broken down"
"Can I have your membership number?"
"Yes, it's .............."
"Which motorcycle is it?"
"It's a Honda Hornet, registration S... ..."
"Can you give me your location please?"
"Yes, I'm in the Elan Valley, on top of the Claerwen Dam"
"Can I have a post code for that?"
"err.....it's a dam in the middle of some mountains. I don't think they deliver letters to it"
"Can I have your mobile number please?"
"You can, but I can't get a signal, so it's a bit pointless"
"Where are you calling from?"
"A farm on the other side of the valley"
"Is your motorcycle there?"
"No, it's broken down, on top of the Claerwen dam"
"Can I have the postcode for its location please?"
"Well, if you don't give me a postcode or a mobile number, how will our agent find you?"
"Fair question. Just tell him to look for a 200 foot high dam, at the end of a valley, with a broken down motorcycle on top of it"
Anyway, I finally got her to understand that he needed to head for the Elan Valley Heritage Centre, then ask for the way to the Claerwen dam.
"Can you give me the post code for the Heritage Centre"
"Hold on, I'll walk the 4 or 5 miles to it and ask them"
As I said, I'd followed the road round to the base of the dam, and then crossed the valley floor to the farm. I made that around 1.5 miles. So I asked the farm lady if there was a quicker way to get back to the top of the dam.
"Yes, cross the footbridge there, go up through that stand of trees, and you will see a dried up stream bed. Follow that, and it will take you to the top."
Nice one - across the footbridge, through the trees, find the stream bed...........which is full of running water. Oh well, in for a penny.
So, hot day, full bike gear, carrying back pack and crash helmet, I start up the stream towards the top of the dam. Boy was that steep! In places I was on all fours, scrabbling for some kind of foothold with my big clunky bike boots.
I got to the top and collapsed in a heap on the grass. A nice, kind fisherman passing by gave me a bottle of water, and a much needed cigarette (I've actually given up smoking, but sometimes, you just gotta.....you know what I mean?)
About an hour later, the familiar sight of a bright orange RAC van warmed my heart. The RAC man was a very nice man. He established that the battery had died a death. In all truth, it had been on there for a very long time, and I guess the morning spent creeping around these lanes in first gear, had killed it off.
His first priority, was to get me back to civilisation, before we worked out what to do about getting bike fixed. As he said, I couldn't have broken down in a more inhospitable place. We jump started the bike. It's old technology, this one, so once started, it will run on direct current.
We cruised back to Rhayader, where there is a small off-road motorcycle and quad shop. They couldn't help with a replacement battery, but they called another shop about 30 miles away who had one, and who said they would put it on charge straight away, so that, by the time I got there, it would be almost ready to fit to the bike.
To cut a long story short, Mr. RAC started my bike again, and off I headed to get this goodly battery. The bike shop were brilliant. By the time I'd had a coffee, they'd fitted the battery free of charge, and the Insect was once more fit and healthy.
Strange experience, but hey, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger - or so they say..........
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