Day 2 started bright and early for me, I woke at 06:30, looked out of the tent flap, it was still raining hard and there was a stream running down the road outside. I tried to go back to sleep but I couldn't, so I laid there until 07:00 and got up. I only had a 1 man tent, couldn't sit up and had no phone signal so decided to head to the showers and get everything packed away ready to leave. Pete and Stuart were still asleep, so I decided to explore the area on foot and practise my photography skills.
The sleeping beauties eventually woke up and we were back on the road by 11:30! It turns out we had cut off more of the route than we had planned the day before and only left ourselves with 12 miles before our planned camping spot at the end of day 2. Luckily we had cut the big chunk off, as the 12 miles were not a walk in the park. Now fresh, the climb out of Exford seemed less daunting along with the ensuing rolling terrain over the next couple of miles, which seem to pass quickly before dropping down to cross the Barle river.
The river crossing probably starkly highlighted our different approaches to the trip. None of us had done this kind of relaxed trip before, so it was a learning curve. I took a few more clothes and a 1 man tent (rather than a bivvy bag) over what I would normally take and Pete and Stuart took provisions for a 2 week trip, even a washing line! This really showed up when carrying our bikes across the river. If Paul Chuckle is looking for a new partner I have a great audition tape of Pete and Stuart trying to get their bikes across. To me, to you.... As a side note, if anyone follows this route, do not cross where we did, further down stream, about 20m, there is a gate!
After we dried out, we pushed on and was initially rewarded with some great (slippery in places) but flowing rocky single-track. This got more and more technical the further we pushed on until eventually the rocks got much bigger, steeper, narrower and unrideable. It's fair to say Pete didn't enjoy the hike-a-bike section! It felt like it went on forever, but it was probably only about 500m. It did feel unnecessary, it would have been very easy to slide down some of the rock slabs you needed to navigate and snap an ankle or break a leg. We considered trying to scrabble out of the ravine to see if there was a path that ran higher up but, when I investigated it, the routes were just as bad if not worse, so we continued on. We crossed the River Barle again via a bridge which was now considerably wider than when we waded across earlier.
I unceremoniously fell of my bike on the next section having stopped to let a woman past with her dog and chatting to her whilst standing on a rock, my foot slipped off. I rolled down the bank and the bike fell on top of me! I obviously jumped/scrambled up, brushed myself off and embarrassingly rolled on! Pete and Stuart gained a bit of a fan club when we stopped on the bank next to the Tarr Steps and were considering whether to ride across the river (rather than use the stone bridge that had been provided). I chickened out and took the easy, dry route. After taking their tent/bags off their bikes, Pete and Stuart rode across the river to wild applause from the adoring crowd that had formed, all hoping their video would make the local news or £250 from You've Been Framed. Sadly (I mean luckily), both of them made it across without taking a dip in the river.
Just a quick stop at the Tarr steps for a tea cake and beer (coke for me) before a rather spiteful steep rocky climb took us back onto the moors. Like stallions, we rode 3 abreast along the slowly descending track towards our day 2 campsite, Pete getting the short end of the stick having to splash through the puddles, only breaking formation to skirt round some real-life Exmoor ponies. We rolled in, pitched our tent, had a shower and then cooked some food that we had been dragging around with us (Note: I definitely didn't try and sprinkle some of the "Do not eat sachet" on my boil in the bag meal). We then headed down to the pub.
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