As bikepacking becomes ever more popular, it seems that there’s ever more people trying to tempt the unwary to venture away from the trail centre or off the sofa and into the hills. The words and images used, make it a tempting prospect but you must exercise caution, as these words and pictures are often gilded with half truths and exaggeration, making them a trap for the unwary and ill-prepared.
In an effort to redress the balance, I’ve written three paragraphs of the type you might read in a magazine or catalogue – they paint a glorious picture of the self-propelled, two wheeled life don’t they? Beneath each, you’ll find a second paragraph which is simply a translation of the first – hopefully, they’ll serve as a reminder to all those lured by the temptation of what might seem like the latest, greatest thing, that, while you certainly can’t polish a turd, you can roll it in glitter.
A simple end to a long day in the saddle.
The forest canopy spread out above my head, forming a warm blanket above me. I prised myself away from the smooth trunk I’d been leaning against and slowly ambled over to the waters edge. Squatting down, I lowered my hand into the clear cool water. The day’s sun had turned my skin the colour of lightly roasted almonds and the water felt good against the tingling flesh. My prize lay resting amongst the pebbles on the river bottom, I wrapped my hand round it and drew it out from where it lay. My titanium Leatherman hung from my belt like a faithful friend. Once in my hand, I unfolded the bottle opener and with a quick twist, flipped the lid from the cool bottle grasped in the other. The wet glass touched my lips and my nose drank in the fine aroma of handcrafted IPA. Bubbles danced across my tongue as the frothy, golden liquid swirled around my mouth. Lowering the bottle, I wiped my beard with my neckerchief and let out a deep satisfied sigh.
Which translates as:
The wet pine needles blocked out the darkening sky but the the persistent drips on my tarp let me know it was still there on the other side of the oppressive blanket. Pulling my hood up, I crawled out from under my shelter and slithered my way down the banking towards the drainage ditch that lay alongside the forest boundary. Squatting down, I lowered my battered mug into the dark brown water and scooped up enough for my last remaining tea bag. Back beneath the sanctuary of my shelter, I realised my last tea bag had been this morning’s tea bag, so I searched amongst the sweet wrappers and banana skins of my rubbish bag until I found it. Breakfast seemed a long time ago but the family sized pork pie I’d so eagerly consumed back then, sat heavily in my stomach like a slug of congealed fat in a blocked drain. The sight of a slightly used tea bag floating round the lukewarm water inside my mug lifted my spirits, I smiled, lay back on my bivvy bag and let out a surprise fart … the kind of fart that leaves you wondering whether it might not have lumps in it.
A new day dawns.
A bright orange dawn eased my eyes open, I put my hands behind my head and looked up, wondering what the unfolding day would bring. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and warm pastry drifted lazily across the forest floor from the crackling campfire. Another body lay motionless not five feet from mine, while a third perched on a shapely log and tended to breakfast. I’d slept well, a thick mattress of dried leaves had cushioned me from the dry, hard surface below. A lullaby of John Mayer ballads played expertly by Jordan on his antique harmonica had transported me to the sweet land of dreams where I’d remained safe and secure until just a few moments ago … I knew already, it was going to be a great day.
Which translates as:
The pit pat of dripping water on the foot of my bivvy bag eventually wrenched open my eyes but a heavy baritone snore from five feet away indicated that no one else was yet awake. I pulled my sleeping bag over my head in an attempt to block out the noise but my own stench was too much to bear. The mixture of stale cat piss and beefy pot noodle drove my head into the open and the cold, grey dawn. I sat up, looked round and flicked two, fat black slugs off my bivvy bag. I hadn’t slept well, my sleeping mat had partially deflated in the night and I could see an unexpected layer of hail beyond the trees … I knew already, it was going to be a long, cold day.
Yesterday had been fantastic. An early start had enabled us to rack up the miles and they came easily. My new carbon fat bike seemed to float up the smooth, hardpacked climbs and almost dance its way through the rocks and tight switchbacks of the seemingly endless descents. We’d stopped beside a beautiful tree lined river for lunch where we’d cooled our hot feet in the crystal clear water and watched two otters fishing in the shallows. Inspired by their endeavours, Cory made a fishing rod from his tent pole and proceeded to catch three large salmon which we stuffed with wild garlic and slowly cooked over the hot embers of our fire.
Which translates as:
Yesterday was shite. Two hours of faffing meant we didn’t get away until gone eleven. Some, less than careful route planning lead us through a seemingly never ending cycle of ploughed field, bog, ploughed field, bog, I pushed more than I rode. Frustration and hunger eventually drove us onto the back lanes and some quick miles. We thought our luck was in when John spotted a sign for fish and chips but sadly, our hopes were dashed as they closed at half one and it was now gone two. The petrol station provided a poor but serviceable substitute. We sat on a bench overlooking the canal with a bag of pickled onion Monster Munch and a Ginsters and wondered whether anything could survive the murky water below us.