For the first time there was more than just myself and Ben ready for adventure. As per tradition we met at Artisan Coffee in East Putney. Ben and I arrived on time and ate porridge in the drizzle while waiting for our newest attendee, Mark. He wasn't bringing punctuality to the table but he was supplying whisky.
Me and Ben were both testing a bike packing set up rather than backpack or panniers. Once riding I discovered my tent wasn't secure and was being pushed by my legs on each pedal stroke. This resulted in it wagging behind me but at least I looked happy. I was expecting maximum comfort as I had the tent to myself for the first time and was testing my brand new sleeping bag.
Once again lured in by the idea of a morning swim we decided upon Frensham Pond in the Southwest as our destination. The big issue of starting in London is that the first 20 miles or so are boring main roads or dual carriageways, add in the oppressive grey sky and constant drizzle it wasn't the most exciting departure. Keen to start enjoying ourselves, somewhere between Leatherhead and Guilford we switched tarmac for dirt and went off road. Ben had the perfect set up with fat tyres but myself and Mark were just spinning our wheels in mud. Trudging up the muddy hills we had a quick chat with a local who exclaimed "brilliant!" when we said we didn't know where we were or where we would sleep. On his recommendation we adjusted our destination to a local pub 4 miles away.
On arrival the pub (The Good Intent) looked absolutely fantastic, lovely stone building, local ales and fresh home made pies served until 4pm. Being 4:15pm were were forced to turn around, slog up a hill and endure terrible service/food at the Harvester down the road.
We set up camp just near a fishing pond in Puttenham Common. Mark delivered on his promise of whisky and Ben got a fire going. I was excited to try the long exposure on my new GoPro and Ben had just bought a new DSLR so while we were playing Mark got to work on the booze.
We saw off a bottle and a half of whisky just as the rain started up again. It was only 8:30 and we were restless so with the light fading we hauled our bikes out of the woods. Mark lost a glove and I jammed my gears up with a bungee chord but we got ourselves back to The Good Intent. We arrived to a live band and some friendly locals who assured us this was rare, there were usually at most 5 people there. Feeling that we shouldn't waste the coincidence we over induldged on ales and Mark fell asleep on the bar.
The ride back was only a single road down hill and judging by the scratches on our legs, Ben's sore thumb and the below picture we found on Marks phone it was an event.
The next morning myself and Ben were feeling pretty sorry for ourselves. I was extra dissappointed as I have no idea how my new sleeping bag faired. We made it to the Harvester but had missed breakfast so fuelled up on coffee and pies. Me and Ben got through the ordeal by moaning and saying we would get the train home from Guilford but this is where Mark came into his own. Having downed his strawberry flavoured water that had appeared in out bottle cages the night before (can only assume the pub had been worried for us) he was a force of positivity and kept us riding. After Guilford we all felt a bit more human and the sun was shining. Like with any good hangover we had forgotten how painful it was and looked back at the weekend as a right old adventure.
I think we maybe tipped the whisky scales in the wrong direction and will re-adjust next time. There was talk in the pub of trying to cycle to Lands End in May so hopefully we will get it right then!
I had been looking forward to filming with two cameras this trip but due to the rapid decline in my capability to hold a camera the footage trailed off towards the night, next time!