Cycling up the hill was like climbing a smoking volcano. The blue sky was offset by billowing clouds, travelling at a pace hard to reconcile with the breeze on my cheeks. Up here, above the valley bottom, above the terraced houses, the gurgling stream and the distant buzz of the dual carriageway it feels like climbing Etna. The air, however, is clear; there is no sulphur emitted here.
A dragonfly danced across my path, four wings beating in unison. Something rustled in the undergrowth, most likely that smoothest of mathematicians, the adder. My wheels dance precariously across rutted tops, these rides require concentration and nerve. Aside from the flora and the fauna and the cuts made by humanity, I am totally alone. Breathing in the air, gazing at the sea, working up a sweat.
The stony, flinty path that stretches to the peak is our bit of Strade Bianchi. A Welsh white road, making ‘S’ shapes to the top. The clouds still billow, only now they’re not emitting from a central vent. They’re puffing away from a trig point chimney. I swear these mountains are alive.
Top image: Machen mountain top, South Wales.