I had a good evening with Matt,
Mike Erik and Rika ( I’m really sorry, but I can’t remember the girl’s name, except that it was two short syllables and I had never heard it before!), with the conversation ranging from the necrotising effects of bacteria on snake fangs to human flesh, to endurance obstacle courses! We had a drink in the bar next to the hostel before getting fish and chips from the chippy. I had the largest piece of haddock I have ever seen, but with a cyclist’s appetite demolished it. Another beer finished off the evening.
I will say nothing about my night’s sleep, expect to mention that it was warm, and I had had two pints of beer.
I got up (for the fifth time) just before 8.00 am, feeling tired, and with a sore throat. My body, which had endured much over the last nine days, was finally rebelling and calling ‘time out’. I made a double round of ham and cheese sandwiches from my breakfast stuff, and was away by about 9.30, calling at the local Tesco to get some bananas. Before that I had a chat with a French couple, who were touring Ireland, Scotland and England on recumbent bicycles.
The day was duller and cooler than had been forecast, and I stopped after a while to put on my gilet and arm-warmers. The villages I was passing through had no shops, and the one tea shop I passed in the first 25 miles was closed. I was spinning a lower gear than usual, to minimise my energy expenditure, but the road was constantly going up and down, with the initial pull out of Ullapool feeling particularly steep.
Whether it was my lethargy or not, but I didn’t find the landscape as enthralling as I thought I might when I looked at the route. Don’t get me wrong, I was enjoying it, but for me it didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor. That is until I reached a place called Kylescu, where I had chard and cinnamon soup in the hotel of the same name (Kylescu, not ‘chard and cinnamon’!). I mentioned to an older gentleman in the bar how pretty I found the landscape, to which he replied ‘You see where that man is standing? Well follow a direct line to where the water ends, and that is where I was born’.
After lunch the day started to improve, and then, dramatically, so did the scenery. I came round a corner and face to face with the kind of scene I had in my mind – a pointed mountain protruding from the landscape. From then on, the vistas kept coming, and didn’t disappoint. My energy levels, however, were at an all time low, and with a headwind to contend with as well I was making slower and slower progress. I stopped at ever more frequent intervals to eat.
After one seemingly interminable climb, the road tilted downwards, and I could see the sea at the north coast of Scotland! I felt sure that I had been over the last hill, so when I saw the road rise again a few miles later, I stopped to regroup. I had my last sandwich, and told myself it didn’t matter what the time was, or how long it took, but I was going to keep pedalling until I got to Durness.
Thankfully the hill in question wasn’t as bad as it had looked, and a couple of miles later I rolled into Durness. I got a pasta dish and a pint of milk for tea, as well as some bananas for tomorrow, a Magnum and a Crunchie. I planned on having the pasta as soon as I got to the hostel, and then going out for a meal after getting my head down for a bit. Yesterday I had wondered if I would head out to Cape Wrath, but close as it was, it would have been too much today. I met a cyclist at the shop who had been there, and said that the road was very rough, and if he did it again, he would use a bike with suspension. That made me feel a bit better about not going!
Durness turns out to be a sprawling place, and the youth hostel was a mile or more from the shop and restaurant I had seen, so when I found out that I could buy a frozen meal at the hostel, there was no choice to make.
I have now had two dinners, lying down for an hour between the two, and am going to get an early night. There is no internet access here, and my data connection with O2 is next to useless, so I will have to update this tomorrow in Inverness.
I am hoping that this is just one ‘freak’ day, because it will be very hard to get to Inverness if I feel as I have been feeling today. It appears as though the wind will be in my favour as I journey south-eastwards. I will ensure that I eat and drink regularly. I may see about setting a repeating alarm on my phone. As another cyclist remarked to me tonight, one bad day in ten isn’t bad at all!