8.00 am saw me wearily getting out of bed this morning, after yet another poor night’s sleep. I was in no hurry to get going, as the weather was the worst I have yet experienced this trip, which admittedly isn’t saying a great deal, as I have hitherto been very fortunate. The rain was not so much falling, as being blown sideways. I left it as long as I could before leaving the hostel just before 10.00 am, when it closed.
Even stopping at the local shop to pick up supplies for later in the day, and braking all the way downhill, I was still at the harbour by 10.20. I found a quirky cafe and market shop where I holed up for a couple of hours, writing postcards and chatting to the owner. He had a random list of 1500 songs from the 1910’s to the 1960’s playing in the cafe, which also gave space to local craftspeople to sell their wares.
After a spot of lunch in the cafe I sorted out my ticket for the ferry, which had to be exchanged for a boarding card. I then headed over to the start of the pier, which wasn’t a long journey. There I met another cyclist, Rob. He had been on holiday on Skye with his wife and children, and was now heading over to Stornaway on his own for the music festival. Apparently a £40 ticket gets you access to all the four days’ events! He had been in engineering for fifteen years, but was now working part-time as a community worker while he undertook a masters in Theology.
I didn’t get all this on the pier, but we boarded the ferry together and then sat upstairs in the observation lounge. With a heavy sea mist, there wasn’t much to observe. Then, as we got into Talbert harbour the mist seemed to lift.
I said my farewells to Rob as we left the ferry, as he was going north to Stornaway, and although I would later be going that way also, I was first going to go south west to see Luskentyre beach. Several people had told me about it, so I felt that I should go, even though the mist returned as soon as I climbed out of the harbour.
It was not looking good as I headed out, and I thought that I would just see if it were visible. I got my first glimpse of it from the main road, and thought that I would go a bit further and turn off on the road to Luskentyre.
The mist was right down, and yet, as I cycled along the minor road, the sand and sea suddenly seemed to light up. It seemed inexplicable, but it was as if the sun were lighting up the sea on a clear day, not one shrouded in mist. There was a warmth to the light that is hard to put into words. The best that I can come up with is that it was the sort of light that I would be happy to walk towards when my time comes. I found it a very moving experience, and felt as though I had been in a thin place, as the Celtic mystics would have put it.
I would have stayed longer, but was 10 miles further from my night’s bed than when I landed, so I made my way back towards Tarbert. The harbour was still clear, but all around there was a thick mist. I stopped to pick up some rolls and ham, and had one with a packet of crisps and a can of Coke to keep me going.
There was quite a climb a few miles north of Tarbert, and some high roads under heavy mist that required a deft bit of sheep avoidance, but then a huge sweeping descent gave the hint that I was leaving Harris and crossing over into Lewis. The wind got behind me, and I made the hostel by 7.30 pm, after stopping a couple of times to check my position – the last thing I wanted to do was to overshoot the turning and have to battle back against the wind.
The hostel door was wide open, as had been predicted, and I found the one free bed in my allocated room. I have now had some pasta and have had a shower.
I was musing earlier about this trip. Well now, a few hours, I can say that if I see nothing else noteworthy on this trip, it will have been worth it for those few minutes alongside Luskentyre beach.
Day 8 statistics
Miles ridden: 48
Miles ridden without mist: not many