Thursday, 9 September 2010
Saturday, 4 September 2010
well if you been here over the last day or so you may have noticed a redirect from the old address into this one, 'Mountainbasher' is a name i've used for some time here and there on the Internet in various places and forums etc, so it seem logical that i registered it as a domain and finally do something about creating another website, so yesterday, rather hurriedly thats what i did.. you can check out the begginings of my new site at the address http://mountainbasher.co.uk and this blog will be kept in this format under the subdomain http://blog.mountainbasher.co.uk.
i'm gonna keep both updated with not only biking stuff, but any other random crap that i find amusing, i hope you will too...!
I'll be putting the photos from my recent scottish trip online in the next few days..
Friday, 27 August 2010
well... last day... sob sob..
but on the other hand... Yay!!! \o/
Got up with the birds this morning at about 6am... not sure if it was the excitement of going home, or the fact it was bloody freezing and i couldnt sleep...
A big pile of porridge and coffee later and i was on the road for 8am, down the country lanes around Writington and out into the plethera of traffic, cars full of angry people trying to get to work... how dare they encroach on my holiday!
through the edges of chorley, Leyland and into Bolton, with the traffic calming past the rush hour the long ride into Manchester in the sunshine was quite pleasureable. I was determined this time to 'do' manchester without the aid of a map or SatNav, so armed with the age old navigation tecnique of following the sun i hit the town... Knowing that at noon, if i kept the sun directly in my face i would surely be going i the right direction... and it worked! the maze of oneway systems and pedestrionized streets were no match for me and the sun and soon i not only had the bustle of Manchester city center behind me, but i was also going in the right direction, on the right road.. Easy!
out of manchester and into the the long slog uphill into Stockport and Whaley bridge.. deciding as ive done here before to take on the grind of a climb that goes up over the high edges of the Goyt Valley and decends into Buxton, rather than go up the dual carriageway into Chapel En Le Frith. and a grind it is!
a good 40 minutes of hard slog uphill before the breakneck wild downhill into buxton town. Out of buxton and another long drawnout climb over Taddington followed by yet another epic decent into Bakewell.
Not wantng to stop with the tourists i wheeled through and into Matlock where a coffe break saw me fit for the last 15 miles flatish valley ride to sunny Belper...
Not wanting to end it all too soon a quick text arranged a beer with John at the George down on the main street, where he met me and we shared a much needed pint (or 3) in the sun!
all in all a great day with a nice steady 83 miles to bring the tour to a close.
sorry for the short post tonight, but kinda tired and got a heap of things to sort out (and wash)
i'm gonna add a few more post to this blog over the weekend, and some more pictures and stuff and cover a few things i never spoke too much about because of the limitations of typing on a lil iddly piddly phone and stuff..
soo..... big thanks for reading, i hope you enjoyed reading this as much as i enjoyed doing it!
(pic to day is of me mate john at the pub today for a much deserved pint)
P.S. John also brought me a big hunk of home made apple cake! nice one fella, its awesome!!
Thursday, 26 August 2010
Another dry day! Weeeeeeee!
Up early, breakfast and on the road before 9am, wheeled into town on search of a bike shop to try and replace the little handlebar mounted mirror that I broke off yesterday.. lots of bike shops but none with the object in question.. so out on the road again and headed south..
Following the coast on a pleasantly quiet road, I wheeled into Morecambe at about lunchtime, bustling with tourists I pootled along the promenade in search of a cure for my craving for seafood, which in a town like Morecambe is easily found.. large portion of exquisitely cooked fish and chips followed by a little platter of mixed shellfish, muscles, cockles, prawns, crayfish and crab.. nomnom!
Craving satisfied and away to Lancaster with its maze of funky cycle paths, still gets top marks for cycle friendliness..
Resisting the temptation to take the turn for Blackpool I continued on to Garstang, probably the friendliest place I've passed through, a stop at a bike shop to try for the mirror resulted in a friendly crowd of cyclists all eager to talk about my trip, panniers and touring in general..
Even as I sat mounting my newly bought mirror a couple of people stopped to ask if id broke down and if I needed anything.. with one old chap pulling over and getting out his car to enquire on my road worthiness, how nice..
With the sun still shining I made is successfully through Preston and out into the countryside just west of Chorley where I pitched camp once before when on the 'ill fated' trip on the tandem..
Dinner tonight contains a few freebies I gathered throughout the day.. pasta of course, with tuna and sweetcorn.. the sweetcorn I 'found' just growing at the side of the road.. well in a field by the road, well... in a field full of sweetcorn by the road..
And dessert tonight is a big heap of Plums which were really growing at the side of the road, mixed with some blackberries from the bush next to my tent.. which I'm now boiling up into a big sweet sticky slop I'm gonna pig with some 'homemade' shortbread purchased from the bakery down the road that also supplied me with a big stack of Chorley Cakes.. nom!
Yay for Freeberries!
Gonna grab an early night and with a bit of luck and tailwind i'll be back home in time for a pint tomorrow..
Will keep ya posted..
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Well a fun day, and a dry one! \o/
Started out with a glorious clear sky and golden sunrise, only spoiled by the bastard cockrel in the next field who decided to cock-a-doodle-do from 5:30 in the morning only to be joined by a very large and very noisy bird of prey that joined in the chorus with its loud and angry yelling... but at least it wasn't raining!
Now the local shop id called in in the evening before didn't sell normal porridge oats so I was forced into 'moving with the times' and risking 'oats-so-simple' ...
*stares at the weeny individual sachets*
3 of them should do I thought...
It's not bad... but its not porridge..
Slightly miffed I was on the road before 9.
Out on the road, and soon through Longtown, up and down the relentless hills into Carlisle. Now last time I blogged about Carlisle I may have been a bit rude about the place, calling it something along the lines of a town full if chav boy racers and Vickie Pollard wannabies.. I do take it back, cause approaching the town from this direction I did pass a street that looked really nice.. so to the residents of that street, I am sorry.
Hurriedly out of Carlisle an down the very hilly stretch of the A6 into Penrith, long hard uphills with the downhill parts spoiled by the headwind... but at least its not raining!
Lunch in Penrith and feeling fit I made the decision that the last two days of Audax style biking has been fun, but now time to get back to what this bike was built for.. Touring!
So I took a right and headed westward to the north of the Lake District at Keswick, were the last couple of miles into town I was joined by a female "Roadie" out for a days biking and interested in my travels..
Another food stop and I headed south through the heart of the Lake District marvelling at the lines of walkers marching up and down the sides of these massive mountains like trails of ants on the move. Past the lakes at Thirlmere and Grassmere into the pretty town and outdoor hot spot of Ambleside, packed with shoppers spending their fortunes st one of the million outdoor shops in this little village. Along the banks of Lake Windemere and up the vicious hill into Windemere village, which hurt, a lot.
Then a plot up and down a few more painful hills to my current camp at Kendal.
All in all a very hard but rewarding day of 80 miles, and I'm very happy that I took the diversion through the lakes.
I suspect a pasta dinner again tonight, and tomorrow I might (weather depending) go and have a look down the coast at Morecambe and mebbe even blacklpool.
Till then I'll leave you with a picture of Grasmere..
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Well, another day over...
Started out from a wild and windy Androssan this mornin at about 8:30ish, started out dry ish with little showers of light rain but after an hour or so the rain set in good and proper.. away dawn the coast through Irvine and then a steady climb up into Kilmarnock, nice familiar town with its rust-red coloured buildings and churches where I lost a good half an hour mending the first puncture of the trip, where a big angry looking thorn decided to bury itself in my back tyre. At least it had the decency to stay in there making locating the puncture and fixing it a simple straight forward task. Rejoining the main road I headed south again. With the road closed for roadworks at Mauchline to all but 'local traffic' it was nice and quiet with the long swooping decent out of the hills on the newly surfaced road an absolute pleasure. It was around then I caught up with a couple of guys on shiny new hybrid bikes with shiny new panniers, all obviously bought for this trip, who were heading south 5 days into there John O Groats to Lands End trip; we rode together for a few miles with them quizzing me lots about the route I took when I did the same trip in the other direction a few years ago.. then remembering I still had a laminated copy of my route still selotaped to the inside of my handle bar bag, I handed it over, wished them luck and pedalled off into the distance leaving them in peace with their iPods.
With the rain now breaking into showers I plodded on to the grey and rundown town of Sanquhar where s friendly woman at the local store furnished me with sandwiches and cakes and I sat happily in the first bit of sun of the day and munched the lot washed down with an obscene quantity of lucozade I was cohersed into buying because it was on offer. I'm a sucker for a bargain.
Whooshing into Dumfries I did my usual trick of looking so closely at the shops and building I hadn't payed any attention to where I was supposed so be going and wasted a good half an hour riding around trying to get my bearings on which way I should be going.
Bearings found I headed south onto the edges of the solway firth and along the coast into Annan before making the last push into Gretna on the Scotland-England border. It was my original plan to spend the night on one of the two campsites in the town, but wanting to get back on home turf I pedalled over the border at the river Sark and into Cumbria and England! \o/
Happily on home turf I pootled down the road and into the first campsite along just west of Longtown, where as the only one here have my choice of pitch.
The site here is run by a friendly blonde floppy haired surfer guy with a three legged cat and an electric guitar, but is clean, tidy and cheap.. my three favourite things for a campsite!
Pasta for dinner! Surprise Surprise!
All showered and clean and ready for an early night.
Not quite a record breaker today but a healthy 107 miles ain't bad going me thinks.
The sun came out for just a few minutes just now and the sky is clearing up nicely, so i'll be praying for a dry day tomorrow!
Monday, 23 August 2010
Sorry for the late blog, been a long day...
The day kinds started late, owing to the pitter-patter sound of the rain on my tent I really really didn't wanna get up.
Eventually I could resist no more and had to do it. Luckily the place I was at provided a covered area for campers to eat and cook out of the weather, so at least coffee and porridge making wasnt so much of a chore.
Packed the tent up in the pouring rain yet again and hot the road for a lazy 9:30.
Out of Oban in the pouring rain and up into the hills, now when I say pouring rain... I mean pouring rain, the kind of rain that falls in droplets the size of golf balls and about as heavy!
Up the Pass of Brander, a pretty glen flanked by massive thick set pine forest, with the rain beating down and the mist rising up it made for an eerie spectacle that could only be likened to being on location at the filming of the next Twilight movie.
Mid morning around Loch Awe, and feeling peckish I pulled in at one of the many 'random shop on the middle of nowhere' stores for a bite to eat, being the first time id had to use my bands in a few hours, I had a few epic minutes trying to get my hands to work to be able to get my money out, embarrassingly managed it in the end, and took my dodgy looking snack out into the rain, then to my utter horror my hands were too cold to open the damn thing! I could have cried at that point.
Then it struck me, that the bag it was packed in could be squeezed lightly and popped open like a paper bag...
It's tough stuff that polyethylene!
Eventually after having a good look around to check no one was watching, I threw the offending article to the the floor and angrily stomped on it!
*pop* et voila! Tis open!
There I happily and somewhat smugly, sat in the rain and ate my tasty, if not a little miss shapen snack.
Around Loch fynne (not Loch awe as I said in previous post ) and into a cafe for a correctly shaped baked potato lunch! Much better!
By this time it had been raining at full force all day, making the scenery somewhat spectacular, all the sides of these steep sided valleys no road with heavy streams of water, that peat-stained flood water, that looks like the hills are leaking Theakstons Old Peculiar into the dark lochs, along the thick wooded Loch Eck, the thick pine forests pouring plumes of mist up into the skies...
Now it was my original plan to camp somewhere around here at the head of Loch Eck north of dunoon, but feeling fit I decided to carry on a bit, reaching Dunoon soon after, here again I must apologise..
I couldn't resist...
Just one more time...
So I did...
With the boat almost ready to leave, I one last time flashed my long since expired 8 Day Rover ticket at the ferry man, where in a 'doctor who' style moment he saw exactly what he wanted to see and with a big smile wave me past, "oan ye go laddie" shweeet!
Over the water into gourock and away again down the coast.. first through Largs then the beautifully named 'Fairlie' and finally onto my current location and home for tonight Androssan, which is where I bought the afore mentioned ferry ticket when I first left mainland to hop to Arran.
Feeling surprisingly fit and strong despite to day breaking my own personal best for a fully loaded touring bike, with today clocking 110.3 miles in just over 8 hours riding time.
Another strong day like that and I'll be back in England this time tomorrow, hope tomorrow goes as well as today (but preferably without the rain)
Oh P.S. todays picture is of folk singing goddess Kate Rusby, two reasons
1. It was too wet to take any photos today.
2. I think she's beautiful.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Well as you prolly gathered I didn't wanna start heading south just yet, so I decided to go and have a look at Mull.. the decision was made thus morning at about 7am this morning... id pulled into the first campsite u game across yesterday, and without checking out the 'neighbours' first, just pitched and want to sleep. So... imagine my horror this morning at 6am the small child in the next tent decided to serenade the entire site with some incomprehensible German nursery rhyme.. and then to my utter dismay, the little shites father decided not to silence the child, but to join in!
Whilst on the middle of me translating into German the phrase "i'm going to kill your child with a spoon!!!" I hit upon two... not one... but two great ideas..
1. Go to mull instead of going south
2. Due to my late arrival last night, I figured that if I got a wiggle on, I could make it off the site without being noticed, and thus... without paying.
So that's exactly what I did! In spite of the noisy campsite, cold showers and high prices, I scarpered straight on the first boat to Mull, where upon I celebrated my cheap night by spending the cash on an obscenely large cooked breakfast..
(it also turned out that half the camping field followed my lead and a good 6 or 8 tents were packed up in record time as we all made our escape to Mull)
So, my faithful readers, I ask that you can find it in your hearts and souls to forgive me for my evil deed.
Before I tell you about my next evil deed...
Having finished the main portion of my breakfast, I was mulling over my mornings deed with some toast and coffee, when u glanced upon my 'Calmac 8 Day Rover' ferry ticket... and noticed that it Infact expired yesterday.. something myself, or the ferryman failed to notice..
So after my cost saving on my nights camping, and now the cost saving in my ferry ticket.. I celebrated yet again with another steaming mug of americano coffee..
(I once again ask for your forgiveness)
Landed on Mull in the pouring rain but after a couple of miles it brightened up and the sun came out yet again..
Along the pretty coastline constantly being screeched at by angry buzzards, I past lots of small groups of what I figured to be Russian Scout Troops, young lads, 13 ish to about 18 ish, brown uniforms, neckties and woggles singing some bizarre chanting style military songs as they marched down the road in perfect time, it was very surreal.. even more surreal was when one of the troops of about 20 lads broke from their song to give me a perfectly timed and executed Mexican Wave as I passed..
20 odd miles down the coastline and o was in the postcard perfect Tobermoray, with its brightly coloured buildings lining the harbour, all bustling with tourists snapping pictures of anything and everything.
I found somewhere to grab a sandwich, which in this little town is no easy thing... well food is easy to find but the prices are outrageous.. I mean, I know these little tourist trap towns kinda have a right to milk the prices a little, but I'm also fairly sure that £16.99 for fish and chips from a tacky little cafe, is a little excessive..
(Tip: nice place, take sandwiches.)
After a good mooch around I thought id better make the return journey down the coast, just making it in time as the barrier was going up to let the cars and bikes aboard, I flashed my expired ferry ticket at the ferryman for the second time today and wheeled down the ramp onto the cardeck.. Epic Win!
So I celebrated my slyness again with a chip butty from the cafe.
(For the final time again in todays blog, I ask for forgiveness)
I wheeled back into Oban and foe obvious reasons thought I better check out the other campsite in town, a much smarter affair, all clean and tidy with hot showers and a little laundry where I currently sit, catching up on some washing.. rock n roll huh?
So, gonna have to start heading south sometime I guess, I've been 'midge food' way too long now.. I noticed earlier there's a nifty route south that would allow me to take one the Isle Of Bute too, but I can leave it till midday day to decide on that one too...(if I don't do Bute, and one of my SL buddies could pass a message to Phooks, I could well be passing past her doorstep Tuesday morning)
Oki that's about it for tonight..
Ooh p.s. a very important looking ferry man was recapping on the weather we had on Uist the other day, and he said the gusts were at 90mph, and it was a force 10 gale. (11 is a hurricane) o.O
P.p.s. I saw my Canadian friend yet again this morning in Oban, after she managed to talk the coach driver into taking her and her bike to Edinburgh! Her lucky day/week I guess.
P.p.p.s. todays picture is entitled 'Pasta In Process'
Saturday, 21 August 2010
The B&B last night was fantastic and a real life (and tent) saver, and after a week on a rollmat sleeping in a real bed was very nice indeed.
A truly magnificent breakfast was served up at 8:30 sharp and was a greatly received start to the day.
Breakfast all done and farewells exchanged I hit the road with the wind still blowing a hooley I headed south, wanting to have a look at Eriskay, the small island between South Uist and Barra.
More stunning coastline, white beaches broken by rocky outcrops, all the beaches busy with noisy gulls and beaky wading birds dipping the sand for and worms or bugs.
Eventually reaching Ludag at the southernmost tip of South Uist where an impressive causeway leads over to Eriskay where yet again the wind trying to snatch the bike out from under me.. with time being short and not knowing how long the ride back to the ferry at Loch Boisdsle was going to take in the wind, after a quick cycle on Eriskay I turned tail and headed back up the coast, passing on the way none other than my savoir from yesterday, smiling and waving madly from his yellow van.
Now back at the ferry terminal, being entertained by an unfortunate family who Dispite once being told they were booked on the ferry, are now being told they were only booked on the reserve list, and with 6 cars ahead of them in the reserve queue, there was a strong possibility they are not going to be sailing any where today.. :o(
Although sat here listening to the gossip about the "fair old swell on" staying on dry land might not be a bad thing..
We'll see.. :s
Friday, 20 August 2010
Got up about 8ish packed up the tent dry again, and set about coffee and porridge before making the North Uist ferry for 9:30. Very few people on the boat today, a few truckers, couple of foreign tourists, few locals and one other cyclist.
The boats cafe furnished us all with tea and toast where I met up again with the other cyclist, 'melissa' a Canadian girl studying in England but holidaying around the west coast with her bike, we discussed our plans about cycling right around the coast of North Uist and onto south Uist by the end of the day.
The ferry docked in typically hebridian weather, cloudy, windy and raining... said good byes and good luck to my fellow cyclist and we parted company.
North Uist is everything id expected it to be, wild, barren, exposed but breathtakingly beautiful. You can't escape the remoteness of its location out here, little white houses dotted around in the massive landscapes.
Around the coast started fairly easily with a good 30 mph tailwind but as I rounded the coast and started south the strong tailwind inevitably became a headwind! :o(
Progress really slowed as I battled against the wind stopping to shelter out the wind in a church doorway, I made use of my stash of emergency de-hydrated food, now usually these things are barely edible but under the current circumstances the "chicken korma and rice" was probably the best thing I've ever eaten!
Battling onwards with the wind changing directions and much stronger than before blowing a constant 40-45 mph ish with gusts so strong it literally took your breath away, I was physically blown off the bike half a dozen or so times. With me and my trusty tredder both ending up the wrong way up in a petty ditch.
Now the motorists so far have all been very good in the western isles, courteous, the give you a wide hearth and wave in a friendly manner, but not today.
Oncoming cars not giving way at all on the single tracked road, so yet again it was 'ditch time' for me and steed yet again on a few occasions. And at least 5 times cars from behind drew too close too quickly papping their horns angrily to move me out the way instead of hanging back and waiting for the 'passing places' which are every few hundred yards along the way, not particularly nice.
With the headwind now so strong, it was literally taking every ounce of leg strength to keep moving forward and every ounce of upperbody strength to keep it going in a straight line, although now in quite a serious situation I did laugh to myself as I crossed the extremely exposed causeway onto Grimsay the wind was so strong it took everything just to get off and push the bike along as the wind blew large waves over the causeway, jetwashing salty sea water in my face, how much worse can it get? I laughed..
More exposure and into South Uist, my thoughts were concerned with the girl id met on the boat who was probably now a long way behind and offering the same bashing..
The gusts now were so strong, not even the lowest of my mighty selection of 27 gears, and as much force as my legs could put into it could do any good and I resigned my self to push (which as anyone who has ever ridden with me will testify, is not something I ever do)
So pushing along still inwardly in good spirits, but outwardly resigned to the fact the next gust was gonna pick me up and blow me out to sea only to be washed up a few weeks later on the east coast of America.
About then yet another motorist came piling up from behind papping his horn, as I turned to give him the 'customary response' in s situation like this I saw the driver of this bright yellow beast of a van was smiling and gesturing for me to come over, and sat next to him.... none other than Melissa the other cyclist! "get in" he said "i'll give you a lift too lad" springing from the van he opened the back and threw my bike in.. I jumped in the front next to my cycling friend who was smiling broadly, it seemed he found her a few miles back and picked her up. We were soon skimming along the narrow roads to the sound of Hank Williams as of on some mad random road trip! Both of us so pleased this true gentleman had indeed 'saved our lives'
He dropped us both down by the ferry terminal, and the hotel where Melissa was booked in, some 15 miles from where he picked me up.
I left Mel there for the night, knowing we're on the same ferry tomorrow, I left in search of my stop over for tonight..
With winds now at 'super gale force' where all ferries and shipping cancelled, flights grounded, and the entire western isles on an 'extreme weather warning alert' I abandoned the idea of ever being able to pitch a tent, I pulled (or was blown) into the first and only B&B in this tiny remote village.
So safe and dry, out the window I'm watching gale force winds rip trees and plants to shreds and throw them around the hillside, with a noise that is so loud it sounds like it could have only been made on a Hollywood sound effects department.
With the western isles on high alert I don't yet know in the ferries will be running or not, who knows.
Just glad to be out the weather for now.
I've just boarded the ferry to the Hebrides, I was hoping to hop to Harris and work my way down from there, but an error in my timetable reading led me to miss the fact that there is no ferry to Harris on a Friday... so it looks like I'm going to North Uist instead.. weeeee! \o/
Not sure what the mobile signal situation will be, so if you don't bear from me for a couple of days, you'll know why..
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Anyway an hour or so of bouncy sea and I was on the Isle of Skye \o/
Intermittent showers and sunshine again as I followed the stunning coastline round to the familiar town of Broadford where the local Co-op sorted me out with some supplies and snacks, knowing the island I know there's no snack stops between here and Portree.
More pretty coastline with fierce winds that couldn't seem to make its mind up which way to blow, and by early afternoon I was at the Sligachan hotel, where I was gutted to find the main bar closed, I was telling a friend from LA who also enjoys a drop of whisky, about this place, the main bar has hundreds upon hundreds of whiskys from all over Scotland and the world, and seeing all the bottles behind the bar is gobsmacking, and I really wanted to grab a quick photo of it.. oh well, I guess that means I gotta come back..!
It was here I had to make a tough decision on my route... do I...
A. Go to the Taliskser distillery, or
B. Take the longer route to Uig via the coast road past the Old Man of Stor, Kilt Rocks & waterfalls and the mountains of Trotternish.
And having been to the Taliskser distillery before, I broken heartedly, but happily chose the latter.
Choosing the first would have meant a 18 mile detour, and I did not have time to do both.
Once underway I was happy id made the right decision, missing out on a free taliskser meant I had a bit more time to spend in Portree, happy that I did too.. if you have a look at the pic of portree from earlier you'll see somewhere in the middle of the row of buildings on the harbourside you'll notice a large pink building, its called the Pink Guest House, has 11 rooms, all En Suite, and is on the market at a noggin over the half a million pound mark, so.. thanks for all the kind offers to help me buy Billy's place in Inveraray, but I think we should club together and buy this instead, thanks. xx
Back to reality and along the Trotternish coast road, past the Sharp mountains and the large free standing rock known as The Old Man Of Stor, and stopping again to snap a few photos around the cliffs at Kilt Rock.
Now it had been my intention to ride right around the coast to Uig but spotted on the map a short cut going from east coast to west coast (where I wanted to be) going straight over the mountains in-between. Maybe is was the mountainbiker in me, but a little voice said, "go over the mountains" which I promptly did! A good 3 mile of 1:5 (20%) gradient climbs straight up and over the Trotternish range with spectacular views down both sides from the top, and on a fully laden 100lb+ bike, was a dam good work out too!
Of course what goes up, must come down.. and the downhill into Uig was well worth the effort. Arriving in Uig the last ferry for the outer Hebrides was in port and just about to leave, and the temptation to hop straight on was strong, but I opted instead to hit a campsite for a shower and to catch up on a bit of laundry.
So all that now done, and time for bed, and with any luck I'll be on the first ferry the Hebrides in the morning!
Till then... xx
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Well what a day!
The day started with what seemed to be the norm of grey clouds above and black clouds (of midges) below..
Hit the road at about 9 am after a sudden but torrential downpour, soaking my tent yet again. Heavy rain filled much of the morning as a rode around the misty yet stunning loch edges heading into first Ballaculish then Fort William some 30 odd miles beyond my start point.
The sun finally broke as I hit the town and soon I was strolling down the familiar main street on the hunt for lunch.. as I mentioned earlier there was a bustling euro market on withholding stalls from all nations selling food and nick-nacks from far and wide.. two walks up and down land I had the decision down to a choice of two. A giant Bratwurst cob from the German section served by a frightening looking woman who bore a striking resemblance to Helga from 'allo allo' or Paella from a friendly looking spaniard with a broad smile... I went for the latter, and was presented with the biggest pile of the stuff served fresh from one of those gigantic 10 foot wide Paella pans. The meal itself was perfect with heaps of prawns, muscles and squid wither usual rice, beg and a good kick of spices.. sat munching in the sun the only thing that wad lacking was a large glass of San Miguel to was it down with.
Suitably stuffed I hit the road.. I've been to Skye before but have only ever crossed by the new and controversial skye bridge, so this time I just have to go the old fashioned way and take the ferry from Malaig.. this takes you down the much talked about Loch Eil, now even with the mix of extremely heavy showers, and warm and dry intervals the scenery was truly breathtaking, from the head of Loch Eil right down to the coast this stunning valley flanked on either side by massive and very sheer faced mountains, all with their heads firmly in the clouds gave the weird impression that you have no idea how big these massive mountains really were... did they just end only just above the 2 or 3 thousand feet that I could see? Or do they go up forever? Either way they make you feel very very small indeed.
More stunning scenery followed passing Glenfinnan where you pass the head of the stunning Loch Sheil with more dramatic misty views.
By the time I hot the coast I was free of the cloud hugging mountains and out into hot, bright sunshine making the ride along this picturesque coast a real pleasure..
A brief stop in Arising for some supplies (pasta) and after 70 odd miles under my belt for today, decided it was time to camp..
Now I thought my camp at Kintra on the west coast of Islay was gonna take some beating, but today beating it has proven really quite easy, I only wish my little phone pic above could do it justice, but It's kind of those 'you really have to see it for yourself' things...
My lil tent pitched on a perfect grass topped rock outcrop just feet from the pure white sand and crystal blue water.. little rock islands stretch out into the bay where to my right I can see over to the isle of Skye and to my left, nothing but the expanse of the ocean.
It's 7:30 and the sun is still out and warm in the cloudless blue sky.
I'm fully stuffed on the customary pasta dinner and I'm just about to delve into the Laphroaig stash.
Gonna get to and hit the road early tomorrow and try and get on the first ferry to Skye..
Lessons learned for today:
1. When descending fast downhills in heavy rain, its best to 'try' your brakes before you actually need them.
2. Putting a pair of metal-cleated cycling shoes in one of this campsite 'industrial sized' tumble dries at 7 in the morning produces a sound very similar in tone and volume to that of a fire alarm.
No really, just ask anyone in Barcladine.
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
2. Sorry about the time.. my blog appears to be in a US timezone.
Fyi: Dispite what the blog says it is 20:29 BST (GMT+1) 17/09/10
BTW: change to the plan, if the weather looks good in the morning, I might head towards Skye first.. instead of the Hebrides first.. we'll see..
Rapidly packed up the outwardly sodden tent and returned to the shelter of the old disused building to maKe coffee and porridge, much to the amusement of the waking motorhomeists who thought I had been there all night!
Porridge done and some tome spent pointlessly moving things from bag yo bag, and by nearly 10 o'clock id run out of excuses not to go out in the rain and hit the road.
With the strong headwind riding into the driving rain was soul destroying to say the least, a couple of hours later and a break in the weather, and I was wheeling into Inveraray; a postcard picturesque, typical lochside village, (where the queen mother used to holiday I'm told) and also a place I visted as I passed this way 3 years ago.
About lunchtime I couldn't resist calling in at 'billy's' cafe again where a rather large scotch pie and beans filled a rather large hole in my stomach.
The climb out of Inveraray over the tops of the mountains was no where near as bad as i'd remembered, and I'd all but forgotten how epic the decent was on the other side.. one of those long, steep, sweeping downhill intersected by a couple of 180 degree hairpin bends worthy of any alpine mountain road, or the kind of road you only ever see on tv where the latest Aston Martin is being thrashed down the hillside by an over enthusiastic Jeremy Clarkson.
Down on the banks of Loch Awe and a pleasant ride around the stunning Loch flanked by towering blueish mountains, over a very windy Conell Bridge, then 10 miles along the shore to a camp site I know at Barcladine. Now when I was last here there was bar just off site ion the main road, run by a hilarious (and rather top heavy) local girl, that did great beer and great food, it was with this in mind as I turned the corner to see the place shut down.. gutted!
Pasta tonight it seems...
It's a smart site, full of some hilarious people... the fat family across the field are systematically going through all those 'games you play when you go camping' so far we've had.. frizzbee... swingball... badminton... boules... and now coquet! Despite the whole family looking like they've never done a days exersize in their life..
Next to them is 90 year old grandma girl guide, who is presently barking military style orders on how to pitch a tent correctly to two subservient granddaughters. Next to them is fat family number 2 who is barbecuing anything they can get their hands on.. and next to them is the customary few pitches of pensioners who insist on moaning about the clouds of biting midges plaguing the site... "this is Scotland in summer, you daft old twat... what did you expect!"
So now I've had my pasta, and a couple of good doubles from the bottle of Laphroaig I bought at the distillery, I'm gonna hit the sack..
But I'll leave you tonight with a photo of the afore mentioned military grandma.. and god's honest truth... the words she has just said.. (despite not actually lifting a finger)
"Now that's how you put up a tent!"
Monday, 16 August 2010
Da Da Da Da Daaa Daaa!
*slow motion run*
About an hour later I was back at camp munching a well earned bowl of porridge, coffee, packed up and hit the road.
Back through Port Ellen and away down the coast, first stop 'The Laphroaig Distillery'
As any one who knows me will tell you, I'm a big lover of whisky with Laphroaig being my all time favourite. So to be cycling down the drive with the sweet smokey smell wafting in my face was a moment to savour.. and the first words Oo hear as I walked into the visitors center?
"a wee draw sir?" Came the words from the smiling young chap stood st the bar.. "you betcha!"
Thus came the first of about 5 or 6 wee drams I was given whilst chatting about all things bike related to the enthusiastic young bloke..
Eventually, and painfully had had to tear my self away and wobbled off along the coast to the Lagvullan Distillery.. more free whisky followed...
I could get used to this I thought as half an hour later I left and continued along a few more miles to the Ardbeg Distillery, and you guessed.. "a wee dram.. for the road, sir?" The young lady asked as the room rotated around me..
"shure think shweetheart" hic! o.O
A bloke I got talking to there recommend I take s ride down the coast to Kildalton Church, which I promptly did, a beautiful old ruin with some amazingly carved Celtic crosses, stopped for a bite to eat in the church used before heading back along the road to port Ellen, resisting the overwhelming temptation to go back into the Laphroaig Distillery..
Took a nice pleasant route back over the hills to meet up with my ferry again from Port Askaig on the northeast edge of the island for 3 oclock, once on the ferry I got chatting to the barman there about all thing whisky related, where upon he presented a bottle of a delightfully tasty 15 year old Jura. Yum!
The rest is a blur really...
Off the ferry and 20 miles of grim biking in tortential rain has brought me to my camp for the night, a nice little site on the edge of the Lock Gilp, at a place called Lochgilphead, strangely..
Still lashing down with rain, ive pitched my tent in a swamp whilst I seek refuge with my camping stove for warmth in an empty out building at the edge of the site next to some very posh looking motor homes, the occupants of which are peering down their noses at me from their rain covered windows as I sit here making my last cup of coffee for the nights.. that's fine of course.. I only wish I was here in the morning to watch them try and drive that thing out if here, because from where I'm sat lady I can see your wheels have sank into the wet mud, right up to the axels.. happy camping!
Hope the weather levels out for tomorrow.. until then..
So in brief, yesterday was absolutely brilliant.. woke to a stunning sunrise over the mountains surrounding my camp spot, hearty breakfast of porridge (top tip picked up from fellow tourer and brilliant writer, Josie Dew) and lots of strong coffee all ad with.I managed to consume whilst simultaniously myself providing a hearty breakfast for the billion swarming midges..
Packed up the camp and headed out to the shore.. brilliant morning sunshine beautiful coastline and soaring mountains were the order if the morning, and without some of the finest biking I've done anywhere. Nice big climb over the mountains to whizz down the other side ti catch the ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig joining the mainland again briefly for a big climb then s steep and gravelly decent down to Kennacraig, nearly binding the bike into a ditch whilst goofing off at the spectacular views, oops!
Safety aboard the second ferry of the day from Kennacraig to Port Askaig, Islay.. 2 hours of warm sun up on deck and I rolled my humbled wheels onto the hallowed ground of the whisky capital of the world. Islay.
A fierce climb out if port Askaig before levelling out through the village of Keills Athena trundle along flat grounds before making a diversion off the road to snap some pictures of Kilmeny for a friend. Along into Bowmore then 10 miles along a spectacularly straight road into Port Ellen, pausing along the way to snap a pic of a large snake sat peacefully in the road.
Shop stop in Port Ellen the out west to Kintra Beach and my camp for the night. Kintra is the most spectacular stretch of pure white sands and crystal blue sea stretching a good 4 miles accords Laggan Bay. The day finally ending with a brilliant golden sunset over the sea.
Sunday, 15 August 2010
Saturday, 14 August 2010
Got well and truly drowned on the ride into Derby, and to make matters worse I had to rush like a look to make the train station on time, managing to just bet there with seconds to spare..
Derby to Crewe, no probs, arriving at just before 8 and a sweet 10 minute dash across the platforms to make the connecting train to Glasgow.
Now not being a regular train user being on one of Virgin's new fangled high speed tilting trains was great fun, very quiet, smooth and balistically fast. Seeing me in Glasgow for 11:20.
Now I've never been right into the center of Glasgow before, and what a nightmare! Never in all my years cycling have I seen roads in such a poor state of repair, and right in the city center too! Potholes literally 8" deep 6 foot across... some of them were so big, the pot holes had potholes in them, I can honestly say I've ridden across smoother cornfields, added to the fact that 3 out of 4 vehicles in the city center are double Decker buses.. no fun!
Once out of the urban sprawl and the greyness of the high rise scheme housing that makes up the perimeter of Glasgow you are instantly in epic Scottish countryside, rolling mountains empty roads, and magnificent scenery.. it had been my original thought that I'd find a place to camp once clear of the city, but it was still early and warm and sunny!..
So a quick look at the map and the decision was made to ride down to the coast and hop on the ferry to the Isle Of Arran. All along the coast the endless rows of chip shops wafting their smell was making me seriously hungry, so once onboard, I headed straight into the cafe for the best fish and chip dinner I have had in many years... nomnom!
After dinner the rest of the hour long crossing was spend up on deck in the sunshine watching a group of jetskiers who were following the boat across the sea and pulling mad tricks and jumps on the bow waves..
Now safely on Arran I found a funky little campsite, well its a field with a water tap in the middle, but it is in fantastic location, I'm currently pitch next to an idyllic fresh stream overlooked by the massive mountsins... only slightly spoiled by the thick clouds if midget feasting in the people camped around.
It's quite funny peering out of my tents mesh Windows at the people here, most are wearing midge hoods, fine mesh hoods like bee keepers wear, which is fine while you are just chilling, but if you need to eat, you have you lift your hood up. Now its a known fact that midges can't keep up with a walking human, so I'm currently watching groups of people walking around in circles around their tents while eating from little aluminium camping plates. Hehe..
Anyroad, I'm gonna have an early night and see what tomorrow brings...
Now its plain for the whole of the UK to see that 'Tim is going on a cycling holiday' because we are right in the middle of mid summer and its hammering down with rain with a forecast of more of the same for the next 2 to 3 weeks.. Yay! \o/
Oh just realised.. I ought to mention where I'm going..
My this train is (hopefully) taking me from Derby to Crewe where I have just 10th minutes to unload the bike and panniers and hop it across the platforms to catch the connecting train to Glasgow. Once at Glasgow I'm heading west to the coast where I plan to take no particular route up through the western isles to the Outer Hebrides, then across to Skye and the Inner Hebrides then head back south and cycle back home. Hopefully along the way taking in the islands: Arran, Islay, Jura, Colonsay, Mull, Barra, South Uist, North Uost, Harris, Lewis and Skye. This is of course subject to massive change depending on weather, ferries and 'whatever looks good at the time'.
I have no real plan or route set so once I step off the train at Glasgow... i'll be making it up as I go along.
Also I aught to mention that thanks to leaps in the 'wonders of modern technology' I can now post photos direct from my phone, so this time be prepared not only for descriptions of the many lunatics that I seem to attract while cycling, but for a glorious technicolour photo too.!
I also ought to add that I'm not sure how long i'll be out of phone signal coverage in the western isles, so if I don't blog for a day or so, this maybe why..
But for now..